England – birthplace of Shakespeare and The Beatles – is a country in the British Isles bordering Scotland and Wales. England’s parliamentary system of government has been widely adopted by other nations. Below are 75 interesting facts about England that will help you learn more about this fascinating country!
10 Facts About England’s History
#1. Queen Elizabeth I is distantly related to Vlad the Impaler, the infamous Romanian ruler who gave rise to Dracula stories!
#2. King Henry VIII exploded in his coffin, and his remains were ‘licked up by dog’ as was bravely predicted by Friar Peto. He was not the only exploding king of England, however. William the Conqueror was the other.
#3. Believe it or not, medieval football often led to injuries and death. At least 40 men drowned during the game, while chasing the ball into the sea!
#4. King Henry III had a pet polar bear which he received from the King of Norway. Kept on a leash in the Tower of London, the bear would swim and catch fish in the Thames.
#5. Winston Churchill was terrible at school, except in English composition and history. In fact, he failed twice at the entrance exams for the Royal Military College, before going on to become one of Britain’s most famous prime ministers!
#6. During the Great Stink of 1858, London’s river Thames stank so much from raw sewage thrown in that the Parliament had to close! There were even plans to shift offices to Oxford or St. Albans.
#7. Four-time Prime Minister William Gladstone kept whips in his home with which he would often whip himself for chastisement!
#8. The “London Bridge is Falling Down” nursery rhyme may be over 1000 years old. It may also point to the many fires and collapses the bridge was prone to over the centuries, and take a dig at ‘my fair lady’ or Queen Eleanor who may not have made the best use of bridge revenues.
#9. Pigs ate your crops? Try the animal at court and fine the owner if guilty! Animal trials were held in medieval England.
#10. If you ate breakfast in medieval England, you’d often enjoy beer with bread or if you could afford it, wine!
10 Facts About England’s Culture
#11. The English drink more tea than most other cultures in the world, even more than the Japanese. The Irish drink more tea than the English.
#12. The Queen is not allowed to set foot in the House of Commons! It’s not clear what the penalty would be if she did.
#13. You can drink in English pubs and bars but you can’t get drunk.
#14. In Scotland, if you get drunk and have a cow in your charge, for some reason you could be jailed or fined up to 200 pounds.
#15. There were no trash bins in London for twenty years, for fear of bomb attacks by the IRA.
#16. London Tube stations used to have a ‘stand on the right’ escalator rule until it was thankfully scrapped in 2015.
#17. For an American, a fortnight is two weeks, a lift is an elevator, a cart is a trolley and the second floor is actually the first!
#18. It may seem pointless, but Leicester actually has two syllables.
#19. Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday has nothing to do with pancakes but everything to do with crepes and lemons! At least, that’s how the American in Britain would see it.
#20. British road signs can be baffling. If you see the Red Ring of Death, it usually means No Vehicles except bicycles being pushed by pedestrians.
10 Facts About English Language
#21. ‘Ghost words’ have often appeared in dictionaries, but they actually mean nothing. The Oxford English Dictionary possibly misprinted the word ne-moubliemiesfor ‘forget-me-nots’ into ‘momblishness’, which it described as ‘muttering talk’.
#22. Shakespeare would have called magpies ‘maggot-pies’.
#23. Though the French and British may have longstanding rivalries, the English language has taken many of its legal, political and military terms from the French.
#24. Many medical and scientific terms come from Greek words. Words that start with ph – are usually of Greek origin! Think phobia, physical, philosophy etc.
#25. Many trade, shipping and painting-related words come from the Dutch language. Skipper, landscape, freebooter, easel etc. clearly point to Dutch navigators and Dutch Masters who influenced the British!
#26. The word ‘cannibal’ came from the Spanish Caribbeans! Makes you wonder what Christopher Columbus found there…
#27. Pyjamas was actually an Indian Bengali word derived from Persian that came into the English language.
#28. ‘Veal’ is French, because in medieval England only the wealthy Norman invaders could afford veal, while the poor commoners could only afford the humble ‘chicken’ which derived from Dutch and German languages.
#29. The slang ‘schmuck’ for a foolish person actually comes from the Yiddish word ‘shmok’ meaning male genitals!
#30. It is not surprising that ‘salsa’ comes from Spanish, but did you know, so did ‘tornado’?
10 Interesting Facts About Britain
#31. MPs in the House of Commons of the British Parliament always have a snuff box waiting for them at the front door with free snuff. It’s not clear if any of the MPs still use it, but the wooden box with a silver plaque is maintained by the principal doorkeeper.
#32. The British Royal Family is not just an icon of tradition (and fashion). Only when the Queen gives her ‘Royal Assent’ on a bill and signs it, can it become an act. Interestingly, Royal Assent has not been refused since 1707.
#33. The Scottish national animal is the Unicorn. Why a creature that doesn’t even exist? It appears that according to Scottish mythology, the Unicorn is the natural enemy of the Lion, the symbol that the English royal family adopted for itself.
#34. The oldest building in Britain today is at Skara Brae, in the Orkney Isles of Scotland.
#35. The world’s shortest flight is only 47 seconds (in ideal weather) to 2 minutes long, between the Orkney Islands of Papa Westray and Westray.
#36. The Loch Ness with its legendary monster lies in Scotland, and has offered many sightings of Nessie. Some people believe it is a descendant of a prehistoric marine dinosaur.
#37. Sadly only 21 percent of local Welsh people can speak their native language, which is called the British tongue in English. This is ironic, since 98 percent of Britain’s population (derived from the oldest name for the British Islands) speak English.
#38. Llanfairpwllgwyngyll is a town in Wales, with the second-longest single word place name in the world. You wouldn’t want to know what the longest is.
#39. Game of Thrones fans were incensed to find that the set for Dark Hedges was painted with a white line down the middle by road maintenance crew in Armoy, Northern Ireland. Thankfully, the mistake was cleaned up soon.
#40. According to the Sunday Observance Act of 1780, it is technically illegal to go to the cinema in Northern Ireland on Sundays. You could be fined up to 50 pounds.
10 Interesting English Words
#41. SWIM is the same upside down!
#42. Catawampus is a word! It means awry, like a kitty corner is…
#43. ‘Squirrel’ comes from a Greek word meaning ‘shadow tail’!
#44. ‘Billowy’ is the longest non-scientific English word to have its letters in alphabetical order.
#45. The letter X is not a new symbol for a kiss in text messages. It was first used in a 1763 letter from Gilbert White, who was a naturalist.
#46. Clue once meant a ball of thread – now it is something that can lead you out of a maze. Does it ring a bell?
#47. If several years ago you heard Gardyloo on the streets of Edinburgh, it was a warning that slops of toilet were about to be thrown from the window overhead. Thankfully, those days are long gone.
#48. The word ‘daisy’ is shortened from ‘day’s eye’ because the daisy opens and closes with the day.
#49. The word ‘girl’ once meant a child or young person of either sex!
#50. Taradiddle is a word that has been a favorite of many writers, from Balzac to G.K. Chesterton and even J.K Rowling. We don’t know where this word for ‘unpretentious nonsense’ came from, but there is a myth that it was born in the Irish town of Taradiddle, which doesn’t really exist!
10 Facts About Food in England
#51. Toad in the Hole looks and tastes much better than it sounds. It is simply sausages in Yorkshire pudding, named so because apparently (to some) it looks like toads popping up from a hole.
#52. You can also eat ‘spotted dick’ in England, and snigger while you eat. This is a dried fruit and suet pudding popularly served with custard in Britain. The word ‘dick’ doesn’t mean what you think it means! It may just be a corruption of ‘pudding’.
#53. Welsh Rabbit or Rarebit is nothing but melted cheese on toast – the original name is really a silly and patronizing dig at the Welsh.
#54. You can eat Bletted Medlars in England. Sounds strange, and even stranger, it is made by letting medlars (a small apple-like fruit) rot. The odd thing is, the rotted fruit is really delicious!
#55. Cullen skink is nothing odder than a thick haddock, onion and potato soup originally from the Scottish town of Cullen.
#56. Stargazey pie is an odd invention – a pie with pilchard heads and tails poking out of the pie crust into the sky. It is a traditional Cornish Christmas meal.
#57. Ever tried singing hinnies from Northern Britain? They are nothing but current cakes that sizzle or ‘sing’ on the griddle whey are cooked. They are ‘hinnies’ because it is a term used for loved ones.
#58. Many Roman Roads in Britain have cherry trees along the way. The story goes, they sprouted from the cherry stones spat by soldiers!
#59. Garlic crowdie is a delicious Scottish cheese seasoned with garlic.
#60. When in England, you can eat ‘love in disguise’ – just a fancy name for stuffed hearts of cows and pigs!
10 Facts About Christmas in England
#61. It was actually illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas day in the time of Oliver Cromwell! The purpose was to control gluttony.
#62. Christmas dinners often feature ‘devil on horseback’ on the table – dates or prunes wrapped in bacon.
#63. London has seen only 10 white Christmases since 1900…
#64. The traditional Christmas plum pudding may actually have been derived from suet meat puddings with dry fruits.
#65. The Queen’s Message on Christmas day is not an old tradition. King George V started it in 1932 when he read a speech by none other than writer Rudyard Kipling.
#66. Boxing Day is not just a bank holiday in England. It is the day you share Christmas leftovers with friends and neighbors. In the past, masters shared leftovers in the form of boxes with servants.
#67. The Scottish may have a Clootie Dumpling instead of the Christmas Pudding for dessert on Christmas Day.
#68. It used to be a New Year tradition in Wales to decorate a horse’s skull with white sheets and bells.
#69. Mummering is a tradition in which people wear masks or paint their faces and perform plays in the community. Mummers may also visit houses like carolers used to do.
#70. Hogmanay (or New Year’s Eve) celebrations in Scotland are bigger than Christmas celebrations, and strangers are considered auspicious if they enter the house on that day.
5 Facts About England in 1600s
#71. In the 1600s, London was separate from Westminster but then rich people built houses on the Thames between the two cities.
#72. In 1666 the Great Fire of London destroyed much of the city because of a fire that may have started in a bakery. Nearly 100 years ago, a Daniel Baker had predicted that London would be destroyed by a ‘consuming fire’.
#73. The Bank of England that we know today was founded in 1694.
#74. The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 that led to the Guy Fawkes Day celebrations of today was a failed plot by Catholics including Guy Fawkes to blow up Stuart King James I, who was not tolerant of Catholics. But some say the plot was a bigger conspiracy.
#75. King James I proposed one flag for the joining of Scottish and English crowns, and the King James’ Union Flag was designed, which is now known as the Union Jack.
Quick Facts About England
Capital City London
Largest City London
Land Area 50,301 sq mi Population 53,012,456 (2011 census) Official Language English Borders Scotland and Wales Currency Pound sterling (GBP) Religion Christianity (Church of England) Average Life Span 81 Years (2012)
Life expectancy at birth indicates the number of years a newborn infant would live if prevailing patterns of mortality at the time of its birth were to stay the same throughout its life.
Time Zone GMT (UTC)
GDP $3.087 trillion (estimate 2016) Calling Code +44 Drives on the Left