Last updated on March 19th, 2020
England – the 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 II 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!
Flag of England
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 the 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’?
England on the map
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.
Continue reading on the next page…