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Nicky Philipps' portrait of the Queen

 I am a bit of a stickler for correct usage of styles and titles. So it is a bit of a pet peeve of mine when these are used improperly. The main one that bugs me is calling Elizabeth II, Queen of England. That bothers me because “Queen of England” is not her correct title! Her correct title, simplified here, is Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. England has not been a separate sovereign state since 1707.

Here is a little historical background on the issue. For centuries England and Scotland were separate sovereign kingdoms each with their own monarch. There was not always peace between the two states and England constantly tried to keep Scotland subdued. Edward I (1272-1307) is not known as the Hammer of the Scots for nothing! The Kingdoms of England and Scotland remained separate until 1603. Queen Elizabeth I of England died without issue and her closest relative that had a claim to the throne was her cousin King James VI of Scotland (1567-1625), who also became King James I of England and Ireland.

The accession of the Scottish king on the English throne did not politically unite the two nations. Both kingdoms were ruled by James but remained individual sovereign states that retained their own parliaments and laws.

Although James liked to consider himself as the King of Great Britain this self appointed title was not approved by Parliament and had no legal barring. From 1603 until 1707 (excluding the Commonwealth period when the monarchy was abolished) the title of the monarch was King/Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland (they also called themselves the Kings of France but that is another story).


In 1707 came the Act of Union uniting the Parliaments of England and Scotland creating the new nation of Great Britain. England and Scotland ceased to be independent sovereign states and were then, and now, considered separate states within the union. Ireland remained separate from Great Britain.

The title of the monarch changed accordingly and the titles of King or Queen of England and King or Queen of Scotland passed into history. Anne was Queen of England and Scotland when the act was passed and her title was changed to Queen of Great Britain and Ireland.

The title remained King or Queen of Great Britain and Ireland for 93 years until the nation expanded once more. Ireland was now included in the political union with Great Britain and the new state became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. George III (1760-1820) was the monarch at the time and his title changed accordingly.

From 1714 to 1837 the British monarch was also Elector of Hanover within the German Holy Roman Empire until 1806 when the Empire was abolished. In 1814 Hanover was created a Kingdom by the Congress of Vienna in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars and the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire. Although the British monarchs listed their Hanoverian titles among their British titles, Britain and Hanover were ruled separately and were not politically unified.

In 1920 in the reign of King George V (1910-1936) a large portion of Ireland was given its independence and only the northern counties remained united with Britain. However, this part of Ireland continued to be a constitutional monarchy with the King of the United Kingdom as to their Head of State. The Free State of Ireland was separate from Northern Ireland which was still a part of the United Kingdom.

The Free State of Ireland came to an end with The Republic of Ireland Act 1948, which came into force on April 18, 1949, the 33rd anniversary of the beginning of the Easter Rising. This act created The Republic of Ireland.

Outside the Irish state, “Great Britain, Ireland” was not officially omitted from the royal title until 1953 when Elizabeth II began her reign. Her official title is:  Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other realms and territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

Now having said my rant and given the historical background on the evolution of the title of the British monarch I must be honest and say that I do miss the traditional titles of King or Queen of England and King or Queen of Scotland. Those are in the past unless devolution comes to the UK and England and Scotland becomes independent once again. If that does happen I think we would see a return to how things were prior to 1707 when both England and Scotland shared the same monarch.