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The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name and the state form of the United Kingdommarker from 1 January 1801 until 12 April 1927. It was formed by the merger of the Kingdom of Great Britainmarker (itself having been a merger of the Kingdoms of England and Scotland) and the Kingdom of Ireland, with Ireland being governed directly from Westminstermarker through its Dublin Castle administration.

Following Irish independence on 6 December 1922, when the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty came into effect, the name continued in official use until it was changed to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irelandmarker by the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act of 1927. The part of the island of Irelandmarker that remained seceded from the United Kingdom in 1922 was succeeded by the state of Irelandmarker in 1937.

Terms of the Union

Under the terms of the Act of Union, the separate Parliament of Great Britain and the Parliament of Ireland were abolished and replaced by a united Parliament of the United Kingdommarker. The new House of Commonsmarker consisted of all Members of Great Britain's 18th Parliament and 100 Irish MPs co-opted in a special election in 1801. The new House of Lordsmarker consisted of all members of Great Britain's House of Lords, as well as four Lords Spiritual and twenty-eight Lords Temporal from the Irish House of Lords. The new Parliament met in the Palace of Westminstermarker, formerly the home of the Parliament of Great Britain and, until 1707, the Parliament of England.

Part of the trade-off for Irish Roman Catholics, who since 1652 were barred from voting or attending Parliament altogether under the Cromwellian Act of Settlement, was to be the granting of Catholic Emancipation, which had been fiercely resisted by the all-Anglican Irish Parliament. However, this was blocked by King George III who argued that emancipating Roman Catholics would breach his Coronation Oath to act as protector of Protestantism.

The United Kingdom

The merger was initially seen favourably in Irelandmarker, given that the old Irish parliament was seen as hostile to the majority Catholic population, some of whose members had only been given the vote as late as 1794 and who were legally debarred from election to the body. The Roman Catholic hierarchy endorsed the Union. However, King George III's decision to block Catholic Emancipation fatally undermined the appeal of the Union. Leaders like Henry Grattan, who sat in the new parliament, having been leading members of the old one, were bitterly critical.

The eventual achievement of Catholic Emancipation in 1829, following a campaign by Daniel O'Connell, MP for County Claremarker, who had won election to Westminstermarker and who could not for religious beliefs take the Oath of Supremacy, removed the main negative that had undermined the appeal of the old parliament, the exclusion of Catholics. From 1829 on a demand grew again for a native Irish parliament separate from Westminster. However, his campaign to repeal the Act of Union ultimately failed.

Aspects of the United Kingdom met with popularity in Ireland during the 122-year union. Hundreds of thousands flocked to Dublinmarker for the visits of Queen Victoria in 1900, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1903 and 1907 and King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. About 210,000 Irishmen fought in Irish regiments of the United Kingdom and Allied armies in World War I, at a time when Ireland was the only home nation where conscription was not in force.

Irish Home Rule

Figures such as Isaac Butt and Charles Stewart Parnell, the first leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, campaigned for a version of all-Ireland self-government called home rule within the United Kingdom, which was nearly achieved in the 1880s under the (British) ministry of William Ewart Gladstone who introduced two Irish Home Rule Bills. However, the measures were defeated in Parliament, and following the ascension of the Conservatives to the majority, the issue was buried as long as that party was in power.

With the return to power of the Liberals in 1910 general election supported by the Irish Party under John Redmond who now held the balance of power in the Commons, the veto power of the Lords was removed under the Parliament Act 1911 and a Home Rule Bill introduced in 1912 passed Parliament as the Third Home Rule Act in 1914, but was temporarily suspended for the duration of World War I. However the constant delaying of Home Rule and the opposition of the Orange Order in Ulster created the frustration that eventually led to political violence and the 1916 Easter Rising. An attempt to introduce Irish self-government was made by PM Lloyd George in 1917 when he called an Irish Convention which after six months deliberating failed to agree on the inclusion or exclusion of Ulster. The European situation with the threat of conscription changed the political climate such that in the 1918 general election, the Irish Party lost most of its seats to the new Sinn Féin party.

Breakdown of the Union

In 1919, Sinn Féin MPs elected to Westminster formed a unilaterally independent Irish parliament in Dublinmarker, the first Dáil Éireann with an executive under the President of Dáil Éireann, Éamon de Valera. A War of Independence was fought between 1919 and 1921. The island of Ireland was partitioned on 3 May 1921 under the Government of Ireland Act 1920 into two distinct autonomous United Kingdom regions, the short-lived Southern Ireland and Northern Irelandmarker. On 6 December 1922, a year after the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed, the entire island of Ireland seceded from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and formed a new Dominion, the Irish Free State. However, as was widely expected, Northern Irelandmarker almost immediately exercised its right under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, to opt out of the Irish Free State and back into the United Kingdom. With that, the Irish border became an international frontier.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland continued in name until 1927 when it was renamed as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irelandmarker by the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927.


A passport from the Realm.
increasing political independence from each other from 1922 and complete political independence since 1949, the union left the two countries intertwined with each other in many respects. Ireland used the Irish pound from 1928 until 2001 when the euro replaced it. Until it joined the ERM in 1979, the Irish pound was directly linked to the pound sterling. Decimalisation of both currencies occurred simultaneously on Decimal Day in 1971. Coins of equivalent value had the same dimensions and size until the introduction of the British twenty pence coin in 1982, the first new coin to be issued since the break with sterling. British coinage, therefore, although technically not legal tender in the Republic of Irelandmarker was in wide circulation and usually acceptable as payment, and vice versa. The new British twenty pence coin and later British one pound coin were the notable exceptions to this, as there was initially no equivalent Irish coin value, and when subsequently, Irish coins of these values were introduced, their designs differed significantly, thereby not allowing for 'stealth' passing of the coins in change.

Irish citizens in the UK have a status almost equivalent to British citizens. They can vote in all elections and even stand for Parliamentmarker. As well as this, some people born in the Republic of Irelandmarker before 1949, but after 3 March 1922, are British subjects. British citizens have similar rights to Irish citizens in the Republic of Ireland and can vote in all elections apart from presidential elections and referendums. Under the nationality law of the Republic of Ireland, people from Northern Ireland can have Irish, and therefore dual, nationality.

List of monarchs

George V, the last King to be styled as King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Until 1927, part of the monarch's royal title included the words King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1927, the words United Kingdom were dropped from the royal title so that the monarch was instead styled as King of Great Britain, Ireland...[and other places]. The words United Kingdom were restored to the monarch's title in 1953 with the reference to Ireland replaced with a reference to Northern Ireland.

See also


  1. Article 4 of the Constitution of Ireland
  2. Act of Union 1800, Article 4.
  3. Order in Council of 3 May 1921 (SR&O 1921, No. 533). Their constitutional roots remained the Act of Union, two complimentary Acts, one passed by the Parliament of Great Britain, the other by the Parliament of Ireland.
  4. On 7 December 1922 (the day after the establishment of the Irish Free State) the Parliament resolved to make the following address to the King so as to opt out of the Irish Free State: ”MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN, We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Senators and Commons of Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, having learnt of the passing of the Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922, being the Act of Parliament for the ratification of the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland, do, by this humble Address, pray your Majesty that the powers of the Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State shall no longer extend to Northern Ireland". Source: Northern Ireland Parliamentary Report, 7 December 1922 and Anglo-Irish Treaty, sections 11, 12. If Northern Ireland had not done so it would have became an autonomous part of the Irish Free State.

External links

Preceded by:
Kingdom of Great Britainmarker
Kingdom of Ireland

United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Ireland

Succeeded by:
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irelandmarker
Irish Free State

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