So you think you are British, do you? by John B Taylor. 10th April 2017

John’s aim was to show that being British means that we are des­cend­ants of immig­rants even if we do not like the present form of immig­ra­tion.

What do we think are sym­bols of Britishness?

He showed a series of ‘British’ sym­bols:  Winston Churchill, The Union Flag, The Coat of Arms, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, The Tower of London (where many exe­cu­tions were car­ried out), Shakespear, Edinburgh Castle, Snowdonia and the Giant’s Causeway.

He asked if these are what we think of as ‘British’.  He told us that bills that are passed from the Commons to the Lords and back are writ­ten in Norman French even today.  The statue of Richard the Lionheart (another ‘British’ symbol) was sculp­ted by a man from Turin, who also made the Trafalgar Square lions.  (Richard the Lionheart was King of England for 10 years but spent only six months in England).

Who are the British?

Migrants had been coming to Britain for thou­sands of years, before the islands became sep­ar­ated from main­land Europe.  Tribes came from all over Europe from as far away as Iberia and the bor­ders of Russia.  After the islands formed there were as many as 45 dif­fer­ent tribes living on the main island of Britain.  (This may account for the many dif­fer­ent dia­lects we have today).

The Romans invaded in around 55BC with 20000 legion­naires and another 20000 retain­ers.  They brought the seeds of their civil­isa­tion with them: run­ning water, toi­lets, bath­houses, lib­rar­ies, taxes and roads.  Towns were developed with linear roads.  The Romans stayed for 350 years and when they left many stayed on, per­haps they were mar­ried and had fam­il­ies in Britain.

Many other inva­sions of these islands happened.  The Jutes, Angles, Saxons, and in 793AD the Vikings, invaded and in 1066AD the Normans came.

The English lan­guage.

The lan­guage was prob­ably Celtic but Germanic dia­lects were intro­duced by the Angles, Jutes and Saxons.  The Romans intro­duced Latin and later the Vikings brought new words: the days of the week, skull, scarf, murder are thought to be Viking.  Later still, after the Norman Conquest, the mother tongue of the kings and queens Norman French was used in the Royal Court and in many parts of Britain.  In fact, English was not adop­ted in the Royal Court until 1362AD by Edward III.  Even today we still have echoes of other lan­guages in our system — the law­yers use “habeas corpus” and sim­ilar expres­sions in their legal doc­u­ments.

After 1066AD all the Royals, from William I, William II, Stephen etc. up to Prince Albert, were for­eign born.  Even St. George, the patron saint of England, was based on a Roman cen­tur­ion who was born in Palestine.

We have a his­tory of wel­com­ing for­eign­ers to Britain.  When the king of France made it illegal to be Protestant in Catholic France many Protestants were exiled to Britain.  William of Orange brought hun­dreds of retain­ers with him to Britain.  The slave trade intro­duced black African ser­vants and, in the Fifties, West Indians were invited to Britain to work here.

John fin­ished with a poster:

BEING BRITISH means: driv­ing a GERMAN car to an IRISH pub to drink BELGIAN beer and, on the way home pick­ing up an INDIAN curry, and, at home, sit­ting on SWEDISH fur­niture watch­ing an AMERICAN cop show on a JAPANESE tele­vi­sion.