Why It’s Incorrect To Call Elizabeth II The ‘Queen Of England’

I noticed a peculiar headline on the Washington Post’s website tonight: “The Queen of England pays tribute to the Queen of Soul.” Why is it peculiar? Well, there hasn’t been a queen of England since 1707.

The English crown disappeared on May 1, 1707 when the Acts of Union[1] came into force and merged the Kingdoms of England and Scotland into the new Kingdom of Great Britain. This in turn became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland when the Kingdom of Ireland was incorporated into the union in 1801. The departure of the Irish Free State in 1922 led to yet another name change, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was born.[2] This is the name that remains in force today.

Given England’s dominant role within the United Kingdom, it’s understandable why many Americans use ‘England’ as a shorthand for the whole United Kingdom. But not only is this usage factually incorrect, it also marginalizes Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Besides, it’s not as if the correct form is confusing–readers would still have realized that the article was about Elizabeth II even if it had referred to her as the ‘British Queen’ or the ‘UK Queen’ rather than the ‘Queen of England.’


[1] The English Parliament passed the Union with Scotland Act in 1706, while the Scottish Parliament passed the Union with England Act in 1707.

[2] Although the Irish Free State was formed in 1922, the name of the United Kingdom wasn’t changed until 1927.

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