Structure of the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is a union of four countries; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Royal Family

Wales is a principality (een prinsdom). The heir to the throne, HRH (His Royal Highness) Prince Charles, is also known as Prince of Wales. Charles is also known as the Duke (Hertog) of Cornwall and the Duke of Rothesay. When Charles becomes King, Prince William becomes Prince of Wales. Prince William will be the heir to the throne when Charles becomes king.

The Head of State is HM (Her Majesty) Queen Elizabeth II. She has been Queen since 1952. Her father was George VI, he was King during the Second World War.

Elizabeth was married to Prince Philip, who was also known as the Duke of Edinbugh. Prince Philip died on April 9, 2021. Together they have four children. Charles being the eldest, he is first in line to the throne. He is the heir (erfgenaam). 

Charles was married to Lady Diana Spencer, who became HRH The Princess of Wales. Their two sons, William and Harry, are both Princes of the United Kingdom. 

William is married to Kate Middleton. When they married William became HRH the Duke of Cambridge, and so Kate became the Duchess of Cambridge. They have three children. The eldest, Prince George, will one day be King.

Political Landscape

The UK is a consitutional monarchy. At the level of matters of state the country functions similiarly to the Netherlands. We also have a consitutional monarchy, which means there is a King and a constitution (grondwet). The power lies with the people and not with the monarch. In that sense it is the opposite of an absolute monarchy, wherein all power lies with the monarch.

There are two main political parties; Labour and Conservative. Very roughly Labour can be compared to the PvdA and Conservative can be compared to VVD. Members of the Conservative party are known as Tories.

The House of  Commons (Tweede Kamer) is where bills (wetsvoorstellen) are drafted (opgesteld). These bills are then put before House of Lords (Eerste Kamer) where the bill is further debated and approved. It is then signed by the Queen. After this process the bill is a law.


In the Netherlands we are used to a system of coalitions in which a group of parties come together to form a majority (meerderheid) in the Second Chamber. In the UK however, it is quite often the case that a single party have the majority. 

This means that the largest party can execute (uitvoeren) their plans without needing to compromise as much as we do in the Netherlands. Imagine that GroenLinks as a single party had 76 seats, that would be a similar situation. We have 150 seats in the Second Chamber, so a majority requires 75 + 1 .

Now Conservative have the majority. The Prime Minister is Mr Boris Johnson. Before him the PM was Mrs Theresa May, and before here it was Mr David Cameron. Mr Cameron was the PM who allowed for a referendum about Brexit. He mistakenly thought that people would vote to remain in the EU and when it turned out they wanted to leave the EU, he had to go and May became PM.

Offices of State

So, the PM is the Prime Minister. The Secretary for Foreign Affairs is Minister van Buitenlandse Zaken. The Finance Minister, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the Minister van Financiën.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department is the Minister van Binnenlandse Zaken. Together these four positions are known as The Great Offices of State.