This is a word of diverse meanings. It pertains to Britain which is divided
into two parts, Great Britain, the major landmass of the British
Isles, and Little Britain or Brittany, which has been more or less integrated
into France. The British constituted a Celtic
people before the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons who spoke P-Celt languages.
These have descended to us as modern Welsh and the various dialects of Breton.
These languages are distinct from the Q-Celt languages of Ireland, The Isle
of Man and the Scottish Highglands. It has been suggested that this language
difference predated the arrival of the celts in the British
Isles. However a more probable account has emerged from the interaction
of the British with the Africans and Romans which
lead to their language developing in a particular direction.
At the time of the English invasion the British
were removed from most of England, although settlements such as Walthamstow
remained. 'Wal' here has the same root as 'Welsh' which means foreigner
in Anglo-Saxon. Some British exiles went to Brittany,
and some suggest that the old Celtic language had already died out here
and that they in effect re-introduced it. Cornwall, which means the 'Foreigners
of Kernow' remained another bastion of British
culture. It was only in the sixteenth century with the defeat of the Prayer
Book Rebellion that English replaced Cornish as the commonplace language.
Ironically enough this happened with the emergence of a British
identity in the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Prominent
in this was her magician-cum-astrologer John Dee who first coined the expression
British Empire. Here he was using a lot of the
ideas developed by Dante in his Monarchia. On Elizabeth's death,
James VI of Scotland became James I of England, and so became the first
monarch of Great Britain
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