England is a nation of stability, tolerance and faith. The English are slow to anger – but belligerent when provoked. After centuries of battles and bloodshed, burnings at the stake, decapitating kings and courtiers, feudal power, rampant capitalism and semi-socialism, we have come to an accommodation with ourselves and grown in stature and confidence.
We are also a mongrel nation. There is no such thing as a “pure Englishman”. Waves of tribes from northern Europe arrived, conquered, settled, among them the Angels who gave us our name. They each contributed to our language, culture, the way we live and the way we governed ourselves – and others. Only the Romans invaded and later went back home – but they left an indelible legacy and changed our people for ever. The dark Ages were long and horrible – but we developed notions of democracy and common law that are still with us. The Normans invaded and stayed. They brought us strong government and sound administration. Magna Carta of 1215 gave us the rule of law and laid the foundations for all the world’s great democracies as well as our own.
Our island nation gave us shores to defend and seas to explore. We exported our way of life, our language and our creed. We battled our way around the world, established the world’s only global empire – and usually knew when it was time to go home. But we remain a global force – and our language is the most useful and powerful in the world, the language of the future.
We have many faults and face many challenges – which spring from centuries of collective experience and will be addressed by collective wisdom.
Above all, England is the land of big ideas. Freedom, justice, enlightenment, literature, science, fair play and just reward – and the Church of England. Our Church, established by Queen Elizabeth I is the product of all that makes us a nation. At that time we rejected the excesses of Christian religion in both Rome and Geneva. We grafted the vigorous oak of our English state onto our Christian rootstock in a way that suited us and confounded many.
Like it or not, our Church still guides our national life as we carry forward western civilization that is emulated and so widely desired by free people everywhere.
Robert Key is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Salisbury.