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In a recent poll for YouGov, 2,086 British residents were shown a list of iconic British things, from the Beatles to the BBC, and asked whether they would say they were proud of each one, as symbols of British life. The results aimed to illustrate what aspects of British life are of most value to the people who live here, to establish that which makes one British, in the eyes of the British.

The Beatles, for example, scored an impressive 51%, which begs the question: would David Bowie or Led Zeppelin have been any better a musical bet? The British Parliament, the mother of all parliaments, scored a relatively paltry 47%.

But what are the top 5 British symbols, according to these (not all that many) actual British people? Let’s do a countdown:

5. The Pound (70%)

At a time of global financial insecurity, where the fate of our neighbors in Europe is tied in to their common currency, the Euro, it befits an island nation that we should take such pride and solace in the pound in our pockets. It won’t save the Brits from feeling the pinch, but as a rallying point in a time of crisis, it’s fairly unbeatable. Had this poll been taken five years ago, the pound would have been FAR lower down the list.

4. The Union Flag (71%)

Still erroneously known as the Union Jack even when not flown at sea, to such a degree that it would probably be a lot simpler to just rename the blessed thing Union Jack and be done with it. Nice color scheme too, don’t you think?

3. The Armed Forces (72%)

Always at the fore of any country’s thoughts at a time of war, and especially around Remembrance Sunday, the topic of the army will always provoke strong emotions. This was the first year that there was notable heated online debate around the act of remembrance. Some of it from people who very aggressively did not want to be forced to wear a poppy, some from people who wanted to force people to wear poppies.

2. The National Trust (72%)

Custodians of England’s green and pleasant land. And Wales and Scotland’s too. And Northern Ireland’s. And Cornwall’s. The National Trust takes on the upkeep of old stately homes, areas of outstanding natural beauty, and historical sites, and preserve them for future generations. For a country with such a rich sense of its own history AND geography, they’re the keepers of the national identity.

1. Shakespeare (75%)

The arguments about whether a man called William Shakespeare actually wrote his plays is just a sideshow: the fact that the greatest body of theatrical work in human history, and one of the larger shaping influences on the development of the English language as spoken worldwide, came from such a tiny fixed point in time and space is what’s truly remarkable. And as far as the Brits are concerned, so long as those plays weren’t written by the French or the Germans, it still counts as a win.

Bubbling under: The NHS (69%), the Royal Family (68%), the BBC (63%).

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Filed Under: Five Great Things
By Fraser McAlpine