Until recently England was generally thought of as a gentle, fabled land freeze-framed sometime in the 1930s, home of the post office, country pub and vicarage. It's now better known for vibrant cities with great nightlife and attractions, contrasted with green and pleasant countryside.
From Stonehenge and Tower Bridge to Eton and Oxford, England is loaded with cherished icons of a past era. But it also does modernity with a confidence and panache left over from its days in the never-setting sun. Fashion, fine dining, clubbing, shopping - England's rates with the world's best.
England is looking forward into the new century while trying to forget many of the developments of the previous 100 years. That period witnessed the fall of the empire, the loss of the trading base and the nation's inability to adjust to a diminished role in the modern world - from colonial empire to member of the EC. But while the Family may have taken a right Royal battering, many of the other august institutions at the cornerstone of British life have muddled their way through with a stiff upper lip and a strong sense of protocol.
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