Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The British Empire's Pink Bits

It's been almost twenty years since I set off for the land of milk and honey with stars in my eyes. Not once have I ever forgotten my roots. I subscribe to Country Life magazine, watch BBC America, listen to BBC World News and, without fail, drink tea at 4:00 PM every afternoon. In fact, with the close of the Olympics, I've never felt more British. Team GB was brilliant.

Bearing in mind that our little island (including Northern Ireland), is smaller than the state of California, Team GB—per capita—were really the overall winners (just kidding). But of course "we" used to be much larger.

The British Empire reached its peak in the early 1920s. With the additions of the League of Nations—mandated territories in the Middle East, Africa, and the South Pacific, one-quarter of the globe was pink! Hence the phrase "the pink bits."

So what are the pink bits and where did the phrase come from?

Traditionally, pieces of the British Empire were colored pink on maps. This was a bit of a compromise because red was really the color associated with the Empire. But if the colonies, protectorates and mandates were also printed in red on a world globe, it was tricky to read the place names within them.

Even though we no longer talk about the Empire (apart from my mother), Queen Elizabeth II is still the titular head of state of Canada and Australia.

Here is a list of our current overseas territories ... Anguilla, Bermuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands (we fought a war over these), Gibraltar (just the rock), Montserrat, Pitcairn Island (remember the mutineers of HMS Bounty and Captain Bligh?),  Saint Helena—including Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands.

And ... Independent States with our Queen as head ... Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts-Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

And finally ... Crown Possessions ... Channel Islands, including Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark (in the English Channel) and The Isle of Man (in the Irish Sea).

Hmm ... gosh. Maybe my mother is right. The Empire still lives on!