At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power.
As a result, its political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread.
Canada, Australia, and New Zealand became self-governing dominions.
After the defeat of France in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792–1815), Britain emerged as the principal naval and imperial power of the 19th century.
Unchallenged at sea, British dominance was later described as Pax Britannica ("British Peace"), a period of relative peace in Europe and the world (1815–1914) during which the British Empire became the global hegemon and adopted the role of global policeman.
The United Kingdom is now one of 16 Commonwealth nations, a grouping known informally as the Commonwealth realms, that share a monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
The foundations of the British Empire were laid when England and Scotland were separate kingdoms.
India, Britain's most valuable and populous possession, achieved independence as part of a larger decolonisation movement in which Britain granted independence to most territories of the empire.