Dr S, who has offered so much good counsel over the years, wonders why the English style and the English garden are called just that instead of the British style and the British garden.
Some might say that its creators intended to show support for William III while cocking a snook at the Hanoverian succession (which was attempting to make the union ever stronger). Some might say that it was the English that beat the French at Blenheim and therefore it would be English values that the garden style commemorated. Some might say, as did the Quarterly Review, that it had to do with a particular character unique to the English countryside: ‘The very name, the English garden, suggests ideas of cheerfulness and comfort unknown in every other country. Indeed the heart-enlivening prospect, over the pleasure ground , the park, the woods, and the well tenanted farms surrounding the country residence of an English gentleman, gives a favourable impression of the spirit of freedom and independence of its possessor.’ This character would be a measure of gentleness, like Jane Austen’s view of Donwell Abbey: ‘a sweet view – sweet to the eye and the mind, English verdure, English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun bright, without being oppressive’, a gentle passion that might be closely identified with political tolerance and liberty – not for nothing does the hay harvest in front of Howard’s End close E. M. Forster’s book – hay stands for the winning through of ‘English’ values.
Some may say these things, but if I had to guess, it might just be that despite the importance of the Act of Union for the stability of the island, people still saw themselves as English – or Scottish – or Welsh or Irish, rather than British, and the English in particular, and not entirely to their credit, used the two words ‘English’ and ‘British’ more or less interchangeably. The empire was British of course, and so was the army, and Britannia ruled the waves, but still, the Scots have to come to parliament in Westminster, and still, in 1952, the present Queen was crowned Elizabeth II rather than Elizabeth I.
I’m afraid however that there is no one answer that will satisfy the good doctor.