The Heptarchy today

Given the recent referendum in Scotland I can see the UK evolving a set of sub national provinces. Some people, and I think I read a mention here, suggest a breakdown along the lines of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy - seven kingdoms that existed in pre-Norman conquest times.

It’s a neat idea, in that it would reduce the overwhelming voting weight England alone would have in a federal/provincial UK setup.

Does anyone know what a rough population breakdown would be today for these historic regions?

Since 12% or so of the population of the UK lives in Greater London and less than 10% in the whole of Scotland, never mind Cornwall (West wales on that map) those boundaries would be way out.

The USA manages fairly well with states with differing populations.

True but no US state has more than 10% of the national population. Consider if they each had a parliament.

NI parliament for 1.8 million (3%)
Welsh parliament for 3.1 million (5%)
Scottish parliament for 5.2 million (8%)
English Parliament for 53.0 million (84%)

You can see the failure a federal/provincial system would encounter - a single entity could easily drive national policy with no regard to the other regions. Basically this is one of the SNP’s arguments - that Westminster is an English political body not a national one.

Now break the system into 7 or 8 regions with population between 1.8 and 10 million people and you can wind up with multiple voting blocks that could arrange successful coalitions for their proposals.

But my GQ was “Does anyone know what the modern populations distribution of the Heptarchy would be?” Our digression is more GD.


Matter of opinion. The US has some significant problems because of the different states all having two votes (regardless of population) in the Senate, and every state (no matter how small) gets at least one Representative in the House. The election of President is NOT by popular vote, but by electoral vote, where each state gets the number of its Senators plus Representatives (simplifying). Since there’s a cap on the largest state (since there are only 435 representatives), the system is grotesquely disproportionate. As quick example, a state like Wyoming (population 500K) has 3 electoral votes – i.e., one vote per 187,000 population. In contrast, New York (population 19.4 million, roughly 40 x that of Wyoming) has only 29 electoral votes – i.e., one vote per 650,000 population. So it takes three NY voters to counter 1 Wyoming voter.

It would be possible (although unlikely) for a candidate to win only around 25% of the popular vote, and still win the electoral vote.

The system is heavily geared to more power to the smaller (rural) states. No, the system does NOT work “fairly well.” But this is probably an Aside for Great Debates.

Here’s a very quick superimposition of the borders of the main Anglo-Saxon kingdoms over the population density from the 2011 census.

The sprawling mass that is London is awkwardly split between Essex (which itself would cause another civil war, no Londoner would want to be confused with Essex!) and Sussex. Mercia gets the lion’s share of the rest of England’s big cities, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.

My point was not that a federal type of devolvement is not possible (Why a heptarchy though?) but that the boundaries in the OP’s map are just so far out as to be meaningless. Geography would also play a part and since NI has a population of 1.8 million compared with 8 million in London, it is hard to see how one could draw an equitable map.

The UK is heavily London centric; not only by population but by wealth power and any other measure you can think of. This is not a good thing but a fact of British life. A recent report says that the City of London (and note that this is just the one square mile around St Pauls) paid more than 10% of the UK’s total tax revenue. There are fewer than 8000 residents.

Obviously impractical, but this map (map 15 here, with a little more explanation) shows an approximately equally quartered (by population) map of the British Isles!