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This article is about the British region. For other uses see Cornwall (disambiguation).

Cornwall (Cornish: Kernow) is the southernmost county in England. Advocates of Cornish independence regard Cornwall as a separate nation, possessing a separate culture, identity and language, and claim that there are constitutional doubts as to the legitimacy of English rule in Cornwall. However the claim of Cornish independence and the alleged illegitimacy of English rule is not legally recognised internationally nor within the United Kingdom.

Cornwall is also a duchy possessed by the Heir Apparent to the British throne as Duke of Cornwall. The modern Duchy of Cornwall operates as a property company owning 2% of the land in Cornwall and a greater acreage elsewhere in Britain.

The modern English name is derived from the tribal name Cornovii and the Anglo-Saxon word wealas meaning "foreigners". Cornovii may mean "horn [i.e. peninsula] people". Wealas is also the origin of the name Wales. [1]

In 2001 the population was 499,000.

Geographically, Cornwall is a peninsula, bordering the county of Devon at the River Tamar. Major road links between Cornwall and the rest of Great Britain are the A38 which crosses the Tamar at Plymouth via the Tamar Bridge, and the A30 which crosses the border south of Launceston. A car ferry also links Plymouth with the town of Torpoint on the opposite side of the Hamoaze. A rail-bridge built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1859) provides the only other major transport link.

Cornwall was the principal source of tin for the civilisations of the ancient Mediterranean, and at one time the Cornish were the world's foremost experts at mining. As Cornwall's reserves of tin began to be exhausted many Cornishmen emigrated to places such as the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa where their skills were in demand. The tin mines in Cornwall are now economically worked-out at current prices, but the expertise and culture of the Cornish tin miners lives on in a number of places around the world. Several Cornish mining words are in use in English language mining terminology, such as costean, gunnies, and vug.

Although the Cornish people have always been distinct from the English, in effect Cornwall is now administered as an English county. A number of complex jurisdictional ambiguities remain unresolved, however, and will probably remain so in perpetuity. As an example of the inherent complexity of this ambiguity, Sir George Harrison (Attorney General to the Duchy of Cornwall) during the Crown-v-Duchy Foreshore dispute of 1858 described Cornwall as "A palatine state, extraterritorial to the English Crown".

Cornish surnames are usually prefixed by Pen, Pol or Tre; "By Tre, Pol and Pen ye shall know Cornishmen."

The Cornish language is closely related to Welsh and Breton, and less so to Irish and Scots Gaelic. It continued as a living Celtic language until 1777 and the death of Dolly Pentreath, the last person thought to have used only the Cornish language (although this is disputed on a number of counts). The publication of Henry Jenner's "Handbook of the Cornish Language" in 1904 caused a resurgence of interest in the Cornish language and efforts are being made to revive it. Although there has never been a census, there are some 2,000 Cornish speakers, 100-150 of whom are fluent. It has recently been officially recognised by the UK government as a minority language.

Traditionally, the Cornish have been nonconformists, in both religion and politics.

There is some dispute about whether the patron saint of Cornwall is Saint Michael or Saint Piran. Saint Piran is the more popular of the two; his emblem (a vertical white cross on a black background) is recognised as the flag of Cornwall, and his day (March 5) is celebrated by Cornish people around the world. Although Saint Piran's flag has been adopted by Cornish secessionists it is also an apolitical symbol of Cornwall - it features on the packaging for Ginster's Cornish pasties, for example.

Since the decline of tin mining, farming and fishing, the area's economy has become increasingly dependent on tourism - some of the world's most spectacular coastal scenery can be found here. However, behind the facade lies an economically depressed and neglected region. This has been recognised by the EU and Cornwall has been granted Objective One status. A political party, Mebyon Kernow, the MK, or 'Sons of Cornwall', has been formed in order to attempt to reassert Cornish independence, and although increasingly the flag of St. Piran is seen across Cornwall at protests and demonstrations, the party has not achieved significant success at the ballot box.

Cornwall was the setting for the popular series of Poldark books by Winston Graham, and for the television series based on those books.

Towns and villages

Places of interest

The Isles of Scilly have in some periods been served by the same county administration as Cornwall, but are today a separate Unitary Authority.