As the Queen's Birthday Honours List is set to be revealed, it's that time of year to dust down the history books and the well-worn arguments as to whether the British Empire is really something to be celebrating.

Once one of the most expansive empires in the history of mankind, the British Empire suffered a rapid decline in the 20th Century, with dozens of countries and territories earning independence.

It may sound grand calling Sir Kenneth Branagh a Knight of the British Empire, but does it mean anything when the most notable territory still controlled by Britain is a small portion of the Antarctic?

Tell us what you think, and in the mean time, click through the slideshow below to see how the Empire fell from the end of the Second World War through India's independence, through to the Hong Kong of 1997.

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  • India, 1947

    After decades of violent rule, India celebrates its independence on 21 August 1947. One of the first major countries to depart from the British Empire, India's exit also resulted in the creation of Pakistan. India's independence began a domino effect of countries leaving the Empire over the course of fifty years, seeing Britain's global influence decline.

  • Ireland, 1949

    The closest country to declare its independence from Britain (until Scotland's referendum at least), Ireland departed the British Empire in 1949. Crowds gathered in the streets of Dublin to celebrate as the Irish flag was hoisted atop the General Post Office, marking the Republic of Ireland's birth.

  • Elizabeth II Made Queen, 19532

    With the death of King George VI and no eligible males to inherit the crown, his eldest daughter Elizabeth takes the throne. The last monarch to oversee some semblance of a British Empire, Queen Elizabeth would see the independence of plenty more nations.

  • African states leave the Empire, 1950-68

    Among the nations to declare their independence over the course the next twenty, many were African countries. Libya, Eritrea, Sudan, the Gold Coast, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Somalia, Zanzibar, Nigeria, Cameroon, Swaziland, Uganda and Kenya all declare their independence.

  • Pacific and Caribbean Islands, 1962-78

    As the Empire continues to dwindle, far-ranging islands begin to drop their fealty to the Queen and become independent states. Among them: Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Samoa, Malta, Fiji, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, the Bahamas and the Seychelles. <em>Pictured: The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on a Caribbean tour in 1966</em>

  • Hong Kong Agreed To Be Handed Over, 1984

    In the final major move to scale down the British Empire, Britain agrees to hand over Hong Kong to China. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher met Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang to finalise the pact, in December 1984. They exchanged papers over the handover agreement, formalising the transfer.

  • Hong Kong Leaves The Commonwealth, 1997

    Following the historic agreement between the UK and China in 1984, the official handing over of sovereignty over Hong Kong takes place in 1997. The Union flag is taken down and China raises its own in an iconic ceremony that marked the last country to leave what was the British Empire.

  • So Who Is Left in 2012?

    Although the British Empire lost a mammoth percentage of its land and influence, there still remains the Commonwealth and just over a dozen territories scattered across the globe still reigned by the Queen. Once claiming over 450 million inhabitants and close to 35 territories, the British Empire is now a shadow of its former self, if barely qualifying any more... The final fourteen overseas territories: The Falklands Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Gibraltar, Bermuda, the Caicos Islands, Anguilla, Montserrat, the Cayman Islands, the Pitcairns, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Ascension Island, Saint Helena, Tristan de Cunha, Akrotiri and Dhekelia, the British Indian Ocean Territory and, of course, the British Antarctic Territory.