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Great Seals of State

William I  (1027-87) 'The Conqueror'                           
Norman Line

William I (The Conqueror)William, the illegitimate son of the Duke of Normandy, spent his first six years with his mother in Falaise and received the duchy of Normandy upon his father's death in 1035. A council consisting of noblemen and William's appointed guardians ruled Normandy but ducal authority waned under the Normans' violent nature and the province was wracked with assassination and revolt for twelve years. In 1047, William reasserted himself in the eastern Norman regions and, with the aid of France's King Henry I, crushed the rebelling barons. He spent the next several years consolidating his strength on the continent through marriage, diplomacy, war and savage intimidation. By 1066, Normandy was in a position of virtual independence from William's feudal lord, Henry I of France and the disputed succession in England offered William an opportunity for invasion.  Edward the Confessor attempted to gain Norman support while fighting with his father-in-law, Earl Godwin, by purportedly promising the throne to William in 1051. (This was either a false claim by William or a hollow promise from Edward; at that time, the kingship was not necessarily hereditary but was appointed by the witan, a council of clergy and barons.) Before his death in 1066, however, Edward reconciled with Godwin, and the witan agreed to Godwin's son, Harold, as heir to the crown - after the recent Danish kings, the members of the council were anxious to keep the monarchy in Anglo-Saxon hands. William was enraged and immediately prepared to invade, insisting that Harold had sworn allegiance to him in 1064. Prepared for battle in August 1066, ill winds throughout August and most of September prohibited him crossing the English Channel. This turned out to be advantageous for William, however, as Harold Godwinson awaited William's pending arrival on England's south shores, Harold Hardrada, the King of Norway, invaded England from the north. Harold Godwinson's forces marched north to defeat the Norse at Stamford Bridge on 25 September 1066. Two days after the battle, William landed unopposed at Pevensey and spent the next two weeks pillaging the area and strengthening his position on the beachhead. The victorious Harold, in an attempt to solidify his kingship, took the fight south to William and the Normans on 14 October 1066 at Hastings. After hours of holding firm against the Normans, the tired English forces finally succumbed to the onslaught. Harold and his brothers died fighting in the Hastings battle, removing any further organized Anglo-Saxon resistance to the Normans. The earls and bishops of the witan hesitated in supporting William, but soon submitted and crowned him William I on Christmas Day 1066. The kingdom was immediately besieged by minor uprisings, each one individually and ruthlessly crushed by the Normans, until the whole of England was conquered and united in 1072. William punished rebels by confiscating their lands and allocating them to the Normans. Uprisings in the northern counties near York were quelled by an artificial famine brought about by Norman destruction of food caches and farming implements.  The arrival and conquest of William and the Normans radically altered the course of English history. Rather than attempt a wholesale replacement of Anglo-Saxon law, William fused continental practices with native custom. By disenfranchising Anglo-Saxon landowners, he instituted a brand of feudalism in England that strengthened the monarchy. Villages and manors were given a large degree of autonomy in local affairs in return for military service and monetary payments. The Anglo-Saxon office of sheriff was greatly enhanced: sheriffs arbitrated legal cases in the shire courts on behalf of the king, extracted tax payments and were generally responsible for keeping the peace. "The Doomsday Book" was commissioned in 1085 as a survey of land ownership to assess property and establish a tax base. Within the regions covered by the Doomsday survey, the dominance of the Norman king and his nobility are revealed: only two Anglo-Saxon barons that held lands before 1066 retained those lands twenty years later. All landowners were summoned to pay homage to William in 1086. William imported an Italian, Lanfranc, to take the position of Archbishop of Canterbury; Lanfranc reorganized the English Church, establishing separate Church courts to deal with infractions of Canon law. Although he began the invasion with papal support, William refused to let the church dictate policy within English and Norman borders.  He died as he had lived: an inveterate warrior. He died 9 September 1087 from complications of a wound he received in a siege on the town of Mantes. "The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" gave a favourable review of William's twenty-one year reign, but added, "His anxiety for money is the only thing on which he can deservedly be blamed; . . .he would say and do some things and indeed almost anything . . .where the hope of money allured him." He was certainly cruel by modern standards, and exacted a high toll from his subjects, but he laid the foundation for the economic and political success of England.  back to Monarchs   

William II  (1056-1100) "Rufus" (The Red)                             
Norman Line

William II "Rufus (The Red)" William II earned the nickname Rufus either because of his red hair or his propensity for anger. William Rufus never married and had no offspring. The manner in which William the Conqueror divided his possessions caused turmoil among his sons: his eldest son Robert received the Duchy of Normandy, William Rufus acquired England, and his youngest son Henry inherited 5000 of silver. The contention between the brothers may have exerted an influence on the poor light in which William Rufus was historically portrayed.  Many Norman barons owned property on both sides of the English Channel and found themselves in the midst of a tremendous power play. Hesitant to declare sides, most of the barons eventually aligned with Robert due to William Rufus' cruelty and avarice. Robert, however, failed to make an appearance in England and William Rufus quelled the rebellion. He turned his sights to Normandy in 1089, bribing Norman barons for support and subsequently eroding his brother's power base. In 1096, Robert, tired of governing and quarrelling with his brothers, pawned Normandy to William Rufus for 10,000 marks to finance his departure to the Holy Land on the first Crusade. Robert regained possession of the duchy after William Rufus' death in 1100.  William Rufus employed all the powers of the crown to secure wealth. He manipulated feudal law to the benefit of the royal treasury: shire courts levied heavy fines, confiscation and forfeitures were harshly enforced, and exorbitant inheritance taxes were imposed. His fiscal policies included (and antagonized) the church - William Rufus had no respect for the clergy and they none for him. He bolstered the royal revenue by leaving sees open and diverting the money into his coffers. He treated the Church as nothing more than a rich corporation deserving of heavy taxing at a time when the Church was gaining in influence through the Gregorian reforms of the eleventh century. Aided by his sharp-witted minister, Ranulf Flambard, William Rufus greatly profited from clerical vacancies. The failed appointment and persecution of Anselm, Abbot of Bec, as the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1093 added fuel to the historical denigration of William II; most contemporary writings were done by monks, who cared little for the crass, blasphemous king.  On 2 August 1100, William Rufus was struck in the chest by an arrow and killed while hunting. Whether the arrow was a stray shot or premeditated murder is still under debate.  back to Monarchs

Henry I  (1068-1135)  "Beauclerc" (Fine Scholar)                         
Norman Line

Henry I "Beauclerc (Fine Scholar)"Henry I, the most resilient of the Norman kings (his reign lasted thirty-five years), was nicknamed "Beauclerc" (fine scholar) for his above average education. During his reign, the differences between English and Norman society began to slowly evaporate. Reforms in the royal treasury system became the foundation upon which later kings built. The stability Henry afforded the throne was offset by problems in succession: his only surviving son, William, was lost in the wreck of the White Ship in November 1120.  The first years of Henry's reign were concerned with subduing Normandy. William the Conqueror divided his kingdoms between Henry's older brothers, leaving England to William Rufus and Normandy to Robert. Henry inherited no land but received 5000 in silver. He played each brother off of the other during their quarrels; both distrusted Henry and subsequently signed a mutual accession treaty barring Henry from the crown. Henry's hope arose when Robert departed for the Holy Land on the First Crusade; should William die, Henry was the obvious heir. Henry was in the woods hunting on the morning of 2 August 1100 when William Rufus was killed by an arrow to the chest. His quick movement in securing the crown on 5 August led many to believe he was responsible for his brother's death. In his coronation charter, Henry denounced William's oppressive policies and promising good government in an effort to appease his barons. Robert returned to Normandy a few weeks later but escaped final defeat until the Battle of Tinchebrai in 1106; Robert was captured and lived the remaining twenty-eight years of his life as Henry's prisoner.  Henry was drawn into controversy with a rapidly expanding Church. Lay investiture, the King's selling of clergy appointments, was heavily opposed by Gregorian reformers in the Church but was a cornerstone of Norman government. Henry recalled Anselm of Bec to the archbishopric of Canterbury to gain baronial support, but the stubborn Anselm refused to do homage to Henry for his lands. The situation remained unresolved until Pope Paschal II threatened Henry with excommunication in 1105. He reached a compromise with the papacy: Henry rescinded the king's divine authority in conferring sacred offices but appointees continued to do homage for their fiefs. In practice, it changed little - the king maintained the deciding voice in appointing ecclesiastical offices - but it a marked a point where kingship became purely secular and subservient in the eyes of the Church.  By 1106, both the quarrels with the church and the conquest of Normandy were settled and Henry concentrated on expanding royal power. He mixed generosity with violence in motivating allegiance to the crown and appointing loyal and gifted men to administrative positions. By raising men out of obscurity for such appointments, Henry began to rely less on landed barons as ministers and created a loyal bureaucracy. He was deeply involved in continental affairs and therefore spent almost half of his time in Normandy, prompting him to create the position of justiciar - the most trusted of all the king's officials, the justiciar literally ruled in the king's stead. Roger of Salisbury, the first justiciar, was instrumental in organizing an efficient department for collection of royal revenues, the Exchequer. The Exchequer held sessions twice a year for sheriffs and other revenue-collecting officials; these officials appeared before the justiciar, the chancellor, and several clerks and rendered an account of their finances. The Exchequer was an ingenious device for balancing amounts owed versus amounts paid. Henry gained notoriety for sending out court officials to judge local financial disputes (weakening the feudal courts controlled by local lords) and curb errant sheriffs (weakening the power bestowed upon the sheriffs by his father).  The final years of his reign were consumed in war with France and difficulties ensuring the succession. The French King Louis VI began consolidating his kingdom and attacked Normandy unsuccessfully on three separate occasions. The succession became a concern upon the death of his son William in 1120: Henry's marriage to Adelaide was fruitless, leaving his daughter Matilda as the only surviving legitimate heir. She was recalled to Henry's court in 1125 after the death of her husband, Emperor Henry V of Germany. Henry forced his barons to swear an oath of allegiance to Matilda in 1127 after he arranged her marriage to the sixteen-year-old Geoffrey of Anjou to cement an Angevin alliance on the continent. The marriage, unpopular with the Norman barons, produced a male heir in 1133, which prompted yet another reluctant oath of loyalty from the aggravated barons. In the summer of 1135, Geoffrey demanded custody of certain key Norman castles as a show of good will from Henry; Henry refused and the pair entered into war. Henry's life ended in this sorry state of affairs - war with his son-in-law and rebellion on the horizon - in December 1135.   back to Monarchs

Stephen  (1097-1154)                                           
Norman Line

StephenStephen was the grandson of William the Conqueror and about half-dozen years older than his cousin and rival for the throne, Matilda (daughter of Henry I). After his father's death in 1102, Stephen was raised by his uncle, Henry I. Henry was genuinely fond of Stephen, and granted his nephew estates on both sides of the English Channel. By 1130, Stephen was the richest man in England and Normandy.  Stephen's reign was one of the darkest chapters in English history. He was basically a good man - well respected by the barons and closely tied to the church - but possessed a conciliatory character and limited scope of kingship. Stephen had promised to recognize his cousin Matilda as lawful heir, but like many of the English/Norman nobles, was unwilling to yield the crown to a woman. He received recognition as king by the papacy through the machinations of his brother Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester, and gathered support from the barons. Matilda was in Anjou at the time of Henry's death and Stephen, in a rare exhibition of resolve, crossed the Channel and was crowned king by the citizens of London on 22 December 1135.  Stephen's first few years as king were relatively calm but his character flaws were quickly revealed. Soon after his coronation, two barons each seized a royal castle in different parts of the country; unlike his hot-tempered and vengeful Norman predecessors, Stephen failed to act against the errant barons. Thus began the slow erosion of Stephen's authority as increasing numbers of barons did little more than honour their basic feudal obligations to the king. Stephen failed to keep law and order as headstrong barons increasingly seized property illegally. He granted huge tracts of land to the Scottish king to end Scottish and Welsh attacks on the frontiers. He succumbed to an unfavourable treaty with Geoffrey of Anjou to end hostilities in Normandy. Stephen's relationship with the Church also deteriorated: he allowed the Church much judicial latitude (at the cost of royal authority) but alienated the Church by his persecution of Roger, Bishop of Salisbury in 1139. Stephen's jealous tirade against Roger and his fellow officials seriously disrupted the administration of the realm.  Matilda, biding her time on the continent, decided the time was right to assert her hereditary rights. Accompanied by her second husband Geoffrey of Anjou and her half-brother Robert, Earl of Gloucester, Matilda invaded England in the Autumn of 1139. The trio dominated western England and joined a rebellion against Stephen in 1141. Robert captured Stephen in battle at Lincoln; Stephen's government collapsed and Matilda was recognized as Queen. The contentious and arrogant Matilda quickly angered the citizens of London and was expelled from the city. Stephen's forces rallied, captured Robert, and exchanged the Earl for the King. Matilda had been defeated but the succession remained in dispute: Stephen wanted his son Eustace to be named heir, and Matilda wanted her son Henry FitzEmpress to succeed to the crown. Civil war continued until Matilda departed for France in 1148. The succession dispute remained an issue, as the virtually independent barons were reluctant to choose sides from fear of losing personal power. The problem of succession was resolved in 1153 when Eustace died and Henry came to England to battle for both his own rights and those of his mother. The two sides finally reached a compromise with the Treaty of Wallingford - Stephen would rule unopposed until his death but the throne would pass to Henry of Anjou.  Stephen died less than a year later in 1154.   back to Monarchs

Matilda    (Never crowned)                                                  
Norman Line

Matilda is the Latin form of Maud, and the name of the only surviving legitimate child of King Henry I. She was born in 1101, generally it is said at Winchester, but recent research indicates that she was actually born at the Royal Palace in Sutton Courtenay (Berkshire).  In something of a political coup for her father, Matilda was betrothed to the German Emperor, Henry V, when she was only eight. They were married on 7 January 1114. She was twelve and he was thirty-two. Unfortunately there were no children and on the Emperor's death in 1125, Matilda was recalled to her father's court.  Matilda's only legitimate brother had been killed in the disastrous Wreck of the White Ship in late 1120 and she was now her father's only hope for the continuation of his dynasty. The barons swore allegiance to the young Princess and promised to make her queen after her father's death. She herself needed heirs though and in April 1127, Matilda found herself obliged to marry Prince Geoffrey of Anjou and Maine (the future Geoffrey V, Count of those Regions). He was thirteen, she twenty-three. It is thought that the two never got on. However, despite this unhappy situation they had had three sons in four years.  Being absent in Anjou at the time of her father's death on 1 December 1135, possibly due to pregnancy, Matilda was not in much of a position to take up the throne which had been promised her and she quickly lost out to her fast-moving cousin, Stephen. With her husband, she attempted to take Normandy. With encouragement from supporters in England though, it was not long before Matilda invaded her rightful English domain and so began a long-standing Civil War from the powerbase of her half-brother, Robert of Gloucester, in the West Country.  After three years of armed struggle, she at last gained the upper hand at the Battle of Lincoln, in February 1141, where King Stephen was captured. However, despite being declared Queen or "Lady of the English" at Winchester and winning over Stephen's brother, Henry of Blois, the powerful Bishop of Winchester, Matilda alienated the citizens of London with her arrogant manner. She failed to secure her coronation and the Londoners joined a renewed push from Stephen's Queen and laid siege to the Empress in Winchester. She managed to escape to the West, but while commanding her rearguard, her brother was captured by the enemy. Matilda was obliged to swap Stephen for Robert on 1 November 1141. Thus the King soon re-imposed his Royal authority. In 1148, after the death of her half-brother, Matilda finally returned to Normandy, leaving her son, who, in 1154, would become Henry II, to fight on in England. She died at Rouen on 10 September 1169 and was buried in Fontevrault Abbey, though some of her entrails may possibly have been later interred in her father's foundation at Reading Abbey.   back to Monarchs

Henry II  (1139-89)                                    
Plantagenet, Angevin Line

Henry IIHenry II, first of the Angevin kings, was one of the most effective of all England's monarchs. He came to the throne amid the anarchy of Stephen's reign and promptly collared his errant barons. He refined Norman government and created a capable, self-standing bureaucracy. His energy was equalled only by his ambition and intelligence. Henry survived wars, rebellion, and controversy to successfully rule one of the Middle Ages' most powerful kingdoms.  Henry was raised in the French province of Anjou and first visited England in 1142 to defend his mother's claim to the disputed throne of Stephen. His continental possessions were already vast before his coronation: He acquired Normandy and Anjou upon the death of his father in September 1151, and his French holdings more than doubled with his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitane (ex-wife of King Louis VII of France). In accordance with the Treaty of Wallingford, a succession agreement signed by Stephen and Matilda in 1153, Henry was crowned in October 1154. The continental empire ruled by Henry and his sons included the French counties of Brittany, Maine, Poitou, Touraine, Gascony, Anjou, Aquitane, and Normandy. Henry was technically a feudal vassal of the king of France but, in reality, owned more territory and was more powerful than his French lord. Although King John (Henry's son) lost most of the English holdings in France, English kings laid claim to the French throne until the fifteenth century. Henry also extended his territory in the British Isles in two significant ways. First, he retrieved Cumbria and Northumbria form Malcolm IV of Scotland and settled the Anglo-Scot border in the North. Secondly, although his success with Welsh campaigns was limited, Henry invaded Ireland and secured an English presence on the island.  English and Norman barons in Stephen's reign manipulated feudal law to undermine royal authority; Henry instituted many reforms to weaken traditional feudal ties and strengthen his position. Unauthorized castles built during the previous reign were razed. Monetary payments replaced military service as the primary duty of vassals. The Exchequer was revitalized to enforce accurate record keeping and tax collection. Incompetent sheriffs were replaced and the authority of royal courts was expanded. Henry empowered a new social class of government clerks that stabilized procedure - the government could operate effectively in the King's absence and would subsequently prove sufficiently tenacious to survive the reign of incompetent kings. Henry's reforms allowed the emergence of a body of common law to replace the disparate customs of feudal and county courts. Jury trials were initiated to end the old Germanic trials by ordeal or battle. Henry's systematic approach to law provided a common basis for development of royal institutions throughout the entire realm.  The process of strengthening the royal courts, however, yielded an unexpected controversy. The church courts instituted by William the Conqueror became a safe haven for criminals of varying degree and ability, for one in fifty of the English population qualified as clerics. Henry wished to transfer sentencing in such cases to the royal courts, as church courts merely demoted clerics to laymen. Thomas Beckett, Henry's close friend and chancellor since 1155, was named Archbishop of Canterbury in June 1162 but distanced himself from Henry and vehemently opposed the weakening of church courts. Beckett fled England in 1164, but through the intervention of Pope Adrian IV (the lone English pope), returned in 1170.He greatly angered Henry by opposing to the coronation of Prince Henry. Exasperated, Henry hastily and publicly conveyed his desire to be rid of the contentious Archbishop - four ambitious knights took the king at his word and murdered Beckett in his own cathedral on 29 December 1170. Henry endured a rather limited storm of protest over the incident and the controversy passed. Henry's plans of dividing his myriad lands and titles evoked treachery from his sons. At the encouragement - and sometimes because of the treatment - of their mother, they rebelled against their father several times, often with Louis VII of France as their accomplice. The deaths of Henry the Young King in 1183 and Geoffrey in 1186 gave no respite from his children's rebellious nature; Richard, with the assistance of Philip II Augustus of France, attacked and defeated Henry on 4 July 1189 and forced him to accept a humiliating peace. Henry II died two days later, on 6 July 1189.    back to Monarchs

Richard I  (1157-99)  "The Lion Heart"                      
Plantagenet, Angevin Line

Richard I "The Lion Heart"Richard I, the Lion-hearted, spent much of his youth in his mother's court at Poitiers. Richard cared much more for the continental possessions of his mother than for England - he also cared much more for his mother than for his father. Family considerations influenced much of his life: he fought along side of his brothers Prince Henry and Geoffrey in their rebellion of 1173-4; he fought for his father against his brothers when they supported an 1183 revolt in Aquitane; and he joined Philip II of France against his father in 1188, defeating Henry in 1189.  Richard spent but six months of his ten-year reign in England. He acted upon a promise to his father to join the Third Crusade and departed for the Holy Land in 1190 (accompanied by his partner-rival Philip II of France). In 1191, he conquered Cyprus en route to Jerusalem and performed admirably against Saladin, nearly taking the holy city twice. Philip II, in the meantime, returned to France and schemed with Richard's brother John. The Crusade failed in its primary objective of liberating the Holy Land from Moslem Turks, but did have a positive result - easier access to the region for Christian pilgrims through a truce with Saladin. Richard received word of John's treachery and decided to return home; he was captured by Leopold V of Austria and imprisoned by Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI. The administrative machinery of Henry II insured the continuance of royal authority, as Richard was unable to return to his realm until 1194. Upon his return, he crushed a coup attempt by John and regained lands lost to Philip II during the German captivity. Richard's war with Philip continued sporadically until the French were finally defeated near Gisors in 1198.  Richard died 6 April 1199, from a wound received in a skirmish at the castle of Chalus in the Limousin.    back to Monarchs

John  (1167-1216)  "Lackland"                            
Plantagenet, Angevin Line

John was born on Christmas Eve 1167. His parents drifted apart after his birth; his youth was divided between his eldest brother Henry's house, where he learned the art of knighthood, and the house of his father's justiciar, Ranulf Glanvil, where he learned the business of government. As the fourth child, inherited lands were not available to him, giving rise to his nickname, Lackland. His first marriage lasted but ten years and was fruitless, but his second wife, Isabella of Angouleme, bore him two sons and three daughters. He also had an illegitimate daughter, Joan, who married Llywelyn the Great, Ruler of All Wales, from which the Tudor line of monarchs was descended. The survival of the English government during John's reign is a testament to the reforms of his father, as John taxed the system socially, economically, and judicially.  The Angevin family feuds profoundly marked John. He and Richard clashed in 1184 following Richard's refusal to honour his father's wishes surrender Aquitane to John. The following year Henry II sent John to rule Ireland, but John alienated both the native Irish and the transplanted Anglo-Normans who emigrated to carve out new lordships for themselves; the experiment was a total failure and John returned home within six months. After Richard gained the throne in 1189, he gave John vast estates in an unsuccessful attempt to appease his younger brother. John failed to overthrow Richard's administrators during the German captivity and conspired with Philip II in another failed coup attempt. Upon Richard's release from captivity in 1194, John was forced to sue for pardon and he spent the next five years in his brother's shadow.  John's reign was troubled in many respects. A quarrel with the Church resulted in England being placed under an interdict in 1207, with John actually excommunicated two years later. The dispute centred on John's stubborn refusal to install the papal candidate, Stephen Langdon, as Archbishop of Canterbury; the issue was not resolved until John surrendered to the wishes of Pope Innocent III and paid tribute for England as the Pope's vassal.  John proved extremely unpopular with his subjects. In addition to the Irish debacle, he inflamed his French vassals by orchestrating the murder of his popular nephew, Arthur of Brittany. By spring 1205, he lost the last of his French possessions and returned to England. The final ten years of his reign were occupied with failed attempts to regain these territories. After levying a number of new taxes upon the barons to pay for his dismal campaigns, the discontented barons revolted, capturing London in May 1215. At Runnymeade in the following June, John succumbed to pressure from the barons, the Church, and the English people at-large, and signed the Magna Carta. The document, a declaration of feudal rights, stressed three points. First, the Church was free to make ecclesiastic appointments. Second, larger-than-normal amounts of money could only be collected with the consent of the king's feudal tenants. Third, no freeman was to be punished except within the context of common law. Magna Carta, although a testament to John's complete failure as monarch, was the forerunner of modern constitutions. John only signed the document as a means of buying time and his hesitance to implement its principles compelled the nobility to seek French assistance. The barons offered the throne to Philip II's son, Louis. John died in the midst of invasion from the French in the South and rebellion from his barons in the North.   back to Monarchs

Henry III  (1207-72)                                   
Plantagenet, Angevin Line

Henry IIIHenry III, the first monarch to be crowned in his minority, inherited the throne at age nine. His reign began immersed in the rebellion created by his father, King John. London and most of the southeast were in the hands of the French Dauphin Louis and the northern regions were under the control of rebellious barons - only the midlands and southwest were loyal to the boy king. The barons, however, rallied under Henry's first regent, William the Marshall, and expelled the French Dauphin in 1217. William the Marshall governed until his death in 1219; Hugh de Burgh, the last of the justiciars to rule with the power of a king, governed until Henry came to the throne in earnest at age twenty-five.  A variety of factors coalesced in Henry's reign to plant the first seeds of English nationalism. Throughout his minority, the barons held firm to the ideal of written restrictions on royal authority and reissued Magna Carta several times. The nobility wished to bind the king to same feudal laws under which they were held. The emerging class of free men also demanded the same protection from the king's excessive control. Barons, nobility, and free men began viewing England as a community rather than a mere aggregation of independent manors, villages, and outlying principalities. In addition to the restrictions outlined in Magna Carta, the barons asked to be consulted in matters of state and called together as a Great Council. Viewing themselves as the natural counsellors of the king, they sought control over the machinery of government, particularly in the appointment of chief government positions. The Exchequer and the Chancery were separated from the rest of the government to decrease the king's chances of ruling irresponsibly.  Nationalism, such as it was at this early stage, manifested in the form of opposition to Henry's actions. He infuriated the barons by granting favours and appointments to foreigners rather than the English nobility. Peter des Roches, the Bishop of Winchester and Henry's prime educator, introduced a number of Frenchmen from Poitou into the government; many Italians entered into English society through Henry's close ties to the papacy. His reign coincided with an expansion of papal power the Church became, in effect, a massive European monarchy and the Church became as creative as it was excessive in extorting money from England. England was expected to assume a large portion of financing the myriad officials employed throughout Christendom as well as providing employment and parishes for Italians living abroad. Henry's acquiescence to the demands of Rome initiated a backlash of protest from his subjects: laymen were denied opportunity to be nominated for vacant ecclesiastical offices and clergymen lost any chance of advancement.

Matters came to a head in 1258. Henry levied extortionate taxes to pay for debts incurred through war with Wales, failed campaigns in France, and an extensive program of ecclesiastical building. Inept diplomacy and military defeat led Henry to sell his hereditary claims to all the Angevin possessions in France except Gascony. When he assumed the considerable debts of the papacy in its fruitless war with Sicily, his barons demanded sweeping reforms and the king was in no position to offer resistance. Henry was forced to agree to the Provisions of Oxford, a document placing the barons in virtual control of the realm. A council of fifteen men, comprised of both the king's supporters and detractors, effected a situation whereby Henry could do nothing without the council's knowledge and consent. The magnates handled every level of government with great unity initially but gradually succumbed to petty bickering; the Provisions of Oxford remained in force for only years. Henry reasserted his authority and denied the Provisions, resulting in the outbreak of civil war in 1264. Edward, Henry's eldest son, led the king's forces with the opposition commanded by Simon de Montfort, Henry's brother-in-law. At the Battle of Lewes, in Sussex, de Montfort defeated Edward and captured both king and son - and found himself in control of the government.  Simon de Montfort held absolute power after subduing Henry but was a champion of reform. The nobility supported him because of his royal ties and belief in the Provisions of Oxford. De Montfort, with two close associates, selected a council of nine (whose function was similar to the earlier council of fifteen) and ruled in the king's name. De Montfort recognized the need to gain the backing of smaller landowners and prosperous townsfolk: in 1264, he summoned knights from each shire in addition to the normal high churchmen and nobility to an early pre-Parliament, and in 1265 invited burgesses from selected towns. Although Parliament as an institution was yet to be formalized, the latter session was a precursor to both the elements of Parliament: the House of Lords and the House of Commons.  Later in 1265, de Montfort lost the support of one of the most powerful barons, the Earl of Gloucester, and Edward also managed to escape. The two gathered an army and defeated de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham, Worcestershire. de Montfort was slain and Henry was released; Henry resumed control of the throne but, for the remainder of his reign, Edward exercised the real power of the throne in his father's stead. The old king, after a long reign of fifty-six years, died in 1272. Although a failure as a politician and soldier, his reign was significant for defining the English monarchical position until the end of the fifteenth century: kingship limited by law.    back to Monarchs

Edward I  (1239-1307)  "Hammer of the Scots" or "Longshanks"     
Plantagenet, Angevin Line

Edward I, nicknamed "Longshanks" due to his great height and stature, was perhaps the most successful of the medieval monarchs. The first twenty years of his reign marked a high point of cooperation between crown and community. In these years, Edward made great strides in reforming government, consolidating territory, and defining foreign policy. He possessed the strength his father lacked and reasserted royal prerogative. Edward fathered many children as well: sixteen by Eleanor of Castille before her death in 1290, and three more by Margaret. Edward held to the concept of community, and although at times unscrupulously aggressive, ruled with the general welfare of his subjects in mind. He perceived the crown as judge of the proper course of action for the realm and its chief legislator; royal authority was granted by law and should be fully utilized for the public good, but that same law also granted protection to the king's subjects. A king should rule with the advice and consent of those whose rights were in question. The level of interaction between king and subject allowed Edward considerable leeway in achieving his goals.  Edward I added to the bureaucracy initiated by Henry II to increase his effectiveness as sovereign. He expanded the administration into four principal parts: the Chancery, the Exchequer, the Household, and the Council. The Chancery researched and created legal documents while the Exchequer received and issued money, scrutinized the accounts of local officials, and kept financial records. These two departments operated within the king's authority but independently from his personal rule, prompting Edward to follow the practice of earlier kings in developing the Household, a mobile court of clerks and advisers that travelled with the king. The King's Council was the most vital segment of the four. It consisted of his principal ministers, trusted judges and clerks, a select group of magnates, and also followed the king. The Council dealt with matters of great importance to the realm and acted as a court for cases of national importance.  Edward's forays into the refinement of law and justice had important consequences in decreasing feudal practice. The Statute of Gloucester (1278) curbed expansion of large private holdings and established the principle that all private franchises were delegated by, and subordinate to, the crown. Royal jurisdiction became supreme: the Exchequer developed a court to hear financial disputes, the Court of Common Pleas arose to hear property disputes, and the Court of the King's Bench addressed criminal cases in which the king had a vested interest. Other statutes prohibited vassals from giving their lands to the church, encouraged primogeniture, and established the king as the sole person who could make a man his feudal vassal. In essence, Edward set the stage for land to become an article of commerce. Edward concentrated on an aggressive foreign policy. A major campaign to control Llywelyn ap Gruffydd of Wales began in 1277 and lasted until Llywelyn's death in 1282. Wales was divided into shires, English civil law was introduced, and the region was administered by appointed justices. In the manner of earlier monarchs, Edward constructed many new castles to ensure his conquest. In 1301, the king's eldest son was named Prince of Wales, a title still granted to all first-born male heirs to the crown. Edward found limited success in extending English influence into Ireland: he introduced a Parliament in Dublin and increased commerce in a few coastal towns, but most of the country was controlled by independent barons or Celtic tribal chieftains. He retained English holdings in France through diplomacy, but was drawn into war by the incursions of Philip IV in Gascony. He negotiated a peace with France in 1303 and retained those areas England held before the war.  Edward's involvement in Scotland had far reaching effects. The country had developed a feudal kingdom similar to England in the Lowlands the Celtic tribal culture dispersed to the Highlands. After the death of the Scottish king, Alexander III, Edward negotiated a treaty whereby Margaret, Maid of Norway and legitimate heir to the Scottish crown, would be brought to England to marry his oldest son, the future Edward II. Margaret, however, died in 1290 en route to England, leaving a disputed succession in Scotland; Edward claimed the right to intercede as feudal lord of the Scottish kings through their Anglo-Norman roots. Edward arbitrated between thirteen different claimants and chose John Baliol. Baliol did homage to Edward as his lord, but the Scots resisted Edward's demands for military service. In 1296, Edward invaded Scotland and soundly defeated the Scots under Baliol Baliol was forced to abdicate and the Scottish barons did homage to Edward as their king. William Wallace incited a rebellion in 1297, defeated the English army at Stirling, and harassed England's northern counties. The next year, Edward defeated Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk but encountered continued resistance until Wallace's capture and execution in 1304. Robert Bruce, the grandson of a claimant to the throne in 1290, instigated another revolt in 1306 and would ultimately defeat the army of Edward II at Bannockburn. Edward's campaigns in Scotland were ruthless and aroused in the Scots a hatred of England that would endure for generations.  Edward's efforts to finance his wars in France and Scotland strained his relationship with the nobility by instituting both income and personal property taxes. Meetings of the King's Great Council, now referred to as Parliaments, intermittently included members of the middle class and began curtailing the royal authority. Parliament reaffirmed Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest in 1297, 1299, 1300, and 1301; it was concluded that no tax should be levied without consent of the realm as a whole (as represented by Parliament).  Edward's character found accurate evaluation by Sir Richard Baker, in A Chronicle of the Kings of England: He had in him the two wisdoms, not often found in any, single; both together, seldom or never: an ability of judgement in himself, and a readiness to hear the judgement of others. He was not easily provoked into passion, but once in passion, not easily appeased, as was seen by his dealing with the Scots; towards whom he showed at first patience, and at last severity. If he be censured for his many taxations, he may be justified by his well bestowing them; for never prince laid out his money to more honour of himself, or good of his kingdom."   back to Monarchs

Edward II  (1284-1327)                                 
Plantagenet, Angevin Line

Edward II lacked the royal dignity of his father and failed miserably as king. He inherited his father's war with Scotland and displayed his ineptitude as a soldier. Disgruntled barons, already wary of Edward as Prince of Wales, sought to check his power from the beginning of his reign. He raised the ire of the nobility by lavishing money and other rewards upon his male favourites. Such extreme unpopularity would eventually cost Edward his life.  Edward I's dream of a unified British nation quickly disintegrated under his weak son. Baronial rebellion opened the way for Robert Bruce to re-conquer much of Scotland. In 1314, Bruce defeated English forces at the battle of Bannockburn and ensured Scottish independence until the union of England and Scotland in 1707. Bruce also incited rebellion in Ireland and reduced English influence to the confines of the Pale.  Edward's preference for surrounding himself with outsiders harkened back to the troubled reign of Henry III. The most notable was Piers Gaveston, a young Gascon exiled by Edward I for his undue influence on the Prince of Wales and, most likely, the king's homosexual lover. The arrogant and licentious Gaveston wielded considerable power after being recalled by Edward. The magnates, alienated by the relationship, rallied in opposition behind the king's cousin, Thomas, Earl of Lancaster; the Parliaments of 1310 and 1311 imposed restrictions on Edward's power and exiled Gaveston. The barons revolted in 1312 and Gaveston was murdered - full rebellion was avoided only by Edward's acceptance of further restrictions. Although Lancaster shared the responsibilities of governing with Edward, the king came under the influence of yet another despicable favourite, Hugh Dispenser. In 1322, Edward showed a rare display of resolve and gathered an army to meet Lancaster at the Battle of Boroughbridge in Yorkshire. Edward prevailed and executed Lancaster. He and Dispenser ruled the government but again acquired many enemies - 28 knights and barons were executed for rebelling and many exiled.  Edward sent his queen, Isabella, to negotiate with her brother, French king Charles IV, regarding affairs in Gascony. She fell into an open romance with Roger Mortimer, one of Edward's disaffected barons, and persuaded Edward to send their young son to France. The rebellious couple invaded England in 1326 and imprisoned Edward. The king was deposed in 1327, replaced by his son, Edward III, and murdered in September at Berkeley castle.    back to Monarchs

Edward III  (1312-77)                                  
Plantagenet, Angevin Line

Effigy on the tomb of Edward III in Westminster AbbeyThe fifty-year reign of Edward III was a dichotomy in English development. Governmental reforms affirmed theArms of Edward III power of the emerging middle class in Parliament while placing the power of the nobility into the hands a few. Chivalric code reached an apex in English society but only masked the greed and ambition of Edward and his barons. Social conditions were equally ambiguous: the export of raw wool (and later, the wool cloth industry) prospered and spread wealth across the nation but was offset by the devastation wrought by the Black Death. Early success in war ultimately failed to produce lasting results. Edward proved a most capable king in a time of great evolution in England.  Edward's youth was spent in his mother's court and he was crowned at age fourteen after his father was deposed. After three years of domination by his mother and her lover, Roger Mortimer, Edward instigated a palace revolt in 1330 and assumed control of the government. Mortimer was executed and Isabella was exiled from court. Edward was married to Philippa of Hainault in 1328 and the union produced many children; the 75% survival rate of their children - nine out of twelve lived through adulthood - was incredible considering conditions of the day.  War occupied the largest part of Edward's reign. He and Edward Baliol defeated David II of Scotland and drove David into exile in 1333. French cooperation with the Scots, French aggression in Gascony, and Edward's claim to the disputed throne of France (through his mother, Isabella) led to the first phase of the Hundred Years' war. The naval battle of Sluys (1340) gave England control of the Channel, and battles at Crecy (1346) and Calais (1347) established English supremacy on land. Hostilities ceased in the aftermath of the Black Death but war flared up again with an English invasion of France in 1355. Edward, the Black Prince and eldest son of Edward III, trounced the French cavalry at Poitiers (1356) and captured the French King John. In 1359, the Black Prince encircled Paris with his army and the defeated French negotiated for peace. The Treaty of Bretigny in 1360 ceded huge areas of northern and western France to English sovereignty. Hostilities arose again in 1369 as English armies under the king's third son, John of Gaunt, invaded France. English military strength, weakened considerably after the plague, gradually lost so much ground that by 1375, Edward agreed to the Treaty of Bruges, leaving only the coastal towns of Calais, Bordeaux, and Bayonne in English hands.  The nature of English society transformed greatly during Edward's reign. Edward learned from the mistakes of his father and affected more cordial relations with the nobility than any previous monarch. Feudalism dissipated as mercantilism emerged: the nobility changed from a large body with relatively small holdings to a small body that held great lands and wealth. Mercenary troops replaced feudal obligations as the means of gathering armies. Taxation of exports and commerce overtook land-based taxes as the primary form of financing government (and war). Wealth was accrued by merchants as they and other middle class subjects appeared regularly for parliamentary sessions. Parliament formally divided into two houses - the upper representing the nobility and high clergy with the lower representing the middle classes - and met regularly to finance Edward's wars and pass statutes. Treason was defined by statute for the first time (1352), the office of Justice of the Peace was created to aid sheriffs (1361), and English replaced French as the national language (1362).  Despite the king's early successes and England's general prosperity, much remained amiss in the realm. Edward and his nobles touted romantic chivalry as their credo while plundering a devastated France; chivalry emphasized the glory of war while reality stressed its costs. The influence of the Church decreased but John Wycliff spearheaded an ecclesiastical reform movement that challenged church exploitation by both the king and the pope. During 1348-1350, bubonic plague (the Black Death) ravaged the populations of Europe by as much as a fifty per cent. The flowering English economy was struck hard by the ensuing rise in prices and wages. The failed military excursions of John of Gaunt into France caused excessive taxation and eroded Edward's popular support.  The last years of Edward's reign mirrored the first, in that a woman again dominated him. Philippa died in 1369 and Edward took the unscrupulous Alice Perrers as his mistress. With Edward in his dotage and the Black Prince ill, Perrers and William Latimer (the chamberlain of the household) dominated the court with the support of John of Gaunt. Edward, the Black Prince, died in 1376 and the old king spent the last year of his life grieving. Rafael Holinshed, in Chronicles of England, suggested that Edward believed the death of his son was a punishment for usurping his father's crown: "But finally the thing that most grieved him, was the loss of that most noble gentleman, his dear son Prince Edward . . . But this and other mishaps that chanced to him now in his old years might seem to come to pass for a revenge of his disobedience showed to his in usurping against him. . ."   back to Monarchs

Richard II  (1367-1400)                                
Plantagenet, Angevin Line

Richard IIRichard II, born in 1367, was the son of Edward, the Black Prince and Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent. Richard wasArms of Richard II but ten years old when he succeeded his grandfather, Edward III; England was ruled by a council under the leadership of John of Gaunt, and Richard was tutored by Sir Simon Burley. He married the much-beloved Anne of Bohemia in 1382, who died childless in 1394. Edward remarried in 1396, wedding the seven year old Isabella of Valois, daughter of Charles VI of France, to end a further struggle with France.  Richard asserted royal authority during an era of royal restrictions. Economic hardship followed the Black Death, as wages and prices rapidly increased. Parliament exacerbated the problem by passing legislation limiting wages but failing to also regulate prices. In 1381, Wat Tyler led the Peasants' Revolt against the oppressive government policies of John of Gaunt. Richard's unwise generosity to his favourites - Michael de la Pole, Robert de Vere and others - led Thomas, Duke of Gloucester and four other magnates to form the Lords Appellant. The five Lords Appellant tried and convicted five of Richard's closest advisors for treason. In 1397, Richard arrested three of the five Lords, coerced Parliament to sentence them to death and banished the other two. One of the exiles was Henry Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV. Richard travelled to Ireland in 1399 to quell warring chieftains, allowing Bolingbroke to return to England and be elected king by Parliament. Richard lacked support and was quickly captured by Henry IV.  Deposed in 1399, Richard was murdered while in prison, the first casualty of the Wars of the Roses between the Houses of Lancaster and York. Henry IV (1399-1413 AD) was born at Bolingbroke in 1367 to John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster. He married Mary Bohun in 1380, who bore him seven children before her death in 1394. In 1402, Henry remarried, taking as his bride Joan of Navarre.  Henry had an on-again, off-again relationship with his cousin, Richard II . He was one of the Lords Appellant who, in 1388, persecuted many of Richard's advisor-favourites, but his excellence as a soldier gained the king's favour - Henry was created Duke of Hereford in 1397. In 1398, however, the increasingly suspicious Richard banished him for ten years. John of Gaunt's death in 1399 prompted Richard to confiscate the vast Lancastrian estates; Henry invaded England while Richard was on campaign in Ireland, usurping the throne from the king.  The very nature of Henry's usurpation dictated the circumstances of his reign - incessant rebellion became the order of the day. Richard's supporters immediately revolted upon his deposition in 1400. In Wales , Owen Glendower led a national uprising that lasted until 1408; the Scots waged continual warfare throughout the reign; the powerful families of Percy and Mortimer (the latter possessing a stronger claim to the throne than Henry) revolted from 1403 to 1408; and Richard le Scrope, Archbishop of York, proclaimed his opposition to the Lancastrian claim in 1405.  Two political blunders in the latter years of his reign diminished Henry's support. His marriage to Joan of Navarre (of whom it was rumoured practiced necromancy) was highly unpopular - she was, in fact, convicted of witchcraft in 1419. Scope and Thomas Mawbray were executed in 1405 after conspiring against Henry; the Archbishop's execution alarmed the English people, adding to his unpopularity. He developed a nasty skin disorder and epilepsy, persuading many that God was punishing the king for executing an archbishop.  Crushing the myriad of rebellions was costly, which involved calling Parliament to fund such activities. The House of Commons used the opportunity to expand its powers in 1401, securing recognition of freedom of debate and freedom from arrest for dissenting opinions. Lollardy, the Protestant movement founded by John Wycliffe during the reign of Edward III , gained momentum and frightened both secular and clerical landowners, inspiring the first anti-heresy statute, De Heritico Comburendo, to become law in 1401. Henry, ailing from leprosy and epilepsy, watched as Prince Henry controlled the government for the last two years of his reign. In 1413, Henry died in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey. Rafael Holinshed explained his unpopularity in Chronicles of England : "... by punishing such as moved with disdain to see him usurp the crown, did at sundry times rebel against him, he won himself more hatred, than in all his life time ... had been possible for him to have weeded out and removed." Unlikely as it may seem (due to the amount of rebellion in his reign), Henry left his eldest son an undisputed succession.    back to Monarchs

Henry IV  (1367-1413)                               
Plantagenet, Lancastrian Line

Henry IV was born at Bolingbroke in 1367 to John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster. He married Mary Bohun in 1380, who bore him seven children before her death in 1394. In 1402, Henry remarried, taking as his bride Joan of Navarre.  Henry had an on-again, off-again relationship with his cousin, Richard II . He was one of the Lords Appellant who, in 1388, persecuted many of Richard's advisor-favourites, but his excellence as a soldier gained the king's favour - Henry was created Duke of Hereford in 1397. In 1398, however, the increasingly suspicious Richard banished him for ten years. John of Gaunt's death in 1399 prompted Richard to confiscate the vast Lancastrian estates; Henry invaded England while Richard was on campaign in Ireland, usurping the throne from the king.  The very nature of Henry's usurpation dictated the circumstances of his reign - incessant rebellion became the order of the day. Richard's supporters immediately revolted upon his deposition in 1400. In Wales , Owen Glendower led a national uprising that lasted until 1408; the Scots waged continual warfare throughout the reign; the powerful families of Percy and Mortimer (the latter possessing a stronger claim to the throne than Henry) revolted from 1403 to 1408; and Richard Scrope, Archbishop of York, proclaimed his opposition to the Lancastrian claim in 1405.  Two political blunders in the latter years of his reign diminished Henry's support. His marriage to Joan of Navarre (of whom it was rumoured practiced necromancy) was highly unpopular - she was, in fact, convicted of witchcraft in 1419. Scrope and Thomas Mawbray were executed in 1405 after conspiring against Henry; the Archbishop's execution alarmed the English people, adding to his unpopularity. He developed a nasty skin disorder and epilepsy, persuading many that God was punishing the king for executing an archbishop.  Crushing the myriad of rebellions was costly, which involved calling Parliament to fund such activities. The House of Commons used the opportunity to expand its powers in 1401, securing recognition of freedom of debate and freedom from arrest for dissenting opinions. Lollardy, the Protestant movement founded by John Wycliffe during the reign of Edward III , gained momentum and frightened both secular and clerical landowners, inspiring the first anti-heresy statute, De Heritico Comburendo, to become law in 1401.  Henry, ailing from leprosy and epilepsy, watched as Prince Henry controlled the government for the last two years of his reign. In 1413, Henry died in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey. Rafael Holinshed explained his unpopularity in Chronicles of England : "... by punishing such as moved with disdain to see him usurp the crown, did at sundry times rebel against him, he won himself more hatred, than in all his life time ... had been possible for him to have weeded out and removed." Unlikely as it may seem (due to the amount of rebellion in his reign), Henry left his eldest son an undisputed succession.   back to Monarchs

Henry V  (1387-1422)                               
Plantagenet, Lancastrian Line

Henry V, the eldest son of Henry IV and Mary Bohun, was born in 1387. As per arrangement by the Treaty of Troyes, he married Catherine, daughter of the French King Charles VI, in June 1420. His only child, the future Henry VI, was born in 1421.  Henry was an accomplished soldier: at age fourteen he fought the Welsh forces of Owen ap Glendower; at age sixteen he commanded his father's forces at the battle of Shrewsbury; and shortly after his accession he put down a major Lollardy uprising and an assassination plot by nobles still loyal to Richard II . He proposed to marry Catherine in 1415, demanding the old Plantagenet lands of Normandy and Anjou as his dowry. Charles VI refused and Henry declared war, opening yet another chapter in the Hundred Years' War. The French war served two purposes - to gain lands lost in previous battles and to focus attention away from any of his cousins' royal ambitions. Henry, possessed a masterful military mind and defeated the French at the Battle of Agincourt in October 1415, and by 1419 had captured Normandy, Picardy and much of the Capetian stronghold of the Ile-de-France.  By the Treaty of Troyes in 1420, Charles VI not only accepted Henry as his son-in-law, but passed over his own son to name Henry as heir to the French crown. Had Henry lived a mere two months longer, he would have been king of both England and France.  Henry had prematurely aged due to living the hard life of a soldier. He became seriously ill and died after returning from yet another French campaign; Catherine had bore his only son while he was away and Henry died having never seen the child.  back to Monarchs

Henry VI  (1421-71)                                 
Plantagenet, Lancastrian Line

Henry VI Henry VI was the only child of Henry V and Catherine of Valois, born on 6 December 1421. He married Margaret of Anjou in 1445; the union produced one son, Edward, who was killed in battle one day before Henry's execution. Henry came to the throne as an infant after the early death of his father; in name, he was king of both England and France, but a protector ruled each realm. He was educated by Richard Beauchamp beginning in 1428. The whole of Henry's reign was involved with retaining both of his crowns - in the end, he held neither.  Hostilities in France continued, but momentum swung to the French with the appearance of Joan of Arc in 1428. The seventeen year old was instrumental in rescuing the French Dauphin Charles in 1429; he was crowned at Reims as Charles VII, and she was burned at the stake as a heretic. English losses in Brittany (1449), Normandy (1450) and Gascony (1453) led to the conclusion of the Hundred Years' War in 1453. Henry lost his claim to all French soil except for Calais.  The Wars of the Roses began in full during Henry's reign. In 1453, Henry had an attack of the hereditary mental illness that plagued the French house of Valois; Richard, Duke of York , was made protector of the realm during the illness. His wife Margaret, a rather headstrong woman, alienated Richard upon Henry's recovery and Richard responded by attacking and defeating the queen's forces at St. Albans in 1455. Richard captured the king in 1460 and forced him to acknowledge Richard as heir to the crown. Henry escaped, joined the Lancastrian forces and attacked at Towton in March 1461, only to be defeated by the Yorks. Richard's son, Edward IV , was proclaimed king; Margaret and Henry were exiled to Scotland. They were captured in 1465 and imprisoned in the Tower of London until 1470. Henry was briefly restored to power in September 1470. Edward , Prince of Wales , died after his final victory at Tewkesbury on 20 May 1471 and Henry returned to the Tower. The last Lancastrian king was murdered the following day.    back to Monarchs

Edward IV  (1442-83)                                  
Plantagenet, Yorkist Line

Edward IV, son of Richard, Duke of York and Cicely Neville, was born in 1442. He married Elizabeth Woodville in 1464, the widow of the Lancastrian Sir John Grey, who bore him ten children. He also entertained many mistresses and had at least one illegitimate son.  Edward came to the throne through the efforts of his father; as Henry VI became increasingly less effective, Richard pressed the claim of the York family but was killed before he could ascend the throne: Edward deposed his cousin Henry after defeating the Lancastrians at Mortimer's Cross in 1461. Richard Neville, the Kingmaker, Earl of Warwick proclaimed Henry king once again in 1470, but less than a year elapsed when Edward reclaimed the crown and had Henry executed in 1471.  The rest of his reign was fairly uneventful. He revived the English claim to the French throne and invaded the weakened France, extorting a non-aggression treaty from Louis XI in 1475 which amounted to a lump payment of 75,000 crowns, and an annuity of 20,000. Edward had his brother, George, Duke of Clarendon, judicially murdered in 1478 on a charge of treason. His marriage to Elizabeth Woodville vexed his councillors, and he allowed many of the great nobles (such as his brother Richard) to build uncharacteristically large power bases in the provinces in return for their support.  Edward died suddenly in 1483, leaving behind two sons aged twelve and nine, five daughters, and a troubled legacy.   back to Monarchs

Edward V   (1470-83)                                  
Plantagenet, Yorkist Line

Edward V, eldest son of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, was born in 1470. He ascended the throne upon his father's death in April 1483, but reigned only two months before being deposed by his uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. The entire episode is still shrouded in mystery. The Duke had Edward and his younger brother, Richard, imprisoned in the Tower and declared illegitimate and named himself rightful heir to the crown. The two young boys never emerged from the Tower, apparently murdered by, or at least on the orders of, their Uncle Richard. During renovations to the Tower in 1674, the skeletons of two children were found, possibly the murdered boys.  
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Richard III   (1452-85)                                 
Plantagenet, Yorkist Line

Richard III, the eleventh child of Richard, Duke of York, and Cecily Neville, was born in 1452. He was created third Duke of Gloucester at the coronation of his brother, Edward IV. Richard had three children: one each of an illegitimate son and daughter, and one son by his first wife, Anne Neville, widow of Henry IV's son Edward.  Richard's reign gained an importance out of proportion to its length. He was the last of the Plantagenet dynasty, which had ruled England since 1154; he was the last English king to die on the battlefield; his death in 1485 is generally accepted between the medieval and modern ages in England; and he is credited with the responsibility for several murders: Henry VI , Henry's son Edward, his brother Clarence, and his nephews Edward and Richard.  Richard's power was immense, and upon the death of Edward IV, he positioned himself to seize the throne from the young Edward V . He feared a continuance of internal feuding should Edward V, under the influence of his mother's Woodville relatives, remain on the throne (most of this feared conflict would have undoubtedly come from Richard). The old nobility, also fearful of a strengthened Woodville clan, assembled and declared the succession of Edward V as illegal, due to weak evidence suggesting that Edward IV's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was bigamous, thereby rendering his sons illegitimate and ineligible as heirs to the crown. Edward V and his younger brother, Richard of York, were imprisoned in the Tower of London, never to again emerge alive. Richard of Gloucester was crowned Richard III on 6 July 1483.  Four months into his reign he crushed a rebellion led by his former assistant Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, who sought the installation of Henry Tudor , a diluted Lancaster, to the throne. The rebellion was crushed, but Tudor gathered troops and attacked Richard's forces on 22 August 1485, at the battle of Bosworth Field. The last major battle of the Wars of the Roses, Bosworth Field became the death place of Richard III. Historians have been noticeably unkind to Richard, based on purely circumstantial evidence; Shakespeare portrays him as a complete monster in his play, Richard III. One thing is for certain, however: Richard's defeat and the cessation of the Wars of the Roses allowed the stability England required to heal, consolidate, and push into the modern era. back to Monarchs

Henry VII   (1457-1509)                                        
House of Tudor

Captains of the Body Guard:
Earl of Oxford
Sir Charles Somerset
 

Henry VIIHenry VII, son of Edmund Tudor and Margaret Beaufort, was born in 1457. He married Elizabeth of York in 1486, who bore him four children: Arthur, Henry, Margaret and Mary. He died in 1509 after reigning 24 years.  Henry descended from John of Gaunt, through the latter's illicit affair with Katherine Swynford; although he was a Lancastrian, he gained the throne through personal battle. The Lancastrian victory at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 left Richard III slain in the field, York ambitions routed and Henry proclaimed king. From the onset of his reign, Henry was determined to bring order to England after 85 years of civil war. His marriage to Elizabeth of York combined both the Lancaster and York factions within the Tudor line, eliminating further discord in regards to succession. He faced two insurrections during his reign, each cantered around "pretenders" who claimed a closer dynastic link to the Plantagenets than Henry. Lambert Simnel posed as the Earl of Warwick, but his army was defeated and he was eventually pardoned and forced to work in the king's kitchen. Perkin Warbeck posed as Richard of York, Edward V's younger brother (and co-prisoner in the Tower of London); Warbeck's support came from the continent, and after repeated invasion attempts, Henry had him imprisoned and executed. Henry greatly strengthened the monarchy by employing many political innovations to outmanoeuvre the nobility. The household staff rose beyond mere servitude: Henry eschewed public appearances, therefore, staff members were the few persons Henry saw on a regular basis. He created the Committee of the Privy Council ,a forerunner of the modern cabinet) as an executive advisory board; he established the Court of the Star Chamber to increase royal involvement in civil and criminal cases; and as an alternative to a revenue tax disbursement from Parliament, he imposed forced loans and grants on the nobility. Henry's mistrust of the nobility derived from his experiences in the Wars of the Roses - a majority remained dangerously neutral until the very end. His skill at by-passing Parliament (and thus, the will of the nobility) played a crucial role in his success at renovating government.  Henry's political acumen was also evident in his handling of foreign affairs. He played Spain off of France by arranging the marriage of his eldest son, Arthur, to Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella. Arthur died within months and Henry secured a papal dispensation for Catherine to marry Arthur's brother, the future Henry VIII ; this single event had the widest-ranging effect of all Henry's actions: Henry VIII's annulment from Catherine was the impetus for the separation of the Church of England from the body of Roman Catholicism. The marriage of Henry's daughter, Margaret, to James IV of Scotland would also have later repercussions, as the marriage connected the royal families of both England and Scotland, leading the Stuarts to the throne after the extinction of the Tudor dynasty. Henry encouraged trade and commerce by subsidizing ship building and entering into lucrative trade agreements, thereby increasing the wealth of both crown and nation.  Henry failed to appeal to the general populace: he maintained a distance between king and subject. He brought the nobility to heel out of necessity to transform the medieval government that he inherited into an efficient tool for conducting royal business. Law and trade replaced feudal obligation as the Middle Ages began evolving into the modern world. Francis Bacon, in his history of Henry VII, described the king as such: "He was of a high mind, and loved his own will and his own way; as one that revered himself, and would reign indeed. Had he been a private man he would have been termed proud: But in a wise Prince, it was but keeping of distance; which indeed he did towards all; not admitting any near or full approach either to his power or to his secrets. For he was governed by none."   back to Monarchs

Henry VIII   (1491-1547)                                       
House of Tudor

Captains of the Body Guard:
Sir Charles Somerset
Sir Henry Guilford
Sir Henry Marney
Sir William Kingston
Sir Anthony Wingfield 
Sir Thomas Darcy

Henry VIII, born in 1491, was the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. The significance of Henry's reign is, at times, overshadowed by his six marriages: dispensing with these forthwith enables a deeper search into the major themes of the reign. He married Catherine of Aragon (widow of his brother, Arthur) in 1509, divorcing her in 1533; the union produced one daughter, Mary. Henry married the pregnant Anne Boleyn in 1533; she gave him another daughter, Elizabeth, but was executed for infidelity (a treasonous charge in the king's consort) in May 1536. He married Jane Seymour by the end of the same month, who died giving birth to Henry's lone male heir, Edward, in October 1536. Early in 1540, Henry arranged a marriage with Anne of Cleves, after viewing Hans Holbein's beautiful portrait of the German princess. In person, alas, Henry found her homely and the marriage was never consummated. In July 1540, he married the adulterous Catherine Howard - she was executed for infidelity in March 1542. Catherine Parr became his wife in 1543, providing for the needs of both Henry and his children until his death in 1547.  The court life initiated by his father evolved into a cornerstone of Tudor government in the reign of Henry VIII. After his father's staunch, stolid rule, the energetic, youthful and handsome king avoided governing in person, much preferring to journey the countryside hunting and reviewing his subjects. Matters of state were left in the hands of others, most notably Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York. Cardinal Wolsey virtually ruled England until his failure to secure the papal annulment that Henry needed to marry Anne Boleyn in 1533. Wolsey was quite capable as Lord Chancellor, but his own interests were served more than that of the king: as powerful as he was, he still was subject to Henry's favour - losing Henry's confidence proved to be his downfall. The early part of Henry's reign, however, saw the young king invade France, defeat Scottish forces at the Battle of Flodden Field (in which James IV of Scotland was slain), and write a treatise denouncing Martin Luther's Reformist ideals, for which the pope awarded Henry the title "Defender of the Faith".  The 1530's witnessed Henry's growing involvement in government, and a series of events which greatly altered England, as well as the whole of Western Christendom: the separation of the Church of England from Roman Catholicism. The separation was actually a by-product of Henry's obsession with producing a male heir; Catherine of Aragon failed to produce a male and the need to maintain dynastic legitimacy forced Henry to seek an annulment from the pope in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Wolsey tried repeatedly to secure a legal annulment from Pope Clement VII, but Clement was beholden to the Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and nephew of Catherine. Henry summoned the Reformation Parliament in 1529, which passed 137 statutes in seven years and exercised an influence in political and ecclesiastic affairs which was unknown to feudal parliaments. Religious reform movements had already taken hold in England, but on a small scale: the Lollards had been in existence since the mid-fourteenth century and the ideas of Luther and Zwingli circulated within intellectual groups, but continental Protestantism had yet to find favour with the English people. The break from Rome was accomplished through law, not social outcry; Henry, as Supreme Head of the Church of England, acknowledged this by slight alterations in worship ritual instead of a wholesale reworking of religious dogma. England moved into an era of "conformity of mind" with the new royal supremacy (much akin to the absolutism of France's Louis XIV): by 1536, all ecclesiastical and government officials were required to publicly approve of the break with Rome and take an oath of loyalty. The king moved away from the medieval idea of ruler as chief lawmaker and overseer of civil behaviour, to the modern idea of ruler as the ideological icon of the state.  The remainder of Henry's reign was anticlimactic. Anne Boleyn lasted only three years before her execution; she was replaced by Jane Seymour, who laid Henry's dynastic problems to rest with the birth of Edward VI. Fragmented noble factions involved in the Wars of the Roses found themselves reduced to vying for the king's favour in court. Reformist factions won the king's confidence and vastly benefiting from Henry's dissolution of the monasteries, as monastic lands and revenues went either to the crown or the nobility. The royal staff continued the rise in status that began under Henry VII, eventually to rival the power of the nobility. Two men, in particular, were prominent figures through the latter stages of Henry's reign: Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer. Cromwell, an efficient administrator, succeeded Wolsey as Lord Chancellor, creating new governmental departments for the varying types of revenue and establishing parish priest's duty of recording births, baptisms, marriages and deaths. Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, dealt with and guided changes in ecclesiastical policy and oversaw the dissolution of the monasteries.  Henry VIII built upon the innovations instituted by his father. The break with Rome, coupled with an increase in governmental bureaucracy, led to the royal supremacy that would last until the execution of Charles I and the establishment of the Commonwealth one hundred years after Henry's death. Henry was beloved by his subjects, facing only one major insurrection, the Pilgrimage of Grace, enacted by the northernmost counties in retaliation to the break with Rome and the poor economic state of the region. History remembers Henry in much the same way as Piero Pasqualigo, a Venetian ambassador: "... he is in every respect a most accomplished prince." back to Monarchs

Edward VI   (1537-53)                                         
House of Tudor

Captains of the Body Guard:
Sir Anthony Wingfield
Sir Thomas Darcy
Sir John Gates

Edward VI, son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, was born in 1537. He ascended the throne at age nine, upon the death of his father. He was betrothed to his cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, but deteriorating English-Scot relations prohibited their marriage. The frail, Protestant boy died of consumption at age sixteen having never married.  Edward's reign was beset by problems from the onset. Ascending the throne while still in his minority presented a backdrop for factional in fighting and power plays. Henry VIII, in his last days, sought to eliminate this potential problem by decreeing that a Council of Regency would govern until the child came of age, but Edward Seymour (Edward VI's uncle) gained the upper hand. The Council offered Seymour the Protectorship of the realm and the Dukedom of Somerset; he genuinely cared for both the boy and the realm, but used the Protectorship, as well as Edward's religious radicalism, to further his Protestant interests. The Book of Common Prayer, the eloquent work of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, was instituted in 1549 as a handbook to the new style of worship that skated controversial issues in an effort to pacify Catholics. Henrician treason and heresy laws were repealed, transforming England into a haven for continental heretics. Catholics were pleased with the softer version of Protestantism, but radical Protestants clamoured for further reforms, adding to the ever-present factional discord.  Economic hardship plagued England during Edward's rule and foreign relations were in a state of disarray. The new faith and the dissolution of the monasteries left a considerable amount of ecclesiastical officials out of work, at a time when unemployment soared; enclosure of monastic lands deprived many peasants of their means of subsistence. The coinage lost value as new coins were minted from inferior metals, as specie from the New World flooded English markets. A French/Scottish alliance threatened England, prompting Somerset to invade Scotland, where Scottish forces were trounced at Pinkie. Then general unrest and factional manoeuvring proved Somerset's undoing; he was executed in September 1552. Thus began one of the most corrupt eras of English political history.  The author of this corruption was the Earl of Warwick, John Dudley. Dudley was an ambitious political survivor driven by the desire to become the largest landowner in England. Dudley coerced Edward by claiming that the boy had reached manhood on his 12th birthday and was now ready to rule; Dudley also held Edward's purse strings. Dudley was created Duke of Northumberland and virtually ruled England, although he had no official title. The Council, under his leadership, systematically confiscated church territories, as the recent wave of radical Protestantism seemed a logical, and justifiable, continuation of Henrician reform. Northumberland's ambitions grew in proportion to his gains of power: he desperately sought to connect himself to the royal family.  Northumberland was given the opportunity to indulge in king making - the practice by which an influential noble named the next successor, such as Richard Neville during the Wars of the Roses - when Edward was diagnosed with consumption in January 1553. Henry VIII named the line of succession in his will; next in line after Edward were his sisters Mary and Elizabeth, followed by the descendants of Henry's sister, Mary: Frances Grey and her children. Northumberland convinced Edward that his Catholic sister, Mary, would ruin the Protestant reforms enacted throughout the reign; in actuality, he knew Mary would restore Catholicism and return the confiscated Church territories which were making the Council very rich. Northumberland's appeal to Edward's radicalism worked as intended: the dying lad declared his sisters to be bastards and passed the succession to Frances Grey's daughter, Lady Jane Grey, one of the boy's only true friends. Northumberland impelled the Greys to consent to a marriage between his son, Guildford and Lady Jane. Edward died on 6 July 1553, leaving a disputed succession. Jane, against her wishes, was declared queen by the Council. Mary retreated to Framlingham in Suffolk and claimed the throne. Northumberland took an army to capture Mary, but bungled the escapade. The Council abandoned Northumberland as Mary collected popular support and rode triumphantly into London. Jane after a reign of only nine days, was imprisoned in the Tower of London until her 1554 execution at the hands of her cousin Mary.  Edward was a highly intellectual and pious lad who fell prey to the machinations of his powerful Council of Regency. His frailty led to an early death. Had he lived into manhood, he potentially could have become one of England's greatest kings.  back to Monarchs

Lady Jane Grey (1537-1553)
House of Tudor


Lady Jane GreyQueen of England for just nine days in 1553 in an unsuccessful bid to prevent the accession of the Catholic Mary Tudor.  Jane was the great-granddaughter of Henry VII through her mother, Lady Frances Brandon. In October 1551 her father was created Duke of Suffolk and Jane became a familiar face at court. There, real power lay in the hands of the fiercely Protestant Duke of Northumberland, who acted as regent to the young King Edward VI. In May 1553 Jane was married to Northumberland's son, Lord Guildford Dudley. With Edward known to be dying, Northumberland needed to secure the succession in such a way to save England from the Catholic Mary Tudor, Edward's half-sister and rightful heir. An alternative was needed. A devout Protestant and his own daughter-in-law, Jane was the natural candidate. Northumberland persuaded Edward to declare Mary and Elizabeth illegitimate and passed the crown to Jane. She is reported to have fainted when she first heard the idea. Edward died on 6th July 1553. Four days later, Jane was proclaimed Queen. However, Mary Tudor had widespread popular support. By 19th July, even Suffolk had given up and attempted to safeguard his position by proclaiming Mary queen. Northumberland's supporters melted away and Suffolk easily persuaded his daughter to relinquish the crown. Once queen, Mary put Jane and her father in the Tower of London. While Suffolk was pardoned, Jane and her husband were tried for high treason in November 1553. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death. The execution of the sentence was suspended, but the participation of her father in Sir Thomas Wyatt's rebellion in February 1554 sealed her fate. She was beheaded with her husband; her father followed them two days later.  back to Monarchs

Mary I   (1516-58)                                            
House of Tudor


Captains of the Body Guard:
Sir Henry Jerningham
Sir Henry Bedingfeld

Mary I, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, was born in 1516 and suffered through a terrible childhood of neglect, intolerance, and ill-health. She was a staunch catholic from birth, constantly resisting pressure from others to renounce her faith, a request she steadfastly refused. She married Philip II of Spain in 1555, but was unable to produce a child.  Mary began her tumultuous reign at 37 years of age, arriving in London amid a scene of great rejoicing. Following the disarray created by Edward VI's passing of the succession to Lady Jane Grey (Jane lasted only nine days), Mary's first act was to repeal the Protestant legislation of her brother, Edward VI, hurling England into a phase of severe religious persecution. Her major goal was the re-establishment of Catholicism in England, a goal to which she was totally committed. Persecution came more from a desire for purity in faith than from vengeance, yet the fact remains that nearly 300 people (including former Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer and many of the most prominent members of society) were burned at the stake for heresy, earning Mary the nickname, "Bloody Mary."  Mary's marriage to the militant Catholic Philip was again designed to enforce Roman Catholicism on the realm. Unfortunately for Mary, two factors compelled opposition to her plans: the English people hated foreigners - especially the Spanish - and twenty years of Protestantism had soured the English on popery. She met with resistance at every level of society, and, unlike her father and brother, failed to conform society into one ideological pattern. Philip II, cold and indifferent to both Mary and her realm, remained in England for only a short time. He coerced Mary to enter into war with France, resulting in defeat and the loss of the last English continental possession, Calais. With the retirement of his father, Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, Philip returned to Spain; Mary died a mere ten months later.  England suffered during the reign of Mary I, the economy was in ruin, religious dissent reached a zenith and England lost her last continental territory.   back to Monarchs

Elizabeth I   (1533-1603)                                      
House of Tudor

Captains of the Body Guard:
Sir Edward Rogers
Sir William St Loe
Sir Francis Knollys
Sir Christopher Hatton
Sir Henry Goodyere
Sir Walter Raleigh

Elizabeth IElizabeth I was born in 1533 to Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Although she entertained many marriage proposals and flirted incessantly, she never married or had children. Elizabeth, the last of the Tudors, died at seventy years of age after a very successful forty-four year reign.  Elizabeth inherited a tattered realm: dissension between Catholics and Protestants tore at the very foundation of society; the royal treasury had been bled dry by Mary and her advisors, Mary's loss of Calais left England with no continental possessions for the first time since the arrival of the Normans in 1066 and many (mainly Catholics) doubted Elizabeth's claim to the throne. Continental affairs added to the problems - France had a strong foot-hold in Scotland, and Spain, the strongest western nation at the time, posed a threat to the security of the realm. Elizabeth proved most calm and calculating (even though she had a horrendous temper) in her political acumen, employing capable and distinguished men to carrying out royal prerogative.  Her first order of business was to eliminate religious unrest. Elizabeth lacked the fanaticism of her siblings, Edward VI favoured Protestant radicalism, Mary I, conservative Catholicism, which enabled her to devise a compromise that, basically, reinstated Henrician reforms. She was, however, compelled to take a stronger Protestant stance for two reasons: the machinations of Mary Queen of Scots and persecution of continental Protestants by the two strongholds of Orthodox Catholicism, Spain and France. The situation with Mary Queen of Scots was most vexing to Elizabeth. Mary, in Elizabeth's custody beginning in 1568 (for her own protection from radical Protestants and disgruntled Scots), gained the loyalty of Catholic factions and instituted several-failed assassination / overthrow plots against her cousin, Elizabeth. After irrefutable evidence of Mary's involvement in such plots came to light, Elizabeth sadly succumbed to the pressure from her advisors and had the Scottish princess executed in 1587.  The persecution of continental Protestants forced Elizabeth into war, a situation which she desperately tried to avoid. She sent an army to aid French Huguenots (Calvinists who had settled in France) after a 1572 massacre wherein over three thousand Huguenots lost their lives. She sent further assistance to Protestant factions on the continent and in Scotland following the emergence of radical Catholic groups and assisted Belgium in their bid to gain independence from Spain. The situation came to head after Elizabeth rejected a marriage proposal from Philip II of Spain; the indignant Spanish King, incensed by English piracy and forays in New World exploration, sent his much-feared Armada to raid England. However, the English won the naval battle handily, due as much to bad weather as to English naval prowess. England emerged as the world's strongest naval power, setting the stage for later English imperial designs.  Elizabeth was a master of political science. She inherited her father's supremacist view of the monarchy, but showed great wisdom by refusing to directly antagonize Parliament. She acquired undying devotion from her advisement council, who were constantly perplexed by her habit of waiting to the last minute to make decisions. She used the varying factions (instead of being used by them, as were her siblings), playing one off another until the exhausted combatants came to her for resolution of their grievances. Few English monarchs enjoyed such political power, while still maintaining the devotion of the whole of English society.  Elizabeth's reign was during one of the more constructive periods in English history. Literature bloomed through the works of Spenser, Marlowe and Shakespeare. Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh were instrumental in expanding English influence in the New World. Elizabeth's religious compromise laid many fears to rest. Fashion and education came to the fore because of Elizabeth's penchant for knowledge, courtly behaviour and extravagant dress. Good Queen Bess, as she came to called, maintained a regal air until the day she died.   back to Monarchs

James I   (1566-1625) and James VI of Scotland from 1567                
House of Stuart

Captains of the Body Guard:
Sir Thomas Erskine
Sir Henry Rich

James I was born in 1566 to Mary Queen of Scots and her second husband, Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley. He descended from the Tudors through Margaret, daughter of Henry VII  both Mary Queen of Scots and Henry Stewart were grandchildren of Margaret Tudor. James ascended the Scottish throne upon the abdication of his mother in 1567, but Scotland was ruled by regent until James reached his majority. He married Anne of Denmark in 1589, who bore him three sons and four daughters: Henry, Elizabeth, Margaret, Charles, Robert, Mary and Sophia. He was named successor to the English throne by his cousin, Elizabeth I and ascended that throne in 1603. James died of a stroke in 1625 after ruling Scotland for 58 years and England for 22 years. James was profoundly affected by his years as a boy in Scottish court. Murder and intrigue had plagued the Scottish throne throughout the reigns of his mother and grandfather (James V) and had no less bearing during James's rule. His father had been butchered mere months after James' birth by enemies of Mary and Mary, because of her indiscretions and Catholic faith, was forced to abdicate the throne. Thus, James developed a guarded manner. He was thrilled to take the English crown and leave the strictures and poverty of the Scottish court.  James' twenty-nine years of Scottish kingship did little to prepare him for the English monarchy: England and Scotland, rivals for superiority on the island since the first emigration of the Anglo-Saxon races, virtually hated each other. This inherent mistrust, combined with Catholic-Protestant and Episcopal-Puritan tensions, severely limited James' prospects of a truly successful reign. His personality also caused problems: he was witty and well-read, fiercely believed in the divine right of kingship and his own importance, but found great difficulty in gaining acceptance from an English society that found his rough-hewn manners and natural paranoia quite unbecoming. James saw little use for Parliament. His extravagant spending habits and nonchalant ignoring of the nobility's grievances kept king and Parliament constantly at odds. He came to the throne at the zenith of monarchical power, but never truly grasped the depth and scope of that power.  Religious dissension was the basis of an event that confirmed and fuelled James' paranoia: the Gunpowder Plot of 5 November 1605. Guy Fawkes and four other Catholic dissenters were caught attempting to blow up the House of Lords on a day in which the king was to open the session. The conspirators were executed, but a fresh wave of anti-Catholic sentiments washed across England. James also disliked the Puritans who became excessive in their demands on the king, resulting in the first wave of English immigrants to North America. James, however, did manage to commission an Authorized Version of the Bible, printed in English in 1611.  The relationship between king and Parliament steadily eroded. Extravagant spending (particularly on James' favourites), inflation and bungled foreign policies discredited James in the eyes of Parliament. Parliament flatly refused to disburse funds to a king who ignored their concerns and were annoyed by rewards lavished on favourites and great amounts spent on decoration. James awarded over 200 peerages (landed titles) as, essentially, bribes designed to win loyalty, the most controversial of which was his creation of George Villiers (his closest advisor and companion) as Duke of Buckingham. Buckingham was highly influential in foreign policy, which failed miserably. James tried to kindle Spanish relations by seeking a marriage between his son Charles and the Spanish Infanta (who was less than receptive to the clumsy overtures of Charles and Buckingham), and by executing Sir Walter Raleigh at the behest of Spain.  James was not wholly unsuccessful as king, but his Scottish background failed to translate well into a changing English society.   back to Monarchs

Charles I   (1600-49)                                          
House of Stuart

Captains of the Body Guard:   
Sir Henry Rich 
Lord Dupplin 
Earl of Morton 
Earl of Norwich               

Charles ICharles I was born in 1600, the second son of James I and Anne of Denmark. After several unsuccessful attempts at arranging a marriage, Charles married the 15 year-old daughter of France's King Henry IV, Henrietta Maria. Three years of coldness and indifference ensued, but the pair finally became devoted to each other, producing four sons (Charles [who died as a teenager], Charles [who became Charles II], James and Henry) and five daughters (Mary, Elizabeth, Anne, Catherine and Henrietta Anne). Charles I was executed for treason in 1649.  Charles ascended the throne at the age of 25; after a weak, sickly childhood, he became an excellent horseman and a strong-willed king. His strong will, however, proved to be his undoing. Mismanagement of affairs (in the tradition of his father) forced a showdown with Parliament, which culminated in civil war and the king's execution.  Charles inherited the incessant financial problems of his father: the refusal of Parliament to grant funds to a king who refused to address the grievances of the nobility. George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham (and homosexual friend of James I), exerted undue and unpopular influence over Charles in the first years of Charles' reign; Buckingham's assassination in August 1628 came amid shouts of joy from the nobility. Three times summoned and three times dissolved through 1625-1629, Parliament went the next 11 years without being summoned, as Charles financed his reign by selling commercial monopolies and extracting ship money (a fee demanded from towns for building naval warships). Charles' marriage to the devoutly Catholic French princess further incensed the increasingly Puritan nobility, as her Catholic friends flooded into the royal court. She was a meddlesome woman who put her wants (and those of her friends) above the needs of the realm.  A problem in Scotland brought an abrupt end to Charles' 11 years of personal rule and unleashed the forces of civil war upon England. Charles attempted to force a new prayer book on the Scots, which resulted in rebellion. Charles' forces were ill prepared due to lack of proper funds, causing the king to call, first, the Short Parliament, and finally the Long Parliament. King and Parliament again reached no agreement; Charles foolishly tried to arrest five members of Parliament on the advice of Henrietta Maria, which brought matters to a head. The struggle for supremacy led to civil war. Charles raised his standard against Parliamentary forces at Nottingham in 1642.  Religious and economic issues added to the differences between the supporters of the monarchy (Cavaliers) and the supporters of Parliament (Roundheads). The lines of division were roughly as follows: Cavalier backing came from peasants and nobility of Episcopalian roots while Roundhead backing came from the emerging middle class and tradesmen of the Puritanical movement. Geographically, the northern and western provinces aided the Cavaliers, with the more financially prosperous and populous southern and eastern counties lending aid to the Roundheads. The bottom line is that the Roundheads, with deeper pockets and more population from which to draw, were destined to win the battle. Oliver Cromwell and his New Model Army at Naseby soundly routed the Cavaliers in 1645. Scarcely a year later Charles surrendered to Scottish forces, which turned the king over to Parliament. In 1648, Charles was put on trial for treason; the tribunal, by a vote of 68 to 67, found the king guilty and ordered his execution in 1649.  Charles' advancement of his father's failed policies and his wife's Catholic friends divided the realm and caused civil war. back to Monarchs

Commonwealth   (1649 - 1659)                                       
The Commonwealth
Council of State - 1649-53
Oliver Cromwell - 1653-58
Richard Cromwell - 1658-59

Captain of the Body Guard:
Earl of Norwich (Never removed from office but supported the future Charles II whilst exiled in France with a contingent of loyal Yeomen of the Body Guard)

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) born in Huntingdon, he was a strict Puritan with a CambridgeArms of The Commonwealth education when he went to London to represent his family in Parliament. Clothed conservatively , he possessed a Puritan fervour and a commanding voice, he quickly made a name for himself by serving in both the Short Parliament (April 1640) and the Long Parliament (August 1640 through April 1660). Charles I, pushing his finances to bankruptcy and trying to force a new prayer book on Scotland, was badly beaten by the Scots, who demanded 850 per day from the English until the two sides reached agreement. Charles had no choice but to summon Parliament.  The Long Parliament, taking an aggressive stance, steadfastly refused to authorize any funding until Charles was brought to heel. The Triennial Act of 1641 assured the summoning of Parliament at least every three years, a formidable challenge to royal prerogative. The Tudor institutions of fiscal feudalism (manipulating antiquated feudal fealty laws to extract money), the Cromwell's Great Seal of the CommonwealthCromwell's Great Seal of the CommonwealthCromwell's Great Seal of ScotlandCromwell's Great Seal of ScotlandCourt of the Star Chamber and the Court of High Commission were declared illegal by Act of Parliament later in 1641. A new era of leadership from the House of Commons (backed by middle class merchants, tradesmen and Puritans) had commenced. Parliament resented the insincerity with which Charles settled with both them and the Scots, and despised his links with Catholicism. 1642 was a banner year for Parliament. They stripped Charles of the last vestiges of prerogative by abolishing episcopacy, placed the army and navy directly under parliamentary supervision and declared this bill become law even if the king refused his signature. Charles entered the House of Commons (the first king to do so), intent on arresting John Pym, the leader of Parliament and four others, but the five conspirators had already fled, making the king appear inept. Charles travelled north to recruit an army and raised his standard against the forces of Parliaments (Roundheads) at Nottingham on 22 August 1642. England was again embroiled in civil war.

Portion of the letter written by Cromwell to Lenthall, Speak of the House of Commons, announcing the Victory of Naseby (Engraved from the original in the Harleian Collection of the British Museum) Cromwell added sixty horses to the Roundhead cause when war broke out. In the 1642 Battle at Edge Hill, the Roundheads were defeated by the superior Royalist (Cavalier) cavalry, prompting Cromwell to build a trained cavalry. Cromwell proved most capable as a military leader. By the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644, Cromwell's New Model Army had routed Cavalier forces and Cromwell earned the nickname "Ironsides" in the process. Fighting lasted until July 1645 at the final Cavalier defeat at Naseby. Within a year, Charles surrendered to the Scots, who turned him over to Parliament. By 1646, England was ruled solely by Parliament, although the king was not executed until 1649.  English society splintered into many factions: Levellers (intent on eradicating economic castes), Puritans, Episcopalians, remnants of the Cavaliers and other religious and political radicals argued over the fate of the realm. The sole source of authority rest with the army, who moved quickly to end the debates. In November 1648, the Long Parliament was reduced to a "Rump" Parliament by the forced removal of 110 members of Parliament by Cromwell's army, with another 160 members refusing to take their seats in opposition to the action. The remainder, barely enough for a quorum, embarked on an expedition of constitutional change. The Rump dismantled the machinery of government, most of that, remained loyal to the king, abolishing not only the monarchy, but also the Privy Council, Courts of Exchequer and Admiralty and even the House of Lords. England was ruled by an executive Council of State and the Rump Parliament, with various subcommittees dealing with day-to-day affairs. Of great importance was the administration in the shires and parishes: the machinery administering such governments was left intact; ingrained habits of ruling and obeying harkened back to monarchy.  With the death of the ancient constitution and Parliament in control, attention was turned to crushing rebellions in the realm, as well as in Ireland and Scotland. Cromwell forced submission from the nobility, muzzled the press and defeated Leveller rebels in Burford. Annihilating the more radical elements of revolution resulted in political conservatism , which eventually led to the restoration of the monarchy. Cromwell's army slaughtered over forty percent of the indigenous Irishmen, who clung unyieldingly to Catholicism and loyalist sentiments; the remaining Irishmen were forcibly transported to County Connaught with the Act of Settlement in 1653. Scottish Presbyterians fought for a Stuart restoration, in the person of Charles II, but were handily defeated, ending the last remnants of civil war. The army then turned its attention to internal matters.  The Rump devolved into a petty, self-perpetuating and unbending oligarchy, which lost credibility in the eyes of the army. Cromwell ended the Rump Parliament with great indignity on 21 April 1653, ordering the house cleared at the point of a sword. The army called for a new Parliament of Puritan saints, who proved as inept as the Rump. By 1655, Cromwell dissolved his new Parliament, choosing to rule alone (much like Charles I had done in 1629). The cost of keeping a standard army of 35,000 proved financially incompatible with Cromwell's monetarily strapped government. Two wars with the Dutch concerning trade abroad added to Cromwell's financial burdens.  The military's solution was to form yet another version of Parliament. A House of Peers was created, packed with Cromwell's supporters and with true veto power, but the Commons proved most antagonistic towards Cromwell. The monarchy was restored in all but name; Cromwell went from the title of Lord General of the Army to that of Lord Protector of the Realm (the title of king was suggested, but wisely rejected by Cromwell when a furore arose in the military ranks). The Lord Protector died on 3 September 1658, naming his son Richard as successor. With Cromwell's death, the Commonwealth floundered and the monarchy was restored only two years later.  The failure of Cromwell and the Commonwealth was founded upon Cromwell being caught between opposing forces. His attempts to placate the army, the nobility, Puritans and Parliament resulted in the alienation of each group. Leaving the political machinery of the parishes and shires untouched under the new constitution was the height of inconsistency; Cromwell, the army and Parliament were unable to make a clear separation from the ancient constitution and traditional customs of loyalty and obedience to monarchy. Lacey Baldwin Smith cast an astute judgment concerning the aims of the Commonwealth: "When Commons was purged out of existence by a military force of its own creation, the country learned a profound, if bitter, Lesson: Parliament could no more exist without the crown than the crown without Parliament. The ancient constitution had never been King and Parliament but King in Parliament; when one element of that mystical nion was destroyed, the other ultimately perished."
   back to Monarchs

Richard CromwellRichard Cromwell (1626-1712) was the third son of the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell. Born on theArms of The Commonwealth 4 October 1626, he served in the Parliamentary Army in his younger days, being admitted as a member of Lincoln's Inn in 1647. Upon his marriage to Dorothy Major, the daughter of a country squire from Hursley in Hampshire, he turned to the life of a gentleman farmer, representing Hampshire (1654) and then Cambridge University in Parliament (Nov. 1655 & 1656).  Richard was not brought forward into public life until the deaths of his elder brothers and the establishment of the second Protectorate in 1657. He succeeded his father as Chancellor of Oxford University and was made a member of the Council of State. He also received his own regiment and a seat in the House of Lords. Eventually, on his deathbed, Cromwell Senior nominated Richard as his successor.  On 3 September 1658, Richard Cromwell was proclaimed Lord Protector of the Realm. His appointment, however, was resented by the military officers on the council who showed open animosity towards their civil counterparts. In order to raise money and settle such differences, Richard was forced to dissolve the Protectorate and reinstate the Rump Parliament in January 1659. Anarchy ensued: bitter arguments between the men of substance and the military resulted in a break-away Army Council which took Richard into their power and forced him to dissolve the Rump in May. The Army Council then agreed with a reassembled Long Parliament on the Lord Protector's dismissal. Richard, passive throughout, submitted to Parliament's decision on 25 May 1659. Many of the nobility, middle class tradesmen and army were disgusted with rule by force, while the generals found it impossible to unite behind a single policy. General Monck then became the chief mover behind a push to restore the monarchy. He marched his troops to London in support of the Rump, breaking the stalemate and reinstating the Rump for a third time. Monck entered London in February 1660 and opened the doors of Parliament in the following April to those members that were barred ten years earlier. The House of Commons set up a monarchist Council of State authorized to invite Charles II to take the crown. The Long Parliament finally dissolved itself following these actions and a Stuart once again sat on the throne. Richard found it wise to leave England's shores in the Summer of 1660. He lived in France under the name of John Clarke for many years, before moving on Spain, Italy or possibly Switzerland. He was only finally allowed to return home, without recriminations in 1680. He paid ten shillings a week for lodgings at the house of one Sergeant Pengelly at Cheshunt near his Hertfordshire estate. It is said that, in old age dressed in his poor farmer's clothes, he once saw Queen Anne sitting on the very throne that he himself had once graced. No-one suspected the old farmer of ever having occupied such a high position. He died on 12 July 1712 at the age of eighty-five and was buried in the chancel of Hursley Parish Church. back to Monarchs

Charles II   (1630-85)                                         
House of Stuart

Captains of the Body Guard:
Earl of Norwich
Viscount Grandison

Charles II, second son of Charles I and Henrietta Marie of France, was born in 1630. He spent his teenage years fighting Parliament's Roundhead forces until his father's execution in 1649, when he escaped to France. He drifted to Holland, but returned to Scotland in 1650 amid the Scottish proclamation of his kingship; in 1651, he led a Scottish force of 10,000 into a dismal defeat by Cromwell's forces at Worcester. He escaped, but remained a fugitive for six weeks until he engineered passage to France. Charles roamed Europe for eight years before being invited back to England as the Commonwealth dissolved. He married Catherine of Braganza, but sired no legitimate children. His oldest child, James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, made a failed bid to capture the crown at the time of his father's death and was executed by James II, brother of Charles II and Uncle to Monmouth. Charles II died in February 1685 from complications following a stroke.  Charles arrived in London to claim the throne on his 30th birthday, 29 May 1660. He was extremely tolerant of those who had condemned his father to death: only nine of the conspirators were executed. He was also tolerant in religious matters, but more from political wisdom than overwhelming morality. England was overjoyed at having a monarch again. However, royal powers and privileges had been severely limited by Parliament. He was forced to fund his administration from customs taxes and a healthy pension paid to him by France's Louis XIV. Royal prerogative, the soul of the Tudor monarchs, James I and Charles I, had all but vanished. This moment was a turning point in English political history, as Parliament maintained a superior position to that of the king, and the modern concept of political parties formed from the ashes of the Cavaliers and Roundheads. The Cavaliers evolved into the Tory Party, royalists intent on preserving the king's authority over Parliament, while the Roundheads transformed into the Whig Party, men of property dedicated to expanding trade abroad and maintaining Parliament's supremacy in the political field.  The first decade of Charles' reign was beset by many problems. Defeat at the hands of the Dutch in a mishandled war over foreign commerce cost him domestic support. The Great Plague of 1665 and the Fire of London in the following year left much of the city in ruins. In 1667, the Dutch sailed up the Medway, sunk five battleships and towed the Royal Charles back to Holland. King and Council were ridiculed for not having enough interest in the affairs of government.  The 1670's saw Charles' forging a new alliance with France against the Dutch. French support was based on the promise that Charles would reintroduce Catholicism in England at a convenient time - apparently, that convenient time never came, as Charles did nothing to bring England under the Catholic umbrella, although he made a deathbed conversion to the Roman faith. The Whigs used Catholicism to undermine Charles; England was in the throes of yet another wave of anti-Catholicism, with the Whigs employing this paranoia in an attempt to unseat the heir apparent, Charles' Catholic brother James, from succeeding to the throne. Titus Oates, a defrocked Anglican priest, stoked the fires of anti-Catholicism by accusing the queen and her favourites of attempting to murder Charles; ten men fell prey to false witness and Oates' manipulation of the anti-Catholic movement, and were executed. Many accused Anthony Cooper, Earl of Shaftsbury and founder of the Whig Party, of inciting the anti-Catholic violence of 1679-80; this has remained one of the greatest mysteries in British history. The Whig-dominated Parliament tried to push through an Exclusion Bill barring Catholics from holding public office (and keeping James Stuart from the throne), but Charles was struck down by a fever and opinion swayed to his side. His last years were occupied with securing his brother's claim to the throne and garnering Tory support.  Charles' era is remembered as the time of "Merry Olde England". The monarchy, although limited in scope, was successfully restored - the eleven years of Commonwealth were officially ignored as nothing more than an interregnum between the reign of Charles I and Charles II. Charles' tolerance was astounding considering the situation of England at the time of his ascension, but was necessary for his reign to stand a chance at success. He was intelligent and a patron of scientific research, but somewhat lazy as a ruler, choosing to wait until the last moment to make a decision. back to Monarchs

James II   (1633-1701) and James VII of Scotland (1658-88)               
House of Stuart

Captain of the Body Guard:
Viscount Grandison

James IIJames II was born in 1633, the third son of Charles I and Henrietta Maria. Like his brother, Charles II, he was involved in the Civil War and fled to France in exile with the Cromwell's creation of the Commonwealth. He married twice: Anne Hyde bore him four sons and four daughters (Charles, Mary, James, Anne, another Charles, Edgar, Henrietta, and Catherine) before her death in 1671; Mary of Modena bore him two sons and five daughters (Catherine, Isabella, Charles, Charlotte, Elizabeth, James Francis Edward, and Louisa). James was deposed in 1688, and died from a cerebral haemorrhage in 1701.  James stood in dark contrast to his predecessor, Charles: James, although valiant in battle until his later years, lacked his brother's good nature, and remained a staunch adherent to the Roman Catholic faith. His accession was greeted with enthusiasm; Charles had left James a strong executive office and a loyal Tory-dominated Parliament. James, however, acted recklessly attempting to restore royal prerogative and turn England back to the Catholic faith, costing him the crown.  Religion and politics were intertwined throughout James' public life. He openly opposed the Test Act of 1673, which barred all Catholics and Dissenters from holding administrative positions; James relinquished the post of Lord High Admiral and went abroad. The Whig Parliament of 1679 strove to exclude James from the succession, and failed only because Charles II dissolved Parliament. Within months of his accession, James had to crush a rebellion of Protestants who rallied around his nephew James, Duke of Monmouth and son of Charles II. The Protestants were easily defeated, and James exhibited little toleration: Monmouth was captured and beheaded. James appointed Judge Jeffries to preside over the "Bloody Assizes" which executed, tortured, or sent into slavery the Protestant rebels. James ambitiously appointed Catholics to high positions although loyal Tory councillors advised against it. As a result, both Tories and Whigs turned against him.  Within three years, both the old nobility and emerging commercial class had been totally alienated by James. Mary of Modena gave birth to a male heir, James Francis Edward, which interfered with Parliament's wish that James' Protestant daughter, Mary, would succeed to the throne upon the death of her father. Protestant members of Parliament, thoroughly disgusted with James, invited Mary and her husband, William of Orange, to take the throne. James, haunted by recollections of Richard II and Henry IV, chose to flee London rather than be captured. James was captured, but William ensured a successful flight to France for James. James garnered Irish forces (which were supported by French troops provided by Louis IX), but was defeated by William's forces. James lived the remainder of his life in France.  James' attempts to force Catholicism on England and regain prerogative doomed his reign. Parliament emerged supreme: royal lineage was still a major consideration, but Protestantism became the main factor in choosing a monarch - a decision now left to Parliament.
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William III and Mary II   (William III - 1650-1702)  (Mary II - 1662-94)      
House or Orange and Stuart

Captain of the Body Guard: 
Earl of Manchester

                             
Mary IMary II, born in 1662, was the daughter of James II and Anne Hyde. She was married to William of Orange as a matter of Charles II's foreign policy; she and William had no children. Mary died of smallpox in 1694.

William IIIWilliam III (William of Orange), born in 1650, was the son of William, Prince of Orange, and Mary Stuart (daughter of Charles I). Husband and wife were also first cousins, both being a grandchild of Charles I. William, one of the most significant players on the continent, constantly strove to spread Protestantism and decrease the Catholic influence of France and Spain. He died in 1702 from complications after being thrown from his horse.  William and Mary began their marriage under duress. She was twelve years younger than he and found him repulsive. Although terribly homesick while living in Holland, she eventually came to love both the man and his country. William maintained a long-lasting affair with Elizabeth Villiers, one of Mary's ladies-in-waiting, which prompted Mary to be completely devoted and subservient to her husband. William's demeanour towards Mary seemed cold and indifferent on the surface, but his deep grief over her death indicated just how much he relied upon and respected her.  The inability of James II to work with Parliament, combined with his reckless Catholic appointments, brought both the political and religious spheres of the monarchy under fire again. The situation reached its climax in 1688. James established an alliance with Catholic France; arrested Archbishop Sancroft and six other bishops for failing to proclaim the Catholic faith; tampered with private property and historic rights; and produced a male heir after abandoning Anglicanism for Catholicism, which destroyed Parliament's hopes that the crown would pass to the Protestant children of James' first marriage. Parliament appealed to William of Orange, urging him to save England from a Catholic takeover. William William IIIWilliam IIIgathered his forces and landed in England in November of 1688. William's professional troops and the welcome they received from the English landholders intimidated James. James was captured while fleeing from London, but William ensured him safe passage to France. James, feeling alone and realizing his lack of popular support, abdicated and accepted his exile in France. James made one attempt to regain the crown, but his French and Irish forces were soundly defeated at the Battle of Boyne and James returned to France to live the rest of his life in exile.  Parliament, although victorious in unseating James, was faced with a dilemma. They wanted the throne to be the sole possession of Mary, with William serving as Prince Consort, but Mary refused due to her self-imposed subservience to her husband. William was reluctant to accept the throne by means of conquest, preferring to be named king by Parliament through birthright. Parliament succumbed to the wishes of William and Mary, and the pair acceded as co-rulers. As the reign unfolded, however, Parliament's original plan became the reality of the situation. William was considerably more concerned with his holdings and the Protestant-Catholic conflicts on the continent, leaving Mary behind in England to rule. William and the English populace were conspicuously indifferent to each other, but Mary loved England and the English people loved her.  Whigs and Tories in Parliament, divided over the course of English William and MaryWilliam and Marycommerce and Puritan-Anglican tensions, united in two goals: to maintain supremacy over the monarchy, and to forever eliminate Catholic influence in government. The character of the monarchy was altered evermore as oligarchic rule fuelled parliamentary reform of government. The Bill of Rights, enacted in 1689, was more a bill of limitations: the use of royal and prerogative rights (the foundation of Tudor-Stuart authority) was forbidden, the king could only maintain a standing army with parliamentary consent, and an annual income of 600,000 was disbursed to the monarchs, with grants for specific purposes also appropriated by Parliament. The Mutiny Act ensured that Parliament would be prorogued every year by requiring parliamentary approval of the armed forces on a yearly basis. The Bank of England was established to deal with financing government. The Settlement Act of 1701 was the final act to fully establish the supremacy of Parliament. King William's War, a series of continental battles fought primarily to push Protestantism, had heavily taxed English economic resources; to retaliate, The Settlement Act forbid wars without Parliament's consent. The act forbid members of the House of Commons, as well as all non-indigenous people, from holding public office and subjected ministerial appointments to parliamentary approval. Judges were removed from royal punishment, as they had to now be formally impeached by the House of Parliament, with no royal pardon. As a final assertion of supremacy, Parliament was granted the right to name the succession; James' Catholic offspring with Mary of Modena were barred from the throne. The crown was to pass to the descendants of Sophia, granddaughter of James I and niece of Charles I, who had married into the German Protestant House of Hanover. Parliament had successfully forbid the accession of any more Catholic monarchs.  The reign of Mary II and William III marked the end of royal prerogative. Parliament, with the authority of the oligarchy, came into a position of prominence regarding the governing of England. William spent the greatest part of the reign embroiled in continental battles against Catholicism.   back to Monarchs

Anne   (1665-1714)                                            
House of Stuart

Captains of the Body Guard:
Marquess of Hartington
Viscount Townshend
Lord Burton

Anne Anne, born in 1665, was the second daughter of James II and Anne Hyde. She played no part in her father's reign, but sided with her sister and brother-in-law during the Glorious Revolution. She married George, Prince of Denmark, but the pair failed to produce a surviving heir. She died at 49 years of age, after a lifelong battle withThe Arms of Queen Anne after 1707, the Lion of Scotland's first appearance following the union on 6 March 1707. the blood disease porphyria.  The untimely death of William III nullified, in effect, the Settlement Act of 1701: Anne was James' daughter through his Protestant marriage, and therefore, presented no conflict with the act. Anne refrained from politically antagonizing Parliament, but was compelled to attend most Cabinet meetings to keep her half-brother, James the Old Pretender, under heel. Anne was the last sovereign to veto an act of Parliament, as well as the final Stuart monarch. The most significant constitutional act in her reign was the Act of Union in 1707, which created Great Britain by finally fully uniting England and Scotland (Ireland joined the Union in 1801). The Stuart trait of relying on favourites was as pronounced in Anne's reign as it had been in James I's reign. Anne's closest confidant was Sarah Churchill, who exerted great influence over the king. Anne - After the Union with ScotlandAnne - After the Union with ScotlandSarah's husband was the Duke of Marlborough, who masterly led the English to several victories in the War of Spanish Succession. Anne and Sarah were virtually inseparable: no king's mistress had ever wielded the power granted to the duchess, but Sarah became too confident in her position. She developed an overbearing demeanour towards Anne, and berated the Queen in public. In the meantime, Tory leaders had planted one Abigail Hill in the royal household to captureThe Arms of Queen Anne and used until 1801. Anne's need for sympathy and affection. As Anne increasingly turned to Abigail, the question of succession rose again, pitting the Queen and the Marlborough against each other in a heated debate. The relationship of Anne and the Churchill's fell asunder. Marlborough, despite his war record, was dismissed from public service and Sarah was shunned in favour of Abigail.  Many of the internal conflicts in English society were simply the birth pains of the two-party system of government. The Whig and Tory Parties, fully enfranchised by the last years of Anne's reign, fought for Anne - Before the Union with ScotlandAnne - Before the Union with Scotlandcontrol of Parliament and influence over the Queen. Anne was torn personally as well as politically by the succession question: her Stuart upbringing compelled her to choose as heir her half-brother, the Old Pretender and favourite of the Tories, but she had already elected to side with Whigs when supporting Mary and William over James II. In the end, Anne abided by the Act of Settlement, and the Whigs paved the way for the succession of their candidate, George of Hanover.  Anne's reign may be considered successful, but somewhat lacklustre in comparison to the rest of the Stuart line.  
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George I   (1660-1727)                            
House of Brunswick, Hanover Line

Captains of the Body Guard: 
Earl of Uxbridge (was Lord Burton)
Earl of Derby
Earl of Chesterfield
Earl of Leicester

George I was born 28 March 1660, son of Ernest, Elector of Hanover and Sophia, granddaughter of James I. HeThe Arms of George I and used until 1801.was raised in the royal court of Hanover, a German province, and married Sophia, Princess of Zelle, in 1682. The marriage produced one son (the future George II) and one daughter (Sophia Dorothea, who married her cousin, Frederick William I, King of Prussia). After ruling England for thirteen years, George I died of a stroke on a journey to his beloved Hanover on 11 October 1727.  George, Elector of Hanover since 1698, ascended the throne upon the death of Queen Anne, under the terms of the 1701 Act of Settlement. His mother had recently died and he meticulously settled his affairs in Hanover before coming to England. He realized his position and considered the better of two evils to be the Whigs (the other alternative was the Catholic son of James II by Mary of Modena, James Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender). George knew that any decision was bound to offend at least half of the British population. His character and mannerisms were strictly German; he never troubled himself to learn the English language, and spent at least half of his time in Hanover.  The pale little 54 year-old man arrived in Greenwich on 29 September 1714, with a full retinue of German friends, advisors and servants (two of which, Mohamet and Mustapha, were Negroes captured during a Turkish campaign). All were determined to profit from the venture, with George leading the way. He also arrived with two mistresses and no wife - Sophia had been imprisoned for adultery. The English population was unkind to the two mistresses, labelling the tall, thin Ehrengard Melusina von Schulenberg as the "maypole", and the short, fat Charlotte Sophia Kielmansegge as the "elephant". Thackeray remarked, "Take what you can get was the old monarch's maxim... The German women plundered, the German secretaries plundered, the German cooks and attendants plundered, even Mustapha and Mohamet... had a share in the booty."  The Jacobite, legitimist Tories, attempted to depose George and replace him with the Old Pretender in 1715. The rebellion was a dismal failure. The Old Pretender failed to arrive in Britain until it was over and French backing evaporated with the death of Louis XIV. After the rebellion, England settled into a much needed time of peace, with internal politics and foreign affairs coming to the fore.  George's ignorance of the English language and customs actually became the cornerstone of his style of rule: leave England to it's own devices and live in Hanover as much as possible. Cabinet positions became of the utmost importance; the king's ministers represented the executive branch of government, while Parliament represented the legislative. George's frequent absences required the creation of the post of Prime Minister, the majority leader in the House of Commons who acted in the king's stead. The first was Robert Walpole, whose political mettle was tried in 1720 with the South Sea Company debacle. The South Sea Company was a highly speculative venture (one of many that was currently plaguing British economics at that time), whose investors cajoled government participation. Walpole resisted from the beginning, and after the venture collapsed and thousands were financially ruined, he worked feverishly to restore public credit and confidence in George's government. His success put him in the position of dominating British politics for the next 20 years, and the reliance on an executive Cabinet marked an important step in the formation of a modern constitutional monarchy in England.  George avoided entering European conflicts by establishing a complex web of continental alliances. He and his Whig ministers were quite skilful. The realm managed to stay out of war until George II declared war on Spain in 1739. George I and his son, George II, literally hated each other, a fact that the Tory party used to gain political strength. George I, on his many trips to Hanover, never placed the leadership of government in his son's hands, preferring to rely on his ministers when he was abroad. This disdain between father and son was a blight which became a tradition in the House of Hanover.  Thackeray, in The Four Georges, allows both a glimpse of George I's character, and the circumstances under which he ruled England: "Though a despot in Hanover, he was a moderate ruler in England. His aim was to leave it to itself as much as possible, and to live out of it as much as he could. His heart was in Hanover. He was more than fifty-four years of age when he came amongst us: we took him because we wanted him, because he served our turn; we laughed at his uncouth German ways, and sneered at him. He took our loyalty for what it was worth; laid hands on what money he could; kept us assuredly from Popery and wooden shoes. I, for one, would have been on his side in those days. Cynical, and selfish, as he was, he was better than a king out of St Germains [the Old Pretender] with a French King's orders in his pocket, and a swarm of Jesuits in his train."  
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George II   (1683-1760)                           
House of Brunswick, Hanover Line

Captains of the Body Guard: 
Earl of Leicester 
Earl of Ashburnham 
Earl of Manchester
Earl of Essex
Lord Berkeley of Stratton
Viscount Torrington
Viscount Falmouth

George II was born 10 November 1683, the only son of George I and Sophia. His youth was spent in theThe Arms of George II and used until 1801. Hanoverian court in Germany, and he married Caroline of Anspach in 1705. He was truly devoted to Caroline; she bore him three sons and five daughters, and actively participated in government affairs, before she died in 1737. Like his father, George was very much a German prince, but at the age of 30 when George I ascended the throne, he was young enough to absorb the English culture that escaped his father. George II died of a stroke on October 25, 1760.  George possessed three passions: the army, music and his wife. He was exceptionally brave and has the distinction of being the last British sovereign to command troops in the field (at Dettingen against the French in 1743). He inherited his father's love of opera, particularly the work of George Frederick Handel, who had been George I's court musician in Hanover. Caroline proved to be his greatest asset. She revived traditional court life (which had all but vanished under George I, was fiercely intelligent and an ardent supporter of Robert Walpole. Walpole continued in the role of Prime Minister at Caroline's behest, as George was loathe keeping his father's head Cabinet member. The hatred George felt towards his father was reciprocated by his son, Frederick, Prince of Wales, who died in 1751.  Walpole retired in 1742, after establishing the foundation of the modern constitutional monarchy: a Cabinet responsible to a Parliament, which was, in turn, responsible to an electorate. At that time, the system was far from truly democratic; the electorate was essentially the voice of wealthy landowners and mercantilists. The Whig party was firmly in control, although legitimist Tories attempted one last Jacobite rebellion in 1745, by again trying to restore a Stuart to the throne. Prince Charles Edward Stuart, known as the Young Pretender or Bonnie Prince Charlie, landed in Scotland and marched as far south as Derby, causing yet another wave of Anti-Catholicism to wash over England. The Scots retreated, and in 1746, were butchered by the Royal Army at Culloden Moor. Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped to France and died in Rome. The Tories became suspect due to their associations with Jacobitism, ensuring oligarchic Whig rule for the following fifty years.  Walpole managed to keep George out of continental conflicts for the first twelve years of the reign, but George declared war on Spain in 1739, against Walpole's wishes. The Spanish war extended into the 1740's as a component of the War of Austrian Succession, in which England fought against French dominance in Europe. George shrank away from the situation quickly: he negotiated a hasty peace with France, to protect Hanover. The 1750's found England again at war with France, this time over imperial claims. Fighting was intense in Europe, but North America and India were also theatres of the war. Government faltering in response to the French crisis brought William Pitt the Elder, later Earl of Chatham, to the forefront of British politics.   back to Monarchs

George III   (1738-1820)                          
House of Brunswick, Hanover Line

Captains of the Body Guard: 
Viscount Falmouth 
Duke of Dorset 
Earl Cholmondeley
Earl of Aylesford 
Lord Pelham 
Earl of Macclesfield

George IIIGeorge III was born in 1738, first son of Frederick, Prince of Wales and Augusta. He married Charlotte ofThe Arms of George III used until 1801. Mecklinburg-Strelitz in 1761, to whom he was devoted. The couple produced a prolific fifteen children: nine sons and six daughters. George was afflicted with porphyria, a maddening disease which disrupted his reign as early as 1765. Several attacks strained his grip on reality and debilitated him in the last years of his reign. Personal rule was given to his son George, the Prince Regent, in 1811. George III died blind, deaf and mad at Windsor Castle on 29 January 1820.  George III succeeded his grandfather, George II, in 1760 (Frederick, Prince of Wales, had died in 1751 having never ruled). George was determined to recover the prerogative lost to the ministerial council by the first two Georges; in the first two decades of the reign, he methodically weakened the Whig party through bribery, coercion and patronage. Prime Minister, William Pitt the Elder was toppled by Whigs after the Peace of Paris, and men of mediocre talent and servile minds were hand-picked by George as Cabinet members, acting as little more than yes-men. Bouts with madness and the way he handled the American Revolution eroded his support and the power of the Crown was granted again to the Prime Minister.  The Peace of Paris (1763) ended the Seven Years' George III used these Arms from 1801 except that the crown was at first an elector's cap until 1816. Hanover having become a kingdom the elector's cap was changed to a crown (below)War with France, with the strenuous, anti-French policies of the elder Pitt emphasizing naval superiority in the colonial warfare. Great Britain emerged from the conflict as the world's greatest colonial power. England thrived under peacetime conditions, but George's commitment to taxing the American colonies to pay for military protection led to hostilities in 1775. The colonists proclaimed independence in 1776, but George obstinately continued the war until the final American victory at Yorktown in 1781. The Peace of Versailles, signed in 1783, ensured British acknowledgment of the United States of America. The defeat cost George dearly: his sanity was stretched to the breaking point and his political power decreased when William Pitt the Younger became Prime Minister in 1783. George reclaimed some of his power, driving Pitt from office from 1801-04, but his condition worsened again and he ceased to rule in 1811.  The peace following the French war settlement was short-lived. A mere ten years later, England joined a continental alliance against French revolutionary forces who, after gaining power in France, sought total French hegemony across Europe. By 1797, the largest part of Europe was under French dominance, with England standing alone against the revolutionary Republic. The British Navy again proved decisive, defeating French forces at Camperdown, Cape St. Vincent and the Battle of the Nile in 1797, and finally atGeorge III used the Arms above from 1801. The crown was at first an elector's cap until 1816. Hanover having become a kingdom the elector's cap was changed to a crown as can be seen in this image. Copenhagen in 1801. Peace was negotiated at Amiens in 1802, with the French supreme on land and the British at sea. Napoleon Bonaparte seized supreme power in France at the turn of the century, and renewed attacks against England in 1803. Hostilities with France lasted until 1814 taking several forms. Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, led the land attack; the navy, commanded by Lord Horatio Nelson won the decisive battle off Cape Trafalgar, and imposed a blockade of Europe to offset Napoleon's " continental system" which was forbidden from importing British goods; and the younger Pitt guided the government through the hardships of total war. In addition to the continental conflict, England went to war again with the United States between 1812-14, over the British practice of pressing American seamen into service in the British Navy. Both conflicts were resolved in 1814; Napoleon was deposed and England agreed not to abscond with American sailors. Napoleon returned to Europe briefly in 1815, but was soundly defeated by continental forces led by Wellington.  Other events and people also marked the reign. A second Act of Union was passed in 1801, bringing Ireland under the umbrella of Great Britain until the Government of Ireland Act (1920) established the modern arrangement. Slave trade was abolished in 1807, although slavery continued in British colonies until 1833.  
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George IV   (1762-1830)                          
House of Brunswick, Hanover Line

Captain of the Body Guard:  
Earl of Macclesfield

George IVGeorge IV, eldest son of George III and Charlotte, was born 12 August 1762. He secretly married his first wife,Arms of George IV the Catholic widow Maria Fitzherbert, in 1785 without his father's permission. The marriage was declared illegal at his father's behest; had the marriage been allowed to continue, George would have been ineligible to reign with a Catholic wife. In 1795, he married again, this time to his cousin Caroline of Brunswick, who bore him one daughter, Charlotte. He died on 26 June 1830 after a series of strokes brought on a haemorrhage in his stomach.  George IV was the antithesis of his father: conservative in his infrequent political involvement and licentious in affairs of the heart. Although he was scandalous with his mistresses and extravagant in his spending, he was a patron of the arts who left many wonderful artefacts for posterity. He had his father's immense book collection donated as the foundation of the British Museum Library and his penchant for building projects inspired the "Regency" style of architecture. His extravagances, however, came at a time of social distress and general misery following the Napoleonic Wars and the tremendous changes brought forth by the industrial revolution.  George's amorous nature was highly controversial. As Prince Regent, he had many mistresses until he secretly married Maria. After her dismissal from court, George again turned to mistresses until he submitted to his father's wishes by marrying Caroline. The couple detested each other and their marriage was barely intact when their daughter was born in 1796. Caroline took the child and moved to Italy, returning to England when George succeeded his father, and then only to claim the rights of queen. George managed to have her barred from his coronation, denying her queenship.  George was an enigma: bright, witty and able on the one hand, indolent, spoiled, and lazy on the other. The Duke of Wellington described him as such: "He was the most extraordinary compound of talent, wit, buffoonery, obstinacy, and good feelings, in short, a medley of the most opposite qualities, with a great preponderance of good - that I ever saw in any character in my life." back to Monarchs

William IV   (1765-1837)  "The Sailor King"            
House of Brunswick, Hanover Line

Captains of the Body Guard:  
Marquess of Chanricarde 
Earl of Gosford 
Earl of Courtown 
Earl of Ilchester

William IV, born 21 August 1765, was the third son of George III and Sophia. He cohabited with theArms of William IV actress Mrs. Dorothea Jordan from 1791-1811, who bore him ten illegitimate children. Upon the death of Princess Charlotte, daughter and heir of George IV, the surviving children of George III were required to hastily make arrangements to secure the Hanoverian succession; William abandoned Mrs. Jordan and, after several rebuffs, married Adelaide of Saxe-Coburg and Meinengein, who bore him two daughters (both of which died in early childhood). William IV died of pneumonia on 20 June 1837, leaving no legitimate children.  William succeeded his brother, George IV, and was welcomed with open arms by the British public, who had grown weary of the excesses of the fourth George. William possessed an unassuming character, exemplary private life and disdain for pomp and ceremony. Court life became somewhat lacklustre, adding to the generally low opinion that had formed concerning the monarchy. William did little to counteract such feelings, but never generated the embarrassment and scandal of his Hanoverian predecessors.  Parliamentary reform was the order of the day. The county franchise had not been updated since its inception during the reign of Henry VI, in 1430. Only freeholders in the counties were eligible to vote; separate boroughs required various qualifications to vote. The industrial and agricultural revolutions, increases in population and trade and migration from the country to the city left England with a dilapidated, ineffective system of representation that only benefited the aristocracy. Lord Grey, with William's support, pushed a reform bill through the Commons in 1831, which was defeated by paranoid Peers in the House of Lords. A second bill was offered and likewise defeated. In 1832, the third version of the bill passed in both chambers, but only because William threatened to create enough new peerages to insure passage of the bill. The Reform Act of 1832 extended the voting franchise to middle class land owners and became the basis for further acts which eventually enfranchised all adult subjects.  The fight for democracy was sweeping Europe, with dire consequences for royalty. William's unremarkable character was instrumental in England passing through this era unscathed. He was the only European monarch of the age to survive the advent of democracy. Upon the death of the unimpressive king, the Spectator issued the following eulogy: "His late Majesty, though at times a jovial and, for a king, an honest man, was a weak, ignorant, commonplace sort of person." His death separated the joint rule of England and Hanover: his niece Victoria ascended the throne of England, but was barred by Salic law from ruling in Hanover, which passed into the hands of William's brother Ernest, Duke of Cumberland.   back to Monarchs

Victoria   (1819-1901)                            
House of Brunswick, Hanover Line

Captains of the Body Guard:   
Earl of Ilchester 
Earl of Surrey 
Marquess of Lothian 
Earl of Beverley
Viscount Falkland 
Marquess of Donegall 
Lord de Ros 
Viscount Sydney
Earl of Ducie
Earl of Cadogan 
Duke of St Albans
Baron Skelmersdale
Lord Monson 
Viscount Barrington 
Earl of Kintore 
Earl of Limerick
Lord Kensington 
Earl of Waldegrave

Victoria, born 24 May 1819, was the daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn and Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Edward died when Victoria was but eight months old, upon which her mother enacted a strict regimen that, shunned the courts of Victoria's uncles, George IV and William IV. She married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1840; the union produced four sons and five daughters. She died at eighty-one years of age on 22 January 1901, after a reign of sixty-three years.  She ascended the throne upon the death of William IV. Barely eighteen, she refused any further influence from her domineering mother and ruled in her own stead. Popular respect for the Crown was at low point at her coronation, but the modest and straightforward young Queen won the hearts of her subjects. She wished to be informed of political matters, although she had no direct input in policy decisions. The Reform Act of 1832 had set the standard of legislative authority residing in the House of Lords, with executive authority resting within a cabinet formed of members of the House of Commons; the monarch was essentially removed from the loop. She respected and worked well with Lord Melbourne, Prime Minister in the early years of her reign, and England grew both socially and economically.  Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840, who replaced Melbourne as the dominant male influence in Victoria's life. She was thoroughly devoted to him and completely submitted to his will. The public, however, was not enamoured with the German prince; he was excluded from holding any official political position, was never granted a title of peerage and was named Prince Consort only after 17 years of marriage. Victoria did nothing without her husband's approval. His interests in art, science and industry spurred him to organize the Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1851, a highly profitable industrial convention. He used the proceeds, some 186,000, to purchase lands in Kensington for the establishment of several cultural and industrial museums. His death from typhoid in 1861 deeply affected Victoria's psyche - she went into seclusion for more than 25 years, not emerging until the Golden Jubilee of 1887, the celebration of her fiftieth year on the throne. An entire generation was raised without ever having seen the face of their Queen.  The reform of government allowed England to avoid the politically tumultuous conditions sweeping across Europe in the mid-nineteenth century. The continent experienced the growing pains of conservatism, liberalism and socialism, and the nationalistic struggle for political unification. England focused on developing industry and trade and expanding its imperial reach; during the reign of Victoria, the empire doubled in size, encompassing Canada, Australia, India and various locales in Africa and the South Pacific. Her reign was almost free of war, with an Irish uprising (1848), the Boer Wars in South Africa (1881, 1899-1902) and an Indian rebellion (1857) being the only exceptions. Victoria was named Empress of India in 1878. England avoided continental conflict from 1815 through 1914, the lone exception being the Crimean War (1853-56). The success in avoiding European entanglements was, in large part, due to the marriage of Victoria's children: either directly or by marriage, she was related to the royal houses of Germany, Russia, Greece, Rumania, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Belgium. Nicholas II of Russia was married to Victoria's granddaughter Alexandra, earning him the nickname "dear Nicky", and the dreaded Emperor of Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm II, was her grandson "Willy". During her seclusion, she ruled her family with the iron hand that was denied her by the English constitutional arrangement.  The old political parties of England, the Whigs and the Tories transformed during the reign of Victoria. John Peel's support of the Corn Law Repeal splintered the Tories into two camps. Peel's supporters joined with Whigs to create the Liberal Party and the anti-Peel Tories became the Conservative Party. Unlike most of Europe, English politicians agreed on the larger issues of governmental structure and political ideology, but differed on the smaller issues of policy practicality and implementation. Liberals represented traders and manufacturers, with Conservatives representing the landed gentry. Victoria's role after this political realignment was one of mediation between departing and arriving Prime Ministers (the Prime Minister was chosen by the party in control of the House of Commons). She was particularly fond of Conservative Benjamin Disraeli, who, by linking Victoria to the expansion of the empire, garnered respect for the monarchy that had been lacking since Victoria's seclusion. She despised the other prominent Prime Minister of the day, the Liberal William Gladstone, whose party dominated Parliament from 1846-1874. Even in the throes of grief during her seclusion, Victoria gave close attention to daily business and administration, at a time when England was evolving politically and socially. Legislation passed in the era included the Mines Act (1842), The Education Act (1870), The Public Health and Artisan's Dwelling Acts (1875), Trade Union Acts (1871 and 1876) and Reform Acts in 1867 and 1884 which broadened suffrage.  The national pride connected with the name of Victoria - the term Victorian England, for example, stemmed from the Queen's ethics and personal tastes, which generally reflected those of the middle class. The Golden Jubilee brought her out of her shell, and she again embraced public life. She toured English possessions and even visited France (the first English monarch to do so since the coronation of Henry VI in 1431). When she died of old age, an entire era died with her.  Victoria's long reign witnessed an evolution in English politics and the expansion of the British Empire, as well as political and social reforms on the continent. France had known two dynasties and embraced Republicanism, Spain had seen three monarchs and both Italy and Germany had united their separate principalities into national coalitions. Even in her dotage, she maintained a youthful energy and optimism that infected the English population as a whole. Lytton Strachey chronicled her last days with the sentimentality that had developed by the end of her reign, in the biography, Queen Victoria: " By the end of the year the last remains of her ebbing strength had almost deserted her; and through the early days of the opening century it was clear that her dwindling forces were kept together only by an effort of will. On 14 January, she had at Osbourne an hour's interview with Lord Roberts, who had returned victorious from South Africa a few days before. She inquired with acute anxiety into all the details of the war; she appeared to sustain the exertion successfully; but, when the audience was over, there was a collapse. On the following day her medical attendants recognised that her state was hopeless; and yet, for two days more, the indomitable spirit fought on; for two days more she discharged the duties of a Queen of England. But after that there was an end of working; and then, and not till then, did the last optimism of those about her break down. The brain was failing and life was gently slipping away. Her family gathered round her; for a little more she lingered, speechless and apparently insensible; and, on 22 January 1901, she died." Victoria's was the longest reign in English history.   back to Monarchs

Edward VII   (1841-1910)                             
House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

Captains of the Body Guard: 
Earl of Waldegrave 
Duke of Manchester 
Lord Allendale

Edward VIIEdward VII, born 9 November 1841, was the eldest son of Queen Victoria. He took the family name of his father, Prince Consort Albert, hence the change in lineage, although he was still Hanoverian on his mother's side. He married Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863, who bore him three sons and three daughters. Edward died on 6 May 1910, after a series of heart attacks. Victoria, true to the Hanoverian name, saw the worst in Edward. She and Albert imposed a strict regime upon Edward, who proved resistant and resentful throughout his youth. His marriage at age twenty-two to Alexandra afforded him some relief from his mother's domination, but even after Albert's death in 1863, Victoria consistently denied her son any official governmental role. Edward rebelled by completely indulging himself in women, food, drink, gambling, sport and travel. Alexandra turned a blind eye to his extramarital activities, which continued well into his sixties and found him implicated in several divorce cases.  Edward succeeded the throne upon Victoria's death; despite his risqu reputation, Edward threw himself into his role of king with vitality. His extensive European travels gave him a solid foundation as an ambassador in foreign relations. Quite a few of the royal houses of Europe were his relatives, allowing him to actively assist in foreign policy negotiations. He also maintained an active social life, and his penchant for flamboyant accoutrements set trends among the fashionable. Victoria's fears proved wrong: Edward's forays into foreign policy had direct bearing on the alliances between Great Britain and both France and Russia, and aside from his sexual indiscretions, his manner and style endeared him to the English populace.  Social legislation was the focus of Parliament during Edward's reign. The 1902 Education Act provided subsidized secondary education, and the Liberal government passed a series of acts benefiting children after 1906; old age pensions were established in 1908. The 1909 Labour Exchanges Act laid the groundwork for national health insurance, which led to a constitutional crisis over the means of budgeting such social legislation. The budget set forth by David Lloyd-George proposed major tax increases on wealthy landowners and was defeated in Parliament. Prime Minister Asquith appealed to Edward to create several new peerages to swing the vote, but Edward steadfastly refused. Edward died amidst the budgetary crisis at age sixty-eight, which was resolved the following year by the Liberal government's passage of the act. Despite Edward's colourful personal life and Victoria's perceptions of him as profligate, Edward ruled peacefully (aside from the Boer War of 1899-1902) and successfully during his short reign, which is remarkable considering the shifts in European power that occurred in the first decade of the twentieth century.   back to Monarchs

George V   (1865-1936)                                       
House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Later, House of Windsor

Captains of the Body Guard:
Lord Allendale
Earl of Craven
Lord Suffield
Lord Hylton
Maj-Gen Lord Loch
Lord Desborough
Capt Lord Strathcona
Col Lord Templemore

George VGeorge V was born 3 June 1865, the second son of Edward VII and Alexandra. His early education was somewhat insignificant as compared to that of the heir apparent, his older brother Albert. George chose the career of professional naval officer and served competently until Albert died in 1892, upon which George assumed the role of the heir apparent. He married Mary of Teck (affectionately called May) in 1893, who bore him four sons and one daughter. He died the year after his silver jubilee after a series of debilitating attacks of bronchitis, on 20 January 1936.  George ascended the throne in the midst of a constitutional crisis: the budget controversy of 1910. Tories in the House of Lords were at odds with Liberals in the Commons pushing for social reforms. When George agreed to create enough Liberal peerages to pass the measure the Lords capitulated and gave up the power of absolute veto, resolving the problem officially with passage of the Parliament Bill in 1911. The first World War broke out in 1914, during which George and May made several visits to the front; on one such visit, George's horse rolled on top of him, breaking his pelvis - George remained in pain for the rest of his life from the injury. The worldwide depression of 1929-1931 deeply affected England, prompting the king to persuade the heads of the three political parties (Labour, Conservative and Liberal) to unite into a coalition government. By the end of the 1920's, George and the Windsors were but one of few royal families who retained their status in Europe.  The relationship between England and the rest of the Empire underwent several changes. An independent Irish Parliament was established in 1918 after the Sinn Fein uprising in 1916, and the Government of Ireland Act (1920) divided Ireland along religious lines. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa demanded the right of self-governance after the war, resulting in the creation of the British Commonwealth of Nations by the Statute of Westminster in 1931. India was accorded some degree of self-determination with the Government of India Act in 1935.  The nature of the monarchy evolved through the influence of George. In contrast to his grandmother and father - Victoria's ambition to exert political influence in the tradition of Elizabeth I and Edward VII's aspirations to manipulate the destiny of nations - George's royal perspective was considerably more humble. He strove to embody those qualities, which the nation saw as their greatest strengths: diligence, dignity and duty. The monarchy transformed from an institution of constitutional legality to the bulwark of traditional values and customs (particularly those concerning the family). Robert Lacey describes George as such: ". . . as his official biographer felt compelled to admit, King George V was distinguished 'by no exercise of social gifts, by no personal magnetism, by no intellectual powers. He was neither a wit nor a brilliant raconteur, neither well-read nor well-educated, and he made no great contribution to enlightened social converse. He lacked intellectual curiosity and only late in life acquired some measure of artistic taste.' He was, in other words, exactly like most of his subjects. He discovered a new job for modern kings and queens to do - representation".   back to Monarchs  

Edward VIII   (1894-1972)                                    
House of Windsor

Captain of the Body Guard: 
Col Lord Templemore

Edward VIIIEdward VIII, eldest son of George V and Mary of Teck, was born 23 June 1894. He married an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson, abdicating the throne after reigning a scant eleven months. The couple failed to produce children; Edward died in 1972.  Rumours concerning Edward's attachment to Mrs. Simpson circulated before the death of George V. The situation came to the brink of constitutional crisis with Edward's accession: The Church of England (of which he was the head) censured divorce, Parliament refused to grant Wallis any title, the populace was opposed to having a twice-divorced woman as the King's consort and English law had no precedent for a wife of the king with no title or official capacity. Had Edward pressed the issue, the constitutional monarchy would be irreparably damaged; he chose to abdicate rather than mar the image of the monarchy. He was created Duke of Windsor, married Wallis and relished in social life. There is speculation and circumstantial evidence that he was a liaison to Hitler's Germany, but hard proof of the link has yet to surface.  Edward's situation had similarities with several different monarchs. He had the second shortest reign in English history, the shortest being that of his namesake, Edward V. The only other adult bachelor to succeed the throne was William II. The precedent of marrying a divorced woman was set by Henry II's marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine. He left the throne in the same manner as James II, abdication in face of popular opposition.  Edward was immensely popular when he came to throne; his widow, the Duchess of Windsor, lamented his abdication after his death: "He might have been a great King; the people loved him."   back to Monarchs

George VI   (1895-1952)                                      
House of Windsor

Captains of the Body Guard: 
Col Lord Templemore 
Lord Walkden 
Lord Shepherd 
Lord Lucas of Chulworth 
Lt-Gen The Earl of Lucan 
Lord Archibald
Lt-Col The Earl of Onslow

George VIGeorge VI, born 14 December 1895, was the second son of George V and Mary of Teck. He was an unassuming, shy boy who greatly admired his brother Edward, Prince of Wales. From childhood to the age of thirty, George suffered with a bad stammer in his speech, which exacerbated his shyness; Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist, was instrumental in helping George overcome the speech defect. George married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923, who bore him two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. He died from cancer on 6 February 1952.  Due to the controversy surrounding the abdication of Edward VIII, popular opinion of the throne was at its lowest point since the latter half of Victoria's reign. The abdication, however, was soon overshadowed by continental developments, as Europe inched closer to yet another World War. After several years of pursuing "appeasement" policies with Germany, Great Britain (and France) declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939. George, following in his father's footsteps, visited troops, munitions factories, supply docks and bomb-damaged areas to support the war effort. As the Nazi's bombed London, the royal family remained at Buckingham Palace; George went so far as to practice firing his revolver, vowing that he would defend Buckingham to the death. Fortunately, such defence was never necessary. The actions of the King and Queen during the war years greatly added to the prestige of the monarchy.  George predicted the hardships following the end of the war as early as 1941. From 1945-50, Great Britain underwent marked transitions. The Bank of England, as well as most facets of industry, transportation, energy production and health care, were brought to some degree of public ownership. The birth pangs of the Welfare State and the change from Empire to multiracial Commonwealth troubled the high-strung king. The political turmoil and economic hardships of the post-war years left the king physically and emotionally drained by the time of his death.  In the context of royal history, George VI was one of only five monarchs who succeeded the throne in the lifetime of his predecessor; Henry IV, Edward IV, Richard III, and William III were the other four. George, upon his ascension, wrote to Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin concerning the state of the monarchy: "I am new to the job but I hope that time will be allowed to me to make amends for what has happened." His brother Edward continued to advise George on matters of the day, but such advice was a hindrance, as it was contradictory to policies pursued by George's ministers. The "slim, quiet man with tired eyes" (as described by Logue) had a troubled reign, but he did much to leave the monarchy in better condition than he found it. back to Monarchs

Elizabeth II   (21 April 1926 -    )                              
House of Windsor

Captains of the Body Guard: 
Lt-Gen The Earl of Onslow 
Maj The Lord Newton 
Col The Viscount Goschen
Lord Bowles
Lord Denham 
Lord Strabolgi
Lord Sandys 
Earl of Swinton
The Viscount Davidson
The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne 
The Earl of Arran
The Lord Inglewood
The Lord Chesham
The Lord McIntosh of Haringey
The Lord Davis of Oldham

Elizabeth II is the eldest daughter of George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. She married Philip Mountbatten, a distant cousin, in 1947; the pair have four children: Prince Charles (Prince of Wales), Princess Anne (The Princess Royal), Prince Andrew (Duke of York) and Prince Edward (Duke of Wessex). She has reigned since 1952 and appears capable of remaining on the throne for quite some time.  Monarchy, as an institution in Europe, all but disappeared during the two World Wars: a scant ten monarchs remain today, seven of which have familial ties to England. Elizabeth is, by far, the best known of these, and is the most widely travelled Head of State in the world. Her ascension was accompanied by constitutional innovation; each independent, self-governing country proclaimed Elizabeth, Queen of their individual state. She approves of the transformation from Empire to Commonwealth, describing the change as a "beneficial and civilized metamorphosis." The indivisibility of the crown was formally abandoned by statute in 1953, and "Head of the Commonwealth" was added to the long list of royal titles which she possesses.  Elizabeth's travels have won the adulation of her subjects; she is greeted with honest enthusiasm and warm regard with each visit abroad. She has been the master link in a chain of unity forged among the various countries within the Commonwealth. Hence, the monarchy, as well as the Empire, has evolved - what once was the image of absolute power is now a symbol of fraternity.  Elizabeth has managed to maintain a division between her public and private life. She is the first monarch to send her children to boarding schools in order to remove them from the ever-probing media. She has a strong sense of duty and diligence and dispatches her queenly business with great candour, efficiency and dignity. Her knowledge of current situations and trends is uncannily up to date, often to the embarrassment of her Prime Ministers. Harold Wilson, upon his retirement, remarked, "I shall certainly advise my successor to do his homework before his audience." Churchill, who had served four monarchs, was impressed and delighted by her knowledge and wit. She possesses a sense of humour rarely exhibited in public where a dignified presence is her goal.  
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Last modified: Saturday, 08 March 2014 16:46