English monarchs study guide

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"the Great"
House: Wessex
Lived: 849-899
880s-899Ealhswith• Defeat the Danes decisively at the Battle of Eddington.
• Became known as the "Father of the English Navy".
• He is said to have been sent to Rome at the age of four, where he was confirmed by Pope Leo IV.
Edward the Elder

House: Wessex
Lived: 874~877-924
899-924Ecgwynn / Ælfflæd / Eadgifu• Brought back, under English control, the whole of the Danelaw.
• He captured the eastern Midlands and East Anglia from the Danes in 917 and became ruler of Mercia in 918 upon the death of Æthelflæd, his sister.
• He died leading an army against a Welsh-Mercian rebellion, on 17 July 924 at Farndon-Upon-Dee.
"the Glorious"
House: Wessex
Lived: 895-939
924-939none• First English sovereign ever to be crowned on the King's Stone at Kingston-upon-Thames in 925.
• Defeated combined force of Scots, Welsh and Vikings at the battle of Brunanburh in 938.
• His legal reforms built on those of his grandfather, Alfred the Great.
Edmund I
"the Magnificent"
House: Wessex
Lived: 921-946
939-946Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury / Æthelflæd of Damerham• Combated the Norse Vikings in Northumbria and subdued them in Cumbria and Strathclyde.
• Won Strathclyde but ceded the territory to King Malcolm I of Scotland in exchange for a treaty of mutual military support.
• During his reign, the revival of monasteries in England began.

House: Wessex
Lived: 923-955
946-955none• Fought and bettered Eric Bloodaxe, who had established himself as King of Northumbria at York.
• Afflicted with some lingering physical malady, and was, "constantly oppressed by sickness."
• He succeeded his elder brother, who was stabbed to death at Pucklechurch.

House: Wessex
Lived: 940-959
955-959Ælfgifu• Ran afoul of the influential Bishop Dunstan (future Archbishop of Canterbury and future saint), early in his reign.
• He died, possibly of the Wessex family ailment, when he was only 20.
• His marriage to Ælfgifu was set aside on the grounds he and his wife were "too related".
"the Peaceful"
House: Wessex
Lived: 943-975
959-975Æthelflæd / Ælfthryth• He was formally crowned in 973 and received the ceremonial submission of all the other kings in Britain.
• Recalled (St.) Dunstan from exile and made him Archbishop of Canterbury.
• Blackstone mentions that he "standardised measure throughout the realm".
Edward the Martyr

House: Wessex
Lived: 962-978
975-978none• Succeeded to the throne as a boy of 12.
• He was murdered by members of Æthelred's household at Corfe Castle in 978.
• He is today recognized as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Anglican Communion.
"the Unready"
House: Wessex
Lived: 968-1016
978-1013 and 1014-1016Ælfgifu of York / Emma of Normandy• His reign was plagued by poor advice and suspicions of his complicity in half-brother Edward's murder.
• Invasions by the Danish Vikings forced him to abandon his throne in 1013.
• He was only about ten years old when his half-brother Edward was murdered, giving him the crown.
Sweyn I
House: Denmark
Lived: 960-1014
1013-1014Gunhild of Wenden / Sigrid the Haughty• Became king of Denmark in 985.
• Caused Æthelred to vacate his throne in favor of a safe haven in Normandy.
• The father of Cnut the Great.
"the Unready"
House: Wessex
Lived: 968-1016
1014-1016Ælfgifu of York / Emma of Normandy• His reign was plagued by poor advice and suspicions of his complicity in half-brother Edward's murder.
• Invasions by the Danish Vikings forced him to abandon his throne in 1013.
• He was only about ten years old when his half-brother Edward was murdered, giving him the crown.
Edmund II
House: Wessex
Lived: 990-1016
1016-1016Edith of East Anglia• Led the defense of the city of London against the invading Cnut Sveinsson.
• Defeated the Danish forces at Oxford, Kent, but was routed by Cnut's forces at Ashingdon, Essex.
• His burial site is now lost. During the Dissolution of the Monasteries, any remains of a monument or crypt were destroyed.

House: Denmark
Lived: 995-1035
1016-1035Aelfgifu of Northampton / Emma of Normandy• Took control of virtually the whole country in 1015, except for the city of London.
• Consolidated his power by eliminating all claimants to the throne from the House of Wessex.
• He claimed the crown of Norway in Trondheim in 1028.
Harold I
House: Denmark
Lived: 1016~1017-1040
1035-1040Ælfgifu• Assumed regency at the death of Canute in the stead of his half-brother, Hardicanute.
• His mother, Ælfgifu was rumoured to have secretly adopted the newborn children of strangers and pretended to have given birth to them.
• His nickname "Harefoot", referred to his speed, and the skill of his huntsmanship.

House: Denmark
Lived: 1018-1042
1040-1042none• Launched an expedition to claim the throne, but his half-brother died before he could arrive.
• Levied a punishing "fleet-tax" on the people to pay for the expenses of his invasion.
• Even though he had been invited to take the throne, on arriving in England he took no chances and came with an invasion force.
Edward the Confessor

House: Wessex
Lived: 1002-1066
1042-1066Edith of Wessex• Greatest achievement was the construction of a new Westminster cathedral.
• His Norman "affinity" produced great displeasure among the Saxon nobles.
• He was canonised in 1161 by Pope Alexander III.
Harold II
House: Wessex
Lived: 1022-1066
1066-1066Edith Swannesha / Ealdgyth• In 1063, commanded a brilliantly conducted campaign against the Welsh.
• Allegedly swore an oath of fealty to William of Normandy, relinquishing any personal claim to the throne.
• Killed during the Battle of Hastings.
William I
"the Bastard" or "the Conqueror"
House: Normandy
Lived: 1028-1087
1066-1087Matilda of Flanders• Victorious on October 14 at Hastings.
• Instituted "The Domesday Book" in 1085 as a survey of land ownership to assess property and establish a tax base.
• As part of his efforts to secure England, he ordered many castles built, allowing Normans to retreat into safety when threatened with rebellion.
William II
"the Red" or "Rufus"
House: Normandy
Lived: 1058-1100
1087-1100none• Earned the nickname Rufus either because of his red hair or his propensity for anger.
• Left for the Holy Land on the first Crusade.
• In 1091 he repulsed an invasion by King Malcolm III of Scotland, forcing Malcolm to pay homage.
Henry I

House: Normandy
Lived: 1068-1135
1100-1135Edith otherwise Matilda of Scotland / Adeliza of Louvain• His brothers signed a mutual accession treaty barring him from the crown.
• He was drawn into controversy with expanding Church over "Lay investiture" - the king's selling of clergy appointments.
• His only legitimate son and heir, William Adelin, drowned in the White Ship disaster of 1120, throwing the royal succession into doubt.

House: Blois
Lived: 1096-1154
1135-1154Matilda of Boulogne• Promised to recognize his cousin Matilda as lawful heir, but like many of the nobles, was unwilling to yield the crown to a woman.
• Failed to keep law and order as barons increasingly seized property illegally.
• Captured at the battle of Lincoln in 1141, he was abandoned by many of his followers and lost control of Normandy.
House: Blois
Lived: 1102-1167
1141-1141Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor / Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou• After three years of armed struggle, she gained the upper hand at the Battle of Lincoln, in February 1141.
• Her only legitimate brother had been killed in the disastrous Wreck of the White Ship in late 1120.
• She was declared heir presumptive by her father, Henry I, after the death of her brother on the White Ship, and acknowledged as such by the barons.
Henry II
"Curtmantle" or "Fitzempress"
House: Anjou
Lived: 1133-1189
1154-1189Eleanor of Aquitaine• He survived wars, rebellion, and controversy to successfully rule one of the Middle Ages most powerful kingdoms.
• Four knights took the king at his word and murdered Beckett in his own cathedral on December 29, 1170.
• Toward the end of his reign, he struggled to find ways to satisfy all his sons' desires for land and immediate power.
Henry the Young King

House: Anjou
Lived: 1155-1183
1170-1183Margaret of France• Crowned King during his father's reign as co-ruler.
• Died before his Father and co-ruler, thus not counted in the numerical succession of kings of England.
• His father bullied several papal legates into marrying him to Louise VII's daughter Margaret at five years and three years old respectively.
Richard I
House: Anjou
Lived: 1157-1199
1189-1199Berengaria of Navarre• He joined the Third Crusade and departed for the Holy Land in 1190.
• Upon his return from crusade, he crushed a coup attempt by his brother John.
• Has reputation as a great military leader and warrior.
House: Anjou
Lived: 1166-1216
1199-1216 Isabel of Gloucester / Isabella of Angoulême• In 1185, Henry II sent him to rule Ireland, unsuccessfully.
• His quarrel with the Church resulted in England being placed under an interdict in 1207.
• His nickhame came from his father making light of his modest inheritance prospects.
Henry III

House: Plantagenet
Lived: 1207-1272
1216-1272Eleanor of Provence• His acquiescence to the demands of Rome initiated a backlash of protest from his subjects.
• Agreed to the Provisions of Oxford, a document placing the barons in virtual control of the realm.
• In 1230 he attempted to reconquer the provinces of France that had once belonged to his father, but the invasion was a debacle.
Edward I
"Longshanks" or "the Hammer"
House: Plantagenet
Lived: 1239-1307
1272-1307Eleanor of Castile / Margaret of France• He added to the bureaucracy initiated by Henry II to increase his effectiveness as sovereign.
• He 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.
• He established Parliament as a permanent institution and thereby also a functional system for raising taxes.
Edward II

House: Plantagenet
Lived: 1284-1327
1307-1327Isabella of France• During his failed reign, baronial rebellion opened the way for Robert Bruce to win at Bannockburn and reconquer much of Scotland.
• Parliaments of 1310 and 1311 imposed restrictions on his power and exiled his companion Gaveston.
• A weak king, he was deposed by his wife Isabella in January 1327.
Edward III

House: Plantagenet
Lived: 1312-1377
1327-1377Philippa of Hainault• After three years of domination by his mother and Roger Mortimer, he instigated a palace revolt in 1330 and assumed control of the government.
• During his long reign, feudalism dissipated as mercantilism emerged.
• During his reign, the Black Death struck England with full force, killing a third or more of the country's population.
Richard II

House: Plantagenet
Lived: 1367-1400
1377-1399Anne of Bohemia / Isabella of Valois• He remarried in 1396, to Isabella of Valois, daughter of Charles VI of France, to end further struggle with France.
• Deposed in 1399, he was murdered while in prison, the first casualty of the Wars of the Roses.
• As a young king, he played a major part in the successful suppression of the Peasant's Revolt of 1381.
Henry IV

House: Lancaster
Lived: 1366~1367-1413
1399-1413Mary de Bohun / Joanna of Navarre• He invaded England while the king was on campaign in Ireland, usurping the throne.
• Usurping the throne lead to continual rebellion, and significant concessions to The House of Commons.
• The first of the House of Lancaster, descended from Edward III's third surviving son, John of Gaunt.
Henry V

House: Lancaster
Lived: 1386~1387-1422
1413-1422Catherine of Valois• French King Charles VI refused his dowry - leading this King to declare war, opening yet another chapter in the Hundred Years' War.
• Defeated the French at the Battle of Agincourt in October 1415.
• This king features in three plays by William Shakespeare.
Henry VI

House: Lancaster
Lived: 1421-1471
1422-1461Margaret of Anjou• Coming to the throne a child, he was king of both England and France, but a protector ruled each realm.
• He and his wife were captured in 1465 and imprisoned in the Tower of London until 1470.
• In 1452, he had a mental breakdown and became completely unaware of everything that was going on around him, even to respond to the birth of his own son and heir, who was christened Edward.
Edward IV

House: York
Lived: 1442-1483
1461-1470 and 1471-1483Elizabeth Woodville• He deposed his cousin Henry after defeating the Lancastrians at Mortimer's Cross in 1461.
• Extorted 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.
• First of the House of York, claimed the right to the throne through Edward III's second surviving son, Lionel of Antwerp.
Henry VI

House: Lancaster
Lived: 1421-1471
1470-1471Margaret of Anjou• After being disposed - was briefly restored to power in September 1470.
• He and his wife were captured in 1465 and imprisoned in the Tower of London until 1470.
• In 1452, he had a mental breakdown and became completely unaware of everything that was going on around him, even to respond to the birth of his own son and heir, who was christened Edward.
Edward IV

House: York
Lived: 1442-1483
1471-1483Elizabeth Woodville• He deposed his cousin Henry after defeating the Lancastrians at Mortimer's Cross in 1461.
• Extorted 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.
• First of the House of York, claimed the right to the throne through Edward III's second surviving son, Lionel of Antwerp.
Edward V

House: York
Lived: 1470-1483
1483-1483none• Reigned only two months before being deposed by his uncle, Richard.
• Imprisoned and murdered in the Tower with his brother.
• Possibly the shortest-lived male monarch in English history (exact date of death is uncertain).
Richard III
House: York
Lived: 1452-1485
1483-1485Anne Neville• He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty.
• He is the subject of the play by William Shakespeare.
• His tomb was recently discovered under a city council car park in Leicester.
Henry VII

House: Tudor
Lived: 1457-1509
1485-1509Elizabeth of York• Proclaimed King after the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 left previous ruler slain in the field.
• He created the Committee of the Privy Council, (a forerunner of the modern cabinet) and established the Court of the Star Chamber.
• Became king after defeating Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, ending the Wars of the Roses.
Henry VIII

House: Tudor
Lived: 1491-1547
1509-1547Catherine of Aragon / Anne Boleyn / Jane Seymour / Anne of Cleves / Catherine Howard / Catherine Parr• Left matters of state in the hands of others, most notably Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York.
• Caused the separation of the Church of England from Roman Catholicism in persuit of annulment from first wife.
• With his break from the Roman Catholic Church, he became the Supreme Head of the Church of England and of the Church of Ireland.
Edward VI
"the Pious"
House: Tudor
Lived: 1537-0
1547-1553none• Betrothed to his cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, but deteriorating English-Scot relations prohibited their marriage.
• A highly intellectual and pious boy who fell prey to the machinations of his powerful Council of Regency.
• The son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour.
Mary I
"Bloody Mary"
House: Tudor
Lived: 1516-1558
1553-1558Philip II of Spain• Her first act was to repeal the Protestant legislation of her brother, hurling England into a phase of severe religious persecution.
• Her reign saw nearly 300 people burned at the stake for heresy.
• Managed to wrest support and the throne from Lady Jane Grey, whom had been named by Edward VI as his successor.

House: Tudor
Lived: 1527-1598
1554-1558Mary I of England• Married (2 days after their first meeting) and ruled with Mary I.
• With his Queen's death, he lost his rights to the English throne and ceased being King of England and Ireland.
• Under the terms of their marriage treaty, he was to enjoy Mary's titles and honours for as long as their marriage should last.
Elizabeth I
"the Glorious" or "the Virgin Queen"
House: Tudor
Lived: 1533-1603
1558-1603none• Survived several overthrow/assination plots before executing Mary, Queen of Scots.
• Resisted the Spanish Armada, establishing England as the world's leading naval power.
• Her reign was renowned for the flourishing of English drama, led by playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe.
James I
"the Vain"
House: Stewart
Lived: 1566-1625
1603-1625Anne of Denmark• Ruled Scotland for 29 years before becoming English monarch.
• Guy Fawkes and other Catholic dissenters were caught attempting to blow up the House of Lords on a day in which this king was to open the session.
• Following the death of Elizabeth I in 1603 without issue, this Scottish king succeeded to the English throne.
Charles I
"the Martyr"
House: Stewart
Lived: 1600-1649
1625-1649Henrietta Maria of France• Executed for treason in 1649.
• He attempted to force a new prayer book on the Scots, which resulted in rebellion.
• He believed in the divine right of kings and thought he could govern according to his conscience alone.
Charles II
"the Merry"
House: Stewart
Lived: 1630-1685
1660-1685Catherine of Braganza• During his reign the modern concept of political parties formed from the ashes of the Cavaliers and Roundheads, as Parliament held sway over the throne.
• His era is remembered as the time of "Merry Olde England".
• There was no reigning monarch before his restoration in 1660. Instead, from 1653, Oliver and Richard Cromwell held power as Lords Protector.
James II
"the Be-shitten"
House: Stewart
Lived: 1633-1701
1685-1688Anne Hyde / Mary of Modena• Within months of his accession, he had to crush a rebellion of Protestants who rallied around his nephew James, son of Charles II.
• His attempts to force Catholicism on England and regain royal prerogative doomed his reign.
• He was the last Roman Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland.
Mary II

House: Stewart
Lived: 1662-1694
1689-1694William III• Her husband maintained a long-lasting affair with Elizabeth Villiers, one of her ladies-in-waiting.
• The daughter of James II and Anne Hyde. She was married to William of Orange.
• Convinced her husband to dispose James II ensuring him that that she did not care for political power.
William III

House: Stewart
Lived: 1650-1702
1689-1702Mary II• With Parliament's agreement, he and his Queen acceded as co-rulers.
• Soundly defeated James II forces at the Battle of Boyne.
• Ruled alone after his wife, Mary II, died of smallpox in 1694.

House: Stewart
Lived: 1665-1714
1702-1714George of Denmark• 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.
• Despite seventeen pregnancies by her husband, Prince George of Denmark, she died without any surviving children.
George I

House: Hanover
Lived: 1660-1727
1714-1727Sophia Dorothea of Brunswick-Lueneburg-Celle• His character and mannerisms were strictly German; he never troubled himself to learn the English language.
• His frequent absences required the creation of the post of Prime Minister who acted in the king's stead.
• After the death of Queen Anne with no living children, he was the closest heir to the throne who was not a Roman Catholic.
George II

House: Hanover
Lived: 1683-1760
1727-1760Caroline of Ansbach• The last British sovereign to command troops in the field (against the French in 1743).
• He declared war on Spain in 1739, against Prime Minister Walpole's wishes.
• He was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain.
George III
"the Mad"
House: Hanover
Lived: 1738-1820
1760-1820Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz• He died blind, deaf and mad at Windsor Castle in 1820.
• 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.
• Both his life and his reign were longer than those of any of his predecessors. (Victoria and Elizabeth II have since lived and reigned longer.)
George IV

House: Hanover
Lived: 1762-1830
1820-1830Maria Anne Fitzherbert / Caroline of Brunswick• A patron of the arts who left many wonderful artifacts for posterity.
• He managed to have his wife barred from his coronation, denying her queenship.
• He served as Prince Regent during his father's final mental illness.
William IV
"the Sailor King"
House: Hanover
Lived: 1765-1837
1830-1837Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen• He supported Lord Grey's Reform Act of 1832 extended the voting franchise to middle class land owners.
• He was the only European monarch of the age to survive the advent of democracy.
• Since his two older brothers died without leaving legitimate issue, he inherited the throne when he was 64 years old.

House: Hanover
Lived: 1819-1901
1837-1901Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha• Her husbands death in 1861 deeply affected her - she went into seclusion for more than 25 years.
• During her reign, the empire doubled in size, encompassing Canada, Australia, India parts of Africa and the South Pacific.
• The last British monarch of the House of Hanover.
Edward VII

House: Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
Lived: 1841-1910
1901-1910Alexandra of Denmark• He ruled peacefully (aside from the Boer War) and successfully during his short reign.
• Aside from his sexual indiscretions, his manner and style endeared him to the English populace.
• Although he was the son and heir of Victoria, he inherited his father's names and is therefore counted as inaugurating a new royal house.
George V

House: Windsor
Lived: 1865-1936
1910-1936Mary of Teck• During the great Depression he persuaded the heads of the three political parties to unite into a coalition government.
• Under his reign the monarchy transformed from an institution of constitutional legality to the keeper of traditional values and customs.
• The house name Windsor was adopted in 1917, during World War I. It was changed during his reign because of wartime anti-German sentiment in the United Kingdom.
Edward VIII

House: Windsor
Lived: 1894-1972
1936-1936Wallis Warfield Simpson• He left the throne in the same manner as James II - abdication in face of popular opposition.
• Abdicated the throne after reigning a mere eleven months.
• After private accusations that he held Nazi sympathies, he was assigned to the Bahamas as the islands' Governor.
George VI

House: Windsor
Lived: 1895-1952
1936-1952Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon• He visited troops, munitions factories, and bomb-damaged areas to support the war effort.
• Before his reign, he suffered with a bad stammer in his speech, which exacerbated his shyness.
• During his reign and after WWII - the United States and the Soviet Union rose as pre-eminent world powers and the British Empire declined.
Elizabeth II

House: Windsor
Lived: 1926-2022
1952-2022Philip of Greece and Denmark• Approved the transformation from Empire to Commonwealth.
• Winston Churchill, who served four monarchs, was impressed and delighted by her knowledge and wit.
• Britain's longest reigning monarch.
Charles III

House: Windsor
Lived: 1948-present
2022-presentDiana Spencer / Camilla Parker Bowles• Both the oldest and the longest-serving heir apparent in British history.
• The first British heir apparent to earn a university degree.
• The oldest person to become monarch.
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