British monarchy and its influence upon governmental institutions

The Institute of Ecology, Linguistics and Low

Degree work




Dunaeva Nina

Moscow, 2003


Part One



The United kingdom of Great Britain and Nothern Ireland................... 4

Direct meaning of the word «monarchy»............................................... 6

The British constitutional monarchy...................................................... 7

Part Two



Kings and Queens of England................................................................. 9

The Anglo-Saxon Kings.......................................................................... 9

The Normans.......................................................................................... 23

The Angevins......................................................................................... 30

The Plantagenets.................................................................................... 33

The Lancastrians.................................................................................... 42

The Yorkists........................................................................................... 46

The Tudors............................................................................................. 48

The Stuarts............................................................................................. 58

The Commonwealth Interregnum.................................................. 63

The Hanoverians.................................................................................... 75

Saxe-Coburg-Gotha............................................................................... 85

The House of Windsor.......................................................................... 87

Part Three



The Queen’s role................................................................................... 91

Queen’s role in the modern State.......................................................... 91

Queen and Commonwealth................................................................... 91

Royal visits............................................................................................ 92

The Queen’s working day...................................................................... 92

Ceremonies and pageantry..................................................................... 92

The Queen’s ceremonial duties............................................................. 93

Royal pageantry and traditions.............................................................. 93

Royal succession................................................................................... 93

The Royal Household............................................................................ 93

Royal Household departments.............................................................. 94

Recruitment........................................................................................... 94

Anniversaries......................................................................................... 95

Royal finances........................................................................................ 95

Head of State expenditure 2000-01...................................................... 95

Sources of funding................................................................................ 96

Financial arrangements of The Prince of Wales.................................. 96

Finances of the other members of the Royal Family........................... 96

Taxation................................................................................................. 97

Royal assets............................................................................................ 97

Symbols.................................................................................................. 98

National anthem..................................................................................... 98

Royal Warrants...................................................................................... 99

Bank notes and coinage....................................................................... 100

Stamps.................................................................................................. 102

Coats of Arms...................................................................................... 103

Great Seal............................................................................................. 104

Flags..................................................................................................... 105

Crowns and jewels.............................................................................. 105

Transport.............................................................................................. 105

Cars...................................................................................................... 106

Carriages.............................................................................................. 107

The Royal Train................................................................................... 108

Royal air travel.................................................................................... 109

Part Four



Members of the Royal Family............................................................ 111

HM The Queen.................................................................................... 111

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh............................................................. 111

HRH The Prince of Wales and family................................................ 112

HRH The Duke of York...................................................................... 112

TRH The Earl and Countess of Wessex............................................. 112

HRH Princess Royal........................................................................... 112

HRH Princess Alice............................................................................ 113

TRH The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester....................................... 113

TRH The Duke and Duchess of Kent................................................. 113

TRH Prince and Princess Michael of Kent........................................ 114

HRH Princess Alexandra.................................................................... 114

Memorial Plaque

HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother................................. 115

HRH The Princess Margaret..................................................... 115

Diana, Princess of Wales........................................................... 115

Part Five



The Royal Collection.......................................................................... 116

About the Royal Collection................................................................ 116

The Royal Collection Trust................................................................ 117

Royal Collection Enterprises.............................................................. 117

Publishing............................................................................................ 118

Royal Residences................................................................................. 118

Royal Collection Galleries................................................................. 118

Loans.................................................................................................... 119

The Royal Residences......................................................................... 119

About the Royal Residences............................................................... 119

Buckingham Palace............................................................................. 120

The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace......................................... 120

The Royal Mews.................................................................................. 121

Windsor Castle.................................................................................... 121

Frogmore............................................................................................. 122

The Palace of Holyroodhouse............................................................ 122

Balmoral Castle................................................................................... 123

Sandringham House............................................................................ 123

St James’s Palace................................................................................. 124

Kensington Palace............................................................................... 124

Historic residences.............................................................................. 124

Bibliography................................................................................. 126


Sovereign: Queen Elizabeth II (1952)

Government: The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, with a queen and a Parliament that has two houses: the House of Lords, with 574 life peers, 92 hereditary peers, 26 bishops, and the House of Commons, which has 651 popularly elected members. Supreme legislative power is vested in Parliament, which sits for five years unless sooner dissolved. The House of Lords was stripped of most of its power in 1911, and now its main function is to revise legislation. In Nov. 1999 hundreds of hereditary peers were expelled in an effort to make the body more democratic. The executive power of the Crown is exercised by the cabinet, headed by the prime minister.

Prime Minister: Tony Blair (1997)

Area: 94,525 sq mi (244,820 sq km)

Population (2003 est.): 60,094,648 (growth rate: 0.1%); birth rate: 11.0/1000; infant mortality rate: 5.3/1000; density per sq mi: 636

Capital and largest city (2000 est.): London, 11,800,000 (metro. area)

Other large cities: Birmingham, 1,009,100; Leeds, 721,800; Glasgow, 681,470; Liverpool, 479,000; Bradford, 477,500; Edinburgh, 441,620; Manchester, 434,600; Bristol, 396,600

Monetary unit: Pound sterling (£)

Languages: English, Welsh, Scots Gaelic

Ethnicity/race: English 81.5%; Scottish 9.6%; Irish 2.4%; Welsh 1.9%; Ulster 1.8%; West Indian, Indian, Pakistani, and other 2.8%

Religions: Church of England (established church), Church of Wales (disestablished), Church of Scotland (established church—Presbyterian), Church of Ireland (disestablished), Roman Catholic, Methodist, Congregational, Baptist, Jewish

Literacy rate: 99% (1978)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2000 est.): $1.36 trillion; per capita $22,800. Real growth rate: 3%. Inflation: 2.4%. Unemployment: 5.5%. Arable land: 25%. Agriculture: cereals, oilseed, potatoes, vegetables; cattle, sheep, poultry; fish. Labor force: 29.2 million (1999); agriculture 1%, industry 19%, services 80% (1996 est.). Industries: machine tools, electric power equipment, automation equipment, railroad equipment, shipbuilding, aircraft, motor vehicles and parts, electronics and communications equipment, metals, chemicals, coal, petroleum, paper and paper products, food processing, textiles, clothing, and other consumer goods. Natural resources: coal, petroleum, natural gas, tin, limestone, iron ore, salt, clay, chalk, gypsum, lead, silica, arable land. Exports: $282 billion (f.o.b., 2000): manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals; food, beverages, tobacco. Imports: $324 billion (f.o.b., 2000): manufactured goods, machinery, fuels; foodstuffs. Major trading partners: EU, U.S., Japan.

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 34.878 million (1997); mobile cellular: 13 million (yearend 1998). Radio broadcast stations: AM 219, FM 431, shortwave 3 (1998). Radios: 84.5 million (1997). Television broadcast stations: 228 (plus 3,523 repeaters) (1995). Televisions: 30.5 million (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 245 (2000). Internet users: 19.47 million (2000).

Transportation: Railways: total: 16,878 km (1996). Highways: total: 371,603 km; paved: 371,603 km (including 3,303 km of expressways); unpaved: 0 km (1998 est.). Waterways: 3,200 km. Ports and harbors: Aberdeen, Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Dover, Falmouth, Felixstowe, Glasgow, Grangemouth, Hull, Leith, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Peterhead, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Scapa Flow, Southampton, Sullom Voe, Tees, Tyne. Airports: 489 (2000 est.).

International disputes: Northern Ireland issue with Ireland (historic peace agreement signed 10 April 1998); Gibraltar issue with Spain; Argentina claims Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas); Argentina claims South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; Mauritius and the Seychelles claim Chagos Archipelago (UK-administered British Indian Ocean Territory); Rockall continental shelf dispute involving Denmark and Iceland; territorial claim in Antarctica (British Antarctic Territory) overlaps Argentine claim and partially overlaps Chilean claim; disputes with Iceland, Denmark, and Ireland over the Faroe Islands continental shelf boundary outside 200 NM.


Monarchy, form of government in which sovereignty is vested in a single person whose right to rule is generally hereditary and who is empowered to remain in office for life. The power of this sovereign may vary from the absolute to that strongly limited by custom or constitution. Monarchy has existed since the earliest history of humankind and was often established during periods of external threat or internal crisis because it provided a more efficient focus of power than aristocracy or democracy, which tended to diffuse power. Most monarchies appear to have been elective originally, but dynasties early became customary. In primitive times, divine descent of the monarch was often claimed. Deification was general in ancient Egypt, the Middle East, and Asia, and it was also practiced during certain periods in ancient Greece and Rome. A more moderate belief arose in Christian Europe in the Middle Ages; it stated that the monarch was the appointed agent of divine will. This was symbolized by the coronation of the king by a bishop or the pope, as in the Holy Roman Empire. Although theoretically at the apex of feudal power, the medieval monarchs were in fact weak and dependent upon the nobility for much of their power. During the Renaissance and after, there emerged “new monarchs” who broke the power of the nobility and centralized the state under their own rigid rule. Notable examples are Henry VII and Henry VIII of England and Louis XIV of France. The 16th and 17th cent. mark the height of absolute monarchy, which found its theoretical justification in the doctrine of divine right. However, even the powerful monarchs of the 17th cent. were somewhat limited by custom and constitution as well as by the delegation of powers to strong bureaucracies. Such limitations were also felt by the “benevolent despots” of the 18th cent. Changes in intellectual climate, in the demands made upon government in a secular and commercially expanding society, and in the social structure, as the bourgeoisie became increasingly powerful, eventually weakened the institution of monarchy in Europe. The Glorious Revolution in England (1688) and the French Revolution (1789) were important landmarks in the decline and limitation of monarchical power. Throughout the 19th cent. Royal power was increasingly reduced by constitutional provisions and parliamentary incursions. In the 20th cent., monarchs have generally become symbols of national unity, while real power has been transferred to constitutional assemblies. Over the past 200 years democratic self-government has been established and extended to such an extent that a true functioning monarchy is a rare occurrence in both East and West. Among the few remaining are Brunei, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia. Notable constitutional monarchies include Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Thailand.

Constitutional monarchy: System of government in which a monarch has agreed to share power with a constitutionally organized government. The monarch may remain the de facto head of state or may be a purely ceremonial head. The constitution allocates the rest of the government's power to the legislature and judiciary. Britain became a constitutional monarchy under the Whigs; other constitutional monarchies include Belgium, Cambodia, Jordan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Thailand.


"The British Constitutional Monarchy was the consequence of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and was enshrined in the Bill of Rights of 1689. Whereby William and Mary in accepting the throne, had to consent to govern 'according to the statutes in parliament on."

 A monarch does not have to curry favour for votes from any section of the community.

A monarch is almost invariably more popular than an Executive President, who can be elected by less than 50% of the electorate and may therefore represent less than half the people. In the 1995 French presidential election the future President Chirac was not the nation's choice in the first round of voting. In Britain, governments are formed on the basis of parliamentary seats won. In the 1992 General Election the Conservative Prime Minister took the office with only 43% of votes cast in England, Scotland and Wales. The Queen however, as hereditary Head of State, remains the representative of the whole nation.

Elected presidents are concerned more with their own political futures and power, and as we have seen (in Brazil for example), may use their temporary tenure to enrich themselves. Monarchs are not subject to the influences which corrupt short-term presidents. A monarch looks back on centuries of history and forward to the well being of the entire nation under his/her heir. Elected presidents in their nature devote much energy to undoing the achievements of their forebears in order to strengthen the position of their successors.

A long reigning monarch can put enormous experience at the disposal of transient political leaders. Since succeeding her father in 1952 Queen Elizabeth has had a number of Prime Ministers, the latest of whom were not even in Parliament at the time of her accession. An experienced monarch can act as a brake on over ambitious or misguided politicians, and encorage others who are less confident. The reality is often the converse of the theory: the monarch is frequently the Prime Minister's best adviser.

Monarchs, particularly those in Europe are part of an extended Royal Family, facilitating links between their nations. As Burke observed, nations touch at their summits. A recent example of this was the attendance of so many members of Royal Families at the 50th birthday celebrations for Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustav. Swedish newspapers reported that this this was a much better indication of their closeness to the rest of Europe than any number of treaties, protocols or directives from the European Union.

A monarch is trained from Birth for the position of Head of State and even where, as after the abdication of Edward VIII, a younger brother succeeds, he too has enormous experience of his country, its people and its government. The people know who will succeed, and this certainly gives a nation invaluable continuity and stability. This also explains why it is rare for an unsuitable person to become King. There are no expensive elections as in the US where, as one pro-Monarchist American says, "we have to elect a new ' Royal Family' every four years." In the French system the President may be a member of one party, while the Prime Minister is from another, which only leads to confused governement. In a monarchy there is no such confusion, for the monarch does not rule in conflict with government but reigns over the whole nation.

In ceremonial presidencies the Head of State is often a former politician tainted by, and still in thrall to, his former political life and loyalties, or an academic or retired diplomat who can never have the same prestige as a monarch, and who is frequently little known inside the country, and almost totally unknown outside it. For example, ask a German why is Britain's Head of State and a high proportion will know it is Queen Elizabeth II. Ask a Briton, or any Non- German, who is Head of State of Germany? , and very few will be able to answer correctly.

Aided by his immediate family, a monarch can carry out a range of duties and public engagements - ceremonial, charitable, environmental etc. which an Executive President would never have time to do, and to which a ceremonial President would not add lustre.

A monarch and members of a Royal Family can become involved in a wide range of issues which are forbidden to politicians. All parties have vested interests which they cannot ignore. Vernon Bogdanor says in ' The Monarchy and the Constitution' - «A politician must inevitably be a spokesperson for only part of the nation, not the whole. A politician's motives will always be suspected. Members of the Royal Family, by contrast, because of their symbolic position, are able to speak to a much wider constituency than can be commanded by even the most popular political leader." In a Republic, then, who is there to speak out on issues where the 'here today, gone tomorrow' government is constrained from criticising its backers, even though such criticism is in the national interest.

All nations are made up of families, and it's natural that a family should be at a nation's head.

While the question of Divine Right is now obsolescent, the fact that "there's such divinity doth hedge a King" remains true, and it is interesting to note that even today Kings are able to play a role in the spiritual life of a nation which presidents seem unable to fulfil.

It has been demonstrated that, even ignoring the enormous cost of presidential elections, a monarch as head of state is no more expensive than a president. In Britain many costs, such as the upkeep of the Royal residencies, are erroneosly thought to be uniquely attributable to the monarchy, even though the preservation of our heritage would still be undertaken if the county were a republic! The US government has criticised the cost to the Brazilian people of maintaining their president.

Even Royal Families which are not reigning are dedicated to the service of their people, and continue to be regarded as the symbol of the nation's continuity. Prominent examples are H.R.H. the Duke of Braganza in Portugal and H.R.H. the County of Paris in France. Royal Families forced to live in exile, such as the Yugoslav and Romanian, are often promoters of charities formed to help their countries.


The history of the English Crown up to the Union of the Crowns in 1603 is long and varied. The concept of a single ruler unifying different tribes based in England developed in the eighth and ninth centuries in figures such as Offa and Alfred the Great, who began to create centralised systems of government. Following the Norman Conquest, the machinery of government developed further, producing long-lived national institutions including Parliament.

The Middle Ages saw several fierce contests for the Crown, culminating in the Wars of the Roses, which lasted for nearly a century. The conflict was finally ended with the advent of the Tudors, the dynasty which produced some of England's most successful rulers and a flourishing cultural Renaissance. The end of the Tudor line with the death of the 'Virgin Queen' in 1603 brought about the Union of the Crowns with Scotland.


In the Dark Ages during the fifth and sixth centuries, communities of peoples in Britain inhabited homelands with ill-defined borders. Such communities were organised and led by chieftains or kings. Following the final withdrawal of the Roman legions from the provinces of Britannia in around 408 AD these small kingdoms were left to preserve their own order and to deal with invaders and waves of migrant peoples such as the Picts from beyond Hadrian's Wall, the Scots from Ireland and Germanic tribes from the continent. (King Arthur, a larger-than-life figure, has often been cited as a leader of one or more of these kingdoms during this period, although his name now tends to be used as a symbol of British resistance against invasion.)

The invading communities overwhelmed or adapted existing kingdoms and created new ones - for example, the Angles in Mercia and Northumbria. Some British kingdoms initially survived the onslaught, such as Strathclyde, which was wedged in the north between Pictland and the new Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria.

By 650 AD, the British Isles were a patchwork of many kingdoms founded from native or immigrant communities and led by powerful chieftains or kings. In their personal feuds and struggles between communities for control and supremacy, a small number of kingdoms became dominant: Bernicia and Deira (which merged to form Northumbria in 651 AD), Lindsey, East Anglia, Mercia, Wessex and Kent. Until the late seventh century, a series of warrior-kings in turn established their own personal authority over other kings, usually won by force or through alliances and often cemented by dynastic marriages.

According to the later chronicler Bede, the most famous of these kings was Ethelberht, king of Kent (reigned c.560-616), who married Bertha, the Christian daughter of the king of Paris, and who became the first English king to be converted to Christianity (St Augustine's mission from the Pope to Britain in 597 during Ethelberht's reign prompted thousands of such conversions). Ethelberht's law code was the first to be written in any Germanic language and included 90 laws. His influence extended both north and south of the river Humber: his nephew became king of the East Saxons and his daughter married king Edwin of Northumbria (died 633).

In the eighth century, smaller kingdoms in the British Isles continued to fall to more powerful kingdoms, which claimed rights over whole areas and established temporary primacies: Dalriada in Scotland, Munster and Ulster in Ireland. In England, Mercia and later Wessex came to dominate, giving rise to the start of the monarchy.

Throughout the Anglo-Saxon period the succession was frequently contested, by both the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy and leaders of the settling Scandinavian communities. The Scandinavian influence was to prove strong in the early years. It was the threat of invading Vikings which galvanised English leaders into unifying their forces, and, centuries later, the Normans who successfully invaded in 1066 were themselves the descendants of Scandinavian 'Northmen'.


802 – 1066

EGBERT   =    Redburga


                                                                                                   ETHELWULF   =    Osburga dau. of Oslac of Isle of Wight



                                                                     ETHELBERHT                                                        ALFRED the Great   =   Ealhswith

                                         ETHELBALD       (860–866)                ETHELRED                           (871–899)

                                         (855–860)                                             (866–871)                                                                    



                                                                                                                                            Ecgwyn =  EDWARD THE ELDER=  Edgiva





                               Elgiva   =    EDMUND I                                                                                                                              EDRED                                                  (939–946)                                                                                                                               (946–955)



                                       EDWY                Ethelfleda  =     EDGAR     = Elfrida, dau. of Ordgar, Ealdorman of East Anglia

                                      (955–959)          dau. of              (959–975)




                                                                 EDWARD THE MARTYR     


                                                                                                                    Elfgifu   =   ETHELRED II THE UNREADY  =    Emma

                                                                                                          (979–1016)                                        (later                                

                                                                                                            (deposed 1013/14)                            married



    EDMUND II IRONSIDE                                                                                                 


                                                                                                                                                              Godwin  =   Gytha                                            



                                                                                                              EDWARD THE  =     Eadgyth                             HAROLD II

                                                                                                              CONFESSOR           (Edith)                              (Jan.–Oct.1066)


EGBERT (802-39 AD)

Known as the first King of All England, he was forced into exile at the court of Charlemagne, by the powerful Offa, King of Mercia. Egbert returned to England in 802 and was recognized as king of Wessex. He defeated the rival Mercians at the battle of Ellendun in 825. In 829, the Northumbrians accepted his overlordship and he was proclaimed "Bretwalda" or sole ruler of Britain.



Æthelwulf was the son of Egbert and a sub-king of Kent. He assumed the throne of Wessex upon his father's death in 839. His reign is characterized by the usual Viking invasions and repulsions common to all English rulers of the time, but the making of war was not his chief claim to fame. Æthelwulf is remembered, however dimly, as a highly religious man who cared about the establishment and preservation of the church. He was also a wealthy man and controlled vast resources. Out of these resources, he gave generously, to Rome and to religious houses that were in need.

He was an only child, but had fathered five sons, by his first wife, Osburga. He recognized that there could be difficulties with contention over the succession. He devised a scheme which would guarantee (insofar as it was possible to do so) that each child would have his turn on the throne without having to worry about rival claims from his siblings. Æthelwulf provided that the oldest living child would succeed to the throne and would control all the resources of the crown, without having them divided among the others, so that he would have adequate resources to rule. That he was able to provide for the continuation of his dynasty is a matter of record, but he was not able to guarantee familial harmony with his plan. This is proved by what we know of the foul plottings of his son, Æthelbald, while Æthelwulf was on pilgrimage to Rome in 855.

Æthelwulf was a wise and capable ruler, whose vision made possible the beneficial reign of his youngest son, Alfred the Great.

ÆTHELBALD (855-8 (subking), 858-60)

While his father, Æthelwulf, was on pilgrimage to Rome in 855, Æthelbald plotted with the Bishop of Sherbourne and the ealdorman of Somerset against him. The specific details of the plot are unknown, but upon his return from Rome, Æthelwulf found his direct authority limited to the sub-kingdom of Kent, while Æthelbald controlled Wessex.

Æthelwulf died in 858, and full control passed to Æthelbald. Perhaps Æthelbald's premature power grab was occasioned by impatience, or greed, or lack of confidence in his father's succession plans. Whatever the case, he did not live long to enjoy it. He died in 860, passing the throne to his brother, Æthelbert, just as Æthelwulf had planned.



Very little is known about Æthelbert, who took his rightful place in the line of succession to the throne of Wessex at around 30 years of age. Like all other rulers of his day, he had to contend with Viking raids on his territories and even had to battle them in his capital city of Winchester. Apparently, his military leadership was adequate, since, on this occasion, the Vikings were cut off on their retreat to the coast and were slaughtered, according to a contemporary source, in a "bloody battle."

ÆTHELRED I (866-71 AD)

Anglo-Saxon king of Wessex, and son of King Æthelwulf, who ruled England during a time of great pressure from the invading Danes. He was an affable man, a devoutly religious man and the older brother of Alfred the Great, his second-in-command in the resistance against the invaders. Together, they defeated the Danish kings Bagseg and Halfdan at the battle of Ashdown in 870.

ALFRED «THE GREAT» (871-899)

 Born at Wantage, Berkshire, in 849, Alfred was the fifth son of Aethelwulf, king of the West Saxons. At their father's behest and by mutual agreement, Alfred's elder brothers succeeded to the kingship in turn, rather than endanger the kingdom by passing it to under-age children at a time when the country was threatened by worsening Viking raids from Denmark.

Since the 790s, the Vikings had been using fast mobile armies, numbering thousands of men embarked in shallow-draught longships, to raid the coasts and inland waters of England for plunder. Such raids were evolving into permanent Danish settlements; in 867, the Vikings seized York and established their own kingdom in the southern part of Northumbria. The Vikings overcame two other major Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, East Anglia and Mercia, and their kings were either tortured to death or fled. Finally, in 870 the Danes attacked the only remaining independent Anglo-Saxon kingdom, Wessex, whose forces were commanded by King Aethelred and his younger brother Alfred. At the battle of Ashdown in 871, Alfred routed the Viking army in a fiercely fought uphill assault. However, further defeats followed for Wessex and Alfred's brother died.

As king of Wessex at the age of 21, Alfred (reigned 871-99) was a strongminded but highly strung battle veteran at the head of remaining resistance to the Vikings in southern England. In early 878, the Danes led by King Guthrum seized Chippenham in Wiltshire in a lightning strike and used it as a secure base from which to devastate Wessex. Local people either surrendered or escaped (Hampshire people fled to the Isle of Wight), and the West Saxons were reduced to hit and run attacks seizing provisions when they could. With only his royal bodyguard, a small army of thegns (the king's followers) and Aethelnoth ealdorman of Somerset as his ally, Alfred withdrew to the Somerset tidal marshes in which he had probably hunted as a youth. (It was during this time that Alfred, in his preoccupation with the defence of his kingdom, allegedly burned some cakes which he had been asked to look after; the incident was a legend dating from early twelfth century chroniclers.)

A resourceful fighter, Alfred reassessed his strategy and adopted the Danes' tactics by building a fortified base at Athelney in the Somerset marshes and summoning a mobile army of men from Wiltshire, Somerset and part of Hampshire to pursue guerrilla warfare against the Danes. In May 878, Alfred's army defeated the Danes at the battle of Edington. According to his contemporary biographer Bishop Asser, 'Alfred attacked the whole pagan army fighting ferociously in dense order, and by divine will eventually won the victory, made great slaughter among them, and pursued them to their fortress (Chippenham) ... After fourteen days the pagans were brought to the extreme depths of despair by hunger, cold and fear, and they sought peace'. This unexpected victory proved to be the turning point in Wessex's battle for survival.

Realising that he could not drive the Danes out of the rest of England, Alfred concluded peace with them in the treaty of Wedmore. King Guthrum was converted to Christianity with Alfred as godfather and many of the Danes returned to East Anglia where they settled as farmers. In 886, Alfred negotiated a partition treaty with the Danes, in which a frontier was demarcated along the Roman Watling Street and northern and eastern England came under the jurisdiction of the Danes - an area known as 'Danelaw'. Alfred therefore gained control of areas of West Mercia and Kent which had been beyond the boundaries of Wessex. To consolidate alliances against the Danes, Alfred married one of his daughters, Aethelflaed, to the ealdorman of Mercia -Alfred himself had married Eahlswith, a Mercian noblewoman - and another daughter, Aelfthryth, to the count of Flanders, a strong naval power at a time when the Vikings were settling in eastern England.

The Danish threat remained, and Alfred reorganised the Wessex defences in recognition that efficient defence and economic prosperity were interdependent. First, he organised his army (the thegns, and the existing militia known as the fyrd) on a rota basis, so he could raise a 'rapid reaction force' to deal with raiders whilst still enabling his thegns and peasants to tend their farms.

Second, Alfred started a building programme of well-defended settlements across southern England. These were fortified market places ('borough' comes from the Old English burh, meaning fortress); by deliberate royal planning, settlers received plots and in return manned the defences in times of war. (Such plots in London under Alfred's rule in the 880s shaped the streetplan which still exists today between Cheapside and the Thames.) This obligation required careful recording in what became known as 'the Burghal Hidage', which gave details of the building and manning of Wessex and Mercian burhs according to their size, the length of their ramparts and the number of men needed to garrison them. Centred round Alfred's royal palace in Winchester, this network of burhs with strongpoints on the main river routes was such that no part of Wessex was more than 20 miles from the refuge of one of these settlements. Together with a navy of new fast ships built on Alfred's orders, southern England now had a defence in depth against Danish raiders.

Alfred's concept of kingship extended beyond the administration of the tribal kingdom of Wessex into a broader context. A religiously devout and pragmatic man who learnt Latin in his late thirties, he recognised that the general deterioration in learning and religion caused by the Vikings' destruction of monasteries (the centres of the rudimentary education network) had serious implications for rulership. For example, the poor standards in Latin had led to a decline in the use of the charter as an instrument of royal government to disseminate the king's instructions and legislation. In one of his prefaces, Alfred wrote 'so general was its [Latin] decay in England that there were very few on this side of the Humber who could understand their rituals in English or translate a letter from Latin into English ... so few that I cannot remember a single one south of the Thames when I came to the throne.'

To improve literacy, Alfred arranged, and took part in, the translation (by scholars from Mercia) from Latin into Anglo-Saxon of a handful of books he thought it 'most needful for men to know, and to bring it to pass ... if we have the peace, that all the youth now in England ... may be devoted to learning'. These books covered history, philosophy and Gregory the Great's 'Pastoral Care' (a handbook for bishops), and copies of these books were sent to all the bishops of the kingdom. Alfred was patron of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (which was copied and supplemented up to 1154), a patriotic history of the English from the Wessex viewpoint designed to inspire its readers and celebrate Alfred and his monarchy.

Like other West Saxon kings, Alfred established a legal code; he assembled the laws of Offa and other predecessors, and of the kingdoms of Mercia and Kent, adding his own administrative regulations to form a definitive body of Anglo-Saxon law. 'I ... collected these together and ordered to be written many of them which our forefathers observed, those which I liked; and many of those which I did not like I rejected with the advice of my councillors ... For I dared not presume to set in writing at all many of my own, because it was unknown to me what would please those who should come after us ... Then I ... showed those to all my councillors, and they then said that they were all pleased to observe them' (Laws of Alfred, c.885-99).

By the 890s, Alfred's charters and coinage (which he had also reformed, extending its minting to the burhs he had founded) referred to him as 'king of the English', and Welsh kings sought alliances with him. Alfred died in 899, aged 50, and was buried in Winchester, the burial place of the West Saxon royal family.

By stopping the Viking advance and consolidating his territorial gains, Alfred had started the process by which his successors eventually extended their power over the other Anglo-Saxon kings; the ultimate unification of Anglo-Saxon England was to be led by Wessex. It is for his valiant defence of his kingdom against a stronger enemy, for securing peace with the Vikings and for his farsighted reforms in the reconstruction of Wessex and beyond, that Alfred - alone of all the English kings and queens - is known as 'the Great'.

EDWARD «THE ELDER» (899-924)

Well-trained by Alfred, his son Edward 'the Elder' (reigned 899-924) was a bold soldier who defeated the Danes in Northumbria at Tettenhall in 910 and was acknowledged by the Viking kingdom of York. The kings of Strathclyde and the Scots submitted to Edward in 921. By military success and patient planning, Edward spread English influence and control. Much of this was due to his alliance with his formidable sister Aethelflaed, who was married to the ruler of Mercia and seems to have governed that kingdom after her husband's death.

Edward was able to establish an administration for the kingdom of England, whilst obtaining the allegiance of Danes, Scots and Britons. Edward died in 924, and he was buried in the New Minster which he had had completed at Winchester. Edward was twice married, but it is possible that his eldest son Athelstan was the son of a mistress.

ATHELSTAN (924-939)

Edward's heir Athelstan (reigned 925-39) was also a distinguished and audacious soldier who pushed the boundaries of the kingdom to their furthest extent yet. In 927-8, Athelstan took York from the Danes; he forced the submission of king Constantine of Scotland and of the northern kings; all five Welsh kings agreed to pay a huge annual tribute (reportedly including 25,000 oxen), and Athelstan eliminated opposition in Cornwall.

The battle of Brunanburh in 937, in which Athelstan led a force drawn from Britain and defeated an invasion by the king of Scotland in alliance with the Welsh and Danes from Dublin, earned him recognition by lesser kings in Britain.

Athelstan's law codes strengthened royal control over his large kingdom; currency was regulated to control silver's weight and to penalise fraudsters. Buying and selling was mostly confined to the burghs, encouraging town life; areas of settlement in the midlands and Danish towns were consolidated into shires. Overseas, Athelstan built alliances by marrying four of his half-sisters to various rulers in Western Europe.

He also had extensive cultural and religious contacts; as an enthusiastic and discriminating collector of works of art and religious relics, he gave away much of his collection to his followers and to churches and bishops in order to retain their support.

Athelstan died at the height of his power and was buried at Malmesbury; a church charter of 934 described him as 'King of the English, elevated by the right hand of the Almighty ... to the Throne of the whole Kingdom of Britain'. Athelstan died childless.

EDMUND I (939-46)

Son of Edward the Elder, succeeded his half-brother, Æthelstan, with whom he had fought at Brunanburh. Combated the Norse Vikings in Northumbria and subdued them in Cumbria and Strathclyde. He entrusted these lands to an ally, Malcolm I of Scotland. Edmund met his death when he was killed at Pucklechurch, in Gloucestershire, by a robber.

EADRED (946-55)

King of Wessex and acknowledged as overlord of Mercia, the Danelaw and Northumbria. A challenge to Eadred, which serves to illustrate one of his chief qualities, developed in the north, in the early 950's. Eric Bloodaxe, an aptly named, ferocious, Norse Viking who had been deposed by his own people, established himself as king of Northumbria at York, apparently with the fearful acquiescence of the Northumbrians. Eadred responded by marching north with a considerable force to meet the threat. He proceeded to ravage the Norse-held territories, then moved back to the south. He was attacked on the way home by Eric's forces. Eadred was so enraged that he threatened to go back to Northumbria and ravage the entire land.

This prospect frightened the already frightened Northumbrians into abandoning Eric Bloodaxe. It must be that they viewed Eadred as more formidable than a bloodthirsty Viking, who had been thrown out of a society known for its bloodthirstiness, because he was too bloodthirsty and tyrannical for them. In any case, according to the "AngloSaxon Chronicle", "the Northumbrians expelled Eric."

As to his personal side, William of Malmesbury provides some illumination. He says that Eadred was afflicted with some lingering physical malady, since he was, "constantly oppressed by sickness, and of so weak a digestion as to be unable to swallow more than the juices of the food he had masticated, to the great annoyance of his guests." Regarding his spiritual side, apparently the pillaging, ravaging and laying waste that he did, had no deleterious effects on him. As Malmesbury states, he devoted his life to God, "endured with patience his frequent bodily pains, prolonged his prayers and made his palace altogether the school of virtue." He died while still a young man, as had so many of the kings of Wessex, "accompanied with the utmost grief of men but joy of angels."

EADWIG (EDWY) (955-59 AD)

On the death of Eadred, who had no children, Eadwig was chosen to be king since he was the oldest of the children in the natural line of the House of Wessex. He became king at 16 and displayed some of the tendencies one could expect in one so young, royalty or not. Historians have not treated Eadwig especially well, and it is unfortunate for him that he ran afoul of the influential Bishop Dunstan (friend and advisor to the recently deceased king, Eadred, future Archbishop of Canterbury and future saint), early in his reign. An incident, which occurred on the day of Eadwig's consecration as king, purportedly, illustrates the character of the young king. According to the report of the reliable William of Malmesbury, all the dignitaries and officials of the kingdom were meeting to discuss state business, when the absence of the new king was noticed. Dunstan was dispatched, along with another bishop, to find the missing youth. He was found with his mind on matters other than those of state, in the company of the daughter of a noble woman of the kingdom. Malmesbury writes, Dunstan, " regardless of the royal indignation, dragged the lascivious boy from the chamber and...compelling him to repudiate the strumpet made him his enemy forever." The record of this incident was picked up by future monastic chroniclers and made to be the definitive word on the character of Eadwig, mainly because of St. Dunstan's role in it.

Dunstan was, after that incident, never exactly a favorite of Eadwig's, and it may be fair to say that Eadwig even hated Dunstan, for he apparently exiled him soon after this. Eadwig went on to marry Ælgifu, the girl with whom he was keeping company at the time of Dunstan's intrusion. For her part, "the strumpet" was eventually referred to as among "the most illustrious of women", and Eadwig, in his short reign, was generous in making grants to the church and other religious institutions. He died, possibly of the Wessex family ailment, when he was only 20.

EDGAR (959-975)

Edgar, king in Mercia and the Danelaw from 957, succeeded his brother as king of the English on Edwy's death in 959 - a death which probably prevented civil war breaking out between the two brothers. Edgar was a firm and capable ruler whose power was acknowledged by other rulers in Britain, as well as by Welsh and Scottish kings. Edgar's late coronation in 973 at Bath was the first to be recorded in some detail; his queen Aelfthryth was the first consort to be crowned queen of England.

Edgar was the patron of a great monastic revival which owed much to his association with Archbishop Dunstan. New bishoprics were created, Benedictine monasteries were reformed and old monastic sites were re-endowed with royal grants, some of which were of land recovered from the Vikings.

In the 970s and in the absence of Viking attacks, Edgar - a stern judge - issued laws which for the first time dealt with Northumbria (parts of which were in the Danelaw) as well as Wessex and Mercia. Edgar's coinage was uniform throughout the kingdom. A more united kingdom based on royal justice and order was emerging; the Monastic Agreement (c.970) praised Edgar as 'the glorious, by the grace of Christ illustrious king of the English and of the other peoples dwelling within the bounds of the island of Britain'. After his death on 8 July 975, Edgar was buried at Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset.


The sudden death of Edgar at the age of 33 led to a succession dispute between rival factions supporting his sons Edward and Ethelred. The elder son Edward was murdered in 978 at Corfe Castle, Dorset, by his seven-year-old half-brother's supporters.

ETHELRED II «THE UNREADY» (979-1013 AND 1014-1016)

Ethelred, the younger son of Edgar, became king at the age of seven following the murder of his half-brother Edward II in 978 at Corfe Castle, Dorset, by Edward's own supporters.

For the rest of Ethelred's rule (reigned 978-1016), his brother became a posthumous rallying point for political unrest; a hostile Church transformed Edward into a royal martyr. Known as the Un-raed or 'Unready' (meaning 'no counsel', or that he was unwise), Ethelred failed to win or retain the allegiance of many of his subjects. In 1002, he ordered the massacre of all Danes in England to eliminate potential treachery.

Not being an able soldier, Ethelred defended the country against increasingly rapacious Viking raids from the 980s onwards by diplomatic alliance with the duke of Normandy in 991 (he later married the duke's daughter Emma) and by buying off renewed attacks by the Danes with money levied through a tax called the Danegeld. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1006 was dismissive: 'in spite of it all, the Danish army went about as it pleased'. By 1012, 48,000 pounds of silver was being paid in Danegeld to Danes camped in London.

In 1013, Ethelred fled to Normandy when the powerful Viking Sweyn of Denmark dispossessed him. Ethelred returned to rule after Sweyn's death in 1014, but died himself in 1016.

SWEYN (1013-1014)

The son of a Danish king, Sweyn 'Forkbeard' began conquering territory in England in 1003, effectively devastating much of southern and midland England. The English nobility became so disillusioned with their existing king, Ethelred 'The Unready', that they acknowledged Sweyn as king in 1013. Sweyn's reign was short, as he died in 1014, but his son Canute the Great soon returned and reclaimed control of England.


Edmund was King of England for only a few months. After the death of his father, Æthelred II, in April 1016, Edmund led the defense of the city of London against the invading Knut Sveinsson (Canute), and was proclaimed king by the Londoners. Meanwhile, the Witan (Council), meeting at Southampton, chose Canute as King. After a series of inconclusive military engagements, in which Edmund performed brilliantly and earned the nickname "Ironside", he defeated the Danish forces at Oxford, Kent, but was routed by Canute's forces at Ashingdon, Essex. A subsequent peace agreement was made, with Edmund controlling Wessex and Canute controlling Mercia and Northumbria. It was also agreed that whoever survived the other would take control of the whole realm. Unfortunately for Edmund, he died in November, 1016, transferring the Kingship of All England completely to Canute.

CANUTE «THE GREAT» (1016-1035)

Son of Sweyn, Canute became undisputed King of England in 1016, and his rivals (Ethelred's surviving sons and Edmund's son) fled abroad. In 1018, the last Danegeld of 82,500 pounds was paid to Canute. Ruthless but capable, Canute consolidated his position by marrying Ethelred's widow Emma (Canute's first English partner - the Church did not recognise her as his wife - was set aside, later appointed regent of Norway). During his reign, Canute also became King of Denmark and Norway; his inheritance and formidable personality combined to make him overlord of a huge northern empire. 
During his inevitable absences in Scandinavia, Canute used powerful English and Danish earls to assist in England's government - English law and methods of government remained unchanged.

A second-generation Christian for reasons of politics as well as faith, Canute went on pilgrimage to Rome in 1027-8. (It was allegedly Christian humility which made him reject his courtiers' flattery by demonstrating that even he could not stop the waves; later hostile chroniclers were to claim it showed madness.)

Canute was buried at Winchester. Given that there was no political or governmental unity within his empire, it failed to survive owing to discord between his sons by two different queens - Harold Harefoot (reigned 1035-40) and Harthacnut (reigned 1040-42) - and the factions led by the semi-independent Earls of Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex.


Harold Harefoot was the son of Canute and his first wife, Elfgifu. The brothers began by sharing the kingdom of England after their father's death - Harold Harefoot becoming king in Mercia and Northumbria, and Harthacanute king of Wessex. During the absence of Hardicanute in Denmark, his other kingdom, Harold Harefoot became effective sole ruler. On his death in 1040, the kingdom of England fell to Hardicanute alone.

HARDICANUTE (1035-1042)

Harthacnut was the son of Canute and his second wife, Emma, the widow of Ethelred II. His father intended Hardicanute to become king of the English in preference to his elder brother Harold Harefoot, but he nearly lost his chance of this when he became preoccupied with affairs in Denmark, of which he was also king. Instead, Canute's eldest son, Harold Harefoot, became king of England as a whole.  In 1039 Hardicanute eventually set sail for England, arriving to find his brother dead and himself king.


The penultimate Anglo-Saxon king, Edward was the oldest son of Æthelred II and Emma. He had gone to Normandy in 1013, when his father and mother had fled from England. He stayed there during the reign of Canute and, at his death in 1035, led an abortive attempt to capture the crown for himself. He was recalled, for some reason, to the court of Hardicanute, his half-brother.

Canute had placed the local control of the shires into the hands of several powerful earls: Leofric of Mercia (Lady Godiva's husband), Siward of Northumbria and Godwin of Wessex, the most formidable of all. Through Godwin's influence, Edward took the throne at the untimely death of Hardicanute in 1042. In 1045, he married Godwin's only daughter, Edith.

Resulting from the connections made during Edward's years in Normandy, he surrounded himself with his Norman favorites and was unduly influenced by them. This Norman "affinity" produced great displeasure among the Saxon nobles. The anti-Norman faction was led by (who else?) Godwin of Wessex and his son, Harold Godwinsson, took every available opportunity to undermine the kings favorites. Edward sought to revenge himself on Godwin by insulting his own wife and Godwin's daughter, Edith, and confining her to the monastery of Wherwell. Disputes also arose over the issue of royal patronage and Edward's inclination to reward his Norman friends.

A Norman, Robert Champart, who had been Bishop of London, was made Archbishop of Canterbury by Edward in 1051, a promotion that displeased Godwin immensely. The Godwins were banished from the kingdom after staging an unsuccessful rebellion against the king but returned, landing an invasionary force in the south of England in 1052. They received great popular support, and in the face of this, the king was forced to restore the Godwins to favor in 1053.

Edward's greatest achievement was the construction of a new cathedral, where virtually all English monarchs from William the Conqueror onward would be crowned. It was determined that the minster should not be built in London, and so a place was found to the west of the city (hence "Westminster"). The new church was consecrated at Christmas, 1065, but Edward could not attend due to illness.

On his deathbed, Edward named Harold as his successor, instead of the legitimate heir, his grandson, Edgar the Ætheling. The question of succession had been an issue for some years and remained unsettled at Edward's death in January, 1066. It was neatly resolved, however, by William the Conqueror, just nine months later.

There is some question as to what kind of person Edward was. After his death, he was the object of a religious cult and was canonized in 1161, but that could be viewed as a strictly political move. Some say, probably correctly, that he was a weak, but violent man and that his reputation for saintliness was overstated, possibly a sham perpetrated by the monks of Westminster in the twelfth century. Others seem to think that he was deeply religious man and a patient and peaceable ruler.

HAROLD II (1066)

On Edward's death, the King's Council (the Witenagemot) confirmed Edward's brother-in-law Harold, Earl of Wessex, as King. With no royal blood, and fearing rival claims from William Duke of Normandy and the King of Norway, Harold had himself crowned in Westminster Abbey on 6 January 1066, the day after Edward's death. During his brief reign, Harold showed he was an outstanding commander.

In September, Harald Hardrada of Norway (aided by Harold's alienated brother Tostig, Earl of Northumbria) invaded England and was defeated by Harold at the Battle of Stamford Bridge near York. Hardrada's army had invaded using over 300 ships; so many were killed that only 25 ships were needed to transport the survivors home.

Meanwhile, William, Duke of Normandy (who claimed that Harold had acknowledged him in 1064 as Edward's successor) had landed in Sussex. Harold rushed south and, on 14 October 1066, his army of some 7,000 infantry was defeated on the field of Senlac near Hastings. Harold was hit in the eye by an arrow and cut down by Norman swords.

An abbey was later built, in 1070, to fulfil a vow made by William I, and its high altar was placed on the spot where Harold fell. The ruins of Battle Abbey still remain with a stone slab marking where Harold died.




The Normans came to govern as a result of one of the most famous battles in English history, the Battle of Hastings in 1066. From 1066 to 1154 four kings ruled. The Domesday Book, that great source of English landholding, was published, the forests were extended, the Exchequer was founded and a start was made on the Tower of London. In religious affairs, the Gregorian reform movement gathered pace and forced concessions, while the machinery of government developed to support the country while Henry was fighting abroad. Meanwhile, the social landscape was altered, as the Norman aristocracy came to prominence. Many of the nobles struggled to keep a hold on both Normandy and England, as divided rule meant the threat of conflict.

This was the case when William the Conqueror died. His eldest son, Robert, became Duke of Normandy, while the next youngest, William, became king of England. Their younger brother Henry would become king on William II's death. The uneasy divide continued until Henry captured and imprisoned his elder brother.

The question of the succession continued to weigh heavily over the remainder of the period. Henry's son died, and his nominated heir Matilda was denied the throne by her cousin, Henry's nephew, Stephen. There then followed a period of civil war. Matilda married Geoffrey Plantagenet of Anjou, who took control of Normandy. The duchy was therefore separated from England once again.

A compromise was eventually reached whereby the son of Matilda and Geoffrey would be heir to the English crown, while Stephen's son would inherit his baronial lands. All this meant that in 1154 Henry II would ascend to the throne as the first undisputed King in over 100 years - proof of the dynastic uncertainty of the Norman period.


1066 - 1216


                                                                                              HAROLD BLUETOOTH,

       King of Denmark



            Gunhilda of     =   SWEYN FORKBEARD                                                                                                 Styrbjorn    =  Thyra

            Poland                                                                       Richard I, Duke                                                       of Sweden

                                                                                              of Normandy

                                                                                                                                                                                            Thorgils Sprakalegg



Elgiva of (1)    =    CANUTE        =  (2) Emma, widow of            Judith          =     Richard II,      

Northampton       (1016–1035)        ATHELRED II                      daughter of        Duke of                                      Gytha  =   Godwin,

                                                                                                    Conan I               Normandy                                                  Earl of


               HAROLD            HARDICANUTE

               HAREFOOT       (1040–1042)                                                   Robert I      =    Herlève

               (1035–1040)                                                                               Duke of


                                                                                                                                               HAROLD II         EDWARD THE=Eadgyth

                                                                                                                                               (1066)                 CONFESSOR



                                                                                                                             WILLIAM I                  =      Matilda, dau. of

                                                                                                                             THE CONQUEROR            Baldwin V, Count

                                                                                                                             (1066–1087)                       of Flanders



                               WILLIAM II                                       Adela  =   Stephen,                                    Adela of   =  HENRY I,

                               (1087–1100)                                                     Count of                                     Louvain        (1100–1135)



                                                                                            STEPHEN                                                     Matilda = Geoffrey, Count

                                                                                            (1135–1154)                                                                  of Anjou and Maine





                                                                                                                                    HENRY II       =   Eleanor of

                                                                                                                                    (1154–1189)       Aquitaine, divorced

                                                                                                                                                                wife of LOUIS VII,

                   King of France



                                                                                                            RICHARD I                            JOHN             = Isabella, dau. of

                                                                                            (1189–1199)                          (1199–1216)      Count of                                        







Born around 1028, William was the illegitimate son of Duke Robert I of Normandy, and Herleve (also known as Arlette), daughter of a tanner in Falaise. Known as 'William the Bastard' to his contemporaries, his illegitimacy shaped his career when he was young. On his father's death in 1035, William was recognised by his family as the heir - an exception to the general rule that illegitimacy barred succession. His great uncle looked after the Duchy during William's minority, and his overlord, King Henry I of France, knighted him at the age of 15.  From 1047 onwards, William successfully dealt with rebellion inside Normandy involving his kinsmen and threats from neighbouring nobles, including attempted invasions by his former ally King Henry I of France in 1054 (the French forces were defeated at the Battle of Mortemer) and 1057. William's military successes and reputation helped him to negotiate his marriage to Mathilda, daughter of Count Baldwin V of Flanders. At the time of his invasion of England, William was a very experienced and ruthless military commander, ruler and administrator who had unified Normandy and inspired fear and respect outside his duchy.  William's claim to the English throne was based on his assertion that, in 1051, Edward the Confessor had promised him the throne (he was a distant cousin) and that Harold II - having sworn in 1064 to uphold William's right to succeed to that throne - was therefore a usurper. Furthermore, William had the support of Emperor Henry IV and papal approval. William took seven months to prepare his invasion force, using some 600 transport ships to carry around 7,000 men (including 2,000-3,000 cavalry) across the Channel. On 28 September 1066, with a favourable wind, William landed unopposed at Pevensey and, within a few days, raised fortifications at Hastings. Having defeated an earlier invasion by the King of Norway at the Battle of Stamford Bridge near York in late September, Harold undertook a forced march south, covering 250 miles in some nine days to meet the new threat, gathering inexperienced reinforcements to replenish his exhausted veterans as he marched.  At the Battle of Senlac (near Hastings) on 14 October, Harold's weary and under-strength army faced William's cavalry (part of the forces brought across the Channel) supported by archers. Despite their exhaustion, Harold's troops were equal in number (they included the best infantry in Europe equipped with their terrible two-handled battle axes) and they had the battlefield advantage of being based on a ridge above the Norman positions.  The first uphill assaults by the Normans failed and a rumour spread that William had been killed; William rode among the ranks raising his helmet to show he was still alive. The battle was close-fought: a chronicler described the Norman counter-attacks and the Saxon defence as 'one side attacking with all mobility, the other withstanding as though rooted to the soil'. Three of William's horses were killed under him.  William skilfully co-ordinated his archers and cavalry, both of which the English forces lacked. During a Norman assault, Harold was killed - hit by an arrow and then mowed down by the sword of a mounted knight. Two of his brothers were also killed. The demoralised English forces fled. (In 1070, as penance, William had an abbey built on the site of the battle, with the high altar occupying the spot where Harold fell. The ruins of Battle Abbey, and the town of Battle, which grew up around it, remain.)  William was crowned on Christmas Day 1066 in Westminster Abbey. Three months later, he was confident enough to return to Normandy leaving two joint regents (one of whom was his half-brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, who was later to commission the Bayeux Tapestry) behind to administer the kingdom. However, it took William six years to consolidate his conquest, and even then he had to face constant plotting and fighting on both sides of the Channel. In 1068, Harold's sons raided the south-west coast of England (dealt with by William's local commanders), and there were uprisings in the Welsh Marches, Devon and Cornwall. William appointed earls who, in Wales and in all parts of the kingdom, undertook to guard the threatened frontiers and maintain internal security in return for land.  In 1069, the Danes, in alliance with Prince Edgar the Aetheling (Ethelred's great-grandson) and other English nobles, invaded the north and took York. Taking personal charge, and pausing only to deal with the rising at Stafford, William drove the Danes back to their ships on the Humber. In a harsh campaign lasting into 1070, William systematically devastated Mercia and Northumbria to deprive the Danes of their supplies and prevent recovery of English resistance. Churches and monasteries were burnt, and agricultural land was laid to waste, creating a famine for the unarmed and mostly peasant population which lasted at least nine years. Although the Danes were bribed to leave the north, King Sweyn of Denmark and his ships threatened the east coast (in alliance with various English, including Hereward the Wake) until a treaty of peace was concluded in June 1070.  Further north, where the boundary with Scotland was unclear, King Malcolm III was encroaching into England. Yet again, William moved swiftly and moved land and sea forces north to invade Scotland. The Treaty of Abernethy in 1072 marked a truce, which was reinforced by Malcolm's eldest son being accepted as a hostage.   William consolidated his conquest by starting a castle-building campaign in strategic areas. Originally these castles were wooden towers on earthen 'mottes' (mounds) with a bailey (defensive area) surrounded by earth ramparts, but many were later rebuilt in stone. By the end of William's reign over 80 castles had been built throughout his kingdom, as a permanent reminder of the new Norman feudal order.  William's wholesale confiscation of land from English nobles and their heirs (many nobles had died at the battles of Stamford Bridge and Senlac) enabled him to recruit and retain an army, by demanding military duties in exchange for land tenancy granted to Norman, French and Flemish allies. He created up to 180 'honours' (lands scattered through shires, with a castle as the governing centre), and in return had some 5,000 knights at his disposal to repress rebellions and pursue campaigns; the knights were augmented by mercenaries and English infantry from the Anglo-Saxon militia, raised from local levies. William also used the fyrd, the royal army - a military arrangement which had survived the Conquest. The King's tenants-in-chief in turn created knights under obligation to them and for royal duties (this was called subinfeudation), with the result that private armies centred around private castles were created - these were to cause future problems of anarchy for unfortunate or weak kings. By the end of William's reign, a small group of the King's tenants had acquired about half of England's landed wealth. Only two Englishmen still held large estates directly from the King. A foreign aristocracy had been imposed as the new governing class.  The expenses of numerous campaigns, together with an economic slump (caused by the shifts in landed wealth, and the devastation of northern England for military and political reasons), prompted William to order a full-scale investigation into the actual and potential wealth of the kingdom to maximise tax revenues. The Domesday survey was prompted by ignorance of the state of land holding in England, as well as the result of the costs of defence measures in England and renewed war in France. The scope, speed, efficiency and completion of this survey was remarkable for its time and resulted in the two-volume Domesday Book of 1086, which still exists today. William needed to ensure the direct loyalty of his feudal tenants. The 1086 Oath of Salisbury was a gathering of William's 170 tenants-in-chief and other important landowners who took an oath of fealty to William.  William's reach extended elsewhere into the Church and the legal system. French superseded the vernacular (Anglo-Saxon). Personally devout, William used his bishops to carry out administrative duties. Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1070, was a first-class administrator who assisted in government when William was absent in France, and who reorganised the Church in England. Having established the primacy of his archbishopric over that of York, and with William's approval, Lanfranc excommunicated rebels, and set up Church or spiritual courts to deal with ecclesiastical matters. Lanfranc also replaced English bishops and abbots (some of whom had already been removed by the Council of Winchester under papal authority) with Norman or French clergy to reduce potential political resistance. In addition, Canterbury and Durham Cathedrals were rebuilt and some of the bishops' sees were moved to urban centres.  At his coronation, William promised to uphold existing laws and customs. The Anglo-Saxon shire courts and 'hundred' courts (which administered defence and tax, as well as justice matters) remained intact, as did regional variations and private Anglo-Saxon jurisdictions. To strengthen royal justice, William relied on sheriffs (previously smaller landowners, but replaced by influential nobles) to supervise the administration of justice in existing county courts, and sent members of his own court to conduct important trials. However, the introduction of Church courts, the mix of Norman/Roman law and the differing customs led to a continuing complex legal framework. More severe forest laws reinforced William's conversion of the New Forest into a vast Royal deer reserve. These laws caused great resentment, and to English chroniclers the New Forest became a symbol of William's greed. Nevertheless the King maintained peace and order. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1087 declared 'he was a very stern and violent man, so no one dared do anything contrary to his will ... Amongst other things the good security he made in this country is not to be forgotten.'  William spent the last months of his reign in Normandy, fighting a counter-offensive in the French Vexin territory against King Philip's annexation of outlying Normandy territory. Before his death on 9 September 1087, William divided his 'Anglo-Norman' state between his sons. (The scene was set for centuries of expensive commitments by successive English monarchs to defend their inherited territories in France.) William bequeathed Normandy as he had promised to his eldest son Robert, despite their bitter differences (Robert had sided with his father's enemies in Normandy, and even wounded and defeated his father in a battle there in 1079). His son, William Rufus, was to succeed William as King of England, and the third remaining son, Henry, was left 5,000 pounds in silver. William was buried in his abbey foundation of St Stephen at Caen. Desecrated by Huguenots (1562) and Revolutionaries (1793), the burial place of the first Norman king of England is marked by a simple stone slab.    


Strong, outspoken and ruddy (hence his nickname 'Rufus'), William II (reigned 1087-1100) extended his father's policies, taking royal power to the far north of England. Ruthless in his relations with his brother Robert, William extended his grip on the duchy of Normandy under an agreement between the brothers in 1091. (Robert went on crusade in 1096.)

William's relations with the Church were not easy; he took over Archbishop Lanfranc's revenues after the latter's death in 1089, kept other bishoprics vacant to make use of their revenues, and had numerous arguments with Lanfranc's popular successor, Anselm. William died on 2 August 1100, after being shot by an arrow whilst hunting in the New Forest.

HENRY I (1100-1135)

William's younger brother Henry succeeded to the throne. He was crowned three days after his brother's death, against the possibility that his eldest brother Robert might claim the English throne. After the decisive battle of Tinchebrai in 1106 in France, Henry completed his conquest of Normandy from Robert, who then (unusually even for that time) spent the last 28 years of his life as his brother's prisoner.  An energetic, decisive and occasionally cruel ruler, Henry centralised the administration of England and Normandy in the royal court, using 'viceroys' in Normandy and a group of advisers in England to act on his behalf when he was absent across the Channel. Henry successfully sought to increase royal revenues, as shown by the official records of his exchequer (the Pipe Roll of 1130, the first exchequer account to survive). He established peaceful relations with Scotland, through his marriage to Mathilda of Scotland.  Henry's name 'Beauclerc' denoted his good education (as the youngest son, his parents possibly expected that he would become a bishop); Henry was probably the first Norman king to be fluent in English. In 1120, his legitimate sons William and Richard drowned in the White Ship which sank in the English Channel. This posed a succession problem, as Henry never allowed any of his illegitimate children to expect succession to either England or Normandy. Henry had a legitimate daughter Matilda (widow of Emperor Henry V, subsequently married to the Count of Anjou). However, it was his nephew Stephen (reigned 1135-54), son of William the Conqueror's daughter Adela, who succeeded Henry after his death, allegedly caused by eating too many lampreys (fish) in 1135, as the barons mostly opposed the idea of a female ruler.   


Though charming, attractive and (when required) a brave warrior, Stephen (reigned 1135-54) lacked ruthlessness and failed to inspire loyalty. He could neither control his friends nor subdue his enemies, despite the support of his brother Henry of Blois (Bishop of Winchester) and his able wife Matilda of Boulogne. Henry I's daughter Matilda invaded England in 1139 to claim the throne, and the country was plunged into civil war. Although anarchy never spread over the whole country, local feuds were pursued under the cover of the civil war; the bond between the King and the nobles broke down, and senior figures (including Stephen's brother Henry) freely changed allegiances as it suited them. In 1141, Stephen was captured at Lincoln and his defeat seemed certain. However, Matilda's arrogant behaviour antagonised even her own supporters (Angevins), and Stephen was released in exchange for her captured ally and illegitimate half-brother, Earl Robert of Gloucester. After the latter's death in 1147, Matilda retired to Normandy (which her husband, the Count of Anjou had conquered) in 1148. Stephen's throne was still disputed. Matilda's eldest son, Henry, who had been given Normandy by his father in 1150 and who had married the heiress Eleanor Duchess of Aquitaine, invaded England in 1149 and again in 1153. Stephen fought stubbornly against Henry; Stephen even attempted to ensure his son Eustace's succession by having him crowned in Stephen's own lifetime. The Church refused (having quarrelled with the king some years previously); Eustace's death later in 1153 helped lead to a negotiated peace (the treaty of Wallingford) under which Henry would inherit the throne after Stephen's death.      



Henry II, the son of Geoffrey Plantagenet and Henry I's daughter Matilda, was the first in a long line of 14 Plantagenet kings, stretching from Henry II's accession through to Richard III's death in 1485. Within that line, however, four distinct Royal Houses can be identified: Angevin, Plantagenet, Lancaster and York.

The first Angevin King, Henry II, began the period as arguably the most powerful monarch in Europe, with lands stretching from the Scottish borders to the Pyrenees. In addition, Ireland was added to his inheritance, a mission entrusted to him by Pope Adrian IV (the only English Pope). A new administrative zeal was evident at the beginning of the period and an efficient system of government was formulated. The justice system developed. However there were quarrels with the Church, which became more powerful following the murder of Thomas à Becket.

As with many of his predecessors, Henry II spent much of his time away from England fighting abroad. This was taken to an extreme by his son Richard, who spent only 10 months of a ten-year reign in the country due to his involvement in the crusades. The last of the Angevin kings was John, whom history has judged harshly. By 1205, six years into his reign, only a fragment of the vast Angevin empire acquired by Henry II remained. John quarrelled with the Pope over the appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury, eventually surrendering. He was also forced to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, which restated the rights of the church, the barons and all in the land. John died in ignominy, having broken the contract, leading the nobles to summon aid from France and creating a precarious position for his heir, Henry III.


  Henry II ruled over an empire which stretched from the Scottish border to the Pyrenees. One of the strongest, most energetic and imaginative rulers, Henry was the inheritor of three dynasties who had acquired Aquitaine by marriage; his charters listed them: 'King of the English, Duke of the Normans and Aquitanians and Count of the Angevins'. The King spent only 13 years of his reign in England; the other 21 years were spent on the continent in his territories in what is now France. Henry's rapid movements in carrying out his dynastic responsibilities astonished the French king, who noted 'now in England, now in Normandy, he must fly rather than travel by horse or ship'.  By 1158, Henry had restored to the Crown some of the lands and royal power lost by Stephen; Malcom IV of Scotland was compelled to return the northern counties. Locally chosen sheriffs were changed into royally appointed agents charged with enforcing the law and collecting taxes in the counties. Personally interested in government and law, Henry made use of juries and re-introduced the sending of justices (judges) on regular tours of the country to try cases for the Crown. His legal reforms have led him to be seen as the founder of English Common Law.  Henry's disagreements with the Archbishop of Canterbury (the king's former chief adviser), Thomas à Becket, over Church-State relations ended in Becket's murder in 1170 and a papal interdict on England. Family disputes over territorial ambitions almost wrecked the king's achievements. Henry died in France in 1189, at war with his son Richard, who had joined forces with King Philip of France to attack Normandy.       


Henry's elder son, Richard I (reigned 1189-99), fulfilled his main ambition by going on crusade in 1190, leaving the ruling of England to others. After his victories over Saladin at the siege of Acre and the battles of Arsuf and Jaffa, concluded by the treaty of Jaffa (1192), Richard was returning from the Holy Land when he was captured in Austria. In early 1193, Richard was transferred to Emperor Henry VI's custody.   In Richard's absence, King Philip of France failed to obtain Richard's French possessions through invasion or negotiation. In England, Richard's brother John occupied Windsor Castle and prepared an invasion of England by Flemish mercenaries, accompanied by armed uprisings. Their mother, Queen Eleanor, took firm action against John by strengthening garrisons and again exacting oaths of allegiance to the king. John's subversive activities were ended by the payment of a crushing ransom of 150,000 marks of silver to the emperor, for Richard's release in 1194. Warned by Philip's famous message 'look to yourself, the devil is loosed', John fled to the French court.  On his return to England, Richard was recrowned at Winchester in 1194. Five years later he died in France during a minor siege against a rebellious baron. By the time of his death, Richard had recovered all his lands. His success was short-lived. In 1199 his brother John became king and Philip successfully invaded Normandy. By 1203, John had retreated to England, losing his French lands of Normandy and Anjou by 1205. 

JOHN (1199-1216)

John was an able administrator interested in law and government but he neither trusted others nor was trusted by them. Heavy taxation, disputes with the Church (John was excommunicated by the Pope in 1209) and unsuccessful attempts to recover his French possessions made him unpopular. Many of his barons rebelled and in June 1215 they forced the King to sign a peace treaty accepting their reforms.  This treaty, later known as Magna Carta, limited royal powers, defined feudal obligations between the King and the barons, and guaranteed a number of rights. The most influential clauses concerned the freedom of the Church; the redress of grievances of owners and tenants of land; the need to consult the Great Council of the Realm so as to prevent unjust taxation; mercantile and trading relationships; regulation of the machinery of justice so that justice be denied to no one; and the requirement to control the behaviour of royal officials. The most important clauses established the basis of habeas corpus ('you have the body'), i.e. that no one shall be imprisoned except by due process of law, and that 'to no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay right or justice'.  The Charter also established a council of barons who were to ensure that the Sovereign observed the Charter, with the right to wage war on him if he did not. Magna Carta was the first formal document insisting that the Sovereign was as much under the rule of law as his people, and that the rights of individuals were to be upheld even against the wishes of the sovereign. As a source of fundamental constitutional principles, Magna Carta came to be seen as an important definition of aspects of English law, and in later centuries as the basis of the liberties of the English people.   As a peace treaty Magna Carta was a failure and the rebels invited Louis of France to become their king. When John died in 1216 England was in the grip of civil war.   


The Plantagenet  period was dominated by three major conflicts at home and abroad. Edward I  attempted to create a British empire dominated by England, conquering Wales and  pronouncing his eldest son Prince of Wales, and then attacking Scotland. Scotland was to remain elusive and retain its independence until late in the reign of the Stuart kings. In the reign of Edward III the Hundred Years War began, a struggle between England and France. At the end of the Plantagenet period, the reign of Richard II saw the beginning of the long period of civil feuding known as the War of the Roses. For the next century, the crown would be disputed by two conflicting family strands, the Lancastrians and the Yorkists.

The period also saw the development of new social institutions and a distinctive English culture.  Parliament emerged and grew. The judicial reforms begun in the reign of Henry II were continued and completed by Edward I. Culture began to flourish. Three Plantagenet kings were patrons of Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English poetry. During the early part of the period, the architectural style of the Normans gave way to the Gothic, in which style Salisbury Cathedral was built. Westminster Abbey was rebuilt and the majority of English cathedrals remodelled. Franciscan and Dominican orders began to be established in England, while the universities of Oxford and Cambridge had their origins in this period. 

Amidst the order of learning and art, however, were disturbing new phenomena. The outbreak of Bubonic plague or the 'Black Death' served to undermine military campaigns and cause huge social turbulence, killing half the country's population. The price rises and labour shortage which resulted led to social unrest, culminating in the Peasants' Revolt in 1381. 


1216 - 1485

                                                                 HENRY III           =      Eleanor, dau. of Count of Provence


                                                 Eleanor,              =     EDWARD I

                                                 dau. of                       (1272–1307)

                                                 FERDINAND III,

                                                 King of Castile

                                                 and Leon


                                                                   EDWARD II      =   Isabella, dau.

                                                                   (1307–1327)          of PHILIP IV,

                                                                                                 King of France

                                                                                 EDWARD III   =   Philippa, dau. of Count

                                                                                 (1327–1377)        of Hainault and Holland


Edward, Prince   =    Joan, dau. of Earl     Lionel, Duke  = Elizabeth              Blanche of   =   John, Duke      =     Katharine Swynford,

of Wales,                  of Kent (son              of Clarence       de Burgh               Lancaster          of Lancaster           dau. of Sir Roet

The Black Prince      of EDWARD I)                                                                                                                         of Guienne

                  RICHARD II                 Edmund,           =   Philippa                   Mary    =   HENRY IV     John Beaufort,

                 (1377–1399)                 Earl of March                                         Bohun      (1399–1413)



                   Roger, Earl  =   Eleanor                        HENRY V (1) =  Katherine, dau.                       John Beaufort,

                   of March          Holland                         (1413–1422)       of CHARLES VI,                     Duke of Somerset

                                                                                                            King of France

     Richard, Earl     =    Anne                                                 HENRY VI                                  Margaret Beaufort   =   Edmund Tudor,

     of Cambridge          Mortimer                                           (1422–1461,                                                                    Earl of Richmond


                        Richard, Duke = Cecily                                                                        Elizabeth of York,   =    HENRY VII

                        of York                Neville                                                                       dau. of EDWARD IV    (1485–1509)



              EDWARD IV     =    Elizabeth, dau.                                RICHARD III

              (1461–1470,            of Sir Richard                                  (1483–1485)

              1471–1483)             Woodville


              EDWARD V                                                                    Elizabeth    =    HENRY VII

              (1483)                                                                                                      (1485–1509)

HENRY III (1216-1272)

Henry III, King John's son, was only nine when he became King. By 1227, when he assumed power from his regent, order had been restored, based on his acceptance of Magna Carta. However, the King's failed campaigns in France (1230 and 1242), his choice of friends and advisers, together with the cost of his scheme to make one of his younger sons King of Sicily and help the Pope against the Holy Roman Emperor, led to further disputes with the barons and united opposition in Church and State. Although Henry was extravagant and his tax demands were resented, the King's accounts show a list of many charitable donations and payments for building works (including the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey which began in 1245).   The Provisions of Oxford (1258) and the Provisions of Westminster (1259) were attempts by the nobles to define common law in the spirit of Magna Carta, control appointments and set up an aristocratic council. Henry tried to defeat them by obtaining papal absolution from his oaths, and enlisting King Louis XI's help. Henry renounced the Provisions in 1262 and war broke out. The barons, under their leader, Simon de Montfort, were initially successful and even captured Henry. However, Henry escaped, joined forces with the lords of the Marches (on the Welsh border), and Henry finally defeated and killed de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. Royal authority was restored by the Statute of Marlborough (1267), in which the King also promised to uphold Magna Carta and some of the Provisions of Westminster. 

EDWARD I (1272-1307)

 Born in June 1239 at Westminster, Edward was named by his father Henry III after the last Anglo Saxon king (and his father's favourite saint), Edward the Confessor. Edward's parents were renowned for their patronage of the arts (his mother, Eleanor of Provence, encouraged Henry III to spend money on the arts, which included the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey and a still-extant magnificent shrine to house the body of Edward the Confessor), and Edward received a disciplined education - reading and writing in Latin and French, with training in the arts, sciences and music.  In 1254, Edward travelled to Spain for an arranged marriage at the age of 15 to 9-year-old Eleanor of Castile. Just before Edward's marriage, Henry III gave him the duchy of Gascony, one of the few remnants of the once vast French possessions of the English Angevin kings. Gascony was part of a package which included parts of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the King's lands in Wales to provide an income for Edward. Edward then spent a year in Gascony, studying its administration.  Edward spent his young adulthood learning harsh lessons from Henry III's failures as a king, culminating in a civil war in which he fought to defend his father. Henry's ill-judged and expensive intervention in Sicilian affairs (lured by the Pope's offer of the Sicilian crown to Henry's younger son) failed, and aroused the anger of powerful barons including Henry's brother-in-law Simon de Montfort. Bankrupt and threatened with excommunication, Henry was forced to agree to the Provisions of Oxford in 1258, under which his debts were paid in exchange for substantial reforms; a Great Council of 24, partly nominated by the barons, assumed the functions of the King's Council.  Henry repudiated the Provisions in 1261 and sought the help of the French king Louis IX (later known as St Louis for his piety and other qualities). This was the only time Edward was tempted to side with his charismatic and politically ruthless godfather Simon de Montfort - he supported holding a Parliament in his father's absence.  However, by the time Louis IX decided to side with Henry in the dispute and civil war broke out in England in 1263, Edward had returned to his father's side and became de Montfort's greatest enemy. After winning the battle of Lewes in 1264 (after which Edward became a hostage to ensure his father abided by the terms of the peace), de Montfort summoned the Great Parliament in 1265 - this was the first time cities and burghs sent representatives to the parliament. (Historians differ as to whether de Montfort was an enlightened liberal reformer or an unscrupulous opportunist using any means to advance himself.)  In May 1265, Edward escaped from tight supervision whilst hunting. On 4 August, Edward and his allies outmanoeuvred de Montfort in a savage battle at Evesham; de Montfort predicted his own defeat and death 'let us commend our souls to God, because our bodies are theirs ... they are approaching wisely, they learned this from me.' With the ending of the civil war, Edward worked hard at social and political reconciliation between his father and the rebels, and by 1267 the realm had been pacified.  In April 1270 Parliament agreed an unprecedented levy of one-twentieth of every citizen's goods and possessions to finance Edward's Crusade to the Holy Lands. Edward left England in August 1270 to join the highly respected French king Louis IX on Crusade. At a time when popes were using the crusading ideal to further their own political ends in Italy and elsewhere, Edward and King Louis were the last crusaders in the medieval tradition of aiming to recover the Holy Lands. Louis died of the plague in Tunis before Edward's arrival, and the French forces were bought off from pursuing their campaign. Edward decided to continue regardless: 'by the blood of God, though all my fellow soldiers and countrymen desert me, I will enter Acre ... and I will keep my word and my oath to the death'.  Edward arrived in Acre in May 1271 with 1,000 knights; his crusade was to prove an anticlimax. Edward's small force limited him to the relief of Acre and a handful of raids, and divisions amongst the international force of Christian Crusaders led to Edward's compromise truce with the Baibars. In June 1272, Edward survived a murder attempt by an Assassin (an order of Shi'ite Muslims) and left for Sicily later in the year. He was never to return on crusade.  Meanwhile, Henry III died on 16 November 1272. Edward succeeded to the throne without opposition - given his track record in military ability and his proven determination to give peace to the country, enhanced by his magnified exploits on crusade. In Edward's absence, a proclamation in his name delcared that he had succeeded by hereditary right and the barons swore allegeiance to him. Edward finally arrived in London in August 1274 and was crowned at Westminster Abbey. Aged 35, he was a veteran warrior ('the best lance in all the world', according to contemporaries), a leader with energy and vision, and with a formidable temper.  Edward was determined to enforce English kings' claims to primacy in the British Isles. The first part of his reign was dominated by Wales. At that time, Wales consisted of a number of disunited small Welsh princedoms; the South Welsh princes were in uneasy alliance with the Marcher lords (feudal earldoms and baronies set up by the Norman kings to protect the English border against Welsh raids) against the Northern Welsh based in the rocky wilds of Gwynedd, under the strong leadership of Llywelyn ap Gruffyd, Prince of Gwynedd. In 1247, under the Treaty of Woodstock, Llywelyn had agreed that he held North Wales in fee to the English king. By 1272, Llywelyn had taken advantage of the English civil wars to consolidate his position, and the Peace of Montgomery (1267) had confirmed his title as Prince of Wales and recognised his conquests.  However, Llywelyn maintained that the rights of his principality were 'entirely separate from the rights' of England; he did not attend Edward's coronation and refused to do homage. Finally, in 1277 Edward decided to fight Llywelyn 'as a rebel and disturber of the peace', and quickly defeated him. War broke out again in 1282 when Llywelyn joined his brother David in rebellion. Edward's determination, military experience and skilful use of ships brought from England for deployment along the North Welsh coast, drove Llywelyn back into the mountains of North Wales. The death of Llywelyn in a chance battle in 1282 and the subsequent execution of his brother David effectively ended attempts at Welsh independence.  Under the Statute of Wales of 1284, Wales was brought into the English legal framework and the shire system was extended. In the same year, a son was born in Wales to Edward and Queen Eleanor (also named Edward, this future king was proclaimed the first English Prince of Wales in 1301). The Welsh campaign had produced one of the largest armies ever assembled by an English king - some 15,000 infantry (including 9,000 Welsh and a Gascon contingent); the army was a formidable combination of heavy Anglo-Norman cavalry and Welsh archers, whose longbow skills laid the foundations of later military victories in France such as that at Agincourt. As symbols of his military strength and political authority, Edward spent some £80,000 on a network of castles and lesser strongholds in North Wales, employing a work-force of up to 3,500 men drawn from all over England. (Some castles, such as Conway and Caernarvon, remain in their ruined layouts today, as examples of fortresses integrated with fortified towns.)  Edward's campaign in Wales was based on his determination to ensure peace and extend royal authority, and it had broad support in England. Edward saw the need to widen support among lesser landowners and the merchants and traders of the towns. The campaigns in Wales, France and Scotland left Edward deeply in debt, and the taxation required to meet those debts meant enrolling national support for his policies.     To raise money, Edward summoned Parliament - up to 1286 he summoned Parliaments twice a year. (The word 'Parliament' came from the 'parley' or talks which the King had with larger groups of advisers.) In 1295, when money was needed to wage war against Philip of France (who had confiscated the duchy of Gascony), Edward summoned the most comprehensive assembly ever summoned in England. This became known as the Model Parliament, for it represented various estates: barons, clergy, and knights and townspeople. By the end of Edward's reign, Parliament usually contained representatives of all these estates.  Edward used his royal authority to establish the rights of the Crown at the expense of traditional feudal privileges, to promote the uniform administration of justice, to raise income to meet the costs of war and government, and to codify the legal system. In doing so, his methods emphasised the role of Parliament and the common law. With the able help of his Chancellor, Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath and Wells, Edward introduced much new legislation. He began by commissioning a thorough survey of local government (with the results entered into documents known as the Hundred Rolls), which not only defined royal rights and possessions but also revealed administrative abuses.  The First Statute of Westminster (1275) codified 51 existing laws - many originating from Magna Carta - covering areas ranging from extortion by royal officers, lawyers and bailiffs, methods of procedure in civil and criminal cases to freedom of elections. Edward's first Parliament also enacted legislation on wool, England's most important export at the time. At the request of the merchants, Edward was given a customs grant on wool and hides which amounted to nearly £10,000 a year. Edward also obtained income from the licence fees imposed by the Statute of Mortmain (1279), under which gifts of land to the Church (often made to evade death duties) had to have a royal licence.  The Statutes of Gloucester (1278) and Quo Warranto (1290) attempted to define and regulate feudal jurisdictions, which were an obstacle to royal authority and to a uniform system of justice for all; the Statute of Winchester (1285) codified the policing system for preserving public order. Other statutes had a long-term effect on land law and on the feudal framework in England. The Second Statute of Westminster (1285) restricted the alienation of land and kept entailed estates within families: tenants were only tenants for life and not able to sell the property to others. The Third Statute of Westminster or Quia Emptores (1290) stopped subinfeudation (in which tenants of land belonging to the King or to barons subcontracted their properties and related feudal services).  Edward's assertion that the King of Scotland owed feudal allegiance to him, and the embittered Anglo-Scottish relations leading to war which followed, were to overshadow the rest of Edward's reign in what was to become known as the 'Great Cause'. Under a treaty of 1174, William the Lion of Scotland had become the vassal to Henry II, but in 1189 Richard I had absolved William from his allegiance. Intermarriage between the English and Scottish royal houses promoted peace between the two countries until the premature death of Alexander III in 1286. In 1290, his granddaughter and heiress, Margaret the 'Maid of Norway' (daughter of the King of Norway, she was pledged to be married to Edward's then only surviving son, Edward of Caernarvon), also died. For Edward, this dynastic blow was made worse by the death in the same year of his much-loved wife Eleanor (her body was ceremonially carried from Lincoln to Westminster for burial, and a memorial cross erected at every one of the twelve resting places, including what became known as Charing Cross in London).  In the absence of an obvious heir to the Scottish throne, the disunited Scottish magnates invited Edward to determine the dispute. In order to gain acceptance of his authority in reaching a verdict, Edward sought and obtained recognition from the rival claimants that he had the 'sovereign lordship of Scotland and the right to determine our several pretensions'. In November 1292, Edward and his 104 assessors gave the whole kingdom to John Balliol or Baliol as the claimant closest to the royal line; Balliol duly swore loyalty to Edward and was crowned at Scone.  John Balliol's position proved difficult. Edward insisted that Scotland was not independent and he, as sovereign lord, had the right to hear in England appeals against Balliol's judgements in Scotland. In 1294, Balliol lost authority amongst Scottish magnates by going to Westminster after receiving a summons from Edward; the magnates decided to seek allies in France and concluded the 'Auld Alliance' with France (then at war with England over the duchy of Gascony) - an alliance which was to influence Scottish history for the next 300 years. In March 1296, having failed to negotiate a settlement, the English led by Edward sacked the city of Berwick near the River Tweed. Balliol formally renounced his homage to Edward in April 1296, speaking of 'grievous and intolerable injuries ... for instance by summoning us outside our realm ... as your own whim dictated ... and so ... we renounce the fealty and homage which we have done to you'. Pausing to design and start the rebuilding of Berwick as the financial capital of the country, Edward's forces overran remaining Scottish resistance. Scots leaders were taken hostage, and Edinburgh Castle, amongst others, was seized. Balliol surrendered his realm and spent the rest of his life in exile in England and Normandy.  Having humiliated Balliol, Edward's insensitive policies in Scotland continued: he appointed a trio of Englishmen to run the country. Edward had the Stone of Scone - also known as the Stone of Destiny - on which Scottish sovereigns had been crowned removed to London and subsequently placed in the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey (where it remained until it was returned to Scotland in 1996). Edward never built stone castles on strategic sites in Scotland, as he had done so successfully in Wales - possibly because he did not have the funds for another ambitious castle-building programme.  By 1297, Edward was facing the biggest crisis in his reign, and his commitments outweighed his resources. Chronic debts were being incurred by wars against France, in Flanders, Gascony and Wales as well as Scotland; the clergy were refusing to pay their share of the costs, with the Archbishop of Canterbury threatening excommunication; Parliament was reluctant to contribute to Edward's expensive and unsuccessful military policies; the Earls of Hereford and Norfolk refused to serve in Gascony, and the barons presented a formal statement of their grievances. In the end, Edward was forced to reconfirm the Charters (including Magna Carta) to obtain the money he required; the Archbishop was eventually suspended in 1306 by the new Gascon Pope Clement V; a truce was declared with France in 1297, followed by a peace treaty in 1303 under which the French king restored the duchy of Gascony to Edward.  In Scotland, Edward pursued a series of campaigns from 1298 onwards. William Wallace had risen in Balliol's name and recovered most of Scotland, before being defeated by Edward at the battle of Falkirk in 1298. (Wallace escaped, only to be captured in 1305, allegedly by the treachery of a fellow Scot and taken to London, where he was executed.) In 1304, Edward summoned a full Parliament (which elected Scottish representatives also attended), in which arrangements for the settlement of Scotland were made. The new government in Scotland featured a Council, which included Robert the Bruce. Bruce unexpectedly rebelled in 1306 by killing a fellow counsellor and was crowned king of Scotland at Scone. Despite his failing health, Edward was carried north to pursue another campaign, but he died en route at Burgh on Sands on 7 July 1307 aged 68.  According to chroniclers, Edward requested that his bones should be carried on Scottish campaigns and that his heart be taken to the Holy Land. However, Edward was buried at Westminster Abbey in a plain black marble tomb, which in later years was painted with the words Scottorum malleus (Hammer of the Scots) and Pactum serva (Keep troth). Throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the Exchequer paid to keep candles burning 'round the body of the Lord Edward, formerly King of England, of famous memory'.   

EDWARD II (1307-1327)

Edward II had few of the qualities that made a successful medieval king. Edward surrounded himself with favourites (the best known being a Gascon, Piers Gaveston), and the barons, feeling excluded from power, rebelled. Throughout his reign, different baronial groups struggled to gain power and control the King. The nobles' ordinances of 1311, which attempted to limit royal control of finance and appointments, were counteracted by Edward. Large debts (many inherited) and the Scots' victory at Bannockburn by Robert the Bruce in 1314 made Edward more unpopular.  Edward's victory in a civil war (1321-2) and such measures as the 1326 ordinance (a protectionist measure which set up compulsory markets or staples in 14 English, Welsh and Irish towns for the wool trade) did not lead to any compromise between the King and the nobles. Finally, in 1326, Edward's wife, Isabella of France, led an invasion against her husband. In 1327 Edward was made to renounce the throne in favour of his son Edward (the first time that an anointed king of England had been dethroned since Ethelred in 1013). Edward II was later murdered at Berkeley Castle.   

EDWARD III (1327-77)

Edward III was 14 when he was crowned King and assumed government in his own right in 1330. In 1337, Edward created the Duchy of Cornwall to provide the heir to the throne with an income independent of the sovereign or the state. An able soldier, and an inspiring leader, Edward founded the Order of the Garter in 1348.  At the beginning of the Hundred Years War in 1337, actual campaigning started when the King invaded France in 1339 and laid claim to the throne of France. Following a sea victory at Sluys in 1340, Edward overran Brittany in 1342 and in 1346 he landed in Normandy, defeating the French King, Philip IV, at the Battle of Crécy and his son Edward (the Black Prince) repeated his success at Poitiers (1356). By 1360 Edward controlled over a quarter of France. His successes consolidated the support of the nobles, lessened criticism of the taxes, and improved relations with Parliament. However, under the 1375 Treaty of Bruges the French King, Charles V, reversed most of the English conquests; Calais and a coastal strip near Bordeaux were Edward's only lasting gain.  Failure abroad provoked criticism at home. The Black Death plague outbreaks of 1348-9, 1361-2 and 1369 inflicted severe social dislocation (the King lost a daughter to the plague) and caused deflation; severe laws were introduced to attempt to fix wages and prices. In 1376, the 'Good Parliament' (which saw the election of the first Speaker to represent the Commons) attacked the high taxes and criticised the King's advisers. The ageing King withdrew to Windsor for the rest of his reign, eventually dying at Sheen Palace, Surrey.   

RICHARD II (1377-99)

Edward III's son, the Black Prince, died in 1376. The King's grandson, Richard II, succeeded to the throne aged 10, on Edward's death. In 1381 the Peasants' Revolt broke out and Richard, aged 14, bravely rode out to meet the rebels at Smithfield, London. Wat Tyler, the principal leader of the peasants, was killed and the uprisings in the rest of the country were crushed over the next few weeks (Richard was later forced by his Council's advice to rescind the pardons he had given). Highly cultured, Richard was one of the greatest royal patrons of the arts; patron of Chaucer, it was Richard who ordered the technically innovative transformation of the Norman Westminster Hall to what it is today. (Built between 1097 and 1099 by William II, the Hall was the ceremonial and administrative centre of the kingdom; it also housed the Courts of Justice until 1882.)  Richard's authoritarian approach upset vested interests, and his increasing dependence on favourites provoked resentment. In 1388 the 'Merciless Parliament' led by a group of lords hostile to Richard (headed by the King's uncle, Gloucester) sentenced many of the King's favourites to death and forced Richard to renew his coronation oath. The death of his first queen, Anne of Bohemia, in 1394 further isolated Richard, and his subsequent arbitrary behaviour alienated people further. Richard took his revenge in 1397, arresting or banishing many of his opponents; his cousin, Henry of Bolingbroke, was also subsequently banished. On the death of Henry's father, John of Gaunt (a younger son of Edward III), Richard confiscated the vast properties of his Duchy of Lancaster (which amounted to a state within a state) and divided them among his supporters.  Richard pursued policies of peace with France (his second wife was Isabella of Valois); Richard still called himself king of France and refused to give up Calais, but his reign was concurrent with a 28 year truce in the Hundred Years War. His expeditions to Ireland failed to reconcile the Anglo-Irish lords with the Gaels. In 1399, whilst Richard was in Ireland, Henry of Bolingbroke returned to claim his father's inheritance. Supported by some of the leading baronial families (including Richard's former Archbishop of Canterbury), Henry captured and deposed Richard. Bolingbroke was crowned King as Henry IV. Risings in support of Richard led to his murder in Pontefract Castle; Henry V subsequently had his body buried in Westminster Abbey.


The accession of Henry IV sowed the seeds for a period of unrest which ultimately broke out in civil war. Fraught by rebellion and instability after his usurpation of Richard II, Henry IV found it difficult to enforce his rule. His son, Henry V, fared better, defeating France in the famous Battle of Agincourt (1415) and staking a powerful claim to the French throne. Success was short-lived with his early death.

By the reign of the relatively weak Henry VI, civil war broke out between rival claimants to the throne, dating back to the sons of Edward III. The Lancastrian dynasty descended from John of Gaunt, third son of Edward III, whose son Henry deposed the unpopular Richard II.  Yorkist claimants such as the Duke of York asserted their legitimate claim to the throne through Edward III's second surviving son, but through a female line. The Wars of the Roses therefore tested whether the succession should keep to the male line or could pass through females.

Captured and briefly restored, Henry VI was captured and put to death, and the Yorkist faction led by Edward IV gained the throne.

HENRY IV (1399-1413)

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-favorites, but his excellence as a soldier gained the king's favor - 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 rumored 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.

HENRY V (1413-1422)

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 Lollard 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. The historian Rafael Holinshed, in Chronicles of England , summed up Henry's reign as such: "This Henry was a king, of life without spot, a prince whom all men loved, and of none disdained, e captain against whom fortune never frowned, nor mischance once spurned, whose people him so severe a justicer both loved and obeyed (and so humane withal) that he left no offence unpunished, nor friendship unrewarded; a terror to rebels, and suppressor of sedition, his virtues notable, his qualities most praiseworthy."

HENRY VI (1422-61, 1470-71 AD)

Henry VI was the only child of Henry V and Catherine of Valois, born on December 6, 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 Lancastvian 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 Settember 1470. Edward, Prince of Wales, died after his final victory at Tewkesbury on May 20, 1471 and Henry returned to the Tower. The last Lancastrian king was murdered the following day.



The Yorkist conquest of the Lancastrians in 1461 did not put an end to the Wars of the Roses, which rumbled on until the start of the sixteenth century. Family disloyalty in the form of Richard III's betrayal of his nephews, the young King Edward V and his brother, was part of his downfall. Henry Tudor, a claimant to the throne of Lancastrian descent, defeated Richard III in battle and Richard was killed. With the marriage of Henry to Elizabeth, the sister of the young Princes in the Tower, reconciliation was finally achieved between the warring houses of Lancaster and York in the form of the new Tudor dynasty, which combined their respective red and white emblems to produce the Tudor rose.

EDWARD IV (1461-1470 and 1471-1483)

Edward IV was able to restore order, despite the temporary return to the throne of Henry VI (reigned 1470-71, during which time Edward fled to the Continent in exile) supported by the Earl of Warwick, 'the Kingmaker', who had previously supported Edward and who was killed at the Battle of Barnet in 1471. Edward also made peace with France; by a shrewd display of force to exert pressure, Edward reached a profitable agreement with Louis XI at Picquigny in 1475.  At home, Edward relied heavily on his own personal control in government, reviving the ancient custom of sitting in person 'on the bench' (i.e. in judgement) to enforce justice. He sacked Lancastrian office-holders and used his financial acumen to introduce tight management of royal revenues to reduce the Crown's debt. Building closer relations with the merchant community, he encouraged commercial treaties; he successfully traded in wool on his own account to restore his family's fortunes and enable the King to 'live of his own', paying the costs of the country's administration from the Crown Estates profits and freeing him from dependence on subsidies from Parliament.  Edward rebuilt St George's Chapel at Windsor (possibly seeing it as a mausoleum for the Yorkists, as he was buried there) and a new great hall at Eltham Palace. Edward collected illuminated manuscripts - his is the only intact medieval royal collection to survive (in the British Library) - and patronised the new invention of printing. Edward died in 1483, leaving by his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville a 12-year-old son, Edward, to succeed him.

EDWARD V (April-June 1483)

Edward V was a minor, and his uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was made Protector. Richard had been loyal throughout to his brother Edward IV including the events of 1470-71, Edward's exile and their brother's rebellion (the Duke of Clarence, who was executed in 1478 by drowning, reputedly in a barrel of Malmsey wine). However, he was suspicious of the Woodville faction, possibly believing they were the cause of Clarence's death. In response to an attempt by Elizabeth Woodville to take power, Richard and Edward V entered London in May, with Edward's coronation fixed for 22 June. However, in mid-June Richard assumed the throne as Richard III (reigned 1483-85). Edward V and his younger brother Richard were declared illegitimate, taken to the Royal apartments at the Tower of London (then a Royal residence) and never seen again. (Skeletons, allegedly theirs, found there in 1674 were later buried in Westminster Abbey.)    

RICHARD III (1483-1485)

Richard III usurped the throne from the young Edward V, who disappeared with his younger brother while under their ambitious uncle's supposed protection.  On becoming king, Richard attempted genuine reconciliation with the Yorkists by showing consideration to Lancastrians purged from office by Edward IV, and moved Henry VI's body to St George's Chapel at Windsor. The first laws written entirely in English were passed during his reign. In 1484, Richard's only legitimate son Edward predeceased him.  Before becoming king, Richard had had a strong power base in the north, and his reliance on northerners during his reign was to increase resentment in the south. Richard concluded a truce with Scotland to reduce his commitments in the north. Nevertheless, resentment against Richard grew. On 7 August 1485, Henry Tudor (a direct descendant through his mother Margaret Beaufort, of John of Gaunt, one of Edward III's younger sons) landed at Milford Haven in Wales to claim the throne. On 22 August, in a two-hour battle at Bosworth, Henry's forces (assisted by Lord Stanley's private army of around 7,000 which was deliberately posted so that he could join the winning side) defeated Richard's larger army and Richard was killed. Buried without a monument in Leicester, Richard's bones were scattered during the English Reformation.    


The five sovereigns of the Tudor dynasty are among the most well-known figures in Royal history. Of Welsh origin, Henry VII succeeded in ending the Wars of the Roses between the houses of Lancaster and York to found the highly successful Tudor house. Henry VII, his son Henry VIII and his three children Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I ruled for 118 eventful years.

During this period, England developed into one of the leading European colonial powers, with men such as Sir Walter Raleigh taking part in the conquest of the New World. Nearer to home, campaigns in Ireland brought the country under strict English control.

Culturally and socially, the Tudor period saw many changes. The Tudor court played a prominent part in the cultural Renaissance taking place in Europe, nurturing all-round individuals such as William Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser and Cardinal Wolsey. The Tudor period also saw the turbulence of two changes of official religion, resulting in the martyrdom of many innocent believers of both Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. The fear of Roman Catholicism induced by the Reformation was to last for several centuries and to play an influential role in the history of the Succession.



1485 - 1603

                                                                           HENRY VII   =    Elizabeth of York,

                                                                           (1485–1509)       dau. of EDWARD IV



Catherine of (1)      =   HENRY VIII    =   (2) Anne Boleyn,     =   (3) Jane, dau.                        Margaret (1)  =  JAMES IV,

Aragon, dau.                (1509–1547)             dau. of Earl                  of Sir John                                                  King of Scotland

of FERDINAND V,                                         of Wiltshire                  Seymour                                                     (1488–1513)

first King of Spain

                                                ELIZABETH I               EDWARD VI                      JAMES V,             =   Mary of

                          MARY I          (1547–1553)                (1558–1603)                       King of Scotland        Lorraine,

                          (1553–1558)                                                                                  (1513–1542)              dau. of Duke

                                                                                                                                                  of Guise


                                                                                                                           MARY,           =       Henry, Lord

                                                                                                                                                          Queen                     Darnley

 of Scots



THE STUARTS 1603 – 1714                       Anne, dau. of       =    JAMES VI OF SCOTLAND

                                                                                                                                FREDERICK II,          AND I OF ENGLAND

                                                                                                                                King of Denmark        (1567–1625)




Elizabeth     =   Frederick V,              CHARLES I   =   Henrietta Maria,

                         Elector Palatine         (1625–               dau. of HENRY IV,

                                                          ex.1649)             King of France


              Sophia  =  Ernest Augustus,    

                               Elector of Hanover

                                                               CHARLES II           Mary  =  WILLIAM II                    JAMES II           =     Anne Hyde,

                                                               (1649–1685)                         of Orange                      (1685–                      dau. of Earl of

                     GEORGE I                                                                                                            deposed 1688)         Clarendon





                                                                                                WILLIAM III      =        MARY II                                             ANNE

                                                                                                (1689–1702)               (1689–1694)                                      (1702–1714)



                                                                                                                Joint Sovereigns

HENRY VII (1485-1509 AD)

Henry 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 Catherine 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 centered 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 outmaneuver 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."

HENRY VIII (1509-47 AD)

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 favor - 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 Foldden 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 favor 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 behavior, 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 favor 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."

EDWARD VI (1547-1553 AD)

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 stillin 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 clamored 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 maneuvering 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 July 6, 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. Jane Austen wrote, "This Man was on the whole of a very amiable character...", to which Beckett added, " as docile as a lamb, if indeed his gentleness did not amount to absolute sheepishness."

LADY JANE GREY (10-19 July 1553)

The Accession of Lady Jane Grey was engineered by the powerful Duke of Northumberland, President of the King's Council, in the interests of promoting his own dynastic line. Northumberland persuaded the sickly Edward VI to name Lady Jane Grey as his heir. As one of Henry VIII's great-nieces, the young girl was a genuine claimant to the throne. Northumberland then married his own son, Lord Guilford Dudley, to Lady Jane. On the death of Edward, Jane assumed the throne and her claim was recognised by the Council. Despite this, the country rallied to Mary, Catherine of Aragon's daughter and a devout Roman Catholic. Jane reigned for only nine days and was later executed with her husband in 1554.

 MARY I (1553-1558)

Mary I was the first Queen Regnant (that is, a queen reigning in her own right rather than a queen through marriage to a king). Courageous and stubborn, her character was moulded by her earlier years: an Act of Parliament in 1533 had declared her illegitimate and removed her from the succession to the throne (she was reinstated in 1544, but her half-brother Edward removed her from the succession once more shortly before his death), whilst she was pressurised to give up the Mass and acknowledge the English Protestant Church.

Mary restored papal supremacy in England, abandoned the title of Supreme Head of the Church, reintroduced Roman Catholic bishops and began the slow reintroduction of monastic orders. Mary also revived the old heresy laws to secure the religious conversion of the country; heresy was regarded as a religious and civil offence amounting to treason (to believe in a different religion from the Sovereign was an act of defiance and disloyalty). As a result, around 300 Protestant heretics were burnt in three years - apart from eminent Protestant clergy such as Cranmer (a former archbishop and author of two Books of Common Prayer), Latimer and Ridley, these heretics were mostly poor and self-taught people. Apart from making Mary deeply unpopular, such treatment demonstrated that people were prepared to die for the Protestant settlement established in Henry's reign. The progress of Mary's conversion of the country was also limited by the vested interests of the aristocracy and gentry who had bought the monastic lands sold off after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and who refused to return these possessions voluntarily as Mary invited them to do.

Aged 37 at her accession, Mary wished to marry and have children, thus leaving a Catholic heir to consolidate her religious reforms, and removing her half-sister Elizabeth (a focus for Protestant opposition) from direct succession. Mary's decision to marry Philip, King of Spain from 1556, in 1554 was very unpopular; the protest from the Commons prompted Mary's reply that Parliament was 'not accustomed to use such language to the Kings of England' and that in her marriage 'she would choose as God inspired her'. The marriage was childless, Philip spent most of it on the continent, England obtained no share in the Spanish monopolies in New World trade and the alliance with Spain dragged England into a war with France. Popular discontent grew when Calais, the last vestige of England's possessions in France dating from William the Conqueror's time, was captured by the French in 1558. Dogged by ill health, Mary died later that year, possibly from cancer, leaving the crown to her half-sister Elizabeth.

  ELIZABETH I (1558-1603)

Elizabeth I - the last Tudor monarch - was born at Greenwich on 7 September 1533, the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Her early life was full of uncertainties, and her chances of succeeding to the throne seemed very slight once her half-brother Edward was born in 1537. She was then third in line behind her Roman Catholic half-sister, Princess Mary. Roman Catholics, indeed, always considered her illegitimate and she only narrowly escaped execution in the wake of a failed rebellion against Queen Mary in 1554.

Elizabeth succeeded to the throne on her half-sister's death in November 1558. She was very well-educated (fluent in six languages), and had inherited intelligence, determination and shrewdness from both parents. Her 45-year reign is generally considered one of the most glorious in English history. During it a secure Church of England was established. Its doctrines were laid down in the 39 Articles of 1563, a compromise between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Elizabeth herself refused to 'make windows into men's souls ... there is only one Jesus Christ and all the rest is a dispute over trifles'; she asked for outward uniformity. Most of her subjects accepted the compromise as the basis of their faith, and her church settlement probably saved England from religious wars like those which France suffered in the second half of the 16th century.

Although autocratic and capricious, Elizabeth had astute political judgement and chose her ministers well; these included Burghley (Secretary of State), Hatton (Lord Chancellor) and Walsingham (in charge of intelligence and also a Secretary of State). Overall, Elizabeth's administration consisted of some 600 officials administering the great offices of state, and a similar number dealing with the Crown lands (which funded the administrative costs). Social and economic regulation and law and order remained in the hands of the sheriffs at local level, supported by unpaid justices of the peace.

Elizabeth's reign also saw many brave voyages of discovery, including those of Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh and Humphrey Gilbert, particularly to the Americas. These expeditions prepared England for an age of colonisation and trade expansion, which Elizabeth herself recognised by establishing the East India Company in 1600.

The arts flourished during Elizabeth's reign. Country houses such as Longleat and Hardwick Hall were built, miniature painting reached its high point, theatres thrived - the Queen attended the first performance of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The image of Elizabeth's reign is one of triumph and success. The Queen herself was often called 'Gloriana', 'Good Queen Bess' and 'The Virgin Queen'. Investing in expensive clothes and jewellery (to look the part, like all contemporary sovereigns), she cultivated this image by touring the country in regional visits known as 'progresses', often riding on horseback rather than by carriage. Elizabeth made at least 25 progresses during her reign.

However, Elizabeth's reign was one of considerable danger and difficulty for many, with threats of invasion from Spain through Ireland, and from France through Scotland. Much of northern England was in rebellion in 1569-70. A papal bull of 1570 specifically released Elizabeth's subjects from their allegiance, and she passed harsh laws against Roman Catholics after plots against her life were discovered. One such plot involved Mary, Queen of Scots, who had fled to England in 1568 after her second husband's murder and her subsequent marriage to a man believed to have been involved in his murder. As a likely successor to Elizabeth, Mary spent 19 years as Elizabeth's prisoner because Mary was the focus for rebellion and possible assassination plots, such as the Babington Plot of 1586. Mary was also a temptation for potential invaders such as Philip II. In a letter of 1586 to Mary, Elizabeth wrote, 'You have planned ... to take my life and ruin my kingdom ... I never proceeded so harshly against you.' Despite Elizabeth's reluctance to take drastic action, on the insistence of Parliament and her advisers, Mary was tried, found guilty and executed in 1587.

In 1588, aided by bad weather, the English navy scored a great victory over the Spanish invasion fleet of around 130 ships - the 'Armada'. The Armada was intended to overthrow the Queen and re-establish Roman Catholicism by conquest, as Philip II believed he had a claim to the English throne through his marriage to Mary.

During Elizabeth's long reign, the nation also suffered from high prices and severe economic depression, especially in the countryside, during the 1590s. The war against Spain was not very successful after the Armada had been beaten and, together with other campaigns, it was very costly. Though she kept a tight rein on government expenditure, Elizabeth left large debts to her successor. Wars during Elizabeth's reign are estimated to have cost over £5 million (at the prices of the time) which Crown revenues could not match - in 1588, for example, Elizabeth's total annual revenue amounted to some £392,000. Despite the combination of financial strains and prolonged war after 1588, Parliament was not summoned more often. There were only 16 sittings of the Commons during Elizabeth's reign, five of which were in the period 1588-1601. Although Elizabeth freely used her power to veto legislation, she avoided confrontation and did not attempt to define Parliament's constitutional position and rights.

Elizabeth chose never to marry. If she had chosen a foreign prince, he would have drawn England into foreign policies for his own advantages (as in her sister Mary's marriage to Philip of Spain); marrying a fellow countryman could have drawn the Queen into factional infighting. Elizabeth used her marriage prospects as a political tool in foreign and domestic policies. However, the 'Virgin Queen' was presented as a selfless woman who sacrificed personal happiness for the good of the nation, to which she was, in essence, 'married'. Late in her reign, she addressed Parliament in the so-called 'Golden Speech' of 1601 when she told MPs: 'There is no jewel, be it of never so high a price, which I set before this jewel; I mean your love.' She seems to have been very popular with the vast majority of her subjects.

Overall, Elizabeth's always shrewd and, when necessary, decisive leadership brought successes during a period of great danger both at home and abroad. She died at Richmond Palace on 24 March 1603, having become a legend in her lifetime. The date of her accession was a national holiday for two hundred years.


The Stuarts were the first kings of the United Kingdom. King James I of England who began the period was also King James VI of Scotland, thus combining the two thrones for the first time.

The Stuart dynasty reigned in England and Scotland from 1603 to 1714, a period which saw a flourishing Court culture but also much upheaval and instability, of plague, fire and war. It was an age of intense religious debate and radical politics. Both contributed to a bloody civil war in the mid-seventeenth century between Crown and Parliament (the Cavaliers and the Roundheads), resulting in a parliamentary victory for Oliver Cromwell and the dramatic execution of King Charles I. There was a short-lived republic, the first time that the country had experienced such an event. The Restoration of the Crown was soon followed by another 'Glorious' Revolution. William and Mary of Orange ascended the throne as joint monarchs and defenders of Protestantism, followed by Queen Anne, the second of James II's daughters.

The end of the Stuart line with the death of Queen Anne led to the drawing up of the Act of Settlement in 1701, which provided that only Protestants could hold the throne. The next in line according to the provisions of this act was George of Hanover, yet Stuart princes remained in the wings. The Stuart legacy was to linger on in the form of claimants to the Crown for another century.

JAMES I (1603-25 AD)

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 untilJames 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 thrown 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 fueled James' paranoia: the Gunpowder Plot of November 5, 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' favorites), 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 favorites 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 homosexual partner) 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. He is described, albeit humorously, in 1066 and All That, as such: "James I slobbered at the mouth and had favourites; he was thus a bad king"; Sir Anthony Weldon made a more somber observation: "He was very crafty and cunning in petty things, as the circumventing any great man, the change of a Favourite, &c. inasmuch as a very wise man was wont to say, he believed him the very wisest fool in Christendom."

CHARLES I (1625-49)

Charles I was born in Fife on 19 November 1600, the second son of James VI of Scotland (from 1603 also James I of England) and Anne of Denmark. He became heir to the throne on the death of his brother, Prince Henry, in 1612. He succeeded, as the second Stuart King of England, in 1625.

Controversy and disputes dogged Charles throughout his reign. They eventually led to civil wars, first with the Scots from 1637 and later in England (1642-46 and 1648). The Civil Wars deeply divided people at the time, and historians still disagree about the real causes of the conflict, but it is clear that Charles was not a successful ruler.

Charles was reserved (he had a residual stammer), self-righteous and had a high concept of royal authority, believing in the divine right of kings. He was a good linguist and a sensitive man of refined tastes. He spent a lot on the arts, inviting the artists Van Dyck and Rubens to work in England, and buying a great collection of paintings by Raphael and Titian (this collection was later dispersed under Cromwell). His expenditure on his court and his picture collection greatly increased the crown's debts. Indeed, crippling lack of money was a key problem for both the early Stuart monarchs.

Charles was also deeply religious. He favoured the high Anglican form of worship, with much ritual, while many of his subjects, particularly in Scotland, wanted plainer forms. Charles found himself ever more in disagreement on religious and financial matters with many leading citizens. Having broken an engagement to the Spanish infanta, he had married a Roman Catholic, Henrietta Maria of France, and this only made matters worse. Although Charles had promised Parliament in 1624 that there would be no advantages for recusants (people refusing to attend Church of England services), were he to marry a Roman Catholic bride, the French insisted on a commitment to remove all disabilities upon Roman Catholic subjects. Charles's lack of scruple was shown by the fact that this commitment was secretly added to the marriage treaty, despite his promise to Parliament.

Charles had inherited disagreements with Parliament from his father, but his own actions (particularly engaging in ill-fated wars with France and Spain at the same time) eventually brought about a crisis in 1628-29. Two expeditions to France failed - one of which had been led by Buckingham, a royal favourite of both James I and Charles I, who had gained political influence and military power. Such was the general dislike of Buckingham, that he was impeached by Parliament in 1628, although he was murdered by a fanatic before he could lead the second expedition to France. The political controversy over Buckingham demonstrated that, although the monarch's right to choose his own Ministers was accepted as an essential part of the royal prerogative, Ministers had to be acceptable to Parliament or there would be repeated confrontations. The King's chief opponent in Parliament until 1629 was Sir John Eliot, who was finally imprisoned in the Tower of London until his death in 1632.

Tensions between the King and Parliament centred around finances, made worse by the costs of war abroad, and by religious suspicions at home (Charles's marriage was seen as ominous, at a time when plots against Elizabeth I and the Gunpowder Plot in James I's reign were still fresh in the collective memory, and when the Protestant cause was going badly in the war in Europe). In the first four years of his rule, Charles was faced with the alternative of either obtaining parliamentary funding and having his policies questioned by argumentative Parliaments who linked the issue of supply to remedying their grievances, or conducting a war without subsidies from Parliament. Charles dismissed his fourth Parliament in March 1629 and decided to make do without either its advice or the taxes which it alone could grant legally.

Although opponents later called this period 'the Eleven Years' Tyranny', Charles's decision to rule without Parliament was technically within the King's royal prerogative, and the absence of a Parliament was less of a grievance to many people than the efforts to raise revenue by non-parliamentary means. Charles's leading advisers, including William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Earl of Strafford, were efficient but disliked. For much of the 1630s, the King gained most of the income he needed from such measures as impositions, exploitation of forest laws, forced loans, wardship and, above all, ship money (extended in 1635 from ports to the whole country). These measures made him very unpopular, alienating many who were the natural supporters of the Crown.

Scotland (which Charles had left at the age of 3, returning only for his coronation in 1633) proved the catalyst for rebellion. Charles's attempt to impose a High Church liturgy and prayer book in Scotland had prompted a riot in 1637 in Edinburgh which escalated into general unrest. Charles had to recall Parliament; however, the Short Parliament of April 1640 queried Charles's request for funds for war against the Scots and was dissolved within weeks. The Scots occupied Newcastle and, under the treaty of Ripon, stayed in occupation of Northumberland and Durham and they were to be paid a subsidy until their grievances were redressed.

Charles was finally forced to call another Parliament in November 1640. This one, which came to be known as The Long Parliament, started with the imprisonment of Laud and Strafford (the latter was executed within six months, after a Bill of Attainder which did not allow for a defence), and the abolition of the King's Council (Star Chamber), and moved on to declare ship money and other fines illegal. The King agreed that Parliament could not be dissolved without its own consent, and the Triennial Act of 1641 meant that no more than three years could elapse between Parliaments.

The Irish uprising of October 1641 raised tensions between the King and Parliament over the command of the Army. Parliament issued a Grand Remonstrance repeating their grievances, impeached 12 bishops and attempted to impeach the Queen. Charles responded by entering the Commons in a failed attempt to arrest five Members of Parliament, who had fled before his arrival. Parliament reacted by passing a Militia Bill allowing troops to be raised only under officers approved by Parliament. Finally, on 22 August 1642 at Nottingham, Charles raised the Royal Standard calling for loyal subjects to support him (Oxford was to be the King's capital during the war). The Civil War, what Sir William Waller (a Parliamentary general and moderate) called 'this war without an enemy', had begun.

The Battle of Edgehill in October 1642 showed that early on the fighting was even. Broadly speaking, Charles retained the north, west and south-west of the country, and Parliament had London, East Anglia and the south-east, although there were pockets of resistance everywhere, ranging from solitary garrisons to whole cities. However, the Navy sided with Parliament (which made continental aid difficult), and Charles lacked the resources to hire substantial mercenary help.

Parliament had entered an armed alliance with the predominant Scottish Presbyterian group under the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, and from 1644 onwards Parliament's armies gained the upper hand - particularly with the improved training and discipline of the New Model Army. The Self-Denying Ordinance was passed to exclude Members of Parliament from holding army commands, thereby getting rid of vacillating or incompetent earlier Parliamentary generals. Under strong generals like Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell, Parliament won victories at Marston Moor (1644) and Naseby (1645). The capture of the King's secret correspondence after Naseby showed the extent to which he had been seeking help from Ireland and from the Continent, which alienated many moderate supporters.

In May 1646, Charles placed himself in the hands of the Scottish Army (who handed him to the English Parliament after nine months in return for arrears of payment - the Scots had failed to win Charles's support for establishing Presbyterianism in England). Charles did not see his action as surrender, but as an opportunity to regain lost ground by playing one group off against another; he saw the monarchy as the source of stability and told parliamentary commanders 'you cannot be without me: you will fall to ruin if I do not sustain you'. In Scotland and Ireland, factions were arguing, whilst in England there were signs of division in Parliament between the Presbyterians and the Independents, with alienation from the Army (where radical doctrines such as that of the Levellers were threatening commanders' authority). Charles's negotiations continued from his captivity at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight (to which he had 'escaped' from Hampton Court in November 1647) and led to the Engagement with the Scots, under which the Scots would provide an army for Charles in exchange for the imposition of the Covenant on England. This led to the second Civil War of 1648, which ended with Cromwell's victory at Preston in August.

The Army, concluding that permanent peace was impossible whilst Charles lived, decided that the King must be put on trial and executed. In December, Parliament was purged, leaving a small rump totally dependent on the Army, and the Rump Parliament established a High Court of Justice in the first week of January 1649. On 20 January, Charles was charged with high treason 'against the realm of England'. Charles refused to plead, saying that he did not recognise the legality of the High Court (it had been established by a Commons purged of dissent, and without the House of Lords - nor had the Commons ever acted as a judicature).

The King was sentenced to death on 27 January. Three days later, Charles was beheaded on a scaffold outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall, London. The King asked for warm clothing before his execution: 'the season is so sharp as probably may make me shake, which some observers may imagine proceeds from fear. I would have no such imputation.' On the scaffold, he repeated his case: 'I must tell you that the liberty and freedom [of the people] consists in having of Government, those laws by which their life and their goods may be most their own. It is not for having share in Government, Sir, that is nothing pertaining to them. A subject and a sovereign are clean different things. If I would have given way to an arbitrary way, for to have all laws changed according to the Power of the Sword, I needed not to have come here, and therefore I tell you ... that I am the martyr of the people.' His final words were 'I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be.'

The King was buried on 9 February at Windsor, rather than Westminster Abbey, to avoid public disorder. To avoid the automatic succession of Charles I's son Charles, an Act was passed on 30 January forbidding the proclaiming of another monarch. On 7 February 1649, the office of King was formally abolished.

The Civil Wars were essentially confrontations between the monarchy and Parliament over the definitions of the powers of the monarchy and Parliament's authority. These constitutional disagreements were made worse by religious animosities and financial disputes. Both sides claimed that they stood for the rule of law, yet civil war was by definition a matter of force. Charles I, in his unwavering belief that he stood for constitutional and social stability, and the right of the people to enjoy the benefits of that stability, fatally weakened his position by failing to negotiate a compromise with Parliament and paid the price. To many, Charles was seen as a martyr for his people and, to this day, wreaths of remembrance are laid by his supporters on the anniversary of his death at his statue, which faces down Whitehall to the site of his execution.


Cromwell's convincing military successes at Drogheda in Ireland (1649), Dunbar in Scotland (1650) and Worcester in England (1651) forced Charles I's son, Charles, into foreign exile despite being accepted as King in Scotland.

From 1649 to 1660, England was therefore a republic during a period known as the Interregnum ('between reigns'). A series of political experiments followed, as the country's rulers tried to redefine and establish a workable constitution without a monarchy.

Throughout the Interregnum, Cromwell's relationship with Parliament was a troubled one, with tensions over the nature of the constitution and the issue of supremacy, control of the armed forces and debate over religious toleration. In 1653 Parliament was dissolved, and under the Instrument of Government, Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector, later refusing the offer of the throne. Further disputes with the House of Commons followed; at one stage Cromwell resorted to regional rule by a number of the army's major generals. After Cromwell's death in 1658, and the failure of his son Richard's short-lived Protectorate, the army under General Monk invited Charles I's son, Charles, to become King.


Oliver Cromwell, born in Huntingdon in 1599, was a strict Puritan with a Cambridge education when he went to London to represent his family in Parliament. Clothed conservatively, he possessed a Puritan fervor 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 Ј850 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 Court 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 traveled north to recruit an army and raised his standard against the forces of Parliaments (Roundheads) at Nottingham on August 22, 1642. England was again embroiled in civil war.

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 April 21, 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 furor arose in the military ranks). The Lord Protector died on September 3, 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 union was destroyed, the other ultimately perished."

Oliver Cromwell: Lord Protector of England (1599-1658)

There is definitely an association between John Knox and Oliver Cromwell. Knox, in his book The Reformation of Scotland, outlined the whole process without which the British model of government under Oliver Cromwell never would not have been possible. Yet Knox was more consistently covenantal in his thinking. He recognized that civil government is based on a covenant between the magistrate (or the representative or king) and the populace. His view was that when the magistrate defects from the covenant, it is the duty of the people to overthrow him.

Cromwell was not a learned scholar, as was Knox, nevertheless God elevated him to a greater leadership role. Oliver Cromwell was born into a common family of English country Puritans having none of the advantages of upbringing that would prepare him to be leader of a nation. Yet he had a God-given ability to earn the loyalty and respect of men of genius who served him throughout his lifetime. John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress served under his command in the English Civil War, and John Milton, who penned Paradise Lost, served as his personal secretary.

Cromwell's early years were ordinary, but after a conversion experience at age 27, he was seized by a sense of divine destiny. He became suddenly zealous for God. He was a country squire, a bronze-faced, callous-handed man of property. He worked on his farm, prayed and fasted often and occasionally exhorted the local congregation during church meetings. A quiet, simple, serious-minded man, he spoke little. But when he broke his silence, it was with great authority as he commanded obedience without question or dispute. As a justice of the peace, he attracted attention to himself by collaring loafers at a tavern and forcing them to join in singing a hymn. This exploit together with quieting a disturbance among some student factions at the neighboring town of Cambridge earned him the respect of the Puritan locals and they sent him to Parliament as their representative. There he attracted attention with his blunt, forcible speech as a member of the Independent Party which was made up of Puritans.

The English people were bent upon the establishment of a democratic parliamentary system of civil government and the elimination of the "Divine Right of Kings." King Charles I, the tyrant who had long persecuted the English Puritans by having their ears cut off and their noses slit for defying his attempts to force episcopacy on their churches, finally clashed with Parliament over a long ordeal with new and revolutionary ideas. The Puritans, or "Roundheads" as they were called, finally led a civil war against the King and his Cavaliers.

When he discerned the weaknesses of the Roundhead army, Cromwell made himself captain of the cavalry. Cromwell had never been trained in war, but from the very beginning he showed consummate genius as a general. Cromwell understood that successful revolutions were always fought by farmers so he gathered a thousand hand-picked Puritans - farmers and herdsmen - who were used to the open fields. His regiment was nicknamed "Ironsides" and was never beaten once, although they fought greatly outnumbered - at times three to one.

It was an army the likes of which hadn't been seen since ancient Israel. They would recite the Westminster Confession and march into battle singing the Psalms of David striking terror into the heart of the enemy. Cromwell's tactic was to strike with the cavalry through the advancing army at the center, go straight through the lines and then circle to either the left or the right milling the mass into a mob, creating confusion and utterly destroying them. Cromwell amassed a body of troops and soon became commander-in-chief. His discipline created the only body of regular troops on either side who preached, prayed, paid fines for profanity and drunkenness, and charged the enemy singing hymns - the strangest abnormality in an age when every vice imaginable characterized soldiers and mercenaries.

In the meantime, Charles I invited an Irish Catholic army to his aid, an action for which he was tried for high treason and beheaded shortly after the war. After executing the national sovereign, the Parliament assumed power. The success of the new democracy in England was short-lived. Cromwell found that a democratic parliamentary system run by squires and lords oppressed the common people and was almost as corrupt as the rulership of the deposed evil king. As Commander-in-Chief of the army, he was able to seize rulership and served a term as "Lord Protector."

During the fifteen years in which Cromwell ruled, he drove pirates from the Mediterranean Sea, set English captives free, and subdued any threat from France, Spain and Italy. Cromwell made Great Britain a respected and feared power the world over. Cromwell maintained a large degree of tolerance for rival denominations. He stood for a national church without bishops. The ministers might be Presbyterian, Independent or Baptist. Dissenters were allowed to meet in gathered churches and even Roman Catholics and Quakers were tolerated. He worked for reform of morals and the improvement of education. He strove constantly to make England a genuinely Christian nation and she enjoyed a brief "Golden Age" in her history.

When Charles I was beheaded, the understanding was that he had broken covenant with the people. The view of Cromwell and the Puritans was that when the magistrate breaks covenant, then he may legitimately be deposed. The Puritan understanding of the covenantal nature of government was the foundation for American colonial government. This was true of Massachusetts and Connecticut and to a lesser extent in the Southern colonies. When the Mayflower Compact was written, the Pilgrims had a covenantal idea of the nature of civil government. This was a foundation for later colonies established throughout the 1600s. These covenants were influenced by what Knox had done in Scotland and what the Puritans had done in England.


The eldest surviving son of Oliver Cromwell, Richard was Lord Protector of England from September 1658 to May 1659, but failed in his efforts to lead the Commonwealth.

Richard served in the Parliaments of 1654 and 1656 and some government posts, but showed little of his father's ability. Constitutional changes in 1657 allowed Cromwell to choose his successor. He began to prepare Richard, appointing him to the council of state and the House of Lords.

He was proclaimed Lord Protector immediately after his father's death, on 3rd September 1658. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth had been held together by his father and Richard was no Oliver. It was an unstable mixture of zealous reform and a yearning for stability, Parliamentary authority and military power.

Richard soon faced serious problems. The army were disillusioned with a government that had grown increasingly ceremonious. They grew more restless when Richard appointed himself commander in chief. A new Parliament was elected in 1659 but a vacuum of power prompted the army council to seize power. In April 1659 it forced Richard to dissolve Parliament.

The officers now recalled the Rump Parliament, dissolved by Oliver Cromwell in 1653. It dismissed Richard as Lord Protector; he officially abdicated in May. Yet the Rump was incapable of governing without financial and military support and the army itself remained bitterly divided. George Monck, one of the army's most capable officers, marched south from Scotland to protect Parliament but, on arriving in London, realised that only the restoration of Charles II could put an end to the political chaos that now gripped the state.

Richard, having amassed large debts during his time in office, left for Paris in 1660 to escape his creditors, living under the name of John Clarke. After living in Geneva, he returned to England in around 1680, where he lived quietly until his death.

CHARLES II (1660-85)

Although those who had signed Charles I's death warrant were punished (nine regicides were put to death, and Cromwell's body was exhumed from Westminster Abbey and buried in a common pit), Charles pursued a policy of political tolerance and power-sharing. In April 1660, fresh elections had been held and a Convention met with the House of Lords. Parliament invited Charles to return, and he arrived at Dover on 25 May.

Despite the bitterness left from the Civil Wars and Charles I's execution, there were few detailed negotiations over the conditions of Charles II's restoration to the throne. Under the Declaration of Breda of May 1660, Charles had promised pardons, arrears of Army pay, confirmation of land purchases during the Interregnum and 'liberty of tender consciences' in religious matters, but several issues remained unresolved. However, the Militia Act of 1661 vested control of the armed forces in the Crown, and Parliament agreed to an annual revenue of £1,200,000 (a persistent deficit of £400,000-500,000 remained, leading to difficulties for Charles in his foreign policy). The bishops were restored to their seats in the House of Lords, and the Triennial Act of 1641 was repealed - there was no mechanism for enforcing the King's obligation to call Parliament at least once every three years. Under the 1660 Act of Indemnity and Oblivion, only the lands of the Crown and the Church were automatically resumed; the lands of Royalists and other dissenters which had been confiscated and/or sold on were left for private negotiation or litigation.

The early years of Charles's reign saw an appalling plague which hit the country in 1665 with 70,000 dying in London alone, and the Great Fire of London in 1666 which destroyed St Paul's amongst other buildings. Another misfortune included the second Dutch war of 1665 (born of English and Dutch commercial and colonial rivalry). Although the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam was overrun and renamed New York before the war started, by 1666 France and Denmark had allied with the Dutch. The war was dogged by poor administration culminating in a Dutch attack on the Thames in 1667; a peace was negotiated later in the year.

In 1667, Charles dismissed his Lord Chancellor, Clarendon - an adviser from Charles's days of exile (Clarendon's daughter Anne was the first wife of Charles's brother James and was mother of Queens Mary and Anne). As a scapegoat for the difficult religious settlement and the Dutch war, Clarendon had failed to build a 'Court interest' in the Commons. He was succeeded by a series of ministerial combinations, the first of which was that of Clifford, Ashley, Buckingham, Arlington and Lauderdale (whose initials formed the nickname Cabal). Such combinations (except for Danby's dominance of Parliament from 1673 to 1679) were largely kept in balance by Charles for the rest of his reign.

Charles's foreign policy was a wavering balance of alliances with France and the Dutch in turn. In 1670, Charles signed the secret treaty of Dover under which Charles would declare himself a Catholic and England would side with France against the Dutch - in return Charles would receive subsidies from the King of France (thus enabling Charles some limited room for manoeuvre with Parliament, but leaving the possibility of public disclosure of the treaty by Louis). Practical considerations prevented such a public conversion, but Charles issued a Declaration of Indulgence, using his prerogative powers to suspend the penal laws against Catholics and Nonconformists. In the face of an Anglican Parliament's opposition, Charles was eventually forced to withdraw the Declaration in 1673.

In 1677 Charles married his niece Mary to William of Orange partly to restore the balance after his brother's second marriage to the Catholic Mary of Modena and to re-establish his own Protestant credentials. This assumed a greater importance as it became clear that Charles's marriage to Catherine of Braganza would produce no legitimate heirs (although Charles had a number of mistresses and illegitimate children), and his Roman Catholic brother James's position as heir apparent raised the prospect of a Catholic king.

Throughout Charles's reign, religious toleration dominated the political scene. The 1662 Act of Uniformity had imposed the use of the Book of Common Prayer, and insisted that clergy subscribe to Anglican doctrine (some 1,000 clergy lost their livings). Anti-Catholicism was widespread; the Test Act of 1673 excluded Roman Catholics from both Houses of Parliament. Parliament's reaction to the Popish Plot of 1678 (an allegation by Titus Oates that Jesuit priests were conspiring to murder the King, and involving the Queen and the Lord Treasurer, Danby) was to impeach Danby and present a Bill to exclude James (Charles's younger brother and a Roman Catholic convert) from the succession. In 1680/81 Charles dissolved three Parliaments which had all tried to introduce Exclusion Bills on the basis that 'we are not like to have a good end'.

Charles sponsored the founding of the Royal Society in 1660 (still in existence today) to promote scientific research. Charles also encouraged a rebuilding programme, particularly in the last years of his reign, which included extensive rebuilding at Windsor Castle, a huge but uncompleted new palace at Winchester and the Greenwich Observatory. Charles was a patron of Christopher Wren in the design and rebuilding of St Paul's Cathedral, Chelsea Hospital (a refuge for old war veterans) and other London buildings.

Charles died in 1685, becoming a Roman Catholic on his deathbed.

JAMES II (1685-88)

Born in 1633 and named after his grandfather James I, James II grew up in exile after the Civil War (he served in the armies of Louis XIV) and, after his brother's restoration, commanded the Royal Navy from 1660 to 1673. James converted to Catholicism in 1669. Despite his conversion, James II succeeded to the throne peacefully at the age of 51. His position was a strong one - there were standing armies of nearly 20,000 men in his kingdoms and he had a revenue of around £2 million. Within days of his succession, James announced the summoning of Parliament in May but he sounded a warning note: 'the best way to engage me to meet you often is always to use me well'. A rebellion led by Charles's illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth, was easily crushed after the battle of Sedgemoor in 1685, and savage punishments were imposed by the infamous Lord Chief Justice, Judge Jeffreys, at the 'Bloody Assizes'.

James's reaction to the Monmouth rebellion was to plan the increase of the standing army and the appointment of loyal and experienced Roman Catholic officers. This, together with James's attempts to give civic equality to Roman Catholic and Protestant dissenters, led to conflict with Parliament, as it was seen as James showing favouritism towards Roman Catholics. Fear of Catholicism was widespread (in 1685, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes which gave protection to French Protestants), and the possibility of a standing army led by Roman Catholic officers produced protest in Parliament. As a result, James prorogued Parliament in 1685 and ruled without it.

James attempted to promote the Roman Catholic cause by dismissing judges and Lord Lieutenants who refused to support the withdrawal of laws penalising religious dissidents, appointing Catholics to important academic posts, and to senior military and political positions. Within three years, the majority of James's subjects had been alienated.

In 1687 James issued the Declaration of Indulgence aiming at religious toleration; seven bishops who asked James to reconsider were charged with seditious libel, but later acquitted to popular Anglican acclaim. When his second (Roman Catholic) wife, Mary of Modena, gave birth on 10 June 1688 to a son (James Stuart, later known as the 'Old Pretender' and father of Charles Edward Stuart, 'Bonnie Prince Charlie'), it seemed that a Roman Catholic dynasty would be established. William of Orange, Protestant husband of James's elder daughter, Mary (by James's first and Protestant wife, Anne Hyde), was therefore welcomed when he invaded on 5 November 1688. The Army and the Navy (disaffected despite James's investment in them) deserted to William, and James fled to France.

James's attempt to regain the throne by taking a French army to Ireland failed - he was defeated at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. James spent the rest of his life in exile in France, dying there in 1701.

WILLIAM III (1689-1702) AND MARY II (1689-94)

In 1689 Parliament declared that James had abdicated by deserting his kingdom. William (reigned 1689-1702) and Mary (reigned 1689-94) were offered the throne as joint monarchs. They accepted a Declaration of Rights (later a Bill), drawn up by a Convention of Parliament, which limited the Sovereign's power, reaffirmed Parliament's claim to control taxation and legislation, and provided guarantees against the abuses of power which James II and the other Stuart Kings had committed. The exclusion of James II and his heirs was extended to exclude all Catholics from the throne, since 'it hath been found by experience that it is inconsistent with the safety and welfare of this protestant kingdom to be governed by a papist prince'. The Sovereign was required in his coronation oath to swear to maintain the Protestant religion.

The Bill was designed to ensure Parliament could function free from royal interference. The Sovereign was forbidden from suspending or dispensing with laws passed by Parliament, or imposing taxes without Parliamentary consent. The Sovereign was not allowed to interfere with elections or freedom of speech, and proceedings in Parliament were not to be questioned in the courts or in any body outside Parliament itself. (This was the basis of modern parliamentary privilege.) The Sovereign was required to summon Parliament frequently (the Triennial Act of 1694 reinforced this by requiring the regular summoning of Parliaments). Parliament tightened control over the King's expenditure; the financial settlement reached with William and Mary deliberately made them dependent upon Parliament, as one Member of Parliament said, 'when princes have not needed money they have not needed us'. Finally the King was forbidden to maintain a standing army in time of peace without Parliament's consent.

The Bill of Rights added further defences of individual rights. The King was forbidden to establish his own courts or to act as a judge himself, and the courts were forbidden to impose excessive bail or fines, or cruel and unusual punishments. However, the Sovereign could still summon and dissolve Parliament, appoint and dismiss Ministers, veto legislation and declare war.

The so-called 'Glorious Revolution' has been much debated over the degree to which it was conservative or radical in character. The result was a permanent shift in power; although the monarchy remained of central importance, Parliament had become a permanent feature of political life.

The Toleration Act of 1689 gave all non-conformists except Roman Catholics freedom of worship, thus rewarding Protestant dissenters for their refusal to side with James II.

After 1688 there was a rapid development of party, as parliamentary sessions lengthened and the Triennial Act ensured frequent general elections. Although the Tories had fully supported the Revolution, it was the Whigs (traditional critics of the monarchy) who supported William and consolidated their position. Recognising the advisability of selecting a Ministry from the political party with the majority in the House of Commons, William appointed a Ministry in 1696 which was drawn from the Whigs; known as the Junto, it was regarded with suspicion by Members of Parliament as it met separately, but it may be regarded as the forerunner of the modern Cabinet of Ministers.

In 1697, Parliament decided to give an annual grant of £700,000 to the King for life, as a contribution to the expenses of civil government, which included judges' and ambassadors' salaries, as well as the Royal Household's expenses.

The Bill of Rights had established the succession with the heirs of Mary II, Anne and William III in that order, but by 1700 Mary had died childless, Anne's only surviving child (out of 17 children), the Duke of Gloucester, had died at the age of 11 and William was dying. The succession had to be decided.

The Act of Settlement of 1701 was designed to secure the Protestant succession to the throne, and to strengthen the guarantees for ensuring parliamentary system of government. According to the Act, succession to the throne went to Princess Sophia, Electress of Hanover and James I's granddaughter, and her Protestant heirs.

The Act also laid down the conditions under which alone the Crown could be held. No Roman Catholic, nor anyone married to a Roman Catholic, could hold the English Crown. The Sovereign now had to swear to maintain the Church of England (and after 1707, the Church of Scotland). The Act of Settlement not only addressed the dynastic and religious aspects of succession, it also further restricted the powers and prerogatives of the Crown.

Under the Act, parliamentary consent had to be given for the Sovereign to engage in war or leave the country, and judges were to hold office on good conduct and not at royal pleasure - thus establishing judicial independence. The Act of Settlement reinforced the Bill of Rights, in that it strengthened the principle that government was undertaken by the Sovereign and his or her constitutional advisers (i.e. his or her Ministers), not by the Sovereign and any personal advisers whom he or she happened to choose.

One of William's main reasons for accepting the throne was to reinforce the struggle against Louis XIV. William's foreign policy was dominated by the priority to contain French expansionism. England and the Dutch joined the coalition against France during the Nine Years War. Although Louis was forced to recognise William as King under the Treaty of Ryswick (1697), William's policy of intervention in Europe was costly in terms of finance and his popularity. The Bank of England, established in 1694 to raise money for the war by borrowing, did not loosen the King's financial reliance on Parliament as the national debt depended on parliamentary guarantees. William's Dutch advisers were resented, and in 1699 his Dutch Blue Guards were forced to leave the country.

Never of robust health, William died as a result of complications from a fall whilst riding at Hampton Court in 1702.

ANNE (1702-14)

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 (Mary II and William III) 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 with 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 favorites 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. Sarah'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 demeanor towards Anne, and berated the Queen in public. In the meantime, Tory leaders had planted one Abigail Hill in the royal household to capture 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 favor 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 control 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 favorite 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 lackluster in comparison to the rest of the Stuart line. 1066 and All That, describes her with its usual tongue-in-cheek manner: "Finally the Orange... was succeeded by the memorable dead queen, Anne. Queen Anne was considered rather a remarkable woman and hence was usually referred to as Great Anna, or Annus Mirabilis. The Queen had many favourites (all women), the most memorable of whom were Sarah Jenkins and Mrs Smashems, who were the first wig and the first Tory... the Whigs being the first to realize that the Queen had been dead all the time chose George I as King."


The Hanoverians came to power in difficult circumstances that looked set to undermine the stability of British society. The first of their Kings, George I, was only 52nd in line to the throne, but the nearest Protestant according the Act of Settlement. Two descendants of James II, the deposed Stuart King, threatened to take the throne and were supported by a number of 'Jacobites' throughout the realm.

The Hanoverian period for all that, was remarkably stable, not least because of the longevity of its Kings. From 1714 through to 1837, there were only five, one of whom, George III, remains the longest reigning King in British History. The period was also one of political stability, and the development of constitutional monarchy. For vast tracts of the eighteenth century politics were dominated by the great Whig families, while the early nineteenth century saw Tory domination. Britain's first 'Prime' Minister, Robert Walpole, dates from this period, while income tax was introduced. Towards the end of the reign, the Great Reform Act was passed, which amongst other things widened the electorate.

It was in this period that Britain came to acquire much of her overseas Empire, despite the loss of the American colonies, largely through foreign conquest in the various wars of the century. At the end of the Hanoverian period the British empire covered a third of the globe while the theme of longevity was set to continue, as the longest reigning monarch in British history, Queen Victoria, prepared to take the throne.


1714 - 1837

                                                   GEORGE I       =     Sophia Dorothea, dau. of Duke of Brunswick and Celle


                                                                    GEORGE II     =    Caroline, dau. of Margrave of

                                                                     (1727–1760)         Brandenburg-Anspach

                                  Augusta of                        =    Frederick Lewis,

                                  Saxe-Gotha-Altenberg            Prince of Wales

                        GEORGE III    =   Sophia Charlotte of

                                                                 (1760–1820)        Mecklenburg-Strelitz


GEORGE IV                                                  WILLIAM IV                                             Edward,            =   Victoria

(1820–1830)                                                  (1830–1837)                                             Duke of Kent         of Saxe-Coburg



GEORGE I (1714-27)

George I was born March 28, 1660, son of Ernest, Elector of Hanover and Sophia, granddaughter of James I. He 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 October 11, 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 September 29, 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, labeling 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 Jacobites, 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 skillful; 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."

GEORGE II (1727-60)

George II was born November 10, 1683, the only son of George I and Sophia. His youth was spent in the 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.

Thackeray describes George II and Walpole as such, in The Four Georges "... how he was a choleric little sovereign; how he shook his fist in the face of his father's courtiers; how he kicked his coat and wig about in his rages; and called everybody thief, liar, rascal with whom he differed: you will read in all the history books; and how he speedily and shrewdly reconciled himself with the bold minister, whom he had hated during his father's life, and by whom he was served during fifteen years of his own with admirable prudence, fidelity, and success. But for Robert Walpole, we should have had the Pretender back again."

GEORGE III (r. 1760-1820)

George III was born on 4 June 1738 in London, the eldest son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. He became heir to the throne on the death of his father in 1751, succeeding his grandfather, George II, in 1760. He was the third Hanoverian monarch and the first one to be born in England and to use English as his first language.

George III is widely remembered for two things: losing the American colonies and going mad. This is far from the whole truth. George's direct responsibility for the loss of the colonies is not great. He opposed their bid for independence to the end, but he did not develop the policies (such as the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townshend duties of 1767 on tea, paper and other products) which led to war in 1775-76 and which had the support of Parliament. These policies were largely due to the financial burdens of garrisoning and administering the vast expansion of territory brought under the British Crown in America, the costs of a series of wars with France and Spain in North America, and the loans given to the East India Company (then responsible for administering India). By the 1770s, and at a time when there was no income tax, the national debt required an annual revenue of £4 million to service it.

The declaration of American independence on 4 July 1776, the end of the war with the surrender by British forces in 1782, and the defeat which the loss of the American colonies represented, could have threatened the Hanoverian throne. However, George's strong defence of what he saw as the national interest and the prospect of long war with revolutionary France made him, if anything, more popular than before.

The American war, its political aftermath and family anxieties placed great strain on George in the 1780s. After serious bouts of illness in 1788-89 and again in 1801, George became permanently deranged in 1810. He was mentally unfit to rule in the last decade of his reign; his eldest son - the later George IV - acted as Prince Regent from 1811. Some medical historians have said that George III's mental instability was caused by a hereditary physical disorder called porphyria.

George's accession in 1760 marked a significant change in royal finances. Since 1697, the monarch had received an annual grant of £700,000 from Parliament as a contribution to the Civil List, i.e. civil government costs (such as judges' and ambassadors' salaries) and the expenses of the Royal Household. In 1760, it was decided that the whole cost of the Civil List should be provided by Parliament in return for the surrender of the hereditary revenues by the King for the duration of his reign. (This arrangement still applies today, although civil government costs are now paid by Parliament, rather than financed directly by the monarch from the Civil List.)

The first 25 years of George's reign were politically controversial for reasons other than the conflict with America. The King was accused by some critics, particularly Whigs (a leading political grouping), of attempting to reassert royal authority in an unconstitutional manner. In fact, George took a conventional view of the constitution and the powers left to the Crown after the conflicts between Crown and Parliament in the 17th century.

Although he was careful not to exceed his powers, George's limited ability and lack of subtlety in dealing with the shifting alliances within the Tory and Whig political groupings in Parliament meant that he found it difficult to bring together ministries which could enjoy the support of the House of Commons. His problem was solved first by the long-lasting ministry of Lord North (1770-82) and then, from 1783, by Pitt the Younger, whose ministry lasted until 1801.

George III was the most attractive of the Hanoverian monarchs. He was a good family man (there were 15 children) and devoted to his wife, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, for whom he bought the Queen's House (later enlarged to become Buckingham Palace). However, his sons disappointed him and, after his brothers made unsuitable secret marriages, the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 was passed at George's insistence. (Under this Act, the Sovereign must give consent to the marriage of any lineal descendant of George II, with certain exceptions.)

Being extremely conscientious, George read all government papers and sometimes annoyed his ministers by taking such a prominent interest in government and policy. His political influence could be decisive. In 1801, he forced Pitt the Younger to resign when the two men disagreed about whether Roman Catholics should have full civil rights. George III, because of his coronation oath to maintain the rights and privileges of the Church of England, was against the proposed measure.

One of the most cultured of monarchs, George started a new royal collection of books (65,000 of his books were later given to the British Museum, as the nucleus of a national library) and opened his library to scholars. In 1768, George founded and paid the initial costs of the Royal Academy of Arts (now famous for its exhibitions). He was the first king to study science as part of his education (he had his own astronomical observatory), and examples of his collection of scientific instruments can now be seen in the Science Museum.

George III also took a keen interest in agriculture, particularly on the crown estates at Richmond and Windsor, being known as 'Farmer George'. In his last years, physical as well as mental powers deserted him and he became blind. He died at Windsor Castle on 29 January 1820, after a reign of almost 60 years - the second longest in British history.

GEORGE IV (1820-30)

George IV was 48 when he became Regent in 1811. He had secretly and illegally married a Roman Catholic, Mrs Fitzherbert. In 1795 he officially married Princess Caroline of Brunswick, but the marriage was a failure and he tried unsuccessfully to divorce her after his accession in 1820 (Caroline died in 1821). Their only child Princess Charlotte died giving birth to a stillborn child.

An outstanding, if extravagant, collector and builder, George IV acquired many important works of art (now in the Royal Collection), built the Royal Pavilion at Brighton, and transformed Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. George's fondness for pageantry helped to develop the ceremonial side of monarchy. After his father's long illness, George resumed royal visits; he visited Hanover in 1821 (it had not been visited by its ruler since the 1750s), and Ireland and Scotland over the next couple of years.

Beset by debts, George was in a weak position in relation to his Cabinet of ministers. His concern for royal prerogative was sporadic; when the Prime Minister Lord Liverpool fell ill in 1827, George at one stage suggested that ministers should choose Liverpool's successor. In 1829, George IV was forced by his ministers, much against his will and his interpretation of his coronation oath, to agree to Catholic Emancipation. By reducing religious discrimination, this emancipation enabled the monarchy to play a more national role.

George's profligacy and marriage difficulties meant that he never regained much popularity, and he spent his final years in seclusion at Windsor, dying at the age of 67.


WILLIAM IV  (1830-37)

At the age of 13, William became a midshipman and began a career in the Royal Navy. In 1789, he was made duke of Clarence. He retired from the Navy in 1790. Between 1791 and 1811 he lived with his mistress, the actress Mrs Jordan, and the growing family of their children known as the Fitzclarences. William married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen in 1818, but their children died in infancy. The third son of George III, William became heir apparent at the age of 62 when his older brother died.

William's reign (reigned 1830-37) was dominated by the Reform crisis, beginning almost immediately when Wellington's Tory government (which William supported) lost the general election in August 1830. Pledged to parliamentary reform, Grey's Whig government won a further election which William had to call in 1831 and then pushed through a reform bill against the opposition of the Tories and the House of Lords, using the threat of the creation of 50 or more peers to do so. The failure of the Tories to form an alternative government in 1832 meant that William had to sign the Great Reform Bill. Control of peerages had been used as a party weapon, and the royal prerogative had been damaged.

The Reform Bill abolished some of the worst abuses of the electoral system (for example, representation for so called 'rotten boroughs', which had long ceased to be of any importance, was stopped, and new industrial towns obtained representation). The Reform Act also introduced standardised rules for the franchise (different boroughs had previously had varying franchise rules) and, by extending the franchise to the middle classes, greatly increased the role of public opinion in the political process.

William understood the theory of the more limited monarchy, once saying 'I have my view of things, and I tell them to my ministers. If they do not adopt them, I cannot help it. I have done my duty.' William died a month after Victoria had come of age, thus avoiding another regency.

VICTORIA (1837-1901)

Victoria was born at Kensington Palace, London, on 24 May 1819. She was the only daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III. Her father died shortly after her birth and she became heir to the throne because the three uncles who were ahead of her in succession - George IV, Frederick Duke of York, and William IV - had no legitimate children who survived. Warmhearted and lively, Victoria had a gift for drawing and painting; educated by a governess at home, she was a natural diarist and kept a regular journal throughout her life. On William IV's death in 1837, she became Queen at the age of 18.

Queen Victoria is associated with Britain's great age of industrial expansion, economic progress and - especially - empire. At her death, it was said, Britain had a worldwide empire on which the sun never set.

In the early part of her reign, she was influenced by two men: her first Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, and her husband, Prince Albert, whom she married in 1840. Both men taught her much about how to be a ruler in a 'constitutional monarchy' where the monarch had very few powers but could use much influence. Albert took an active interest in the arts, science, trade and industry; the project for which he is best remembered was the Great Exhibition of 1851, the profits from which helped to establish the South Kensington museums complex in London.

Her marriage to Prince Albert brought nine children between 1840 and 1857. Most of her children married into other royal families of Europe: Edward VII (born 1841, married Alexandra, daughter of Christian IX of Denmark); Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (born 1844, married Marie of Russia); Arthur, Duke of Connaught (born 1850, married Louise Margaret of Prussia); Leopold, Duke of Albany (born 1853, married Helen of Waldeck-Pyrmont); Victoria, Princess Royal (born 1840, married Friedrich III, German Emperor); Alice (born 1843, married Ludwig IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine); Helena (born 1846, married Christian of Schleswig-Holstein); Louise (born 1848, married John Campbell, 9th Duke of Argyll); Beatrice (born 1857, married Henry of Battenberg). Victoria bought Osborne House (later presented to the nation by Edward VII) on the Isle of Wight as a family home in 1845, and Albert bought Balmoral in 1852.

Victoria was deeply attached to her husband and she sank into depression after he died, aged 42, in 1861. She had lost a devoted husband and her principal trusted adviser in affairs of state. For the rest of her reign she wore black. Until the late 1860s she rarely appeared in public; although she never neglected her official Correspondence, and continued to give audiences to her ministers and official visitors, she was reluctant to resume a full public life. She was persuaded to open Parliament in person in 1866 and 1867, but she was widely criticised for living in seclusion and quite a strong republican movement developed. (Seven attempts were made on Victoria's life, between 1840 and 1882 - her courageous attitude towards these attacks greatly strengthened her popularity.) With time, the private urgings of her family and the flattering attention of Benjamin Disraeli, Prime Minister in 1868 and from 1874 to 1880, the Queen gradually resumed her public duties.

In foreign policy, the Queen's influence during the middle years of her reign was generally used to support peace and reconciliation. In 1864, Victoria pressed her ministers not to intervene in the Prussia-Austria-Denmark war, and her letter to the German Emperor (whose son had married her daughter) in 1875 helped to avert a second Franco-German war. On the Eastern Question in the 1870s - the issue of Britain's policy towards the declining Turkish Empire in Europe - Victoria (unlike Gladstone) believed that Britain, while pressing for necessary reforms, ought to uphold Turkish hegemony as a bulwark of stability against Russia, and maintain bi-partisanship at a time when Britain could be involved in war.

Victoria's popularity grew with the increasing imperial sentiment from the 1870s onwards. After the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the government of India was transferred from the East India Company to the Crown with the position of Governor General upgraded to Viceroy, and in 1877 Victoria became Empress of India under the Royal Titles Act passed by Disraeli's government.

During Victoria's long reign, direct political power moved away from the sovereign. A series of Acts broadened the social and economic base of the electorate. These acts included the Second Reform Act of 1867; the introduction of the secret ballot in 1872, which made it impossible to pressurise voters by bribery or intimidation; and the Representation of the Peoples Act of 1884 - all householders and lodgers in accommodation worth at least £10 a year, and occupiers of land worth £10 a year, were entitled to vote.

Despite this decline in the Sovereign's power, Victoria showed that a monarch who had a high level of prestige and who was prepared to master the details of political life could exert an important influence. This was demonstrated by her mediation between the Commons and the Lords, during the acrimonious passing of the Irish Church Disestablishment Act of 1869 and the 1884 Reform Act. It was during Victoria's reign that the modern idea of the constitutional monarch, whose role was to remain above political parties, began to evolve. But Victoria herself was not always non-partisan and she took the opportunity to give her opinions - sometimes very forcefully - in private.

After the Second Reform Act of 1867, and the growth of the two-party (Liberal and Conservative) system, the Queen's room for manoeuvre decreased. Her freedom to choose which individual should occupy the premiership was increasingly restricted. In 1880, she tried, unsuccessfully, to stop William Gladstone - whom she disliked as much as she admired Disraeli and whose policies she distrusted - from becoming Prime Minister. She much preferred the Marquess of Hartington, another statesman from the Liberal party which had just won the general election. She did not get her way. She was a very strong supporter of Empire, which brought her closer both to Disraeli and to the Marquess of Salisbury, her last Prime Minister. Although conservative in some respects - like many at the time she opposed giving women the vote - on social issues, she tended to favour measures to improve the lot of the poor, such as the Royal Commission on housing. She also supported many charities involved in education, hospitals and other areas.

Victoria and her family travelled and were seen on an unprecedented scale, thanks to transport improvements and other technical changes such as the spread of newspapers and the invention of photography. Victoria was the first reigning monarch to use trains - she made her first train journey in 1842.

In her later years, she almost became the symbol of the British Empire. Both the Golden (1887) and the Diamond (1897) Jubilees, held to celebrate the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the queen's accession, were marked with great displays and public ceremonies. On both occasions, Colonial Conferences attended by the Prime Ministers of the self-governing colonies were held.

Despite her advanced age, Victoria continued her duties to the end - including an official visit to Dublin in 1900. The Boer War in South Africa overshadowed the end of her reign. As in the Crimean War nearly half a century earlier, Victoria reviewed her troops and visited hospitals; she remained undaunted by British reverses during the campaign: 'We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat; they do not exist.'

Victoria died at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, on 22 January 1901 after a reign which lasted almost 64 years, the longest in British history. She was buried at Windsor beside Prince Albert, in the Frogmore Royal Mausoleum, which she had built for their final resting place. Above the Mausoleum door are inscribed Victoria's words: 'farewell best beloved, here at last I shall rest with thee, with thee in Christ I shall rise again'.


The name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha came to the British Royal Family in 1840 with the marriage of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert, son of  Ernst, Duke of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha. Queen Victoria herself remained a member of the House of Hanover.

The only British monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was King Edward VII, who reigned for nine years at the beginning of the modern age in the early years of the 20th century. King George V replaced the German-sounding title with that of Windsor during the First World War. The name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha survived in other European monarchies, including the current Belgian Royal Family and the former monarchies of Portugal and Bulgaria.


1837 - 1917



VICTORIA      =      m. Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha

(1837-1910)           (Prince Consort)

EDWARD VII      =   m. Princess Alexandra, dau. of CHRISTIAN IX, King of

(1910 – 1936)          Denmark


                       DUKE OF WINDSOR                                                      GEORGE VI     =    m. Lady Elizabeth

                       EDWARD VIII                                                                  1936-1952              Bowes-Lyon, dau. of Earl of

                       (abdicated 1936)                                                                                             Strathmore and Kinghorne

                                                                                                                                               (Queen Elizabeth

                                                                                                                                               The Queen Mother)

                                                                                                                       QUEEN ELIZABETH II

        (1952 – present day)

EDWARD VII (1901-10)

Edward VII, born November 9, 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 May 6, 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 risqué 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 accouterments 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 colorful 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.


The House of Windsor came into being in 1917, when the name was adopted as the British Royal Family's official name by a proclamation of King George V, replacing the historic name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. It remains the family name of the current Royal Family.

During the twentieth century, kings and queens of the United Kingdom have fulfilled the varied duties of constitutional monarchy. One of their most important roles was national figureheads lifting public morale during the devastating world wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45.

The period saw the modernization of the monarchy in tandem with the many social changes which have taken place over the past 80 years. One such modernization has been the use of mass communication technologies to make the Royal Family accessible to a broader public the world over. George V adopted the new relatively new medium of radio to broadcast across the Empire at Christmas; the Coronation ceremony was broadcast on television for the first time in 1953, at The Queen's insistence; and the World Wide Web has been used for the past five years to provide a global audience with information about the Royal Family. During this period British monarchs have also played a vital part in promoting international relations, retaining ties with former colonies in their role as Head of the Commonwealth.

GEORGE V (1910-36)

George V was born June 3, 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 January 20, 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."


As Prince of Wales, Edward VIII (reigned January-December 1936) had successfully carried out a number of regional visits (including areas hit by economic depression) and other official engagements. These visits and his official tours overseas, together with his good war record and genuine care for the underprivileged, had made him popular.
The first monarch to be a qualified pilot, Edward created The King's Flight (now known as 32 (The Royal) Squadron) in 1936 to provide air transport for the Royal family's official duties.

In 1930, the Prince, who had already had a number of affairs, had met and fallen in love with a married American woman, Mrs Wallis Simpson. Concern about Edward's private life grew in the Cabinet, opposition parties and the Dominions, when Mrs Simpson obtained a divorce in 1936 and it was clear that Edward was determined to marry her.

Eventually Edward realised he had to choose between the Crown and Mrs Simpson who, as a twice-divorced woman, would not have been acceptable as Queen. On 10 December 1936, Edward VIII executed an Instrument of Abdication which was given legal effect the following day, when Edward gave Royal Assent to His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act, by which Edward VIII and any children he might have were excluded from succession to the throne. In 1937, Edward was created Duke of Windsor and married Wallis Simpson.

During the Second World War, the Duke of Windsor escaped from Paris, where he was living at the time of the fall of France, to Lisbon in 1940. The Duke of Windsor was then appointed Governor of the Bahamas, a position he held until 1945. He lived abroad until the end of his life, dying in 1972 in Paris (he is buried at Windsor). Edward was never crowned; his reign lasted 325 days. His brother Albert became King, using his last name George.

GEORGE VI (1936-52)

George VI, born December 14, 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 February 6, 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 September 3, 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 defense 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.


Elizabeth II, born April 21, 1926, 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: Charles, Prince of Wales, Anne, Andrew and Edward. She has reigned for forty-six years, 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 traveled 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 candor, 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 humor rarely exhibited in public where a dignified presence is her goal.

Elizabeth, like her father before her, raised the character of the monarchy through her actions. Unfortunately, the actions of her children have tarnished the royal name. The much publicized divorces of Charles from Diana and Andrew from Sarah Ferguson have been followed by further indiscretions by the princes, causing a heavily-taxed populace to rethink the necessity of a monarchy. Perhaps Elizabeth will not reign as long as Victoria, but her exceptionally long reign has provided a bright spot in the life of her country.





The Queen is the United Kingdom's Head of State. As well as carrying out significant constitutional functions, The Queen also acts as a focus for national unity, presiding at ceremonial occasions, visiting local communities and representing Britain around the world. The Queen is also Head of the Commonwealth. During her reign she has visited all the Commonwealth countries, going on 'walkabouts' to gain direct contact with people from all walks of life throughout the world.

Behind and in front of the cameras, The Queen's work goes on. No two days in The Queen's working life are ever the same.


Until the end of the 17th century, British monarchs were executive monarchs - that is, they had the right to make and pass legislation. Since the beginning of the eighteenth century, the monarch has become a constitutional monarch, which means that he or she is bound by rules and conventions and remains politically impartial.

On almost all matters he or she acts on the advice of ministers. While acting constitutionally, the Sovereign retains an important political role as Head of State, formally appointing prime ministers, approving certain legislation and bestowing honours.

The Queen also has important roles to play in other organisations, including the Armed Forces and the Church of England.



Until the end of the 17th century, British monarchs were executive monarchs - that is, they had the right to make and pass legislation. Since the beginning of the eighteenth century, the monarch has become a constitutional monarch, which means that he or she is bound by rules and conventions and remains politically impartial.

On almost all matters he or she acts on the advice of ministers. While acting constitutionally, the Sovereign retains an important political role as Head of State, formally appointing prime ministers, approving certain legislation and bestowing honours.

The Queen also has important roles to play in other organisations, including the Armed Forces and the Church of England.






 The Queen is not only Queen of the United Kingdom, but Head of the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of 54 independent countries.

Most of these countries have progressed from British rule to independent self-government, and the Commonwealth now serves to foster international co-operation and trade links between people all over the world.

The Queen is also Queen of a number of Commonwealth realms, including Australia, New Zealand and Canada.


Visits to all kinds of places throughout the United Kingdom, Commonwealth and overseas are an important part of the work of The Queen and members of the Royal family. They allow members of the Royal family to meet people from all walks of life and backgrounds, to celebrate local and national achievements and to strengthen friendships between different countries. Many of the visits are connected to charities and other organisations with which members of the Royal family are associated. In other cases, royal visits help to celebrate historic occasions in the life of a region or nation. All visits are carefully planned to ensure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to see or meet members of the Royal family.



The Queen has many different duties to perform every day. Some are familiar public duties, such as Investitures, ceremonies, receptions or visits within the United Kingdom or abroad. Away from the cameras, however, The Queen's work goes on. It includes reading letters from the public, official papers and briefing notes; audiences with political ministers or ambassadors; and meetings with her Private Secretaries to discuss her future diary plans. No two days are ever the same and The Queen must remain prepared throughout.


The colourful ceremonies and traditions associated with the British Monarchy are rich in history and meaning and fascinating to watch. In some, The Queen takes part in person. In others - such as Guard Mounting or Swan Upping - the ceremony is performed in The Queen's name. Many of the ceremonies take place on a regular basis - every year or even every day - which means that British people and visitors to London and other parts of the United Kingdom may have an opportunity to see some of these interesting events take place.




The Queen has many ceremonial roles. Some - such as the State Opening of Parliament, Audiences with new ambassadors and the presentation of decorations at Investitures - relate to The Queen's role as Head of State.

Others - such as the presentation of Maundy money and the hosting of garden parties - are historical ceremonies in which kings and queens have taken part for decades or even centuries.


In addition to the events in which The Queen takes part, there are many other ceremonies and traditions associated with the British Monarchy. Some of these have military associations, involving troops from the present Armed Forces as well as the members of the historical royal bodyguard, the Yeomen of the Guard. Others are traditions which are less well known than the colourful pageantry but are interesting in their own right. Some - such as the customary broadcasts by the Sovereign on Christmas Day and Commonwealth Day - are fairly recent in origin, but have rapidly become familiar and popular traditions.


When a sovereign dies, or abdicates, a successor is immediately decided according to rules which were laid down at the end of the seventeenth century. The coronation of a new sovereign is a ceremony of great pageantry and celebration that has remained essentially the same for over a thousand years. As well as explaining accession, succession and coronation, this section looks at the titles which have been held by different members of the Royal Family throughout history.


Divided into five departments, the Royal Household assists The Queen in carrying out her official duties. Members of the Royal Household carry out the work and roles which were performed by courtiers historically. There are 645 full-time employees, employed across a wide range of professions. People employed within the Royal Household are recruited from the general workforce on merit, in terms of qualifications, experience and aptitude. Details of the latest vacancies are listed in the Recruitment pages of this section.

The Royal Household includes The Queen's Household, plus the Households of other members of the Royal Family who undertake public engagements. The latter comprise members of their private offices and other people who assist with their public duties.


Royal Household's functions are divided across five departments, under the overall authority of the Lord Chamberlain, the senior member of The Queen's Household. These departments developed over centuries and originated in the functions of the Royal Court. As a result, the departments and many job titles have ancient names - the jobs themselves, however, are thoroughly modern!

Most of the departments are based in Buckingham Palace, although there are also offices in St. James's Palace, Windsor Castle and the Royal Mews. Members of the Royal Household also often travel with The Queen on overseas visits and during The Queen's stays at Balmoral Castle and Sandringham, since The Queen's work continues even when she is away from London.

In addition to the full-time members of the Royal Household, there are other part-time members of The Queen's Household. These include the Great Officers of State who take part in important Royal ceremonies, as well as Ladies-in-waiting, who are appointed personally by The Queen and female members of the Royal Family.



People are employed within the Royal Household from a wide range of sectors and professions, including catering, housekeeping, accountancy, secretarial and administrative fields, public relations, human resources management, art curatorship and strategic planning disciplines. The special nature of the Royal Household means that unique career opportunities are available.

Employment in the Royal Household offers excellent career opportunities for those who wish to take a new direction. Positions in the Royal Household receive good remuneration and benefits. For domestic positions, there are often enhanced by accommodation. The Royal Household is also committed to training and development, including NVQ and vocational training, general management and skills-based training across a range of disciplines - from carriage driving to an in-house diploma for footmen which is widely recognised in its specialised field as a valued vocational qualification.

Jobs at Buckingham Palace and in other Royal residences are usually advertised in national, regional or specialist media in the usual way. Details of the latest vacancies are listed in the Recruitment pages of this section and applications can be made by downloading the standard application form. All positions are also advertised internally to encourage career development and to offer opportunities for promotion to existing employees.

A number of vacancies occur on a regular basis, including positions as housemaids, footmen and secretaries. In addition, nearly 200 Wardens are employed each year for Buckingham Palace's Summer Opening programme. Speculative enquiries are welcome for these posts throughout the year.

Recruitment is in all cases on merit, in terms of qualifications, experience and aptitude. The Royal Household is committed to Equal Opportunities.


Since 1917, the Sovereign has sent congratulatory messages to those celebrating their 100th and 105th birthday and every year thereafter, and to those celebrating their Diamond Wedding (60th), 65th, 70th wedding anniversaries and every year thereafter. For many people, receiving a message from The Queen on these anniversaries is a very special moment.

For data privacy reasons, there is no automatic alert from government records for wedding anniversaries. The Department for Work and Pensions informs the Anniversaries Office of birthdays for recipients of UK State pensions. However, to ensure that a message is sent for birthdays and wedding anniversaries alike, an application needs to be made by a relative or friend in advance of the special day.

The Queen's congratulatory messages consist of a card containing a personalised message with a facsimile signature. The card comes in a special envelope, which is delivered through the normal postal channels.

More information about applying for a message and interesting facts about the tradition are contained in this section. 



This section provides the latest information on Head of State expenditure, together with information about Royal financial arrangements.

It includes information about the four sources of funding of The Queen (or officials of the Royal Household acting on her behalf). The Civil List meets official expenditure relating to The Queen's duties as Head of State and Head of the Commonwealth. Grants-in-Aid from Parliament provide upkeep of the Royal Palaces and for Royal travel. The Privy Purse is traditional income for the Sovereign's public and private use. Her Majesty's personal income meets entirely private expenditure.

The Queen pays tax on her personal income and capital gains. The Civil List and the Grants-in-Aid are not taxed because they cover official expenditure. The Privy Purse is fully taxable, subject to a deduction for official expenditure.

These pages also contain information about the financial arrangements of other members of the Royal Family, together with information on the Royal Philatelic Collection.


Head of State expenditure is the official expenditure relating to The Queen's duties as Head of State and Head of the Commonwealth. Head of State expenditure is met from public funds in exchange for the surrender by The Queen of the revenue from the Crown Estate.

Head of State expenditure for 2001-02, at £35.3 million, is 1.0% higher than in the previous year (a decrease of 1.3% in real terms). The £350,000 increase is mainly attributable to fire precautions work at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, offset by the fact that costs transferred from other funding sources to the Civil List with effect from 1st April 2001 are only included in 2001 Civil List expenditure for nine months. They will be included for a full year in 2002 and subsequently. Costs have been transferred to the Civil List from other funding sources in order to utilise the Civil List reserve brought forward at 1st January 2001. Head of State expenditure has reduced from £84.6 million (expressed in current pounds) in 1991-92, a reduction of 58%.


The four sources of funding of The Queen, or officials of the Royal Household acting on Her Majesty's behalf, are: the Civil List, the Grants-in-Aid for upkeep of Royal Palaces and for Royal travel, the Privy Purse and The Queen's personal wealth and income.


The Prince of Wales does not receive any money from the State. Instead, he receives the annual net surplus of the Duchy of Cornwall and uses it to meet the costs of all aspects of his public and private commitments, and those of Prince William and Prince Harry.

The Duchy's name is derived from the Earldom of Cornwall, which Edward III elevated to a duchy in 1337. The Duchy's founding charter included the gift of estates spread throughout England. It also stated that the Duchy should be in the stewardship of the Heir Apparent, to provide the Heir with an income independent of the Sovereign or the State.

After 660 years, the Duchy's land holdings have become more diversified, but the Duchy is still predominantly an agricultural estate. Today, it consists of around 57,000 hectares, mostly in the South of England. It is run on a commercial basis, as prescribed by the parliamentary legislation which governs its activities.

Prince Charles became the 24th Duke of Cornwall on The Queen's accession in 1952. He is in effect a trustee, and is not entitled to the proceeds of disposals of assets. The Prince must pass on the estate intact, so that it continues to provide an income from its assets for future Dukes of Cornwall.

The Duchy's net surplus for the year to 31 March 2002 was £7,827,000. As a Crown body, the Duchy is tax exempt, but The Prince of Wales voluntarily pays income tax (currently at 40%) on his taxable income from it.


Under the Civil List Acts, The Duke of Edinburgh receives an annual parliamentary allowance to enable him to carry out public duties. Since 1993, The Queen has repaid to the Treasury the annual parliamentary allowances received by other members of the Royal family.

The annual amounts payable to members of the Royal family (which are set every ten years) were reset at their 1990 levels for the next ten years, until December 2010. Apart from an increase of £45,000 on the occasion of The Earl of Wessex's marriage, these amounts remain as follows:

Parliamentary annuity (not repaid by The Queen)

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh


Parliamentary annuities (repaid by The Queen)

HRH The Duke of York


HRH The Earl of Wessex


HRH The Princess Royal


HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester


TRH The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester
TRH The Duke and Duchess of Kent HRH Princess Alexandra, Hon. Lady Ogilvy


* Of the £636,000, £175,000 is provided by The Queen to The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, £236,000 to The Duke and Duchess of Kent and £225,000 to Princess Alexandra.

As with the Civil List itself, most of these sums are spent on staff who support public engagements and correspondence.


The Queen has always been subject to Value Added Tax and other indirect taxes and she has paid local rates (Council Tax) on a voluntary basis. In 1992, however, The Queen offered to pay income tax and capital gains tax on a voluntary basis. As from 1993, her personal income has been taxable as for any taxpayer and the Privy Purse is fully taxable, subject to a deduction for official expenditure. The Civil List and the Grants-in-Aid are not remuneration for The Queen and are thus disregarded for tax.

Although The Queen's estate will be subject to Inheritance Tax, bequests from Sovereign to Sovereign are exempt. This is because constitutional impartiality requires an appropriate degree of financial independence for the Sovereign and because the Sovereign is unable to generate significant new wealth through earnings or business activities. Also, the Sovereign cannot retire and so cannot mitigate Inheritance Tax by passing on assets at an early stage to his or her successor.

As a Crown body, the Duchy of Cornwall is tax exempt, but since 1969 The Prince of Wales has made voluntary contributions to the Exchequer. As from 1993, The Prince's income from the Duchy has been fully subject to tax on a voluntary basis. He has always paid tax, including income tax, in all other respects.


The Queen does not 'own' the Royal Palaces, art treasures from the Royal Collection, jewellery heirlooms and the Crown Jewels, all of which are held by Her Majesty as Sovereign and not as an individual. They must be passed on to The Queen's successor in due course. The Queen and some members of the Royal Family past and present have made private collections - such as the stamp collection begun by George V. This is separate to the Royal Collection, although exhibitions and loans of stamps are sometimes made.


Many of the most familiar objects and events in national life incorporate Royal symbols or represent the Monarchy in some way. Flags, coats of arms, the crowns and treasures used at coronations and some ceremonies, stamps, coins and the singing of the national anthem have strong associations with the Monarchy and play a significant part in our daily existence. Other objects - such as the Great Seal of the Realm - may be less familiar to the general public but still have a powerful symbolic role.


'God Save The King' was a patriotic song first publicly performed in London in 1745, which came to be referred to as the National Anthem from the beginning of the nineteenth century. The words and tune are anonymous, and may date back to the seventeenth century.

In September 1745 the 'Young Pretender' to the British Throne, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, defeated the army of King George II at Prestonpans, near Edinburgh. In a fit of patriotic fervour after news of Prestonpans had reached London, the leader of the band at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, arranged 'God Save The King' for performance after a play. It was a tremendous success and was repeated nightly thereafter. This practice soon spread to other theatres, and the custom of greeting the Monarch with the song as he or she entered a place of public entertainment was thus established.

There is no authorised version of the National Anthem as the words are a matter of tradition. Additional verses have been added down the years, but these are rarely used. The words used are those sung in 1745, substituting 'Queen' for 'King' where appropriate. On official occasions, only the first verse is usually sung, as follows:
God save our gracious Queen!
Long live our noble Queen!
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save the Queen.

An additional verse is occasionally sung:

Thy choicest gifts in store
On her be pleased to pour,
Long may she reign.
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause,
To sing with heart and voice,
God save the Queen.

The British tune has been used in other countries - as European visitors to Britain in the eighteenth century noticed the advantage of a country possessing such a recognised musical symbol - including Germany, Russia, Switzerland and America (where use of the tune continued after independence). Some 140 composers, including Beethoven, Haydn and Brahms, have used the tune in their compositions.


Royal Warrants are granted to people or companies who have regularly supplied goods or services for a minimum of five consecutive years to The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother or The Prince of Wales. They are advised by the Lord Chamberlain who is head of the Royal Household and chairman of the Royal Household Tradesmen's Warrants Committee. Each of these four members of the Royal family can grant only one warrant to any individual business. However, a business may hold warrants from more than one member of the Royal family and a handful of companies holds all four.

The warrants are a mark of recognition that tradesmen are regular suppliers of goods and services to the Royal households. Strict regulations govern the warrant, which allows the grantee or his company to use the legend 'By Appointment' and display the Royal Arms on his products, such as stationery, advertisements and other printed material, in his or her premises and on delivery vehicles.

A Royal Warrant is initially granted for five years, after which time it comes up for review by the Royal Household Tradesmen's Warrants Committee. Warrants may not be renewed if the quality or supply for the product or service is insufficient, as far as the relevant Royal Household is concerned. A Warrant may, however, be cancelled at any time and is automatically reviewed if the grantee dies or leaves the business, or if the firm goes bankrupt or is sold. There are rules to ensure that high standards are maintained.

Since the Middle Ages, tradesmen who have acted as suppliers of goods and services to the Sovereign have received formal recognition. In the beginning, this patronage took the form of royal charters given collectively to various guilds in trades and crafts which later became known as livery companies. Over the centuries, the relationship between the Crown and individual tradesmen was formalised by the issue of royal warrants.

In the reign of Henry VIII, Thomas Hewytt was appointed to 'Serve the Court with Swannes and Cranes and all kinds of Wildfoule'. A hard-working Anne Harris was appointed as the 'King's Laundresse'. Elizabeth I's household book listed, among other things, the Yeomen Purveyors of 'Veales, Beeves & Muttons; Sea & Freshwater Fish'. In 1684 goods and services to the Palace included a Haberdasher of Hats, a Watchmaker in Reversion, an Operator for the Teeth and a Goffe-Club Maker. According to the Royal Kalendar of 1789, a Pin Maker, a Mole Taker, a Card Maker and a Rat Catcher are among other tradesmen appointed to the court. A notable omission was the Bug Taker - at that time one of the busiest functionaries at court but perhaps not one to be recorded in a Royal Kalendar. Records also show that in 1776 Mr Savage Bear was 'Purveyor of Greens Fruits and Garden Things', and that in 1820 Mr William Giblet was supplying meat to the table of George IV.

Warrant holders today represent a large cross-section of British trade and industry (there is a small number of foreign names), ranging from dry cleaners to fishmongers, and from agricultural machinery to computer software. A number of firms have a record of Royal Warrants reaching back over more than 100 years. Warrant-holding firms do not provide their goods or services free to the Royal households, and all transactions are conducted on a strictly commercial basis. There are currently approximately 800 Royal Warrant holders, holding over 1,100 Royal Warrants between them (some have more than one Royal Warrant).

On 25 May 1840, a gathering of 'Her Majesty's Tradesmen' held a celebration in honour of Queen Victoria's birthday. They later decided to make this an annual event and formed themselves for the purpose into an association which eventually became known as the Royal Warrant Holders Association.

The Association acts both in a supervisory role to ensure that the standards of quality and reliability in their goods and services are upheld, and as a channel of communication for its members in their dealings with the various departments of the Royal Household. The Association ensures that the Royal Warrant is not used by those not entitled and is correctly applied by those who are.


There are close ties - past and present - between the Monarchy and the monetary system. They can be seen, for example, in the title of the 'Royal Mint' and the representation of the monarch on all circulating British coinage.

The first coins were struck in the British Isles 2000 years ago using designs copied from Greek coins. Following the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD, the Roman coinage system was introduced. After the decline of Roman power in Britain from the fifth century AD, the silver penny eventually emerged as the dominant coin circulating in England but no standardized system was yet in place.

In the eighth century, as strong kings emerged with power over more than one region, they began to centralize the currency. Offa introduced a new coinage in the form of the silver penny, which for centuries was to be the basis of the English currency. Alfred introduced further changes by authorising mints in the burhs he had founded. By 800 AD coins regularly bore the names of the kings for whom they were struck. A natural development was the representation of their own images on their coins. Coinage played a part in spreading the fame of kings - the more often coins passed through men's hands, and the further afield they were taken by plunder or trade, the more famous their royal sponsors became. Athelstan (d. 939) is the first English king to be shown on his coins wearing a crown or circlet. For many people, the king's image on coins was the only likeness of the monarch which they were likely to see in their lifetimes.

By the end of the tenth century the English monarchy had the most sophisticated coinage system in western Europe. The system allowed kings to exploit the wealth of a much enlarged kingdom and to raise the very large sums of money which they had to use as bribes to limit the effect of the Vikings' invasions at the end of the tenth century.

For five centuries in England, until 1280, silver pennies were the only royal coins in circulation. Gradually a range of denominations began to emerge, and by the mid fourteenth century a regular coinage of gold was introduced. The gold sovereign came into existence in 1489 under King Henry VII. Throughout this period, counterfeiting coinage was regarded as a grave crime against the state amounting to high treason and was punishable by death under an English statute of 1350. The crime was considered to be an interference with the administration of government and the representation of the monarch. Until the nineteenth century the Royal Mint was based at the Tower of London, and for centuries was therefore under the direct control of the monarch.

The English monarchy was the first monarchy in the British Isles to introduce a coinage for practical and propaganda purposes. Only one early Welsh king, Hywel Dda, minted a coin, though it may not have been produced in Wales itself. The first Scottish king to issue a coinage was David I (d. 1153). Until the reign of Alexander III (1249-1286) Scottish coinage was only issued sparingly. During the reign of Alexander III coins began to be minted in much larger quantities, a result of increasing trade with Europe and the importation of foreign silver.

After the death of Alexander III in 1289, Scotland fell into a long period of internal strife and war with England. A nominal coinage was issued under John Balliol c.1296 and then in reign of Robert the Bruce (1306-1329), but the first substantial issue of coinage did not come until the reign of David II (1329-1371). The accession by James VI to the English throne in 1603 saw the fixing of value of the Scottish coinage to a ratio of 1 / 12 with English coinage. After the Act of Union in 1707 unique Scottish coinage came to an end. The last Scottish minted coins were the sterling issues based on the English denominations that were issued until 1709 with the "E" mintmark for Edinburgh. Some British coinages have featured Scottish devices, the Royal Arms of Scotland or the thistle emblem during the 20th century, but these are a part of the coinage of the United Kingdom, not unique to Scotland.

In the United Kingdom a streamlining of coinage production took place in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Until the Restoration of Charles II, coins were struck by hand. In 1816, there was a major change in the British coinage, powered by the Industrial Revolution. The Royal Mint moved from The Tower of London to new premises on nearby Tower Hill, and acquired powerful new steam powered coining presses. Further changes took place in the 1960s, when the Mint moved to modern premises at Llantrisant, near Cardiff.

After over a thousand years and many changes in production techniques, the monarch continues to be depicted on the obverse of modern UK coinage. Certain traditions are observed in this representation. From the time of Charles II onwards a tradition developed of successive monarchs being represented on the coinage facing in the opposite direction to their immediate predecessor. There was an exception to this in the brief reign of Edward VIII, who liked portraits of himself facing to the left, even though he should have faced to the right according to tradition. The designs for proposed coins in the Mint collection show Edward VIII facing to the left. The tradition has been restored since the reign of George VI.

During The Queen's reign there have been four representations of Her Majesty on circulating coinage. The original coin portrait of Her Majesty was by Mary Gillick and was adopted at the beginning of the reign in 1952. The following effigy was by Arnold Machin OBE, RA, approved by the Queen in 1964. That portrait, which features the same tiara as the latest effigy, was used on all the decimal coins from 1968. The next effigy was by Raphael Maklouf FRSA and was adopted in 1985. The latest portrait was introduced in 1998 and is the work of Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS, FSNAD. In keeping with tradition, the new portrait continues to show the Queen in profile facing to the right. Her Majesty is wearing the tiara which she was given as a wedding present by her grandmother Queen Mary.

Images of the monarch on bank notes are a much more recent invention. Although bank notes began to be issued from the late seventeenth century, they did not come to predominate over coins until the nineteenth century. Only since 1960 has the British Sovereign been featured on English bank notes, giving The Queen a unique distinction above her predecessors.


There is a close relationship between the British Monarchy and the postal system of the United Kingdom. Present-day postal services have their origins in royal methods of sending documents in previous centuries. Nowadays, the image of The Queen on postage stamps preserves the connection with the Monarchy.

For centuries letters on affairs of State to and from the Sovereign's Court, and despatches in time of war, were carried by Messengers of the Court and couriers employed for particular occasions. Henry VIII's Master of the Posts set up post-stages along the major roads of the kingdom where Royal Couriers, riding post-haste, could change horses. In Elizabeth I's day, those carrying the royal mail were to 'blow their horn as oft as they met company, or four times every mile'. Letters of particular urgency - for example, reprieves for condemned prisoners - bore inscriptions such as 'Haste, haste - post haste - haste for life for life hast' and the sign of the gallows. During the reign of James I (1603-25) all four posts of the kingdom still centred on the Court: The Courte to Barwicke (the post to Scotland); The Courte to Beaumoris (to Ireland); The Courte to Dover (to Europe) and The Courte to Plymouth (the Royal Dockyard).

Charles I opened his posts to public use, as a means of raising money. Although public use of the royal posts increased, the running of the mail continued to centre round the post requirements of the Sovereign's Court. Until the 1780's the Mails did not leave London until the Court letters had been received at the General Post Office, and as late as 1807 Court letters coming into London were, unlike ordinary letters, delivered the moment the mail arrived. The postal system rapidly spread during Victoria's reign with the introduction of the Uniform Penny Postage in 1840, and the Queen's letters bore postage stamps like everyone else's. Royal Messengers continued to carry certain letters by hand. The increase in the Court's mail led to special postal facilities being provided in 1897 in the form of a Court Post Office - an arrangement which still exists today under the management of the Court Postmaster.

Symbols of the royal origins of the UK's postal system remain: a miniature silhouette of the Monarch's head is depicted on all stamps; the personal cyphers of The Queen and her predecessors (going back to Victoria) appear on many letterboxes dating from their respective reigns throughout the country; and the postal delivery service is known as the Royal Mail.




The function of the Royal Coat of Arms is to identify the person who is Head of State. In respect of the United Kingdom, the royal arms are borne only by the Sovereign. They are used in many ways in connection with the administration and government of the country, for instance on coins, in churches and on public buildings. They are familiar to most people as they appear on the products and goods of Royal Warrant holders.

The Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom have evolved over many years and reflect the history of the Monarchy and of the country. In the design the shield shows the various royal emblems of different parts of the United Kingdom: the three lions of England in the first and fourth quarters, the lion of Scotland in the second and the harp of Ireland in the third. It is surrounded by a garter bearing the motto Honi soit qui mal y pense ('Evil to him who evil thinks'), which symbolises the Order of the Garter, an ancient order of knighthood of which the Queen is Sovereign. The shield is supported by the English lion and Scottish unicorn and is surmounted by the Royal crown. Below it appears the motto of the Sovereign, Dieu et mon droit ('God and my right'). The plant badges of the United Kingdom - rose, thistle and shamrock - are often displayed beneath the shield.

Separate Scottish and English quarterings of the Royal Arms originate from the Union of the Crown in 1603. The Scottish version of the Royal Coat of Arms shows the lion of Scotland in the first and fourth quarters, with that of England being in the second. The harp of Ireland is in the third quarter. The mottoes read In defence and No one will attack me with impunity. From the times of the Stuart kings, the Scottish quarterings have been used for official purposes in Scotland (for example, on official buildings and official publications).

The special position of Wales as a Principality was recognised by the creation of the Prince of Wales long before the incorporation of the quarterings for Scotland and Ireland in the Royal Arms. The arms of the Prince of Wales show the arms of the ancient Principality in the centre as well as these quarterings.

Coats of Arms of members of the Royal Family are broadly similar to The Queen's with small differences to identify them.


The Great Seal of the Realm is the chief seal of the Crown, used to show the monarch's approval of important state documents. In today's constitutional monarchy, the Sovereign acts on the advice of the Government of the day, but the seal remains an important symbol of the Sovereign's role as Head of State.

The practice of using this seal began in the reign of Edward the Confessor in the 11th century, when a double-sided metal matrix with an image of the Sovereign was used to make an impression in wax for attachment by ribbon or cord to royal documents. The seal meant that the monarch did not need to sign every official document in person; authorisation could be carried out instead by an appointed officer. In centuries when few people could read or write, the seal provided a pictorial expression of royal approval which all could understand. The uniqueness of the official seal - only one matrix was in existence at any one time - also meant it was difficult to forge or tamper with official documents.

The Great Seal matrix has changed many times throughout the centuries. A new matrix is engraved at the beginning of each reign on the order of the Sovereign; it is traditional that on the death of the Sovereign the old seal is used until the new Sovereign orders otherwise. For many monarchs, a single seal has sufficed. In the case of some long-reigning monarchs, such as Queen Victoria, the original seal simply wore out and a series of replacements was required.

The Queen has had two Great Seals during her reign. The first was designed by Gilbert Ledward and came into service in 1953. Through long usage and the heat involved in the sealing process, the matrix lost definition. From summer 2001 a new Great Seal, designed by sculptor James Butler and produced by the Royal Mint, has been in use. At a meeting of the Privy Council on 18 July 2001 The Queen handed the new seal matrix over to the Lord High Chancellor, currently Lord Irvine of Lairg, who is the traditional keeper of the Great Seal.

The Great Seal matrix will be used to create seals for a range of documents requiring royal approval, including letters patent, royal proclamations, commissions, some writs (such as writs for the election of Members of Parliament), and the documents which give power to sign and ratify treaties. During the year 2000-01, more than 100 documents passed under the Great Seal. Separate seals exist for Scotland - the Great Seal of Scotland - and for Northern Ireland.

The process of sealing takes place nowadays at the House of Lords in the office of the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery. A system of 'colour coding' is used for the seal impression, depending on the type of document to which it is being affixed. Dark green seals are affixed to letters patent which elevate individuals to the peerage; blue seals are used for documents relating to the close members of the Royal Family; and scarlet red is used for documents appointing a bishop and for most other patents.


A number of different types of flag are associated with The Queen and the Royal Family. The Union Flag (or Union Jack) originated as a Royal flag, although it is now also flown by many people and organisations elsewhere in the United Kingdom by long established custom. The Royal Standard is the flag flown when The Queen is in residence in one of the Royal Palaces, on The Queen's car on official journeys and on aircraft (when on the ground), and represents the Sovereign and the United Kingdom. The Queen's personal flag, adopted in 1960, is personal to her alone and can be flown by no one other than The Queen. Members of the Royal Family have their own personal variants on the Royal Standard. The Prince of Wales has additional Standards which he uses in Wales and Scotland.


The crowns and treasures associated with the British Monarchy are powerful symbols of monarchy for the British people and, as such, their value represents more than gold and precious stones. Today the crowns and treasures associated with English kings and queens since 1660 and earlier are used for the Coronation of Monarchs of the United Kingdom. The crowns and regalia used by Scottish monarchs (the Honours of Scotland) and Princes of Wales (the Honours of the Principality of Wales) continue to have symbolic meaning in Scotland and Wales. All three collections of treasures can be viewed today in their different locations - the Tower of London, Edinburgh Castle and the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.


The Queen's State and private motor cars are housed in the Royal Mews. For official duties - providing transport for State and other visitors as well as The Queen herself - there are nine State limousines, consisting of one Bentley, five Rolls-Royces and three Daimlers. They are painted in Royal maroon livery and the Bentley and Rolls-Royces uniquely do not have registration number plates. Other vehicles include a number of Vauxhall Sintra 'people carriers'.

The most recent State car, which is used for most of The Queen's engagements, is a State Bentley presented to The Queen to mark her Golden Jubilee in 2002. The one-off model, conceived by a Bentley-led consortium of British motor industry manufacturers and suppliers, is the first Bentley to be used for State occasions. It was designed with input from The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and Her Majesty's Head Chauffeur.

In technical terms, the car has a monocoque construction, enabling greater use to be made of the vehicle's interior space. This means the transmission tunnel now runs underneath the floor, without encroaching on the cabin and has enabled the stylists to work with a lowered roofline whilst preserving the required interior height. The rear doors have been redesigned enabling The Queen to stand up straight before stepping down to the ground. The rear seats are upholstered in Hield Lambswool Sateen cloth whilst all remaining upholstery is in light grey Connolly hide. Carpets are pale blue in the rear and dark blue in the front.

A Rolls-Royce Phantom VI was presented to The Queen in 1978 for her Silver Jubilee by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. The oldest car in the fleet is the Phantom IV, built in 1950, 5.76 litre with a straight eight engine and a Mulliner body. There is also a 1987 Phantom VI and two identical Phantom V models built in the early 1960s. The 1978 Phantom VI and the two Phantom V models have a removable exterior roof covering, which exposes an inner lining of perspex, giving a clear view of passengers.

All the cars have fittings for the shield bearing the Royal Coat of Arms and the Royal Standard. The Queen has her own mascot for use on official cars. Designed for her by the artist Edward Seago in the form of St George on a horse poised victorious over a slain dragon, it is made of silver and can be transferred from car to car as necessary. The Duke of Edinburgh's mascot, a heraldic lion wearing a crown, is adapted from his arms.

For her private use The Queen drives a Daimler Jaguar saloon or a Vauxhall estate (like every other qualified driver, The Queen holds a driving licence). The Duke of Edinburgh has a Range Rover and, for short journeys round London, uses a Metrocab. The private cars are painted Edinburgh green.

A number of Royal Mews vehicles have now been converted to run on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) - a more environmentally friendly fuel than petrol or diesel. Converted vehicles include one of the Rolls-Royce Phantom IVs, a Daimler and The Duke of Edinburgh's Metrocab.


The Queen's State and private motor cars are housed in the Royal Mews. For official duties - providing transport for State and other visitors as well as The Queen herself - there are nine State limousines, consisting of one Bentley, five Rolls-Royces and three Daimlers. They are painted in Royal maroon livery and the Bentley and Rolls-Royces uniquely do not have registration number plates. Other vehicles include a number of Vauxhall Sintra 'people carriers'.

The most recent State car, which is used for most of The Queen's engagements, is a State Bentley presented to The Queen to mark her Golden Jubilee in 2002. The one-off model, conceived by a Bentley-led consortium of British motor industry manufacturers and suppliers, is the first Bentley to be used for State occasions. It was designed with input from The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and Her Majesty's Head Chauffeur.

In technical terms, the car has a monocoque construction, enabling greater use to be made of the vehicle's interior space. This means the transmission tunnel now runs underneath the floor, without encroaching on the cabin and has enabled the stylists to work with a lowered roofline whilst preserving the required interior height. The rear doors have been redesigned enabling The Queen to stand up straight before stepping down to the ground. The rear seats are upholstered in Hield Lambswool Sateen cloth whilst all remaining upholstery is in light grey Connolly hide. Carpets are pale blue in the rear and dark blue in the front.

A Rolls-Royce Phantom VI was presented to The Queen in 1978 for her Silver Jubilee by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. The oldest car in the fleet is the Phantom IV, built in 1950, 5.76 litre with a straight eight engine and a Mulliner body. There is also a 1987 Phantom VI and two identical Phantom V models built in the early 1960s. The 1978 Phantom VI and the two Phantom V models have a removable exterior roof covering, which exposes an inner lining of perspex, giving a clear view of passengers.

All the cars have fittings for the shield bearing the Royal Coat of Arms and the Royal Standard. The Queen has her own mascot for use on official cars. Designed for her by the artist Edward Seago in the form of St George on a horse poised victorious over a slain dragon, it is made of silver and can be transferred from car to car as necessary. The Duke of Edinburgh's mascot, a heraldic lion wearing a crown, is adapted from his arms.

For her private use The Queen drives a Daimler Jaguar saloon or a Vauxhall estate (like every other qualified driver, The Queen holds a driving licence). The Duke of Edinburgh has a Range Rover and, for short journeys round London, uses a Metrocab. The private cars are painted Edinburgh green.

A number of Royal Mews vehicles have now been converted to run on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) - a more environmentally friendly fuel than petrol or diesel. Converted vehicles include one of the Rolls-Royce Phantom IVs, a Daimler and The Duke of Edinburgh's Metrocab.


Housed in the Royal Mews is the collection of historic carriages and coaches, most of which are still in use to convey members of the Royal family in State ceremonial processions or on other royal occasions.

The oldest coach is the Gold State Coach, first used by George III when he opened Parliament in 1762 and used for every coronation since George IV's in 1821. As its name implies, it is gilded all over and the exterior is decorated with painted panels. It weighs four tons and requires eight horses to pull it.

The coach now used by The Queen at the State Opening of Parliament is known as the Irish State Coach because the original was built in 1851 by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, who was also a coachbuilder. Although extensively damaged by fire in 1911, the existing coach was completely restored in 1989 by the Royal Mews carriage restorers, who stripped the coach to the bare wood and applied twenty coats of paint, including gilding and varnishing. The exterior is blue and black with gilt decoration and the interior is covered in blue damask. It is normally driven from the box seat using four horses.

Other coaches include the Scottish State Coach (built in 1830 and used for Scottish and English processions), Queen Alexandra's State Coach (used to convey the Imperial State Crown to Parliament for the State Opening), the 1902 State Landau, the Australian State Coach (presented to The Queen in 1988 by the Australian people to mark Australia's bicentenary), the Glass Coach (built in 1881 and used for royal weddings) and the State and Semi-State Landaus (used in State processions).

In addition there are two barouches, broughams (which every day carry messengers on their official rounds in London), Queen Victoria's Ivory-Mounted Phaeton (used by The Queen since 1987 for her Birthday Parade) as well as a number of other carriages. In all, there are over 100 coaches and carriages in the Royal Collection.

All the carriages and coaches are maintained by craftsmen in the Royal Mews department and some of the coaches and carriages can be viewed on days when the Royal Mews is open to the public.



Modern Royal Train vehicles came into operation in 1977 with the introduction of four new saloons to mark The Queen's Silver Jubilee. This continued a service which originated on 13 June, 1842, when the engine Phlegethon, pulling the royal saloon and six other carriages, transported Queen Victoria from Slough to Paddington. The journey took 25 minutes.

It is perhaps somewhat misleading to talk of 'the Royal Train' because the modern train consists of carriages drawn from a total of eight purpose-built saloons, pulled by one of the two Royal Class 47 diesel locomotives, Prince William or Prince Henry. The exact number and combination of carriages forming a Royal Train is determined by factors such as which member of the Royal family is travelling and the time and duration of the journey. When not pulling the Royal Train, the two locomotives are used for general duties.

The Royal Train enables members of the Royal family to travel overnight, at times when the weather is too bad to fly, and to work and hold meetings during lengthy journeys. It has modern office and communications facilities. Journeys on the train are always organised so as not to interfere with scheduled services. (Where appropriate, The Queen and other members of the Royal family use scheduled services for their official journeys.)

The carriages are a distinctive maroon with red and black coach lining and a grey roof. The carriages available include the royal compartments, sleeping, dining and support cars. The Queen's Saloon has a bedroom, bathroom and a sitting room with an entrance which opens onto the platform. The Duke of Edinburgh's Saloon has a similar layout plus a kitchen. Fitted out at the former British Rail's Wolverton Works in Buckinghamshire, Scottish landscapes by Roy Penny and Victorian prints of earlier rail journeys hang in both saloons.

A link with the earliest days of railways is displayed in the Duke of Edinburgh's Saloon: a piece of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's original broad gauge rail, presented on the 150th anniversary of the Great Western Railway. (Brunel accompanied Queen Victoria on her inaugural 1842 journey.)

The current Queen's and Duke's Saloons came into service in 1977, when they were extensively used during the Silver Jubilee royal tours. They were not, however, new. They began life in 1972 as prototypes for the standard Inter-City Mark III passenger carriage and were subsequently fitted out for their royal role at the Wolverton Works. All work on the Royal Train is normally done at Wolverton.

Railtrack PLC manages the Royal Train and owns the rolling stock. Day-to-day operations are conducted by another privatised company, English, Welsh and Scottish Railways. The cost of maintaining and using the train is met by the Royal Household from the Grant-in-Aid which it receives from Parliament each year for air and rail travel. In 2000-01 the total cost of the Royal Train was £596,000; the train made 17 journeys.

A number of former Royal Train carriages are now on display at the National Railway Museum in York.


The history of Royal flying dates back more than 80 years to 1917, when The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) became the first member of the Royal family to fly, in France during the First World War. The Prince went on to become a skilful pilot. From 1930 onwards members of the Royal family made increasing use of aircraft, largely operating from Hendon in north London. In 1936, on becoming King Edward VIII, the former Prince of Wales was the first British Monarch to fly.

Since then many members of the Royal family have learnt to fly. The Duke of York trained as a Royal Navy helicopter pilot and flew in operations during the 1982 Falklands Conflict - the first member of the Royal family to see active service since the Second World War. In an unblemished flying career spanning more than 40 years The Duke of Edinburgh has flown more different aircraft types than most pilots. The Prince of Wales, too, has accumulated many hours flying both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.

Royal flying was formalised on 21 July 1936 with the creation of The King's Flight at Hendon. The new flight operated a single twin-engine Dragon Rapide, G-ADDD, formerly the king's private aircraft. The first Captain of the King's Flight was Wing Commander E.H. Fielden (who later became an Air Vice-Marshal). The Dragon Rapide was replaced in May 1937 by an Airspeed Envoy III, G-AEXX, the first aircraft purchased specifically for the Flight. The Second World War saw The King's Flight temporarily disbanded, although members of the Royal family continued to fly using military aircraft.

In 1946 The King's Flight was reformed, in greater strength, at RAF Benson with four Vickers Vikings. The following year all were heavily used during the Royal Tour of South Africa.

After The Queen's accession The King's Flight was renamed The Queen's Flight. The first helicopter - a Westland Dragonfly - was acquired in September 1954 and was quickly championed by The Duke of Edinburgh (who qualified as a helicopter pilot the following year). It was replaced in 1958 by two Westland Whirlwinds. In 1964 Hawker Siddeley Andovers were introduced for fixed wing flying and saw more than 25 years of service before being superceded, in the Flight's 50th anniversary year, by the current British Aerospace 146. In June 1969 the Whirlwinds were replaced by two Westland Wessex. These served for nearly 30 years, together making more than 10,000 flights and each flying the equivalent of 20 times around the world, before being replaced on 1 April 1998 by a single Sikorsky S-76.

In 1995, The Queen's Flight was amalgamated with No. 32 Squadron, which was renamed No 32 (The Royal) Squadron. At the same time the squadron moved from RAF Benson to its current location at RAF Northolt.

Nowadays, official flying for members of the Royal family is provided by BAe 146 and Hawker S125 jet aircraft of No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron, based at RAF Northolt just north west of London, and the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter operated by the Royal Household from Blackbushe Aerodrome in Hampshire. In 2000-01, 32 Squadron had two four-engined BAe 146s (each of which carries 19 to 23 passengers) and five twin-engined HS 125s (each of which carries seven passengers). The Royal Travel Office based at RAF Northolt co-ordinates use of the different types of aircraft by members of the Royal family, ensuring that their use is both appropriate and cost-effective.

In 2000-01, the BAe 146 were used for Royal flying over 142 flying hours, the HS125 for 149 flying hours and the Sikorsky for 459 flying hours. No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron is primarily a Royal Air Force communications flying squadron. In fact, Royal flying accounts for less than 20% of the combined tasking of both the BAe 146 and the HS125, which are more commonly used by senior military officers and Government ministers.

The cost of official royal travel by air is met by the Royal Travel Grant-in-aid, the annual funding provided by the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLGR). In 2000-01, the cost of official royal travel by 32 Squadron was £1,793,000.

Aircraft of No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron have a distinctive red, blue and white livery; the Royal Household S-76 is finished in the red and blue colours of the Brigade of Guards (as were aircraft in the early days of Royal flying).

Today, the BAe 146 and HS 125 of No 32 (The Royal) Squadron and the Royal Household's S-76 are used for official duties by The Queen and, at her discretion, other members of the Royal family, continuing a tradition begun with a single aircraft more than 60 years ago.



In her role as Head of State The Queen is supported by members of the Royal Family, who carry out a wide range of public and official duties. The biographies in this section contain information about various members of the Royal Family, including early life and education, professional careers, official Royal work, involvement with charities and other organisations, personal interests and more





The Queen was born in London on 21 April 1926, the first child of The Duke and Duchess of York, subsequently King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Five weeks later she was christened Elizabeth Alexandra Mary in the chapel at Buckingham Palace.

The Princess's early years were spent at 145 Piccadilly, the London house taken by her parents shortly after her birth; at White Lodge in Richmond Park; and at the country homes of her grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary, and the Earl and Countess of Strathmore. When she was six years old, her parents took over Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park as their own country home.






Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich, was born Prince of Greece and Denmark in Corfu on 10 June 1921; the only son of Prince Andrew of Greece. His paternal family is of Danish descent - Prince Andrew was the grandson of King Christian IX of Denmark. His mother was Princess Alice of Battenberg, the eldest child of Prince Louis of Battenberg and sister of Earl Mountbatten of Burma. Prince Louis became a naturalised British subject in 1868, joined the Royal Navy and rose to become an Admiral of the Fleet and First Sea Lord in 1914. During the First World War he changed the family name to Mountbatten and was created Marquess of Milford Haven. Prince Philip adopted the family name of Mountbatten when he became a naturalised British subject and renounced his Royal title in 1947.

Prince Louis married one of Queen Victoria's granddaughters. Thus, The Queen and Prince Philip both have Queen Victoria as a great-great-grandmother. They are also related through his father's side. His paternal grandfather, King George I of Greece, was Queen Alexandra's brother.



The Prince of Wales, eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, is heir apparent to the throne.

The Prince was born at Buckingham Palace on 14 November 1948, and was christened Charles Philip Arthur George.

When, on the accession of Queen Elizabeth in 1952, he became heir apparent, Prince Charles automatically became Duke of Cornwall under a charter of King Edward III dating back to 1337, which gave that title to the Sovereign's eldest son. He also became, in the Scottish Peerage, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick and Baron Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.

The Prince was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester in 1958. In 1968, The Prince of Wales was installed as a Knight of the Garter. The Duke of Rothesay (as he is known in Scotland) was appointed a Knight of the Thistle in 1977. In June 2002 The Prince of Wales was appointed to the Order of Merit.



The Duke of York was born on 19 February 1960 at Buckingham Palace. He is the second son and the third child of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh.  He was the first child to be born to a reigning monarch for 103 years. Named Andrew Albert Christian Edward he was known as Prince Andrew until his marriage, when he was created The Duke of York, Earl of Inverness and Baron Killyleagh.



The Earl of Wessex is the third son and youngest child of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh. He was born on 10 March 1964 and christened Edward Antony Richard Louis at Buckingham Palace. He was known as Prince Edward until his marriage, when he was created The Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn; at the same time it was announced that His Royal Highness will eventually succeed to the title of The Duke of Edinburgh.

In March 1989, The Queen appointed Prince Edward a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.



The Princess Royal, the second child and only daughter of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, was born at Clarence House, London, on 15 August 1950, when her mother was Princess Elizabeth, heir presumptive to the throne. She was baptised Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise at Buckingham Palace on 21 October 1950.

She received the title Princess Royal from The Queen in June 1987; she was previously known as Princess Anne. Her Royal Highness is the seventh holder of the title.

In 1994 The Queen appointed The Princess a Lady of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. In 2000, to mark her 50th birthday, The Princess Royal was appointed to the Order of the Thistle, in recognition of her work for charities.



Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester is the widow of the late Duke of Gloucester, third son of George V.

Lady Alice Christabel Montagu Douglas Scott was born on Christmas Day, 1901 at Montagu House, London. She was the third daughter of the seventh Duke of Buccleuch, who had been a fellow midshipman of the future king George V.

Lady Alice was educated at home until the age of 12. She then went to school at West Malvern, spending a year in Paris before returning home to be presented at Court in 1920. Lady Alice has greatly enjoyed outdoor pursuits, including skiing, and has been an accomplished watercolourist. She also travelled widely, living for many months in Kenya and also spending time in India on a visit to her brother.



Born in 1944, The Duke of Gloucester is the second son of the late Duke of Gloucester and Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester. He is a grandson of George V and a first cousin to The Queen. He succeeded his father as Duke of Gloucester in June 1974.

In July 1972 Prince Richard (as he was then known) married Birgitte Eva van Deurs from Odense, Denmark at St Andrew's Church, Barnwell, Northamptonshire. The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester have three children: (Alexander) Earl of Ulster, born in 1974; The Lady Davina Windsor, born in 1977; and The Lady Rose Windsor, born in 1980.

The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester both carry out a large number of official engagements each year, individually and together. They undertake visits in regions throughout the United Kingdom and travel abroad on official visits and to support their varied patronages.



Born in 1935, HRH The Duke of Kent is the son of the late Prince George, fourth son of King George V, and the late Princess Marina, daughter of Prince Nicholas of Greece. He is cousin to both The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh. The present Duke of Kent inherited his title following the death of his father in 1942.

In 1961 The Duke of Kent became engaged to Miss Katharine Worsley and they married in York Minster. The couple have three children: George, Earl of St Andrews, born in June 1962; Lady Helen Taylor, born in April 1964 and Lord Nicholas Windsor, born on 25 July 1970.

The Duke and The Duchess of Kent undertake a large number of official Royal engagements. Each has close associations with many charities, professional bodies and other organisations.



Prince Michael was born on 4 July 1942 at the family home in Iver, Buckinghamshire. He was christened Michael George Charles Franklin and one of his godfathers was President Roosevelt. He is a cousin to both The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, and his older brother and sister are The Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra. Prince Michael's father, Prince George, was the fourth son of George V and his mother, Princess Marina, was the daughter of Prince Nicholas of Greece.

The Prince is a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.



Princess Alexandra was born on Christmas Day 1936 at 3, Belgrave Square, her family's London home. She is the second child and only daughter of the late Duke and Duchess of Kent (her brothers are the present Duke of Kent and Prince Michael of Kent). Much of her childhood was spent at their country home, Coppins, in Buckinghamshire. Her father was killed in a wartime flying accident in 1942 when she was just five years old.





4 August 1900 - 30 March 2002

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother died peacefully in her sleep on Saturday 30 March 2002, at Royal Lodge, Windsor. Queen Elizabeth was a much-loved member of the Royal Family. Her life, spanning over a century, was devoted to the service of her country, the fulfilment of her Royal duties and the support of her family.





21 AUGUST 1930 - 9 FEBRUARY 2002


Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon died peacefully in her sleep on Saturday 9 February, 2002, in The King Edward VII Hospital, London.

The younger daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and sister to The Queen, Princess Margaret was a hardworking and much-loved member of the Royal Family.

Read more about the Princess and her funeral and memorial services in this section.


Diana, Princess of Wales died on Sunday, 31 August 1997 following a car crash in Paris. There was widespread public mourning at the death of this popular figure, culminating with her funeral at Westminster Abbey on Saturday, 6 September 1997. Even after her death, however, the Princess's work lives on in the form of commemorative charities and projects set up to help those in need.



The Royal Collection, one of the finest art collections in the world, is held in trust by The Queen as Sovereign for her successors and the Nation. It is on public display at the principal royal residences and is shown in a programme of special exhibitions and through loans to institutions around the world.



Shaped by the personal tastes of kings and queens over more than 500 years, the Royal Collection includes paintings, drawings and watercolours, furniture, ceramics, clocks, silver, sculpture, jewellery, books, manuscripts, prints and maps, arms and armour, fans, and textiles. It is held in trust by The Queen as Sovereign for her successors and the Nation, and is not owned by her as a private individual. Curatorial and administrative responsibility for the Collection is held by the Royal Collection Department, part of the Royal Household.

The Collection has largely been formed since the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.  Some items  belonging to  earlier  monarchs,  for  example Henry VIII, also survive.  The greater part of the magnificent  collection  inherited  and  added to by Charles I was dispersed on Cromwell's orders during the Interregnum. The royal patrons now chiefly associated with notable additions to the Collection are Frederick, Prince of Wales; George III; George IV; Queen Victoria and Prince Albert; and Queen Mary, Consort of George V.

The Royal Collection is on display at the principal royal residences, all of which are open to the public.  Unlike most art collections of national importance, works of art from the Royal Collection can be enjoyed in the historic settings for which they were originally commissioned or acquired.  Much of the Collection is still in use at the working royal palaces.

The official residences of The Queen have a programme of changing exhibitions to show further areas of the Collection to the public, particularly those items that cannot be on permanent display for conservation reasons. The Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen will be marked by the creation of two flagship exhibition spaces at Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Loans are made to institutions throughout the world, as part of the commitment to make the Collection widely available and to show works of art in new contexts. Touring exhibitions remain an important part of the Royal Collection's work to broaden public access. 

Over 3,000 objects from the Royal Collection are on long-term loan to museums and galleries around the United Kingdom and abroad. National institutions housing works of art from the Collection include The British Museum, National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Museum of London, the National Museum of Wales and the National Gallery of Scotland.

The Royal Collection is the only collection of major national importance to receive no Government funding or public subsidy and is administered by the Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity.  The Trust was set up by The Queen in 1993 under the chairmanship of The Prince of Wales, following the establishment of the Royal Collection Department as a new department of the Royal Household in 1987. Income from the public opening of Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse and from associated retail activities supports curatorial, conservation and educational work, loans and travelling exhibitions and major capital projects. These projects include the restoration of Windsor Castle after the fire in 1992, the rebuilding of The Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace and the construction of an entirely new gallery at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.



The Royal Collection is the only collection of major national importance to receive no Government funding or public subsidy. It is administered by the Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity established by The Queen in 1993 under the chairmanship of The Prince of Wales.  The role of the Trust is to ensure that the Collection is conserved and displayed to the highest standards and that public understanding of and access to the Collection is increased through exhibition, publication, education and a programme of loans.

These wide-ranging activities are funded by monies raised through the Trust's trading arm, Royal Collection Enterprises, from the public opening of Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse and from retail sales of publications and other merchandise.  Current projects funded through the Royal Collection Trust include the major expansion of exhibition space at Buckingham Palace and at the Palace of Holyroodhouse to mark The Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002.

The Royal Collection Trust determines how the income generated should be used in pursuit of its stated objectives.

The Trust's primary aims are to ensure that:

- the Collection is subject to proper custodial control;

-  the Collection is maintained and conserved to the highest possible standards;

-  as much of the Collection as possible can be seen by members of the public;

- the Collection is presented and interpreted so as to enhance the public's appreciation and understanding;

-  appropriate acquisitions are made when resources become available.




Royal Collection Enterprises Limited, the trading subsidiary of the Royal Collection Trust, generates income for the presentation and conservation of the Royal Collection, and for projects to increase public access. It is responsible for the management and financial administration of public admission to Windsor Castle and Frogmore House, Buckingham Palace, including the Royal Mews, and The Queen's Galleries. Royal Collection Enterprises also promotes access to the Royal Collection through publishing, retail merchandise and the Picture Library.




Publishing forms an important part of the Royal Collection Trust's ongoing programme to extend knowledge and enjoyment of the Collection's treasures.  Over fifty books about the Royal Collection have been produced in recent years, ranging from scholarly exhibition catalogues to books for children.

In the mid-1990s the Royal Collection established its own imprint to build a definitive series about the royal residences and the works of art.  These books are written by or in consultation with the Royal Collection's own curators.

Royal Collection publications are available from the Royal Collection shops at the Royal Mews, Windsor Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace.

All profits from the sale of Royal Collection publications are dedicated to the Royal Collection Trust.



The Royal Collection comprises the contents of all the royal palaces. 

These include the official residences of The Queen, where the Collection plays an important part in the life of a working palace - Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse (administered by the Royal Collection Trust); the unoccupied residences - Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace (State Apartments), Kew Palace, the Banqueting House, Whitehall and the Tower of London (administered by the Historic Royal Palaces Trust); and Osborne House (owned and administered by English Heritage).

Items from the Collection may also be seen at the private homes of The Queen - Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle.



Dedicated gallery spaces allow works from the Collection to be presented and interpreted in different contexts, outside their historic settings, and give public access to items that cannot be on permanent display for conservation reasons.  The exhibitions in The Queen's Galleries are accompanied by full catalogues, bringing to the public new research on the subject by the Royal Collection's curators.


The new Queen's Gallery at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh was inaugurated by Her Majesty The Queen on 29 November 2002 and opened its doors to the public the following day, St Andrew's Day. The inaugural exhibition is Leonardo da Vinci: The  Divine and the Grotesque (30 November 2002 - 30 March 2003), the largest exhibition devoted to Leonardo da Vinci ever held in Scotland and the first to examine the artist's life-long obsession with the human form. All 68 works come from the Royal Collection, which holds the world's finest group of Leonardo's drawings.

A new exhibition also opened at Windsor Castle in the Drawings Gallery on 9 November 2002. The exhibition celebrates the centenary of the Order of Merit with a series of original drawings of holders of the honour, past and present. It also features manuscripts and badges from former holders.




Some 3,000 objects from the Royal Collection are on long-term loan to 160 institutions across the UK and overseas.  These include the Raphael Cartoons of The Acts of the Apostles at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Van der Goes Trinity Altarpiece at the National Gallery of Scotland, and the Roman sculpture The Lely Venus, at The British Museum.

Every year hundreds of objects from the Collection are lent to special exhibitions worldwide.  These loans support international scholarship and enable material to be seen in new contexts. 

Touring exhibitions of works from the Royal Library are an important way to broaden access to items that, for conservation reasons, cannot be on permanent display.  The millennial exhibition Ten Religious Masterpieces was the year 2000's most popular art exhibition outside London, attracting over 200,000 visitors over the period of its tour.





The residences associated with today's Royal Family are divided into the Occupied Royal Residences, which are held in trust for future generations, and the Private Estates which have been handed down to The Queen by earlier generations of the Royal Family.

Beautifully furnished with treasures from the Royal Collection, most of the Royal residences are open to the public when not in official use.

These pages contain details of the history and role of these Residences and Estates, and provide information for visitors on opening times and admission prices for those that are open to the public. 






Throughout the centuries, Britain's kings and queens have built or bought palaces to serve as family homes, workplaces and as centres of government.

The residences associated with today's Royal Family are divided into the Occupied Royal Residences, which are held in trust for future generations, and the Private Estates which have been handed down to The Queen by earlier generations of the Royal Family.









Buckingham Palace has served as the official London residence of Britain's sovereigns since 1837. It evolved from a town house that was owned from the beginning of the eighteenth century by the Dukes of Buckingham. Today it is The Queen's official residence. Although in use for the many official events and receptions held by The Queen, areas of Buckingham Palace are opened to visitors on a regular basis.

The State Rooms of the Palace are open to visitors during the Annual Summer Opening in August and September. They are lavishly furnished with some of the greatest treasures from the Royal Collection - paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer, Poussin, Canaletto and Claude; sculpture by Canova and Chantrey; exquisite examples of Sèvres porcelain, and some of the finest English and French furniture in the world.

Visits to Buckingham Palace can be combined with visits to The Queen's Gallery, which reopened in May 2002.





The Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace is a permanent space dedicated to changing exhibitions of items from the Royal Collection, the wide-ranging collection of art and treasures held in trust by The Queen for the nation. Constructed forty years ago on the west front of Buckingham Palace out of the bomb-damaged ruins of the former private chapel, the gallery has recently been redeveloped. It was reopened by The Queen on 21 May 2002 and is now open to the public on a daily basis.

The inaugural exhibition of the redeveloped gallery is a spectacular celebration of the individual tastes of monarchs and other members of the royal family who have shaped one of the world's greatest collections of art. Mixing the famous with the unexpected, the selection of 450 outstanding works for Royal Treasures: A Golden Jubilee Celebration has been made across the entire breadth of the Royal Collection, from eight royal residences and over five centuries of collecting.




One of the finest working stables in existence, the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace provides a unique opportunity for visitors to see the work of the Royal Household department that provides road transport for The Queen and members of the Royal Family by both horse-drawn carriage and motor car.

The Royal Mews has a permanent display of State vehicles.  These include the magnificent Gold State Coach used for Coronations and those carriages used for Royal and State occasions, State Visits, weddings and the State Opening of Parliament. A State motor vehicle is also usually on display. For much of the year visitors to the Royal Mews can also see the 30 or so carriage-horses which play an important role in The Queen's official and ceremonial duties.



Windsor Castle is an official residence of The Queen and the largest occupied castle in the world.  A royal palace and fortress for over 900 years, the Castle remains a working palace today. Visitors can walk around the State Apartments, extensive suites of rooms at the heart of the working palace; for part of the year visitors can also see the Semi State rooms, which are some of the most splendid interiors in the castle. They are furnished with treasures from the Royal Collection including paintings by Holbein, Rubens, Van Dyck and Lawrence, fine tapestries and porcelain, sculpture and armour.

Within the Castle complex there are many additional attractions. In the Drawings Gallery regular exhibitions of treasures from the Royal Library are mounted. Another popular feature is the Queen Mary's Dolls' House, a miniature mansion built to perfection. The fourteenth-century St. George's Chapel is the burial place of ten sovereigns, home of the Order of the Garter, and setting for many royal weddings. Nearby on the Windsor Estate is Frogmore House, an attractive country residence with strong associations to three queens - Queen Charlotte, Queen Victoria and Queen Mary.

In celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen, a new landscape garden has been created by the designer and Chelsea Gold Medallist Tom Stuart-Smith. The garden, the first to be made at the Castle since the 1820s, transforms the visitor entrance and provides a setting for band concerts throughout the year. The informal design takes its inspiration from Windsor's historic parkland landscape and the picturesque character of the Castle, introduced by the architect Sir Jeffry Wyatville for George IV in the 1820s.





Frogmore House lies in the tranquil setting of the private Home Park of Windsor Castle. A country residence of various monarchs since the seventeenth century, the house is especially linked to Queen Victoria. The house and attractive gardens were one of Queen Victoria's favourite retreats. In the gardens stands the Mausoleum where Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert are buried.





Founded as a monastery in 1128, the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh is The Queen's official residence in Scotland. Situated at the end of the Royal Mile, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is closely associated with Scotland's turbulent past, including Mary, Queen of Scots, who lived here between 1561 and 1567. Successive kings and queens have made the Palace of Holyroodhouse the premier royal residence in Scotland. Today, the Palace is the setting for State ceremonies and official entertaining.






Balmoral Castle on the Balmoral Estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland is the private residence of The Queen. Beloved by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Balmoral Castle has remained a favourite residence for The Queen and her family during the summer holiday period in August and September. The Castle is located on the large Balmoral Estate, a working estate which aims to protect the environment while contributing to the local economy.

The Estate grounds, gardens and the Castle Ballroom are open to visitors from the beginning of April to the end of July each year, under the management of the Balmoral Estate Office.




Sandringham House in Norfolk has been the private home of four generations of Sovereigns since 1862. The Queen and other members of the Royal family regularly spend Christmas at Sandringham and make it their official base until February each year.

Like Balmoral, the Sandringham Estate is a commercial estate managed privately on The Queen's behalf. Sandringham House, the museum and the grounds are open to visitors.




St. James's Palace is the senior Palace of the Sovereign, with a long history as a royal residence. As the home of several members of the Royal Family and their household offices, it is often in use for official functions and is not open to the public.





Kensington Palace in London is a working Royal residence. Of great historical importance, Kensington Palace was the favourite residence of successive sovereigns until 1760. It was also the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria. Today Kensington Palace accommodates the offices and private apartments of a number of members of the Royal Family. Although managed by Historic Royal Palaces, the Palace is furnished with items from the Royal Collection.




Some of the most celebrated Royal residences used by former kings and queens can still be visited today.

The Tower of London, begun by William I, is a fascinating complex constructed over several centuries. It provided historic Royal families with a residence for more than five centuries, and was a prison for other Royal figures, including Lady Jane Grey. The Tower housed the Royal Mint until 1810. There were also armouries and workshops in which weapons were designed and manufactured; items including armour worn by Henry VIII remain there today. The Tower remains the storehouse of the Crown Jewels and regalia, as it has done for nearly 700 years. Today the Tower is under the management of the Historic Royal Palaces Trust.

Hampton Court Palace is also managed by Historic Royal Palaces. Given by Cardinal Wolsey to Henry VIII c.1526, the palace was a residence for figures including Mary I and Elizabeth I, Charles I, William III and Mary II, and retains many furnishings and objects from their times. It houses some important works of art and furnishings in the Royal Collection.

The Banqueting House in Whitehall is the only remaining part of London's old Palace of Whitehall. It was created by Inigo Jones for James I. Charles I commissioned Rubens to paint the vast ceiling panels, which celebrate kingship in general and the Stuart reign in particular. It was from the Banqueting House that Charles I stepped on to the scaffold on 30 January 1649. In 1689 the Prince and Princess of Orange went to the Banqueting House to accept the crown, becoming joint Sovereigns William III and Mary II. Today the Banqueting House is managed by Historic Royal Palaces.

Other historic Royal residences which can be visited include Osborne House, the beloved home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on the Isle of Wight, and the Brighton Pavilion, former residence of George IV when he was Prince Regent.










Thorpe, Lewis, trans., Geoffrey of Monmouth: The History of the Kings of Britain, Penguin Books, London, 1966;

G. R. Elton, Modern Historians on British History, 1485–1945:

A Critical Bibliography, 1945–1969 (1971);

 P. Catterall, British History, 1945–1987:

C. Read, Bibliography of British History: Tudor Period, 1485–1603 (2d ed. 1959, repr. 1978);

C. L. Mowat, Great Britain since 1914 (1971);

G. Davies, Bibliography of British History: Stuart Period, 1603–1714 (1928; 2d ed., ed. by M. F. Keeler, 1970);

Sir George Clark, ed., The Oxford History of England (2d ed., 16 vol., 1937–91);

G. S. Graham, A Concise History of the British Empire (1971);

F. E. Halliday, A Concise History of England (1980);

F. M. L. Thompson, ed., The Cambridge Social History of Britain, 1750–1950 (1990);

Encyclopedia Britannica


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