History Files History Files

The History Files The History Files needs your help

The History Files is able to keep on doing what it does thanks to some wonderful people who have helped to cover increasing web hosting costs. This year, as the History Files is a non-profit site, it still needs your help. Please click anywhere inside this box to make a small donation via PayPal so that we can continue to provide highly detailed historical research on a fully secure site. If every visitor donated just a penny then we'd cover a year's running costs in a day! Your support is highly appreciated.

Target for 2020: £0  £250

Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms

Kings of England



The process of creating a single, unified kingdom of England could be said to have been achieved by Æthelstan of Wessex, while the initial groundwork had been laid down by Alfred nearly a century before. The coming of the Danish in the ninth century forced the surviving free Anglo-Saxons to unite to face the common enemy and, from the moment of Alfred's ascendancy over them in 878, the process of integrating their conquered lands under Anglo-Saxon rule began. Æthelstan may not have directly ruled all of England, but he was the recognised overlord of almost all of England, Scotland and Wales.

This ascendancy remained with subsequent kings, although the Scandinavian kingdom of York proved to be a continual source of distraction until it fell to King Eadred in 954, who now ruled a definitively united kingdom. The early Anglo-Saxon kings still had their powerbase in Wessex, and still spent much of their time there.

Anglo-Saxon Kings ('United Kingdom of England')
AD 954 - 1016

The Wessex-based Anglo-Saxon kings of this period were at the height of their power, ruling the 'Anglo-Saxon Empire' of a united England, with the Scots and Welsh also under their command. While Eadred was the first universally recognised king of a united England, it was not until the reign of Edgar the Peaceful that the integration of all the English regions under a single administration was completed, making it highly unlikely that the slip back into regional rule that happened during the lifetime of Edwy could be repeated.

(Additional information by Mick Baker.)

954 - 955


First (recognised) king of a united England.

955 - 959

Edwy / Eadwig the Fair

Son of Edmund (939-946), brother to Eadred. Ruled the south.

957 - 959

A successional rift flares up between Eadred's two nephews, Edwy and Edgar. Following a battle at Gloucester in which Edwy is defeated, the two agree to divide and rule to save the country from a costly civil war. Edgar takes control of Mercia and Northumbria, while Edwy rules in the south until his death in 959. Edgar then reunites the country, becoming the third king of a fully united England. This is the Golden Age of Anglo-Saxon England, when the court rivals, and even exceeds, all of those on the Continent, and receives tribute from all other kingdoms in the British Isles and Ireland.

Eadred silver penny
Shown here are both sides of a silver penny that is in surprisingly good condition and which was issued during the reign of Eadred, first acknowledged king of all England

959 - 975

Edgar the Peaceful

Brother. Ruled the north in 957-959.


Upon the death of Oswulf, high reeve of Bamburgh and earl of York, the governance of the powerful and important province is divided, with York going to a new earl who is possibly not related to Oswulf.


At Easter, Edgar is ritually anointed as the head of the 'Anglo-Saxon Empire' at Bath. His reign sees a major change as local government is reorganised on the basis of shires. The English Church is also reorganised and coinage is reformed.


Edgar's unexpected death at the age of thirty-two throws the kingdom into turmoil. A period of instability and in-fighting follows. Edward is a teenager when he gains the throne, and soon proves himself to be violent, unstable and quick-tempered.

975 - 978/9

Edward the Martyr

Son. Murdered by Edgar's second wife, Ælfthryth?


Retainers of Queen Ælfthryth (Elfrida) murder Edward (although this is never conclusively proven, and no one is ever brought to justice). Ælfthryth secures the throne for her ten year-old son, Æthelred. The queen and her son are strongly supported by Ælfhere, earl of Mercia.

978/9 - 1013

Æthelred / Ethelred II Unraed (Ill-Advised)

Half-brother. Popularly known as Ethelred the Unready.


The Battle of Maldon on the Essex coast is lost when the Norwegian Viking forces of Olaf Tryggvason defeat those of the ealdorman of Essex, Byrhtnoth. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle criticises the lacklustre performance of the Englishmen of Lindsey, The historian Florence of Worcester explains the half-heartedness by calling the men of Lindsey 'Danes on their father's side', referring to their recent close links to York and the Danelaw. The defeat is viewed as a national tragedy, and weakens Æthelred's already shaky authority. The Vikings begin to demand heavy tribute from the Saxon lands.


On St Brice's Day, Æthelred massacres Danes in the country who are not of the Danelaw. In Oxford, Danes fleeing for sanctuary break into the church of St Frideswide, but the citizenry burn it down about their heads. The number of dead across the country apparently includes the sister of King Sweyn Forkbeard. This prompts an increasing number of raids on the country by Danish forces (although Viking raids have already resumed with a vengeance since the 990s).


Viking raiders kill Alphege, archbishop of Canterbury, before being bought off with a huge bribe. Allied to King Olaf of Norway, Æthelred fights the Danes in the same year, but his reign is a relative disaster, as he fails to prevent these Danish incursions into the kingdom. A Danish occupation by King Sweyn Forkbeard takes place as Æthelred seeks refuge in Normandy.

Danish axe head
There was heavy fighting around London Bridge between Danes and English during the early 1000s, and this axe head was found with many others at the bridge's north end, possibly lost in battle or thrown into the Thames in celebration (courtesy Museum of London)

1013 - 1014

Sweyn Forkbeard

King of Norway and Denmark. Died unexpectedly.


Canute (Cnut) the Great

Son. Expelled.


The occupation of England ends with Sweyn Forkbeard's death on 2 February 1014. Æthelred is summoned back where he fights with limited success to expel Sweyn's son, Canute. But, with rumours of betrayal in the air, and his son Edmund deciding to fight the war his own way, Æthelred retires to London and dies there on 23 April 1016. Edmund is proclaimed king.

1014 - 1016

Æthelred II Unraed (Ill-Advised)



Edmund II Ironsides

Ruled from April to November.


Eadric Atheling

Brother. Claimant to the throne. Murdered by Canute in 1017.


With the help of Uchtred, high reeve of Bamburh, Edmund fights strongly to prevent the Danish control of England. After a series of successes, one disastrous defeat achieved through the treachery of his Mercian ally is enough to end his resistance. A treaty is agreed with Canute, after which he dies suddenly - or is murdered. His successor, Eadric, is murdered by Canute, and another claimant, Alfred, is murdered in 1036.

Edmund's son, the rightful atheling (a noble of royal descent), is forced to flee the country, and by 1056 is to be found living in Hungary. In 1056 he is persuaded to return, along with his two sons, but dies on the way, in the hall of a Saxon thegn in 1057.

Danish Kings (England)
AD 1016 - 1042

Canute's accession to the English throne brought England into his vast Baltic-Scandinavian empire as its southernmost province. Immediately he set about removing his competitors for control of the country, including Eadric, brother of King Edmund II, and the earls of Mercia and East Anglia, whose domains were given to the Danish nobles, Eric and Thorkell the Tall. In the north, the high reeves of Bamburgh lost their established position as the powerful earls of York. Finally, Canute married Emma of Normandy, the widow of Æthelred II, increasing the strength of his claim to the throne. However, having inherited the most intensely administered and best organised government in medieval Europe, Canute ruled the country the English way.

1017 - 1035

Canute (Cnut) the Great

King of Norway and Denmark.


FeatureCanute decides to have the body of Alphege, former archbishop of Canterbury, sent from its resting place in St Paul's to his home town for interment there. The cortege lands at Seasalter, on the East Kent coast, before progressing to Canterbury.


Canute's death sees his great Scandinavian empire begin to break up. By the late 1020s he had been able to claim kingship over England, Denmark, Norway, and part of Sweden. Scotland had also submitted to his overlordship, and Viking raids against the British Isles had been ended. Now his brother Harold gains England, his son Hardicanute gains Denmark, and another son, Sweyn, gains Norway.

Canute shows that he cannot stop the waves
Canute is popular in folklore for teaching his fawning courtiers that even he was not powerful enough to stop the tide's progress up the beach

1035 - 1040

Harold I Harefoot




Son of Æthelred II. Claimant to the throne. Killed by Harold.


Alfred, son of Æthelred II, makes the mistake of trusting the powerful Earl Godwine when he arrives in England to test the waters regarding his own claim to the throne. He is handed over to Harold and mutilated, with his eyes also being torn out, and is dragged off to Ely where he dies of his wounds.

1040 - 1042


Half-brother, by Emma of Normandy. King of Denmark.


The earl of York, Siward, manages to add Bamburgh to his territory, thereby governing the whole of Northumbria.


Hardicanute dies unexpectedly, and his half-brother, Edward, son of Æthelred II, is perfectly positioned to ascend the throne, ending the dynasty of Danish kings and replacing it with a restored Anglo-Saxon dynasty.

Anglo-Saxon Kings (England)
AD 1042 - 1066

Not all of the Wessex royal family was killed during the years of Danish rule in England. Two of the sons of Æthelred II and Emma survived in the queen's homeland of Normandy where they had been sent for their own protection. When Canute died in 1035, both Alfred and Edward had entered England to test their claims to the throne, but Edward, landing at Southampton, soon withdrew. Alfred made the mistake of trusting the powerful Earl Godwine of Wessex, and was murdered for his pains. Edward was invited back by Hardicanute in 1041, and was fortunate to be in the right place when the Danish king unexpectedly died at a wedding feast. Unfortunately, he soon discovered that Earl Godwine wielded more power than he, and devoted more of his energies towards ecclesiastic matters.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Keith Matthews, from Gesta Danorum, Saxo Grammaticus, and from External Links: Westminster Abbey, and Archaeology News Network.)

1042 - 1066

Edward the Confessor

Son of Æthelred II. Last of the West Saxon Cerdicingas to rule.


FeatureEdward establishes his royal palace by the banks of the River Thames on land known as Thorney Island. Close by is a small Benedictine monastery that had been founded under the patronage of King Edgar and St Dunstan around AD 960. Edward chooses to re-endow and greatly enlarge this monastery, building a large stone church in honour of St Peter the Apostle. The church becomes known as the 'west minster' to distinguish it from St Paul's Cathedral (the east minster) in the City of London (see feature link). It is consecrated on 28 December 1065, just a few days before Edward's death. His mortal remains are entombed in front of the High Altar.

1051 - 1052

In an attempt to reign in the Viking powerbase in England, Edward has Earl Godwine removed from office. Supported by his Norman followers, Edward's power is at its height, and it is from this period that William of Normandy later bases his own claim to the throne. However, Edward's apparent favouritism of his Norman allies alienates many Anglo-Saxon nobles, most notably the powerful earls of Northumbria and Mercia. Invited to return, Earl Godwine sails into London and is not opposed by the royal fleet. Edward's position is irretrievably weakened.


Edward the Exile

Son of Edmund Ironsides. Potential successor to the throne.

1056 - 1057

The son of Saxon king, Edmund Ironsides, an atheling (a noble of royal descent) with the best claim to the throne after Edward, has been living in Hungary. The childless Edward the Confessor sees him as a possible heir to the throne, so in 1056 he is persuaded to return, along with his two sons, but dies on the way, in the hall of a Saxon thegn in 1057. One of those sons, Edgar, presses his own claim in 1066.


Harold II Godwinson

Nominated successor. January to October. Died at Senlac Hill.


Harold's army defeats an attempted invasion of England by the Norwegian king, Harald Hadrada, who has sided with Harold's rebellious younger brother, Earl Tostig of Northumbria. Almost immediately afterwards, Harold has to march his tired army south to face a second invasion by William, duke of Normandy. Harold is narrowly defeated at Selnac Hill near Hastings on 14 October (commonly known as the Battle of Hastings), and the Anglo-Saxon line of kings comes to an end.

However, three of Harold's adult offspring, according to Saxo Grammaticus, find refuge at the court of Sweyn Estridsson of Denmark (1047-1074). It is from here that Harold's daughter, Gytha is married to Vladimir II, grand prince of Kiev (1113-1125). Their descendants lead to Margaret of Oldenburg, who marries James III of Scotland. For this reason, all British monarchs from James I of England are descended from Harold II. Queen Isabella, consort of Edward II, is also a direct descendant of Gytha, introducing an Anglo-Saxon bloodline into the Plantagenet kings.

Battle of Hastings section of the Bayeux Tapestry
The Battle of Hastings section of the Bayeux Tapestry shows King Harold being struck in the eye by an arrow (centre). For some time many thought this to be one of his bodyguard but it is now generally accepted to be the king himself


Edgar the Atheling (the Prince)

Son of Edward the Exile. King in name only, Oct-Dec. Uncrowned.


The young Edgar, grandson of Edmund Ironsides, contests William's claim, but is ultimately unsuccessful. Instead, he submits to William, and then spends the following decade joining many rebellions against the Norman kings and living in exile in Scotland, until finally accepting William's position as king in about 1075. During this period of constant unrest, there is evidence for the widespread emigration of Englishman in the dark days of the late 1060s and early 1070s, as many leave for Scotland, Denmark, and even Byzantine Constantinople.

Norman Kings (England)
AD 1066 - 1154

Despite having a shaky claim to the throne (as a second cousin, once removed), in October 1066, the duke of Normandy led a force which narrowly defeated Harold's Saxon army in battle at Senlach (to the Saxons), near Hastings, which the Normans corrupted to 'sang-lac', lake of blood. For three months, William of Normandy faced the remaining Saxon forces under the leadership of Edgar the Atheling, until the boy prince's support weakened as the nobles sought to secure their own shaky positions in the new world order. Edgar knelt in submission to William after the latter crossed the Thames, and William was crowned in Westminster Abbey in December. Revolts continued in the north, the most memorable being that of Hereward the Wake. The last of the revolts ended in 1075-1076, when the execution of Waltheof of Northumberland finished the 'Revolt of the Earls'.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Mick Baker and Phil Tate.)

1066 - 1087

William I the Conqueror

Duke of Normandy. Crowned in London in December. Died 9 Sep.

1066 - 1068

The last native British earl of Corniu (Cornwall) is deposed by William in 1066 as he tightens his grip on the newly-conquered country. At first, only the south-east can be considered as being securely held. The Welsh princes, Blethyn and Rhiwallon ap Cynfyn of Gwynedd, Deheubarth, and Powys, resist the invaders as part of their supporting role for Harold Godwinson. They join Eadric the Wild of Mercia in an attack on Norman forces at Hereford in 1067, and Earl Edwin of Mercia with Earl Morcar of Northumbria in a further attack in 1068.

The Norman conquest of Britain owed much to good fortune, but once achieved it was enforced by military strength and a prolific castle-building programme


Earl William FitzOsbern of Hereford invades the Welsh kingdom of Brycheiniog and defeats 'three kings of South Wales', although none of these hail from Brycheiniog. 'King Bleddyn' of Brycheiniog is defeated by Bernard de Neufmarché (Newmark in its English form). It seems from claims made by Bernard in 1088 that he conquers the entire kingdom and sees it as his own domain (and he apparently goes on to slay Rhys ap Tewdwr Mawr of Deheubarth in 1093).

1086 - 1087

In the most memorable event of his reign after the Conquest itself, William orders the creation of the Domesday Book, a catalogue of all holdings in the country, so that he can judge accurately what he has won during his years of putting down constant rebellions and securing complete control of England.

1087 - 1100

William II Rufus

Son. Died in a 'hunting accident'.


Norman forces under Robert Fitzhamon, lord of Gloucester, conquer the Welsh kingdoms of Gwent and Morgannwg, giving them control of all of south-east Wales.


Rhys ap Tewdwr Mawr of Deheubarth has been successful in fighting off several attempts to dethrone him, but now he dies in mysterious circumstances while resisting the expansion of Norman power in neighbouring Brycheiniog. Deheubarth has apparently been conquered, and is carved up between rival Norman lords into cantrefi or lordships.

1100 - 1135

Henry I Beauclerke

Died 1 Dec of food poisoning from eating 'a surfeit of lampreys'.

1113 - 1114

Gruffydd ap Rhys of Deheubarth returns from Ireland intent on reclaiming the throne of South Wales. Henry II sends orders to have him arrested but he finds refuge with Gruffydd ap Cynan in Gwynedd. Henry destroys the impending Welsh alliance by offering Gruffydd ap Cynan gifts of tribute-free lands, and the brothers flee Ystrad Towy, from where they begin to attack Norman strongholds in Ceredigion and North Pembroke (the heartland of former Dyfed). Several castles are destroyed or severely damaged while England suffers from a plague and is unable to respond. Flemish mercenaries are offered lands in Wales, particularly in Pembroke, in return for stemming the advance, and Gruffydd is only able to restore a reduced Deheubarth, with the rest still being held by Norman lords.


William Adelin

Son. Died on the White Ship in 1120.


FeatureHenry I defeats an invasion of his Norman lands by Louis VI of France at the Battle of Brémule. In the same year one of his knights in England, Robert de Crevecoeurm, erects a motte-and-bailey fort at Leeds in Kent to act as a Norman military post (see feature link).


FeatureDividing control of his treasury from the other main duties in his court, Henry creates the position of Lord High Treasurer in the early English Parliament. He also hands Rochester Castle to the new archbishop of Canterbury, William de Corbeil.


Upon the death of Henry I, Matilda, the Lady of England, Henry's only living legitimate child, becomes de jure monarch, as stipulated in his will. In 1114 she had been married to Holy Roman Emperor Henry V, but when he died in 1125 she had been recalled to England. In 1127 she married Prince Geoffrey Plantagenet of Anjou and Maine in order to secure an heir. Unfortunately, she is in Anjou when her father dies, and her quick-moving cousin secures the throne for himself with the support of the barons, who do not relish having an Anjou baron as their king. So begins a long civil war known as the Anarchy.



Daughter of Henry I and heir, but usurped by Stephen.

1135 - 1141


Nephew of Henry I. Captured at the Battle of Lincoln.


The title of earl of Northumberland falls vacant until Stephen is pressured into appointing a new earl by David of Scotland.



Declared queen at Winchester, but uncrowned.


Stephen is captured at the Battle of Lincoln in February 1141 and Matilda is declared queen, or the Lady of England, at Winchester, with the support of Nigel, the deposed First Lord High Treasurer. However, she alienates the citizens of London with her arrogant manner. She fails to secure her coronation and the Londoners join a renewed push from Stephen's queen and lay siege to the empress at Winchester.

Battle of Lincoln
The Battle of Lincoln in 1141 was a defeat for King Stephen when he was captured while fighting on foot - his axe shaft had splintered and he was struck by a stone (thrown, it seems, by the figure on the left), and he was immediately seized by his helmet - taken from Hutchinson's Story of the British Nations (about 1923)

Matilda manages to escape to the west, but while commanding her rearguard, her brother is captured by the enemy. Matilda is obliged to swap Stephen for Robert on 1 November 1141. Stephen re-imposes his authority. In 1148, after the death of her half-brother, Matilda finally returns to Normandy, leaving her son, Henry Plantagenet, to fight on in England.

1141 - 1154




FeatureThe death of his eldest son, Eustace, knocks the fight out of Stephen, and he agrees to adopt Henry Plantagenet as his heir. The barons are very supportive of this scheme, as it ends two decades of civil war. Stephen, suddenly feeling the full weight of his approximately fifty-eight years in age, dies the following year. He is buried in Faversham Abbey, which he founded in 1147, alongside the bodies of his wife and son.

House of Plantagenet / Angevin Empire (England & France)
AD 1154 - 1399

Empress Matilda had married Prince Geoffrey Plantagenet of Anjou in 1127, uniting the French house with the very powerful Norman one. Their son, Henry Anjou, inherited the crown of England from his uncle, having already married Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152. Following the reaching of an agreement with Stephen that Henry would succeed him, Henry came to the throne not only as the ruler of England, Anjou, and Normandy, but also of most of the rest of France through his wife. Always more interested in the Continental territories than England, it was his sons who lost most of it, so that Henry III had little more than Gascony in the south-west of France. However, all kings down to and including Edward III could claim the title duke of Aquitaine.

It was during the fourteenth century that St George, a former Roman army officer, became the patron saint of England in place of the Saxon king, Edward the Confessor. By that time, the Angevin kings had become English kings, with Edward I even bearing an Anglo-Saxon name and concentrating primarily on creating an Anglo-Norman 'empire' in the British Isles (although this was so that he could subsequently go to war against France, a plan that never came to fruition for him).

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Third Crusade: Richard the Lionhearted and Philip Augustus, Sidney Painter (in A History of the Crusades - The Later Crusades, 1189-1311, Kenneth M Setton, Robert Lee Wolff, & Harry W Hazard (Eds, University of Wisconsin Press, 1969)), from The Making of Europe, Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change: 950-1350, Robert Bartlett (Princeton University Press, 1993), from Scottish Kings 1005-1625, Archibald H Dunbar (D Douglas, Edinburgh, 1899), from Under the Hammer: Edward I and Scotland, 1286-1307, Fiona J Watson (Tuckwell Press, 1998), and from External Links: Westminster Abbey, and Archaeology News Network, and History Extra, and Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

1154 - 1189

Henry II Plantagenet

Son of Matilda. Duke of Aquitaine. Lord of Ireland (1175).


Pope Adrian issues the Laudabiliter, a papal bull which apparently issues King Henry II Plantagenet with the authority to invade and secure Ireland. The papal intent is that the Georgian church reforms can be enforced there. In the event, Ireland is indeed invaded but successive English kings site Adrian's successor, Alexander III, as the issuer of their title and authority in Ireland.

Henry II Plantagenet
Henry II of England and Normandy, son of Empress Matilda and Geoffrey of Anjou, died having added half of France to his possessions, making him one of the most powerful rulers in Western Europe

1164 - 1166

Having faced several revolts by his own nobles, possibly with support from England, Duke Conan IV of Brittany is forced to appeal to Henry II for help. In return, Henry demands that Conan's only daughter and heiress, Constance, marries Henry's son, Geoffrey. In 1164 Henry moves from subtle control of the duchy to overt control by intervening to seize lands along Brittany's border and also that of Normandy. In 1166 Henry invades Brittany outright in order to punish the local barons. Conan is eventually forced to abdicate in favour of his daughter (who of course is married to Henry's son).

1170 - 1183

Henry the Young King

Son. Co-reigned with his father 14 June-11 June. Died.

1166 - 1175

Dermot Mac Murrough, king of Leinster, is forcibly ejected. He flees to Bristol and then Normandy where he gains the support of Henry II, and Norman allies with which to return to Ireland. The main invasion takes place in 1169, with Leinster quickly being regained. The Norman commander, Richard de Clare (Strongbow), earl of Pembroke, marries Dermot's daughter and is named his heir. This development concerns Henry II so much that he arrives in 1171 to take personal control of the invasion.

1170 - 1173

Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket is murdered by four of the king's knights in Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December following a long-running dispute between him and the king over the jurisdiction of the church. The king is generally blamed for the atrocity and, accepting that he is at fault, pays public penance at Becket's tomb. It takes Henry another two years before he decides to fill the vacant position of archbishop, and he eventually selects Richard of Dover, the monk who took charge of Becket's body and arranged for its immediate burial in Canterbury Cathedral.


With the High Kings of Ireland defeated, Henry II styles himself 'Lord of Ireland', although the title is handed to his son, John, as the governor of Ireland. When John becomes king of England in 1199 the control of Ireland is held directly by the crown.

1189 - 1199

Richard I Coeur de Lion (the Lionheart)

Son. Killed while campaigning in France.

1189 - 1192

FeatureRichard leads the Third Crusade in Outremer, sailing from Dover to Calais in December 1189 to team up with Philip of France and Hugh III of Burgundy on the venture. On his way to the Holy Land he attacks Sicily to free his sister from captivity and Cyprus where his intended wife is also being held captive, by Isaac of the Byzantine empire. Finally he delivers a merciless wave of warfare against Saladin, gifting Cyprus to the king of Jerusalem. Unfortunately, his archbishop of Canterbury, Baldwin of Exeter, dies while in the Holy Land in 1190. Richard himself is captured and imprisoned on his way back to England by Leopold of Austria. In the meantime, according to the legend, in Britain Robin Hood is fighting for justice (see feature link).

1199 - 1216

John Lackland

Brother. Daughter Joan m Llywelyn Fawr, Prince of Wales.

1202 - 1214

John becomes involved in the 'War' of Bouvines. Defeat at the Battle of Bouvines on 27 July 1214 loses John the duchy of Normandy and his other French possessions to the French crown. His return to England sees him forced to sign Magna Carta by the disaffected barons and the archbishop of Canterbury on 15 June 1215.

1216 - 1217

FeatureOn his deathbed, John persuades William Marshal to act as regent of England for his young son. With enemies all around, William takes Henry III into his care and ensures his coronation. The following year, Philip II of France sends his son, Louis, and the count de Perche to invade England via Dover (with the royal port of Sandwich being severely damaged in the process). The Battle of Lincoln sees William lead the charge, and he personally kills de Perche (accidentally, as he wants him as a prisoner for the ransom he would raise). The defeated French noblemen are led to a ship bound for France whilst their Scots allies return north.

First Barons War illusration from the Battle of Lincoln 1217
The First Barons' War in England saw a collection of the powerful baronial class rise up against King John, determined to force him to abide by Magna Carta but weakening their own cause by accepting support from France

1216 - 1272

Henry III


1216 - 1219

William Marshal

Regent. Greatest melee tournament knight of his day.


The Welsh kingdom of Deheubarth is subjugated by the Plantagenets, giving them mastery of all of South Wales. North Powys is also taken.


FeatureHenry III begins to rebuild Westminster Abbey (see feature link). The original structure, built by Edward the Confessor, is almost entirely replaced, aside from large portions of the undercroft and Pyx Chamber in the cloisters. The bones of many burials around the edges of the abbey - probably senior clergy, mostly of the eleventh and twelfth centuries - are stacked up into dense piles like firewood to be found under Victorian drainage pipes by archaeologists in 2015. Some skulls have square holes left by the pickaxes of Henry's workmen. The abbey costs Henry the staggering sum of £45,000.

1255 - 1260

The weight of Plantagenet oppression in Ireland begins to trigger an increasing number of revolts. In 1255, Brian, king of Tir Eoghain, makes the most of weakness in the earldom of Ulster by launching a raid on colonist land across the River Bann and into Ulaid. Towns and castles are destroyed along the way. In 1256, Aodh O'Connor, the son of the king of Connacht, conquers the neighbouring kingdom of Breifne, supported in word by Brian. In 1257, Teige Caeluisce, son of the king of Thomond, defeats the Norman lords and plunders their lands. The three meet in 1258 and Brian is proclaimed high king. The Plantagenet response in 1260 brings a definitive end to the revolt.

1272 - 1307

Edward I Longshanks

Defeated last independent Welsh. Hammer of the Scots.

1282 - 1283

With the death of the Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, in 1282 and his brother Dafydd the following year, four hundred years of dominance by the house of Gwynedd comes to an end. Gwynedd had survived intense rivalries from its neighbours, as well as outside threats from Irish, Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Norman raiders and would-be-conquerors. It had done so through a combination of might and well-placed diplomacy that nevertheless failed to withstand the final, determined assault from the English in the person of Edward I.


The 'First Interregnum' in Scotland is usually measured from the death of Margaret of Norway in 1290. With the prospect of dynastic war looming over the country, Scotland is governed by guardians while Edward I is invited to adjudicate over the succession. With no one to stand in his way, he also becomes Scotland's overlord.

1296 - 1298

Edward I invades Scotland following the formation of a council of twelve to manage the country outside the king's authority. This triggers the First Scottish War of Independence. The Scots are defeated at Dunbar in April 1296 and John Balliol formally abdicates on 10 July 1296. The 'Second Interregnum' follows, during which Edward I again rules Scotland directly, using his English and Irish troops to enforce his will. John is imprisoned in the Tower of London until allowed to leave for France in 1299. The rebel guardian of Scotland, Sir William Wallace, wins support in some quarters and is victorious against an unwary English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. He is defeated at the Battle of Falkirk in July 1298.

1302 - 1305

FeatureIn his attempts to keep down William Wallace and Robert the Bruce during the Scottish Wars of Independence, Edward I builds a fortress at Linlithgow. In 1305 William Wallace is captured and is subsequently hanged, drawn and quartered at Smithfield, London. In the same year, Edward appoints his nephew, John of Brittany, as guardian of Scotland. The second son of Duke John II of Brittany, John wholeheartedly shares Edward's aims when it comes to expanding the size and influence of the English kingdom. He is trusted by the English court as a diplomat and negotiator, and his term of office as guardian witnesses no major upsets.

1307 - 1327

Edward II

First English Prince of Wales. Weak king. Died mysteriously.


FeatureEdward II's defeat at Bannockburn by the Scottish under Robert the Bruce sees the start of a period in which the certainty of Scottish independence from England becomes more and more established. The drawing up of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 involves the Pope, John XXII, in negotiations. The defeat at Bannockburn, in which the lord of Glamorgan is killed, also sparks a minor revolt in Wales.

Battle of Bannockburn by William Hole
The Battle of Bannockburn by William Hole, part of a mural in three sections, from the Scottish National Portrait Museum in Edinburgh showing Robert the Bruce in the foreground

1315 - 1317

The great European famine strikes, leaving many across Europe and Britain facing death. The famine is brought on by a spring and summer of relentlessly heavy rain, causing widespread crop failures. The grave of Richard de W'Peton is found by archaeologists in 2017. He dies on 17 April 1317 and is buried near the alter of a former hospital chapel which is part of Thornton Abbey in Lincolnshire. He would be ministering to the starving, working in the face of desperately limited resources, and perhaps despite these efforts he also succumbs to the famine himself.

1327 - 1330


Strong wife of Edward II. May have 'removed' her husband.

1327 - 1330

Roger de Mortimer

The queen's lover. First Earl of March. Executed.

1328 - 1330

Now that Edward II is out of the way, Isabella is able to sign the Treaty of Northampton in 1328, in which England renounces its claim to Scotland. Her scandalous relationship with the former lord lieutenant of Ireland, Roger de Mortimer, and their presumed murder of Edward II stirs up increasing hostility on the part of the dead king's remaining family and the nobility. In 1330 Edward III asserts his claim to the throne and has Mortimer arrested. Mortimer is hanged at Tyburn and his vast new wealth is forfeited to the crown.

1330 - 1377

Edward III

Overthrew Isabella and Mortimer.

1330 - 1376


Son. Prince of Wales. Duke of Cornwall: 'The Black Prince'.

1330 - 1376

Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales, later becomes popularly known as the Black Prince (a term first used well after his time). He is the eldest son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault, and father of Richard II. Edward is an effective military leader, and is very popular during his lifetime.

He is the first Englishman to be created a duke (of Cornwall in 1337), and he serves as a symbolic regent for periods in 1339, 1340, and 1342 while Edward III is on campaign. His early life sees a rise in fashion sense, with Edward taking a fancy to red and purple velvet cloaks and hats, and an early love for tournaments at the expense of learning, like his father. He also develops a recklessness with money and leads successful campaigns against the French in the Hundred Years War, perfecting the use of English and Welsh longbowmen.

In his later years, campaigning on behalf of Pedro the Cruel of Castile ruins Edward's health and finances, and a lingering illness causes his death one year before that of his father, and so he never rules (the first English Prince of Wales to suffer that fate). The throne passes instead to his son, a minor.

1337 - 1453

The Hundred Years War between England and France begins when France confiscates Gascony from Edward III. Edward invades France to press his own claim to the throne. In 1346, Edward crushes the army of Philip VI of France at the Battle of Crécy. The seventeen year-old King David of Scotland decides to invade England in support of his French allies, but he is defeated and captured at the Battle of Neville's Cross, near Durham, on 17 October. He is imprisoned by the English for eleven long years.

Guildhall stone shield
This stone shield from the Guildhall in London shows the royal arms of Edward III after he laid claim to the French throne (around 1340), with the fleurs-de-lis on a blue field alongside the three lions of England on a red field

1348 - 1350

The Black Death reaches Britain and Ireland from the Continent. In less than two years approximately a third of Britain's population is killed while in Ireland the Anglo-Norman town dwellers are hit much harder than the native Gaelic population. In some British regions, entire villages are laid waste or are abandoned. The plague causes great social changes as the reduced workforce is now in a position of negotiating power.

1377 - 1399

Richard II

Son of the Black Prince. Deposed. Died 1400.

1377 - 1386

John of Gaunt

Uncle and regent. Duke of Aquitaine.

1384 - 1386

England supplies 600 battle-hardened men to John of Portugal to help him secure his throne against the French-allied John of Castile. As a result of this, two years later England and Portugal sign the Treaty of Windsor on 9 May, the oldest alliance in Europe still in force.


The exiled Henry Bolingbroke, son of John of Gaunt and heir to the duchies of Lancaster and Aquitaine, returns to reclaim his lands, raising an army and marching meet the king. Henry and his ally, archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Arundel, meet the king to discuss the restitution of Henry's lands, but at the meeting Richard is arrested and deposed, so snatching the throne away from him in a coup and paving the way for the first ruler of the House of Lancaster.

House of Lancaster (England)
AD 1399 - 1461

The House of Lancaster was a cadet (junior) branch of the successful Plantagenet dynasty. The family name first appeared in 1267, when the title of earl of Lancaster was granted to Edmund 'Crouchback' (1245-1296), youngest son of Henry III and brother to the powerful Edward I 'Longshanks'. Two of Edmund's sons by his second wife, Blanche of Artois, succeeded to the title. Two generations later it had passed via two heiresses to John of Gaunt, third son of Edward III.

In 1399, the exiled Henry Bolingbroke, son of John of Gaunt and heir to the duchies of Lancaster and Aquitaine, returned to reclaim his lands, raising an army and marching meet the king. Despite having military intentions, Henry and his ally, archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Arundel, actually met the king to discuss the restitution of Henry's lands, but at the meeting Richard was arrested and deposed, so snatching the throne away from him in a coup. Richard's former First Lord High Treasurer was also executed as the new regime took control (which possibly also claimed the life of the outspoken Chaucer).

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from From Domesday Book to Magna Carta, 1087-1216, Austin Lane Poole (Oxford University Press 1993), from The Making of Europe, Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change: 950-1350, Robert Bartlett (Princeton University Press, 1993), from Scottish Kings 1005-1625, Archibald H Dunbar (D Douglas, Edinburgh, 1899), from Conquest, The English Kingdom of France 1417-1450, Juliet Barker, from The Yorkists - History of a Dynasty, Anne Crawford, and from External Links: Richard III: Leicester Cathedral reburial service for king (BBC), and History Extra, and Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

1399 - 1413

Henry IV

Cousin. Formerly the exiled duke of Lancaster.


Henry and archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Arundel conspire to kill the Plantagenet King Richard II. Chaucer, author of the Canterbury Tales, is a close friend of Richard's while also being married to Henry IV's sister and court poet under Richard.

King Henry IV of England
The coup to seize the throne by Henry IV (pictured) and his ally, Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, ushered in a more repressive regime that used burning at the stake as a way of removing undesirable figures

During the reign of Richard II there had been a flowering of English literature (despite Shakespeare's later dramatic claims to the contrary), but Henry's reign witnesses a heavy level of censorship. People who cross Arundel could find themselves burnt as a heretic. Chaucer, outspoken in his mockery of powerful prelates who covet worldly possessions (including Arundel), could well be a victim of this oppressive new order. He disappears just two months after Richard's death. None of his original works survive him, and all mention of him ceases for seven years after his probable death.

1402 - 1406

With Robert III, king of Scotland, beset by problems at home, Henry now invades the Scottish lowlands. The Scots are defeated twice, at the battles of Nesbit Moor and Humbleton Hill, and Henry seizes Edinburgh, albeit briefly. In 1406, Robert sends his ten year-old second son, James, to safety in France but his vessel is captured and he is taken prisoner by the English. The sad news may hasten Robert's death in the same year.


While dealing with many rebellions throughout the kingdom, in one of his few notable victories in relation to the widespread Welsh rebellion, Henry IV defeats Henry Percy ('Harry Hotspur') of Northumberland, a rebel and ally of Owain Glyndwr, Prince of Wales, at the Battle of Shrewsbury.

1413 - 1422

Henry V

Son. Lord of Aquitaine.

1415 - 1420

Henry's much smaller army wins a startling victory at Agincourt in 1415, despite being outnumbered by the 'flower of French chivalry'. In 1420, Charles VI cedes France to Henry in the Treaty of Troyes, and following Charles' death in 1422, much of France becomes an English possession, although Henry V doesn't live to see it.

Battle of Agincourt
The overwhelming victory for the forces of Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt destroyed the flower of French chivalry and gave all of France to a Lancastrian Plantagenet king

1422 - 1461

Henry VI

Son. Aged 1 at accession. England & France. Deposed.

1422 - 1429

England effectively rules France through Henry's brother, John of Lancaster. Elements of the French nobility refuse to accept an English king, however, and support a fight with Charles VI's son as their figurehead. The French victory at Orleans in 1429 turns the tide of the war. John, and his younger brother Humphrey, remain Henry VI's regents in England as most of the French territory is subsequently lost.

1422 - 1435

John of Lancaster, duke of Bedford

Uncle and regent, mostly in France (1422-1429).

1422 - 1447

Humphrey, duke of Gloucester

Brother and lord protector in England. Died disgraced.

1429 - 1431

The Hundred Years War is over, with Charles VIII now king of France by right of conquest, if not by any other legal right. However, in 1430, Charles' inspiration for the reconquest of France, Joan of Arc (or Jeanne d'Arc, the Maid of Orleans), is handed over to the English for the princely sum of ten thousand gold crowns by his rival, Philip the Good of Burgundy. She is tried for heresy and is found guilty, being burned at the stake in Rouen in 1431. Then Philip, sensing the tide turning against the English, supports Charles so that he can be crowned king.

1455 - 1485

The Wars of the Roses begin with Richard, duke of York's victory at the Battle of St Albans. Lancastrians are pitched against Yorkists in England for the next thirty years. Richard's son, Edward, gains the throne in 1461.

House of York (England)
AD 1461 - 1470

The House of York had been founded by the fifth son of Plantagenet King Edward III and first duke of York, Edmund of Langley (1341-1402) to replace the now-defunct earldom of York. From him the title passed to his son, Edward of Norwich, as the second duke, and to Richard Plantagenet (Edward's nephew) as the third duke. The fourth duke, Richard's son, was soon to be Edward IV.

With the support of his cousin Richard Neville, earl of Warwick (the 'Kingmaker'), Edward pressed his claim to the Lancaster-held throne of England through a series of battles between 1460-1461. He managed to secure London while Henry VI and his militaristic queen were campaigning in the north. The House of York owned land predominantly in the south of England, while the rival Lancastrians owned much of the north, including Lancashire and Yorkshire, making the civil war a north-south conflict. It would take until 1485, and several changes of ruler, before the conflict could be concluded. It subsequently became traditional for the English monarch to hand the title of duke of York to the second son, although there were frequent breaks, and this practice continues in use to the present day.

FeatureNew evidence points to Edward IV's mother, Cecily, daughter of the first earl of Westmorland, having had a liaison with a tall, well-built archer at the Rouen garrison while her royal husband was campaigning against the French (see feature link, right, for more detail). Edward was conceived at a time in 1441 in which his father, Richard Plantagenet, third duke of York, was nowhere near his mother. Edward was born in April 1442, the grandson of Richard of Conisburgh, third earl of Cambridge, whose own grandfather had been Edward III. His brother, George, later the duke of Clarence, was certainly legitimate. The third child, Richard III was also legitimate, and fully resembled his slightly-built, thin-faced father in stature and appearance. However, this evidence is highly controversial, and a strong camp of defenders exists for Edward IV's legitimacy.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Mick Baker and Trish Wilson, from From Domesday Book to Magna Carta, 1087-1216, Austin Lane Poole (Oxford University Press 1993), from The Making of Europe, Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change: 950-1350, Robert Bartlett (Princeton University Press, 1993), from Scottish Kings 1005-1625, Archibald H Dunbar (D Douglas, Edinburgh, 1899), from Conquest, The English Kingdom of France 1417-1450, Juliet Barker, from War and Politics in 15th Century England, William E Baumgaertner, from The Yorkists - History of a Dynasty, Anne Crawford, and from External Links: Richard III: Leicester Cathedral reburial service for king (BBC), and History Extra, and Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

1461 - 1470

Edward IV

Son of Richard Plantagenet. 3rd cousin of Henry VI. Deposed.


Having inherited the Yorkist claim to the throne upon the death in December 1460 of his father, Richard Plantagenet, duke of York, following his death at the Battle of Wakefield, Edward wins two battles in quick succession. Victories at Mortimer's Cross (near Wigmore in Herefordshire) and Towton (in Yorkshire) enabled him to depose Henry VI and take throne.

Henry VI Part 1
An imaginative scene from Henry VI Part 1 in which the participants in the Wars of the Roses (1455-1485) select white and red roses to mark their allegiances


Edward, with heavy reliance on his cousins the Nevilles, has struggled to consolidate his reign. Much of the nobility has remained loyal to Henry VI or is firmly neutral. Now John Neville's victory at the Battle of Hexham apparently ends the Lancastrian threat. The victory simply exposes fault lines within Edward's own supporters, with Richard Neville, earl of Warwick (the 'Kingmaker'), taking a dominant role that he thinks is due to him. Richard Neville negotiates a marriage with one of the female relatives of Louis XI of France, and is enraged when he discovers Edward's secret marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, the widow of a Lancastrian sympathiser.

1469 - 1470

Warwick remains deeply upset by Edward's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, and rebels against him. The Battle of Edgecote Moor in 1469 is a victory for Warwick, especially when the king is captured soon after. Elements of the nobility stage a counter-revolt which frees the king and subdues Warwick temporarily, but he and George, duke of Clarence, rebel again in 1470 and Edward flees the country.

House of Lancaster (Restored in England)
AD 1470 - 1471

The House of Lancaster was a cadet (junior) branch of the successful Plantagenet dynasty. The family name first appeared in 1267, when the title of earl of Lancaster was granted to Edmund 'Crouchback' (1245-1296), youngest son of Henry III and brother to the powerful Edward I 'Longshanks'. Two of Edmund's sons by his second wife, Blanche of Artois, succeeded to the title. Two generations later it had passed via two heiresses to John of Gaunt, third son of Edward III. It was his son who snatched the throne from Richard II to found the ruling House of Lancaster in 1399. That house had been deposed by the House of York in 1461.

Queen Margaret, wife of Henry VI, came to an alliance with two of Edward IV's main supporters, Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, and George, duke of Clarence, urged on by Louis XI of France. Warwick married his daughter to Henry's son and returned to England to defeat the Yorkists in battle. Henry VI was restored to the throne on 30 October 1470. However, by now the years of hiding and captivity had taken their toll, and Warwick and Clarence held all the power.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from From Domesday Book to Magna Carta, 1087-1216, Austin Lane Poole (Oxford University Press 1993), from The Making of Europe, Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change: 950-1350, Robert Bartlett (Princeton University Press, 1993), from Scottish Kings 1005-1625, Archibald H Dunbar (D Douglas, Edinburgh, 1899), from War and Politics in 15th Century England, William E Baumgaertner, from The Yorkists - History of a Dynasty, Anne Crawford, and from External Links: Richard III: Leicester Cathedral reburial service for king (BBC), and History Extra, and Encyclopaedia Britannica, and The Battlefields Trust.)

1470 - 1471

Henry VI

Restored. Murdered in prayer at the Tower of London.


Son. Prince of Wales. Executed in 1471.


In March 1471 Edward IV returns to England, with the assistance of his brother-in-law, Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy. Landing in Yorkshire, Edward is able to assemble troops and equipment before heading south, gathering more troops as he goes. He reaches London unopposed on 12 April. Aware of Edward's movements, the earl of Warwick, the 'kingmaker', who had been in the Midlands raising troops, marches towards London to confront him. In a morning battle that is hampered by mist, Edward's Yorkist forces defeat the Lancastrians at the Battle of Barnet on 14 April 1471. Warwick is killed and his forces are routed despite their superior numbers.

Queen Margaret of Anjou in 1471
Queen Margaret of Anjou is shown here fleeing the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471 after failing to stop the Yorkist advance, but she was soon captured and, spirit broken at the death of her son (Edward), was eventually granted exile in France where she lived out her remaining years in peace

With Warwick dead and Henry VI largely incapable of leading an army, the task is left to his queen, Margaret of Anjou. Her defeat at the Battle of Tewksbury on 4 May sees her son, Edward, Prince of Wales, captured and executed in circumstances that are not fully explained, while the remainder of the royal family is captured. Edward IV is restored to the throne, and Henry VI is murdered while a captive in the Tower of London.

House of York (Restored in England)
AD 1471 - 1485

The House of York had been founded by the fifth son of Plantagenet King Edward III, Edmund of Langley (1341-1402) to replace the now-defunct earldom of York. From him the title passed to his son, Edward of Norwich, as the second duke, and to Richard Plantagenet (Edward's nephew) as the third duke. The fourth duke, Richard's son, was soon to be Edward IV, founder of the House of York's first stint at ruling England. That stint had been ended by the resurgent Henry IV seizing back 'his' throne in 1470. However, the War of the Roses was certainly not over. Yorkist forces defeated the Lancastrians at the Battle of Barnet in 1471, restoring Edward IV to the throne.

Whilst the nobility of this period were busy hacking down their peers, the common population was suffering from repeated waves of plague. Although these were less severe that the Black Death of 1348, they still killed many. A bonus for the survivors was that they were often in a stronger position to be able to climb the social ladder, and even sometimes to become a class of gentry between that of the nobility and peasants. The country gentleman was born in the form of the squire.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from From Domesday Book to Magna Carta, 1087-1216, Austin Lane Poole (Oxford University Press 1993), from Channel 4's The Six Wives of Henry VIII series, Doctor David Starkey (first screened September 2001), from The Making of Europe, Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change: 950-1350, Robert Bartlett (Princeton University Press, 1993), from Scottish Kings 1005-1625, Archibald H Dunbar (D Douglas, Edinburgh, 1899), from War and Politics in 15th Century England, William E Baumgaertner, from The Yorkists - History of a Dynasty, Anne Crawford, and from External Links: Richard III: Leicester Cathedral reburial service for king (BBC), and History Extra, and Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

1471 - 1483

Edward IV

Former Yorkist king. Restored.


George, duke of Clarence, although forgiven for his change of allegiance in 1470, leads an attempted coup against Edward. He is captured and is executed by Edward for treason (by being hung upside down in a barrel of Madeira). George is survived by two grown-up children who outlive the rule of the House of York.

Edward IV of England
Edward IV was the only War of the Roses commander to win all of his military battles, and was possibly also England's very first Renaissance king

They are the last of the (official) Plantagenets, and the younger of the two is later executed by Henry VIII on trumped-up charges in order to be certain that she cannot apply her legal claim to the throne. But her own sons survive, and a modern-day descendant lived happily in Australia until his death in 2012 after emigrating in the 1960s - Michael, earl of Louden (or Loudoun), a potential claimant to the throne. He is succeeded as earl by his son, Simon Abney-Hastings. That claim, though, has effectively been lost by right of conquest (in 1485) and through later inter-dynastic marriages.


Edward V

Son. Ruled in name as a 12 year-old for 3 months. Deposed.


FeatureRichard, younger brother of Edward IV, knows that the child king has no legitimate claim to the throne, and immediately captures and imprisons the boy and his younger brother, the new Richard, duke of York. Richard III claims the throne as the only surviving legitimate son of the previous duke of York. The princes are held in the Tower of London until their eventual disappearance.

1483 - 1485

Richard III

Brother of Edward IV. Killed at Bosworth Field.


From his exile in France, Henry Tudor leads a slightly underwhelming invasion of England, via Milford Haven, and is fortunate to kill Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in Leicestershire, the final major battle in the Wars of the Roses (although not the final conflict of any kind). Richard's body is taken to nearby Leicester and is buried in the grounds of Grey Friars Church in the town.

Richard III at Bosworth Field
Richard III, demonised during the subsequent Tudor period, seems to have been a fair ruler who was unlucky to be defeated at the Battle of Bosworth Field

FeatureGrey Friars Church is destroyed in the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538, but Richard remains buried there until he is discovered by archaeologists in August 2012. The site is now a car park, and the skeletal remains are confirmed as the king's after DNA from the bones are found to match that of a descendant of the monarch's family. Despite plans to rebury the king in Leicester Cathedral (which are brought to fruition in 2015), the Plantagenet Alliance (which includes fifteen of the king's distant relatives) states that the king's wish had been to be buried at York Minster (see feature link for more on the minster).

House of Tudor (England)
AD 1485 - 1603

The Tudors were descended from a Welsh noble family which had originated in Gwynedd. Having gradually married into an increasingly strong position in the English nobility over the course of several generations, they played a key role in the last years of the Wars of the Roses. They ended up being one of the few powerful noble families left that was capable of providing the leadership the country required. The killing of the last Yorkist king, Richard III, in 1485 cleared the way.

As kings and queens of England, they played an important role in transforming the country from the comparatively weak European backwater that it had become following the collapse of the 'Anglo-Saxon Empire', the Norman invasion, and the loss of the Angevin empire, into a powerful state that in the coming centuries would dominate much of the world. The Tudor monarchs also raised the conquered Ireland from a lordship to a kingdom (in 1541), giving them two kingdoms, plus the principality of Wales and the old, now-lost French lands to claim amongst their titles.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from From Domesday Book to Magna Carta, 1087-1216, Austin Lane Poole (Oxford University Press 1993), from Channel 4's The Six Wives of Henry VIII series, Doctor David Starkey (first screened September 2001), from Bloody British History: Plymouth, Laura Quigley (History Press, 2013), and from External Link: History Extra.)

1485 - 1509

Henry VII

Member of the House of Lancaster on his mother's side.


Henry VII is the only major remaining claimant to the throne, although he is not without opposition and his claim is not especially unquestionable. He marries Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and heiress of the House of Plantagenet, to legitimise his somewhat shaky claim, without knowing the question mark over Elizabeth's own royal legitimacy. Henry himself is descended from Ednyfed Fychan, chief minister to Llywelyn the Great of Gwynedd, and Owain ap Meredith ap Tewdur, a Welsh squire in Henry V's court. More practically, his marriage unites the houses of York and Lancaster, ensuring an end to the Wars of the Roses.

Henry VII, Tudor king of England
Henry VII had a fairly distant claim to the English throne in his own right, but he greatly strengthened that by marrying Elizabeth of York, the daughter of the last of the Yorkist kings, Edward IV


Henry VII's first-born son and his intended heir arrives in the world. Named Arthur after what the Tudors consider to be the country's most outstanding leader, Arthur of the Britons, he is also created Prince of Wales. His sudden death in 1502 will upset the succession.

1486 - 1487

Lambert Simnel

Pretender. Nine year-old caught up in attempt to gain throne.


Henry VII defeats Lambert Simnel's forces at Stoke, in the final battle of the Wars of the Roses. The boy himself, an unwitting pawn who had been selected merely on the basis of his resemblance to the Yorkist prince, is given a lifelong job in the royal household.

1490 - 1499

Perkin Warbeck

Pretender. Hanged as a traitor at Tyburn.

1490 - 1499

Warbeck is an impostor, pretending to be Richard of Shrewsbury, first duke of York, the younger son of King Edward IV, but is in fact a Fleming born in Tournai in around 1474. He is first noted as claiming the English throne at the court of Burgundy in 1490 - the year before the birth of Henry VII's second son, Henry. In 1499 he leaves the scene of his most recent failure in Cornwall for London, where he mounts a feeble military challenge to Henry before fleeing. He is captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London alongside a genuine claimant; Edward, earl of Warwick, with whom he tries and fails to escape in 1499.

1502 - 1503

Prince Arthur dies at the young age of fifteen, from uncertain medical circumstances. His wife, Catherine of Aragon, is sick as well, but survives. Henry VII gains a dispensation to marry her to Arthur's younger brother, Henry. In the same year, Scotland and England agree a 'perpetual peace' when James IV and King Henry come to terms. In 1503, James marries Henry's daughter, Margaret Tudor, laying the basis for eventual union between the two crowns.

1509 - 1547

Henry VIII

King of Ireland (1541). Broke away from Roman Church.

1509 - 1533

FeatureFrom ascending the throne at the age of seventeen, Henry VIII turns out to be one of England's most colourful and pivotal rulers. He marries six times in search of a male heir (and a spare), but only fathers three surviving children, two of them girls. He first marries his brother's widow, Catherine of Aragon, and gains a daughter in Mary. After five children which don't survive and a long period without any further progeny Henry secures an annulment (Catherine dies in 1536).

Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII, second son of Henry VII and 'Defender of the Faith' thanks to Pope Leo X in 1521, as portrayed in a very well known oil portrait on wood which dates to about 1526


Henry campaigns in France, capturing two towns and beating off the French in the Battle of the Spurs, named for the sight of the spurs of the French cavalry as they flee at great speed. Catherine of Aragon manages England in Henry's stead. James IV of Scotland takes full advantage by invading England, but Isabella sends an army north. The two forces meet at Flodden and the Scots are annihilated, with around 10,000 casualties, including James himself.


Pope Leo X grants Henry the title 'Defender of the Faith' for his writing of a tract which defends Catholicism. It is a title that he retains, even after his split from the Catholic church, becoming the 'Defender of the Faith' for the newly-created Anglican Church.

1533 - 1536

FeatureHenry marries the ambitious Anne Boleyn after first meeting her at Hever Castle (see feature link). She immediately gives him another daughter, the red-haired Elizabeth. After three more children, none of whom survive, Henry has trumped-up charges of adultery levelled against Anne. She is beheaded on 19 May 1536.


The English Reformation had gained political support when Henry VIII wanted his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled. Under pressure from Catherine's nephew, Emperor Charles V, Holy Roman emperor, the annulment is refused by Pope Clement VII, the latest point in an ongoing conflict of authority between England and Rome. Henry, although theologically a Catholic, decides to become 'Supreme Head' of the Church of England to ensure the annulment of his marriage. Even so, he maintains a strong preference for traditional Catholic practices.

1535 - 1536

FeatureThe first English translation of the entire Bible is printed, with translations by Tyndale and Coverdale. In 1536, the dissolution of the monasteries begins, and Catholic decorations in churches are removed or whitewashed over. With the death of Anne Boleyn, a rebellion is sparked in the north which marches under the banner of the 'Five Wounds of Christ', and which demands the restoration of the old ways. By December 1536, its followers number as many as 40,000, but it is defeated when the king appears to accedes to its demands, and then has the leaders dealt with in the customary fashion.

1536 - 1537

Henry marries his beloved Jane Seymour. Within a year she gives birth to Edward, Henry's long-awaited son, but then dies from an infection caused by unclean birthing instruments.

Jane Seymour
Henry's match to Jane Seymour was perhaps the most heartfelt of all his marriages, but after delivering him the baby boy that he desired, infection set in and Jane was dead just twelve days after giving birth


The Catholic powers of France and Spain seem certain to establish an alliance with the intention of attacking England. Henry allows his chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, to arrange a marriage for him with Anne of the principality of Kleve (Anglicised as Cleves), whose brother, Duke William, is the leader of the Protestant states in western Germany. Anne proves to be a huge disappointment in Henry's eyes. The marriage is never consummated, and an annulment follows within six months (Anne lives out her life in England as a private person, never remarries, and dies in 1557 at the age of forty-two, seemingly content with her lot).

1540 - 1542

Already having a poorly-kept secret affair with one of the court's ladies-in-waiting, Catherine Howard, while still married to Anne, Henry now marries Catherine. She is executed soon afterwards. During the same period, 1541-1542, Henry's sister, Margaret Tudor, dies. Her son, King James V, no longer feels tied to the 'perpetual peace' with England, and when invited he fails to meet Henry at York. Instead, he mobilises his army and prepares to invade England. His army is defeated at Solway Moss on the Scottish borders in 1542. The news of the defeat is a powerful blow, and he dies just six days after his own daughter is born.

1541 - 1542

The Irish parliament confers the country's crown upon Henry. After this, the English monarch holds both crowns, English and Irish, in personal union in the same way that the seventeenth century James VI of Scotland will also be James I of England (with Ireland added as a third crown). This replaces the 'Lordship of Ireland' with the 'Kingdom of Ireland' in 1542, upon King Henry's insistence. The Crown of Ireland Act confirms the change.

1543 - 1547

Henry's sixth wife is the twice-married Catherine Parr. Forming a much more sympathetic union with him which remains seemingly untroubled by personal ambition or courtly intrigue, she outlives him by a year before remarrying and then dying in childbirth.

1547 - 1553

Edward VI

Son. Crowned 20 Feb, aged nine. Died at the age of fifteen.

1547 - 1553

Protestantism is established for the first time in England (more as a simplified form of Catholicism than the more radical Protestantism that is practised in Northern Europe). In the last battle between English and Scottish royal armies, the Scots are routed at Pinkie, Edinburgh, on 10 September 1547 as Edward's uncle and protector, Edward Seymour, attempts to impose Anglican reform north of the border and force the infant Mary, Queen of Scots to marry Edward. In England, Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, implements the Book of Common Prayer. Unfortunately, Edward's reign is marked by increasingly harsh Protestant reforms, the loss of control of Scotland, and an economic downturn.

Edward VI
During his relatively short reign, the young Edward VI showed a strong drive towards harsh Protestant reforms in England and Wales before ill health slowed down his work and eventually claimed his life

When it becomes clear that Edward's life is to be a short one, his advisors persuade him to attempt to exclude his two half sisters from the line of succession in order to make Lady Jane Grey, the solidly Protestant daughter-in-law of the chief regent, next in line to succeed the king. Following Edward's death a disputed succession re-opens the religious conflicts. Lady Jane is queen for nine days, and reigns in name only before being deposed by Mary. Mary then seeks to undo many of Edward's Protestant reforms, issuing legislation through her Parliamentary sessions.


Lady Jane Grey

Henry's grandniece. Reigned 6-15 July. Deposed, beheaded.

1553 - 1558

Mary I (Bloody Mary)

Dau. of Henry VIII. m Philip II of Spain. Childless.

1553 - 1554

Continually turning to her maternal cousin, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, for advice and support, Mary Tudor accepts his suggestion of marriage to his son, Philip of Spain. However, she makes it clear that she will be queen regnant and, following the wedding in 1554, Philip is given no lands in England, nor is he allowed to make any appointments for fear of upsetting the populace. It is stipulated that if there are no children, Philip's interest in the realm will cease with Mary's death.

1555 - 1558

FeatureFollowing her phantom pregnancy and a period of depression, Mary earns her nickname by having almost three hundred religious dissenters executed in her later years, including the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. However, her brief attempt at the re-establishment of Roman Catholicism in England is reversed by her successor and half-sister, Elizabeth (see feature link, right).

1558 - 1603

Elizabeth I

Dau. of Henry VIII. Childless. Last of the Tudors.


Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, escapes from Loch Leven Castle in Scotland but her supporters are defeated near Glasgow, at the Battle of Langside. She flees to England where she believes she will be protected and supported by her cousin, Elizabeth Tudor. Instead she is imprisoned at Fotheringay Castle, a political embarrassment to both kingdoms.

Elizabeth I
As Princess Elizabeth, her life was sometimes in danger, especially during her sister's reign, and she was constantly the subject of political intrigue, even without her consent - she is pictured here in the earliest-known full length portrait of her as queen, by Steven van der Meulen and Steven van Herwijck (as seen at Tate Britain, London)


Elizabeth puts down the Catholic-led Northern Rebellion, before finding a new enemy in her former brother-in-law, Philip II, king of Spain. The First Desmond Rebellion is ignited in Ireland, largely fuelled by the imposition of Protestant Tudor controls over Catholic regions of the country.


The duke of Norfolk is executed following the failed Ridolfi Plot which would have seen Elizabeth assassinated and replaced by Mary, Queen of Scots, as Norfolk's intended puppet. Roberto Ridolfi is an international banker who can travel across Europe without arousing too much suspicion. Norfolk's co-conspirators are the pope and Philip of Spain. (The plot is a key moment in the 1998 feature film, Elizabeth.)


Elizabeth agrees an alliance with France and begins tentative marriage negotiations which, although perhaps well meant, go nowhere and decisively end when the younger duke of Anjou dies in 1584.

1579 - 1583

The Second Desmond Rebellion in Ireland is put down by the end of this period. In the same year, 1583, the first English colony in North America is founded. This later period of Elizabeth Tudor's reign sows the seeds of the British empire, and is termed 'Gloriana'.

1585 - 1598

The Anglo-Spanish War erupts as relations with Philip of Spain worsen. Mary, Queen of Scots is executed in 1587, while Francis Drake 'singes the king of Spain's beard' by attacking his fleet in the Spanish port of Cadiz. The great 130-vessel-strong Spanish Armada is destroyed at the Battle of Gravelines in 1588 while attempting to bring about an invasion of England. In 1595, forces under Francis Drake and the earl of Cumberland attack and seize Puerto Rico, holding it for several months until dysentery forces a withdrawal. The war stalls in 1598 and is only officially ended by the Treaty of London in 1604.


FeatureThe Globe Theatre is opened by the Lord Chamberlain's Company, of which William Shakespeare is a member. The site lies near the rival Rose Theatre in Southwark, and is built using the oak frame from the company's previous theatre in Shoreditch. Although it burns down in 1613 due to an accident involving a cannon on stage and the thatched roof over the theatre, it is quickly rebuilt and remains operational until all theatres are ordered closed in 1642.

1594 - 1603

The Nine Years' War (otherwise known as Tyrone's Rebellion) erupts in Ireland. Hugh Roe O'Donnell of Tír Chonaill and Hugh O'Neill of Tír Eoghain lead other allies against the English crown, fighting across the island, although the bulk of the conflict takes place in Ulster. In 1599 the ambitious earl of Essex, Robert Devereux, leads a massive force of 16,000 men to Ireland and proceeds to conduct a poor campaign against the rebels. Upon his return he is placed under house arrest (which leads to his abortive attempt at a coup in 1601, and his subsequent execution).

Robert Devereux, earl of Essex
The young and ambitious Robert Devereux, earl of Essex attempted to woo Queen Elizabeth I at court and win power (and possibly the crown) for himself, but in the end his dreams died in an ill-advised coup attempt and a visit to the executioner's block


The arrival of a Dutch trading vessel in Japan, the Liefde, greatly unsettles the Portuguese and Spanish merchants there. The vessel's pilot, William Adams, is an Englishman of wit and charm. He is escorted to the powerful warlord, Tokugawa Ieyasu, where he reveals the lies peddled by Jesuits about religion in Europe. Ieyasu is no less interested in the Liefde's canon, and it is possible that he uses them in battle later in the year. (William Adams serves as the inspiration for the character of John Blackthorne in James Clavell's novel, Shogun, with the role played by Richard Chamberlain in the remarkable tv mini-series of the same name.)


The Nine Years' War fades to an end when Hugh O'Neill surrenders and signs the Treaty of Mellifont. By this stage, Queen Elizabeth has been fading for quite some time, her decline not helped by the loss of several close friends in the first years of the new century. Before news of the surrender can reach London, the queen is dead, and a rider is racing northwards to contact her successor.

House of Stuart (England & Scotland)
AD 1603 - 1649

The reign of the Tudors had covered one of the most tumultuous times British history, although worse was to come in the seventeenth century. As the result of an agreement with Elizabeth I in 1586 - known as the Treaty of Berwick - the Scottish king James VI succeeded her on the English throne as King James I of England and Scotland. A descendant of Henry VII through his daughter, Margaret, James was the first ruler of the three kingdoms of 'Great' Britain (a term he coined in 1604): England, Scotland, and Ireland. It was a personal union of crowns that would not be made an official political union until 1707.

Few of the Stewart kings had lived long and happy lives. Many had been victims of the internecine quarrelling of the Scots themselves. James' own beginnings had been the product of yet more of the same, with his mother - Mary Queen of Scots - marrying the alleged murder of his father before being imprisoned and having her son removed from her. She soon abdicated the throne in James' favour, and his early years were managed under the regency of the earl of Mar. James' Scottish surname, Stewart, had been altered from the Scots spelling of Stuart by his mother while she was living in France. and it was in this form that the name was largely used in England.

During James' reign, and that of his son, piracy in the Caribbean became fully established, especially targeting wealthy Spanish colonies such as Hispaniola. The first true British Colonies in North America also became established, beginning with the settlement of St John in Newfoundland in 1604. James' daughter, Elizabeth Stuart, married Frederick V of the Palatinate and briefly became queen of Bohemia (1620-1621).

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Royal House of Stuart: The Descendants of King James VI of Scotland (James I of England), Arthur C Addington (Charles Skilton, 1969-76), The Lion & the Lilies: The Stuarts and France, Eileen Cassavetti (Macdonald & Jane's, 1977), and from External Links: Royal Family History, and The Stuarts of Campbeltown, and The Royal Household.)

1603 - 1625

James I

VI of Scotland (1567-1625). First king of Great Britain.


FeatureCatholic plotters, unhappy with James' unsympathetic attitude towards their faith (which he also shares) decide to try and blow up Parliament at the state opening, thereby leaving the way open for a Catholic takeover of Britain. The plot is foiled and the act of foiling it on 5 November becomes a matter of national celebration for centuries to come (see feature link).

Coronation of James I
James was crowned on the feast of St James in 1603, but the queen, a devout Catholic, refused to take Communion

1616 - 1617

Pocahontas, the daughter of Powhatan, chief of the Powhatan confederacy of native tribes which live around the Jamestown British Colony, visits England. The visit is partly to promote the New World English colony, and Pocahontas is greeted at court by James I and attends various functions. Embarking for the return journey in March 1617, she falls ill on board ship and is taken off at Gravesend where she dies of an unspecified illness.

1620 - 1621

On 21 November, the Pilgrim Fathers arrive at Cape Cod in New England on the Mayflower (formerly the Plymouth Company territory in the British Colonies). They are leaving behind them the confused religious situation in England, hoping to found a new and better community in the New World. The following year, England's early colonial presence in West Africa is formalised with the creation of English Gold Coast, close to the slave-trading Fanti people who separate the colonists from the Akan kingdoms such as Akwamu which lie further inland.

1625 - 1649

Charles I

Son. King of England & Scotland. Deposed and executed.


The central American kingdom of Mosquitia is officially recognised by England, probably during a state visit by the son of the king to the court of Charles I. The act begins a degree of English influence on the kingdom that withstands successive attempts to conquer it by its Spanish-influenced neighbours.

Warships of the English Civil War
Warships at the time of the English Civil War, with ninety of them mustered in Plymouth Sound in 1625 (with the kind permission of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Library of Toronto)


The Catholic nobility of Ireland attempt to stage a coup by seizing the English administration of the country. The hoped-for concessions for Catholics under English rule come to nothing when the coup fails. Instead the fighting escalates into the Irish Rebellion, pitting native Irish Catholics against English and Scottish Protestants. This is the first stage in a period known collectively as the Irish Confederate Wars. The English Parliament refuses to cooperate with King Charles in putting down the rebellion, with the result that control over much of Ireland is lost.

1642 - 1645

Charles raises his standard, declaring war on a Parliament which is determined to force a confrontation. In 1645 the Royalists are routed at the Battle of Philiphaugh, defeating Charles I's cause in Scotland. The archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, is beheaded at Tower Hill in the same year for his High Church stance against the radical Puritanism which is starting to take hold in the country.

Ultimately, and perhaps to the perpetual surprise of King Charles, his cause stutters towards defeat at the hands of the Parliamentarians who sentence him to beheading and declare a kingless Commonwealth of Britain.

Protectorate / Commonwealth of Britain (England & Scotland)
AD 1649 - 1659

Parliament's cause against the Stuart King Charles I simmered for years while it continually blocked the king's attempts to rule absolutely as he believed was his divine right. When a crowd of apprentices rioted at Westminster in 1641 (organised by Parliament), they were dispersed by troops who called them 'roundheads' thanks to their close-cropped hair. After the commencement of the civil war between king and parliament in the following year, the term came to be applied to the parliamentary military forces, in opposition to the king's cavalier-styled gentlemen-led forces.

When parliament finally won the war, it realised it didn't know what kind of governance to offer the country. It even went so far as to offer Oliver Cromwell the crown as the Puritan (extreme Protestant) forces turned Britain into a kind of police state. The commonwealth was declared in May 1649 after the monarchy and House of Lords had both been abolished. Political power rested in the hands of the Council of State, the 'Rump Parliament' (which quickly swelled to around three times its wartime number of seventy-five members), and the army. In international terms, the execution of King Charles I aroused hostility not only in England but also throughout Europe. Regicide was considered the worst of all crimes, and open season was declared against English shipping while the legitimate ruler, Charles II, was encouraged to reclaim his father's three kingdoms.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Royal House of Stuart: The Descendants of King James VI of Scotland (James I of England), Arthur C Addington (Charles Skilton, 1969-76), The Lion & the Lilies: The Stuarts and France, Eileen Cassavetti (Macdonald & Jane's, 1977), and from External Links: Royal Family History, and Royal Stuart Society, and Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

1649 - 1653

Oliver Cromwell supports the execution of the king in January 1649. The king's body is quietly buried in Windsor Castle's St George's Chapel after being denied a place in Westminster Abbey. He is placed with Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, but the entire vault is later lost to history. Workmen rediscover it by accident in 1813 and find a velvet-draped coffin with the missing monarch's name on it. The casket is opened to reveal a body with a detached head and a pointy beard.

Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell
Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, effectively the monarch of England, Scotland, and Ireland without ever actually taking the highly dangerous step of having himself declared king and without fully implementing the reforms required to establish a full republic

In the same year, 1649, Oliver Cromwell also leads an army in August to crush the Irish and end the Irish Confederate Wars, which he does by 1653. In 1650, Cromwell also crushes Scotland with his highly efficient New Model Army. With relative peace restored in 1653, he dissolves Parliament and by the end of the year has assumed the role of Lord Protector - effectively king in all but name.

1653 - 1658

Oliver Cromwell

Effectively controlled Parliament (1649). First Lord Protector.


English troops take Jamaica from the Spanish colonial viceroyalty of New Spain, making it a hub for rum production and slave trading. This victory also allows renewed contact with the Mosquito Coast. The English governor of Jamaica now forms the direct link of authority between the Miskito king and the English crown.


Parliament offers Oliver Cromwell the title of king in the 'Humble Petition and Advice'. He rejects it, realising the dangers of re-establishing the kingship and being entirely content to dominate the country with the support of the people. However, his role means that the anti-monarchical reforms that are required to ensure that the republic survives him are not completed. His death in 1658 ends the prospect of that happening.

1658 - 1659

Richard Cromwell

Son. Second Lord Protector. Abdicated, and died 1712.


Richard Cromwell, entirely unsuited to his role, abdicates in 1659. Negotiations with Charles II are opened, and the restored king returns to Britain. The body of Oliver Cromwell, buried in Westminster Abbey, is exhumed by Charles' supporters and hanged on the scaffold at Tyburn (near modern day Marble Arch in London). It is later cut down and beheaded, with the body probably being dumped in a nearby pit. The embalmed head is eventually removed from a spike and passes from owner to owner until it is reburied at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge in 1960.

House of Stuart (Restored in England & Scotland)
AD 1660 - 1714

With the death of Oliver Cromwell, his Protectorate supporters found it apparently impossible to select a suitable replacement. Instead they followed the dynastic route established by kings and selected Oliver's son. He proved entirely unsuited to the role, and it was seemingly a fairly short step from forcing his abdication to supporting the return of the monarchy. Charles II returned on his birthday from the Netherlands to reclaim the throne, along with his Portuguese wife, Catherine of Braganza. Parliament proclaimed him king of England on 8 May 1660. Charles received popular support as he re-opened the theatres, and introduced a relaxed, tolerant rule to a country battered by a decade of extremist Puritan rule. The Protectorate had ended (known as the interregnum by Royalists).

The period of the Protectorate had wrought considerable changes on British society, not least in the way in which religion was practiced. Nonconformity had effectively become mainstream, albeit with the majority of nonconformists being Presbyterians who shared Anglican church premises (establishing nonconformist chapels had not yet been permitted). It would take the remainder of the century for the new situation to settle down, encouraged by two major acts of which that of 1672 was probably the most important in terms of denuding Canterbury's congregations.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Story of Mayfair, Peter Wetherell, Erik Brown, & Oliver Bradbury (London, 2014), from The Royal House of Stuart: The Descendants of King James VI of Scotland (James I of England), Arthur C Addington (Charles Skilton, 1969-76), The Lion & the Lilies: The Stuarts and France, Eileen Cassavetti (Macdonald & Jane's, 1977), from Queen Anne, Edward Gregg (Yale University Press, Second Ed, 2001), and from External Links: Royal Family History, and Royal Stuart Society, and The Stuarts of Campbeltown, and The Royal Household.)

1660 - 1685

Charles II

Son of Charles I. King in exile (1649-1660).

1664 - 1667

Under the leadership of the duke of York, the English attack and capture the province of New Netherland in 1664. The act leads in the following year to the Second Anglo-Dutch War, which ends with the Netherlands agreeing to the English ownership of the colony in exchange for Suriname.

Second Anglo-Dutch War
The Four Days Battle in June 1666 was part of the Second Anglo-Dutch War, as depicted by Willem van de Velde the Younger

1665 - 1666

The last Great Plague sweeps through London killing 65,000 (according to official figures), although the real figure is probably closer to as much as 100,000. The following year an accidental fire which starts at a Pudding Lane bakery engulfs almost all of the old medieval city with only a few exceptions, one of which is the Tower of London.

1670 - 1671

In a period in which adventurers seem to rule, the privateer Henry Morgan captures the port of Chagres from the Spanish viceroyalty of Peru in 1670 and goes on to destroy the city of Panama in New Granada. On 9 May 1671, the crown jewels are briefly stolen from the Tower of London by Irish adventurer Colonel Thomas Blood.

1673 - 1674

The territory of former Dutch New Amsterdam is seized by during the Third Anglo-Dutch War, but is returned to England as part of the Treaty of Westminster in 1674. The king is effectively forced to sign the treaty as Parliament will no longer finance his war.

1685 - 1688

James II

Deposed. Catholic revivalist. Died in 1701 in exile.


FeatureThe Monmouth Rebellion is also known as The West Country Rebellion or The Revolt of the West. Opposing the succession of the Catholic James II is James Scott, first duke of Monmouth and an illegitimate son of Charles II. He is proclaimed king at Taunton on 20 June 1685. Unfortunately for Monmouth, his forces are no match for the professional army and he is defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor on 6 July 1685. Subsequently nineteen rebels are hanged in Taunton on 9 July and twenty-two more in September after trials in Taunton Castle (the 'Bloody Assizes') before Judge Jeffreys (known as the 'Hanging Judge'). Monmouth himself is executed on 15 July. (Taunton Castle is located very close to a former short-lived Carmelite Abbey - see feature link.)


FeatureThe Mayfair district of London gets its name when King James grants royal permission for a fair to be held on the site of what is now Shepherds Market in the first two weeks of May. At this time Soho, Whitehall and the City are the addresses of choice for the wealthy aristocracy, but a gradual shift towards Mayfair starts to take place.


Feeling against the blatantly anti-Protestant James flares up when his second wife, Mary of Modena, gives birth to a Catholic heir (commonly believed to be a changeling). His brother-in-law, William of Orange, lands in Britain with a Dutch army. The disaffected British army goes over to him, and a bloodless takeover is effected with the support of the British people, named the Glorious Revolution. James flees London for France on 11 December, and by this act is deemed to have abdicated. He and his supporters continue to hold a claim to the thrones of England, Scotland (where the full details of his successors are shown), and Ireland for decades to come.

King James II
The staunchly Catholic King James II was intent on ignoring the concerns of his largely Protestant subjects in Britain, but in Ireland with its predominantly Catholic population his cause was much more popular


There is an interregnum while events are unfolding. William of Orange and his wife, Mary II, come to the throne with the Declaration of Rights being read before Parliament on 13 February, with Mary declining to be queen regnant, instead preferring to give way to her husband in all matters of state. Nevertheless, she proves to be a worthy regent in his absences.

1689 - 1694

Mary II

Dau. Regent when husband, William III, on campaign.

1689 - 1702

William III

Prince of (the House of) Orange.


James II has gained Irish and French support for his cause and he invades Ireland from France. However, his attempts are stopped dead at the Battle of the Boyne on 1 July (there can be some confusion over pre-1752 dating, and these days it seems to be the case to refer to historical events by keeping the old day and month but updating the year. The dates used here are the accepted ones). The archbishop of Canterbury, William Sancroft, refuses to take the oath with William and Mary, and is removed from office.

1701 - 1766

James Francis Stuart 'Old Pretender'

Son of James II. Prince of Wales. Involved in 1716 rebellion.


The Act of Settlement on 12 June confirms that it is illegal for a Roman Catholic, or anyone married to a Roman Catholic, to inherit the throne (as set out in the 1689 Bill of Rights). This disqualifies the Catholic Stuart pretenders from gaining the throne after Anne's death. It also disqualifies the Catholic heirs of Charles I and his sister, Elizabeth of the Palatinate, 'Queen of Bohemia', wife of Frederick V 'The Winter King' of Bohemia. This leaves just Sophie, widow of Ernst August of Brunswig-Lüneberg, elector of Hanover, and her son, George Ludwig.

1702 - 1714


Sister of Mary II. Had 17-18 children, but all predeceased her.

1702 - 1715

While Portugal initially supports France during the War of Spanish Succession, Britain alters the situation with the signing of the Methuen Treaty with Portugal on 16 May 1703, which grants mutually beneficial commercial rights for wine and textiles from the two countries. In December 1703 a military alliance between Austria, Britain, and Portugal sees them invade Spain. British forces attack Spanish interests in the Americas, including an attack on Puerto Rico in 1702. Lorraine is occupied during the war, forcing the ducal court to flee. The allied forces capture Madrid in 1706, although the campaign ends in a defeat at the Battle of Almansa.

The conclusion of the war in 1715 sees Spain giving up Milan, Naples, Sardinia, and the Spanish Netherlands (modern Belgium) to Austria, with Sicily going to the duchy of Savoy. The Papal States are forced to hand over the territories of Parma and Piacenza to Austria, a definite blow to the papacy's prestige. Philip, duke of Anjou, is recognised as the Bourbon King Philip V of Spain, but only on the condition that the Bourbon crowns of Spain and France can never be united under a single ruler.

War of the Spanish Succession
The War of the Spanish Succession was fought to avoid a shift in the balance of power in Europe with the proposed unification of the Bourbon kingdoms of Spain and France

1707 - 1708

The formal union of the crowns of England and Scotland is enacted. The idea had been recommended by William III and is now approved by Anne as a method of avoiding the possibility of Scotland going its own way, as the Scottish Parliament refuses to endorse the Hanoverian succession. The joint kingdoms are governed from a single Parliament at Westminster in London. The following year, an attempted invasion of Scotland by James Francis Stuart at the Firth of Forth is defeated at sea.


The 'Four Mohawk Kings' or 'Four Kings of the New World' who visit Queen Anne in this year are three Native North American Mohawk chiefs and one Mahican of the Iroquoian Confederacy. The four are Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow of the Bear Clan, called 'King of Maguas' (with the Christian name Peter Brant); Ho Nee Yeath Taw No Row of the Wolf Clan, called 'King of Canojaharie'; Tee Yee Ho Ga Row of the Wolf Clan, called 'King Hendrick' (with the Christian name Hendrick Peters), and Etoh Oh Koam of the Turtle Clan.


Queen Anne's health had never been strong, with gout from around 1698 onwards rendering her lame. Increasing obesity and the strength of various illnesses have made her more weak until she suffers a stroke on 30 July 1714. She dies on the morning of 1 August 1714. paving the way for a Hanoverian succession.

House of Hanover (United Kingdom)
AD 1714 - 1839

The last of the Stuart monarchs of Britain, Queen Anne, had approved the Act of Union between the two crowns of England and Scotland in 1707-1708. However, despite having a great many pregnancies none of her surviving offspring outlasted her to extend the Stuart hold on the throne. Under the Act of Settlement of 1701 her distant cousin, the Protestant elector of Hanover, was invited to succeed her as King George I. The initial beneficiary was to be his mother, Electress Sophia, daughter of Elizabeth Stuart (herself the daughter of King James I), but she died just days before Anne. George was the son of the duke of Brunswick-Lüneberg, and he inherited this title along with that of the duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg. Hanoverian rule witnessed the emergence of modern Britain, and the near-accidental build-up towards what would eventually be known as the British empire. It was also during the reign of George I that the position of prime minister became cemented within Parliament and a recognisably modern government began to emerge.

Rival claimants to the throne still existed, primarily in the form of the Jacobite descendants of James II. In fact the Jacobite cause posed the greatest threat to Hanoverian rule, but it never received the required backing to be able to oppose it militarily. Jacobitism reached its high point in 1745 but also ended in the following year as a viable political alternative, although this was only recognised later. These and any other rivals are shown with a shaded background. The full list of successive Jacobite claimants is shown the early modern Scotland list.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from History of the Rebellion of 1745-6, Robert Chambers (W & R Chambers, 1869), from The Jacobites: Britain and Europe, 1688-1788, Daniel Szechi (Manchester University Press, 1994), from The Hanoverian Succession: Dynastic Politics and Monarchical Culture, Andreas Gestrich & Michael Schaich (Routledge, 2016), and from External Link: Royal Stuart Society.)

1714 - 1727

George I

Elector of Hanover. Great-gndson of James I Stuart by Sophia.

1715 - 1716

Having lost a vote to repeal the union with England in 1713, the Jacobites rise in rebellion in support of James Edward Francis Stuart, the 'Old Pretender'. Seeking to overthrow George I, they want to replace him with James Edward as James III. A force of about 10,000 is assembled in Scotland, mostly made up of Highlanders, and this marches southwards after some delays which allow the Crown time to assemble a response. Reinforcements of 2,000 men are defeated at the Battle of Preston on 15 November 1715, and the main force fights the duke of Argyll's smaller force of 3,500 at Sheriffmuir on 13 November. The outcome is indecisive but this, along with the defeat at Preston, is enough to herald the rebellion's collapse.

Hanoverian King George I
Following the Welsh-descended Tudors and the Scots-descended Stuarts, the German Hanoverians created links with continental Europe that would survive until the First World War forced them to be broken off


The Whigs win an overwhelming victory in the Parliamentary general election, but several of the defeated Tories side with a new Jacobite rebellion known as 'The Fifteen'. The Jacobite pretender to the throne is James Francis Stuart, who is supported by Lord Mar in Scotland. However, with poor planning behind it, the rebellion is a total failure. The main protagonists flee to France in February 1716.

1717 - 1720

The Moghul emperor allows the British East India Company to purchase duty-free trading rights in Bengal, although so weak is the emperor's authority that the governor of Bengal ignores him and continues to collect duty tax.

In Europe of 1717, King Philip V of Spain is unhappy with the arrangements set at the end of the War of Succession and occupies Sardinia and Sicily, triggering the War of the Quadruple Alliance. The war begins with Philip's first actions of 1717, and is formally declared in 1718. Austria, Britain, France, and Holland unite to defeat Spain, and peace is again declared with the Treaty of The Hague which is signed in 1720.

1727 - 1760

George II



George II is the last British monarch to have been born outside the confines of the kingdom. His early years see him effecting little control over policy, as he is dominated by Sir Robert Walpole's Whig Parliament.

FeatureOne notable snippet regarding the king is that he is great-grandfather to Duchess Augusta of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. She marries the future Duke Frederick III of Württemberg in 1780, and in 1805 their son, Paul, fathers Karolina von Rothenburg, the great-great-great-grandmother of Boris Johnson, mayor of London (2008-2012 - see feature link, right).

1766 - 1788

Charles Edward Stuart 'Young Pretender'

Son of James Francis Stuart. Also 'Bonnie Prince Charlie'.


FeatureDick Turpin, probably the famous most English highwayman, is hanged for horse theft at York Knavesmire. At around the same time, a formalised system of mail coaches is being brought onto existence (see feature link), while Europe is plunged into the War of Jenkins' Ear against Spain. That descends into the War of the Austrian Succession, and in 1743 George II enthusiastically leads his troops into battle at Dettingen, the last British monarch to do so.

1745 - 1746

In 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie lands at Eriskay in the Hebrides, Scotland, to lay claim to the British throne. He is backed by the French, who are at present heavily embroiled in the Austrian War of Succession against Britain. Fighting in his still-living father's name, he raises his standard at Glenfinnan, Scotland on 19 August, igniting the Second Jacobite Rebellion. On 21 September, his Jacobite forces defeat English forces at the Battle of Prestonpans but in December the future Landgrave Frederick II of Hessen-Kassel lands on the Scottish coast with 6,000 troops to support his father-in-law, George II.

The Battle of Culloden
The Battle of Culloden saw the destruction of the clans in Scotland at the hands of Britain's modern army

The following year, in the last battle fought on British soil, the Jacobites are routed by the duke of Cumberland at Culloden. The Jacobite cause effective dies, but Charles Edward's claim is passed on, first through his brother, Henry, in 1788, and then through the Savoyard kings of Sardinia from 1807.

Frederick Louis

Son of George II. Prince of Wales. Died 1751.


Britain switches from the outdated Julian calendar to the Gregorian one, 'losing' twelve days in the process and moving the start of the year from 25 March to 1 January (except for the tax office, which refuses to budge up to and including the present day by which time the end of the old year is 5 April).

1756 - 1763

The Seven Years' War - the first truly 'global' conflict - erupts as Britain declares war on France. Troops of Hessen-Kassel again serve under British command, led by Landgrave William VIII. In 1759, General James Wolfe claims the Canadian territories for Britain with a victory over the French near Quebec. In 1762 the Spanish colony of Cuba is captured by Britain and held for a year before being handed back as part of the peace settlement, in exchange for Florida. Britain also formally gains New France from the French, renaming it the province of Quebec as part of their colonies in the Americas.


The British East India Company is victorious over the nawab of Bengal, an ally of the French, which signals the end of any serious French ambitions in what was Moghul India. Instead, the company's Bombay presidency begins to assume more and more authority.

1760 - 1820

George III

Son of Frederick. The 'Mad' King.


John III, the final 'King of the Isles of Man'is pressured by the Crown into relinquishing the title in return for a substantial payment. Direct authority passes to the Crown, and the rampant smuggler trade which has made the most of the island's independence is suppressed by governors.

Coffee revolution
The coffee revolution was to an extent inspired by improved production methods by countries such as El Salvador, although supplies to Europe may have been occasionally interrupted by the frequent Central American revolutions


British navigator and explorer Captain James Cook becomes the first European to explore Australia. In the same year, the 'Boston Massacre' takes place in the British Colonies in the Americas when three members of a mob are shot by British soldiers.

1775 - 1783

FeatureRevolutionaries in the American colonies begin a war with the intention of driving out English rule. It takes the revolutionaries over seven years to force Britain to declare that it will cease hostilities and withdrawn its troops and Hessian allied units. The United States of America are formed from the liberated thirteen colonies, but the British Colonies continue to be formed of territories to the north. In the same year that the war ends, a massive volcanic eruption in Iceland causes 23,000 deaths in Britain (see feature link).


The 'First Fleet' carrying convicts in eleven vessels sets sail for Australia. Once there it will set up the first penal colony on the landmass - in fact the first European colony of any description. Two of the vessels are Royal Navy vessels while six carry the convicts.

1788 - 1807

Henry Benedict Cardinal Stuart

Son of James Francis Stuart. Last Jacobite claimant.


During a return voyage from Tahiti, Fletcher Christian leads a successful mutiny aboard the HMS Bounty against the captain, William Bligh. The captain and his seventeen loyal officers are given a boat while the remaining crew and officers attempt to settle on Tubuai.

1793 - 1797

FeatureFollowing the French Revolution, Britain is at war with France almost continuously until 1815. As part of the First Coalition, Great Britain, Naples, the Netherlands, and Spain join Austria and Prussia in attacking France, but the coalition is peppered with self-interests. Prussia withdraws in 1795, along with Spain, and the coalition is ended in 1797, although Austria has already benefited from the partitions of Poland-Lithuania. In that same year a British attempt to capture Puerto Rico is defeated.


The British East India Company signs a treaty with the sultans of Oman & Zanzibar. In the same year, the United Irishmen rebel against British rule in Ireland, but despite French help they are defeated.


The Act of Union with Ireland is passed by Parliament, creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Irish Parliament is dissolved (1801-1923).

1804 - 1805

Napoleon Bonaparte is crowned emperor of France in 1804 and king of Italy in 1805. In that same year, the naval Battle of Trafalgar proves once and for all Britain's supremacy at sea, pounding the French and their Spanish allies in a crushing defeat.

Britannia between Death and the Doctors
Britannia between Death and the Doctors shows an ailing Britannia being approached by Death in the guise of Napoleon, while her politicians squabble (LC-USZC4-8794)

FeatureOn the home from in 1805, a sixty-one year-old Mrs Rundell sends an unedited collection of recipes, remedies, and advice on running a home to John Murray, son of the Scottish printer of the same name who had set up a small publishers in London in 1768. Once the collection is edited and properly presented in book form, It goes on to sell more than 245,000 copies in the UK.

1807 - 1811

France defeats the Austrians and Russians at Freidland in 1807, and goes on to occupy Portugal. The following year, Spain falls. An Anglo-Portuguese army is formed in Lisbon, eventually under the command of General Wellesley, and by 1811 Portugal has been liberated.

1814 - 1816

The Anglo-Nepalese War culminates in a treaty which establishes Nepal's modern boundaries in 1816. In the middle of all this, on 18 June 1815, Arthur Wellesley, the duke of Wellington, leads an Anglo- Dutch-German army to victory over Napoleon's French army at the Battle of Waterloo in co-operation with the Prussian army, ending twenty-five years of war in Europe.

Also in 1814-1815, troops are landed on Corsica by Lord William Bentinck, the commanding officer for British operations in Italy. They take control of the island from French Napoleonic troops, and Bentinck foresees the recreation of the Anglo-Corsican kingdom. The Treaty of Bastia is agreed between him and Corsica's post-Napoleonic representatives, with the Corsicans agreeing to Britain having sovereignty over the island. Foreign Secretary Lord Castelreagh subsequently insists that Corsica should be returned to the restored French monarchy.

1820 - 1830

George IV

Son of George III. Prince Regent (1810-1820).


The British presence along the West African coast is formalised with the creation of the Gold Coast crown colony. This not only helps to keep the competing French and their Ivory Coast territory from expanding eastwards, but also gives Britain a foothold in influencing the affairs of the Asante kingdom.

1830 - 1837

William IV

Brother. Childless. Last Hanoverian king.


Russia puts down the First (November) Insurrection in partitioned Poland and many Polish soldiers involved in the uprising choose to seek protection in Prussia, where they are disarmed and are not particularly welcome. Eventually the surviving 212 Poles are placed on board a ship at Gdansk to be deported. The ship is bound for the USA, but a storm forces it to seek shelter in Portsmouth in Britain. The Poles settle, mainly in London where they form the country's first Polish community (Lennard Goodman, a former judge on the BBC tv show, Strictly Come Dancing, is descended from one of their number).

Polish-Russian War of 1830-1831
The Polish kingdom of Poland was created as a result of agreement between the partitioning powers of Austria, Prussia, and Russia, rather than being the sovereign decision of the Polish people themselves, so there was always going to be resistance against a Russian king of the Poles - which led to the outbreak of open warfare in 1830


Britain reassumes control of the Falkland Islands following a short-lived attempt by the Argentine confederation to settle people there. The islands remain part of Britain's overseas possessions from this point onwards, based both on this reoccupation and the initial formal claim of ownership of 1765 which had not been opposed by the Spanish authorities of the time. Settlers create a capital at Port Stanley and the islands' population remains almost completely British.


FeatureLondon is excluded from the 1835 Municipal Corporations Act, and various attempts are made thereafter to create a unitary entity. These eventually lead to the formation of the Greater London Authority at the end of the twentieth century.

House of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha (United Kingdom & Empire)
AD 1839 - 1917

The elector of Hanover had been invited to take the British throne in 1714. With family links to the Stuart King James I, this German dynasty brought closer links between Britain and various German principalities (not just Hanover). The Hanoverians had witnessed the emergence of modern Britain, the build-up of overseas territories towards the formation of a recognisable British empire, and the confirmation of a prime minister who oversaw a recognisably modern Parliament. However, the rule of the sons of George III had generally been unpopular and, with the throne passing to one of his granddaughters in the form of Victoria, the nation still had an air of uncertainty about its monarch - until she cultivated a completely different monarchy that was centred firmly on family values. Then the nation quickly learned to love her.

Victoria was the daughter of Edward, duke of Kent, a younger brother of George IV and William IV who had died within a couple of years of her birth. Her mother was Victoire, the sister of Leopold of Saxe-Coburg (who had been married to Charlotte, daughter of George IV until she died in childbirth). Victoria was to be named after her mother but the name, which was otherwise unknown in Britain, had to be Anglicised first. Victoria acceded to the throne a few weeks after her eighteenth birthday; her uncle, William IV, held onto life just long enough for that, so her controlling mother would not be regent. However, as a woman, Victoria was prevented by Salic Law from also inheriting Hanover, so that passed to the next in line; her uncle, Ernest Augustus, duke of Cumberland. Her Uncle Leopold became the first king of the Belgians in 1831. Technically Victoria was a Hanoverian herself, with title and house being inherited through the male line, but her marriage to Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1840 meant that a new royal house in Britain was created.

(Information by Peter Kessler, from Indian Frontier Policy, John Ayde (2010), from An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of the Russian and Soviet Empire, James Stuart Olson, Lee Brigance Pappas, and Nicholas Charles Pappas (1994), from The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol 7: From Nadir Shah to the Islamic Republic, Gavin R G Hambly (1991), and from External Links: Discover Canada - Canada's History (Government of Canada), and Did Queen Victoria constitute a break from the Hanoverian line of the British royal family? (Quora), and South African History Online.)

1837 - 1901


Niece of William IV Hanover. Queen-Empress of India (1876).

1839 - 1840

Although born of the House of Hanover herself, Victoria's proposal of marriage to Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha forms a new alignment and a new royal house in Britain. The ceremony takes place on 10 February 1840.

Victoria discovers she is queen
The moment when young Victoria discovered she was queen, as Lord Conyngham (left) and William Howley, archbishop of Canterbury, kneel before her

Also in 1839, British East India Company forces invade Afghanistan, intent on creating a buffer state between British-dominated India and the threat posed by Persian and Russian intrigues. A British army marches to Kabul, triggering the First Anglo-Afghan War, which sees a native ruler used as the British figurehead in the country.

1840 - 1849

In 1840, Britain unites with Ottoman Turkey to overthrow the amir of Lebanon, while the protectorate of Basutoland is recognised by Britain in 1843. In the same year, Britain and France are forced to go to war against Argentina for blocking their access to Paraguay during the Great War in South America. While that war progresses, in 1845 the USA triggers the Mexican-American War, hoping to annexe all of Texas. Britain, which still holds much of the disputed territory of Oregon, is persuaded not to intervene by an agreement which divides the territory along the 48th parallel. Britain keeps Vancouver to the north of the line (British Columbia), while the US gains Seattle to the south (Washington and Oregon). In 1849, a peace deal is agreed between Argentina and Britain.

1852 - 1856

Britain annexes lower Burma, including Rangoon, following the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852-1853. Between 1854-1856, Britain and France join the Ottoman empire in the Crimean War to halt Russian expansion. The war ends with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, a severe setback to Russian ambitions, although the Prime Minister is blamed for British failings in the war.

French Zouaves in the Crimea
This illustration of French Zouaves (light infantry, generally drawn from North Africa) in the Crimea was published in The Charleston Mercury on 21 November 1861

1857 - 1858

FeatureThe Indian Mutiny over British rule erupts, but after some hard fighting in places it is suppressed. The last Moghul emperor is deposed and India is placed under direct control of the British empire's viceroys, whilst subject or allied princes govern various small states. Victoria herself is acclaimed empress of India in 1876.

1859 - 1860

The British begin the building of the Suez Canal in Egypt. In 1860, British troops occupy Beijing, effectively ending the Second Opium War and humiliating the Chinese Ch-ing dynasty. In the same year Britain also cedes the Bay Islands to Honduras.

1867 - 1868

Upper and Lower Canada are united with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on 1 July under the Britain North America Act. By enacting this, the British Parliament creates the dominion of Canada. The following year, Basutoland becomes one of Britain's High Commission Territories.

Also in 1868, Prince Louis Alexander of Hessen-Battenberg is aged fourteen when, influenced by Princess Alice, wife of his cousin, Prince Louis/Ludwig of Hesse (the later Grand Duke Ludwig IV), and daughter of Queen Victoria, he joins the Royal Navy. In doing so he also becomes a naturalised British subject.

The act of Confederation in Canada
The British North America Act of 1867 created Canadian confederation out of the various British-governed territories in North America, uniting all of them into a single body

1878 - 1882

In 1878, Britain leases Cyprus from the Ottoman empire as a result of the Cyprus Convention, which grants control of the island to Britain in return for its support in the Russo-Turkish War. The following year, the war against the Zulu nation ends in British victory. Zululand is annexed in 1887. In North Africa, the British occupation of Egypt begins in 1882.

1888 - 1899

The increasingly independent territory of Kuwait is taken from the Ottoman empire and a British protectorate is created. This gives Britain an important mainland foothold between the Persians and Ottomans.

1890 - 1893

Another British protectorate is created for Zanzibar in 1890. Between then and 1893 Britain also conquers the Bornu empire of Chad as part of a European grab for African territory in which Britain and France are the most successful.


Son. Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (1893-1900).

1897 - 1898

With the suppression of the native monarchy there, direct colonial rule of the former Benin empire now begins and lasts until 1960. The following year Sudan is gained under joint Anglo- Egyptian governance.


The Zobier dynasty in Chad is defeated and Britain gains Borno while Chad goes to France. British troops under Robert Baden-Powell relieve Mafeking in South Africa, after a Boer siege of 215 days. In 1902 The Second Boer War ends with the Treaty of Vereeniging, which gives Britain sovereignty in South Africa.

Rabih az-Zubayr
Rabih az-Zubayr, perhaps a typical south Sudanese warlord of any period right down to the modern age, captured an empire but couldn't keep it in the face of French superiority - instead he ended up on the end of the spear of a French native soldier

1901 - 1910

Edward VII the Peacemaker

Elder brother of Alfred.


The Union of South Africa is formed, ending direct British control of South Africa and Zululand. From now on the Boers and Britons of the region will govern it themselves, with the native population given no say in the matter.

1910 - 1917

George V

Son. Changed family name to Windsor (1917).


Britain and the Ottoman government sign a treaty recognising the independence of Bahrain, but the country remains under British administration. Britain also annexes Cyprus, removing it from the Ottoman empire.


Having jointly guaranteed in 1839 to support the neutrality of Belgium, when the country is invaded by Germany, Britain and all its territories and colonies (including Australia, Canada, and New Zealand), France, and Russia are forced to declare war against Germany and Austria at midnight on 4 August. The First World War (variously called World War I, or the Great War), has begun.

Japan joins Britain against Germany, as does China, both keen on reducing the German presence in their region. Japanese and British troops take Tsingtao Fortress which houses the German East Asia Squadron's headquarters. German-leased territories in China's Shandong Province are also taken, as are the Marianas, Caroline, and Marshall islands in the Pacific, all of which are part of German New Guinea. China supplies nearly 150,000 labourers to the Western Front.

Belgium refugees in 1914
Belgian refugees (looking surprisingly jolly) were photographed here in 1914, on the road between Malines and Brussels while they attempted to outrun the invading imperial German army

1916 - 1918

The Arab Revolt is triggered, nominally under British direction and with British support. It begins the liberation from Ottoman hands of much of the Near East, with Britain and the Hashemite Arabs taking control in Iraq, Kuwait, Palestine, and Syria. One of the best-known figures of this conflict is, of course, T E Lawrence, as shown dramatically in David Lean's film, Lawrence of Arabia.


With the First World War against Germany seemingly in stalemate, George takes the politically astute decision to sever all familial links with his Teutonic cousins (his cousin in Belgium soon follows suit). The Royal Family's name is changed to Windsor, whilst several other British titled families with German connections are granted replacement titles and lands in Britain.

House of Windsor (United Kingdom)
AD 1917 - Present Day

The modern United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland incorporates the ancient kingdoms of England and Scotland, the principality of Wales, and the territories and regions of Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, the Orkneys, and the Shetland and Faeroe Isles, plus various other 'Overseas Territories'. The British Isles are situated to the immediate north-west of Continental Europe, and are neighboured by Iceland to the north-west, Norway to the north-east, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium to the east, France to the south, and the republic of Ireland to the west.

In essence, the Windsor dynasty was forged through war. In 1917 the First World War was still raging, and the armies on the Western Front seemed to have fought each other to a standstill. Back in Britain, anti- German sentiment was strong, with shops and people bearing German names being attacked even though many of the targets were born-and-bred Englishman of one or more generations' standing. The king, himself bearing the German family name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, was advised that the time had come to sever all links with his European enemy. On 17 July 1917, George V made the proclamation that the name would change to Windsor, one of the monarch's main residences to the west of London, and all German titles throughout the family would be exchanged for British peerages. Prince Louis Alexander of Hessen-Battenberg exchanged his German title to become marquess of Milford Haven.

The unofficial national anthem of the UK is 'God Save the Queen' (GSTQ). It has never officially been adopted, although a 1934 British Army order certainly made it important for military usage when it laid down rules on interpretation and tempo. It only became known as GSTQ after about 1745 with origins that still have not been uncovered, although various important eighteenth century composers have been credited. The same tune (albeit with different words) is still used by Liechtenstein and Norway while, thanks to Chancellor Bismarck, the German empire also used it until its fall in 1918. Somewhat surprisingly to British ears, the USA also uses it as a patriotic melody.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Prince Louis of Battenberg: Admiral of the Fleet, Mark Kerr (Longmans, Green and Co, 1934), and from External Links: The London Gazette Issue 30374, 9 November 1917, and Why does Liechtenstein use 'God Save the Queen' as its national anthem? (Guardian Notes).)

1917 - 1936

George V

First monarch of the House of Windsor.


A ceasefire is agreed with the remnants of the Austro-Hungarian empire by British, French, and Italian forces on 3 November. Germany, now alone, sees its emperor abdicate on 9 November, and an armistice is agreed to come into effect on the eleventh hour of 11 November, signalling the end of the war, although many less widespread wars continue as a result of the upheavals caused by it. In the Near East, a British mandate governs the Palestine area of the Near East, which Britain had played a large part in liberating from the Ottoman empire, and this lasts until 1948.

Portrait of George V
George V steered Britain through the First World War and also ensured that the House of Windsor would survive at a time when most of Europe's grand monarchies were falling

1920 - 1932

Under the British Mandate, the kingdom of Greater Syria is created, and then is destroyed by France. Then the Hashemite kingdom of Iraq is created to administer that region under British guidance. The kingdom achieves full independence from Britain in 1932.


After years of agitation, protests, and increasingly violent guerrilla activities against the government, southern and central Ireland are given independence. The north, predominantly Protestant in faith, remains within the Union.


Canada becomes a separate kingdom from Britain under the terms of the Statute of Westminster. It has its own prime minister but retains the queen as its head of state.


Edward VIII

Son. Abdicated 11 December. Died 1972.


Edward VIII, or David as he is more usually known before ascending the throne, decides that his love for an American divorcee is stronger than his desire to serve the United Kingdom as its head of state. He abdicates the throne, leaving his unprepared younger brother to take over the reins. He and the double-divorcee, socialite Wallace Simpson, are granted the title 'Duke and Duchess of Windsor'. They live largely abroad, finding that they are never welcomed by David's abandoned subjects in the UK, are are kept out of the way with a posting to Bermuda during the Second World War, primarily due to their apparent sympathy for the Nazi cause.

1936 - 1952

George VI



Britain separates the lieutenant-governorship of Burma from India and makes it a crown colony. It is now administered by the Burma Office under the Secretary of State for India and Burma.

Burmese independence in 1948
On 4 January 1948 the British governor of Burma (left) stands beside the country's first president, Sao Shwe Thaik, standing to attention as the new nation's flag is raised


The Nazi German invasion of Poland on 1 September is the trigger for the Second World War. With both France and Britain, under Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, pledged to support Poland, both countries have no option but to declare war on 3 September.


Due to France being occupied by Germany, and to prevent Japan from occupying Madagascar, Britain takes temporary control of the island, although it is soon handed over to Free French governors-general.

1946 - 1947

Between 1946-1947, Britain pulls out of Palestine, while India is handed independence on 15 August 1947. Also, on 20 November 1947, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, heir to the throne, marries Prince Philip, duke of Edinburgh, earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich, born Prince of Greece and Denmark in Corfu in 1921, and paternal grandson of King George I of Greece. When Philip becomes a naturalised British subject in 1947, he renounces his Greek royal title.


Britain grants Burma independence. This is the beginning of a period in which most of the various territories of the British empire either gain a level of independence or are handed back entirely, although many of them opt to retain the British monarch as their own head of state. The Commonwealth of Nations is born. In this year, Britain's mandate in Palestine also ends, and British troops are withdrawn.

1950 - 1953

North Korea's forces attack South Korea on 25 June 1950. A multinational force made up primarily of troops from the USA, and Britain and the Commonwealth nations (including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and India), goes in to support the south. The Korean War lasts until a ceasefire is agreed in July 1953.

The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II 1953
Elizabeth II and Philip, duke of Edinburgh, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace following the queen's coronation on 2 June 1953 - between them stand the young Prince Charles and Princess Anne

1952 - Present

Elizabeth II

Daughter. Christened Elizabeth Alexandra Mary.

1953 - 1971

Britain's imperial territories gain independence, beginning with Egypt (1954), and then Sudan (1956), Ghana, formed from Gold Coast and British Togoland (1957), the former Benin empire ( Nigeria) and Cyprus (1960), Kuwait (1961), Zanzibar (10 December 1963), Basutoland (granted autonomy in 1965, with full independence following in 1966), Oman (where the British Protectorate comes to an end in 1967), and Bahrain (which declares independence on 15 August 1971 and signs a new treaty of friendship with Britain).


Canada's last constitutional ties with the United Kingdom, apart from sharing the same monarch, are severed under Parliament's Constitution Act.


An Anglo-American-led Second Gulf War leads to the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime after just twenty-one days of fighting. Hussein is eventually captured, after having been located in an underground bunker (more of a deep fox hole). He is tried by an Iraqi court, and at the very end of 2006 sentenced to death by hanging for his crimes.


On 10 December 2008 voting gets underway on the Channel Island of Sark, with the outcome bringing to an end the western world's last remaining feudal society.


At a summit in Perth in Australia, the heads of the sixteen Commonwealth countries of which Queen Elizabeth II is head of state unanimously approve changes to the royal succession. Sons and daughters of any future monarch of the United Kingdom will have equal right to the throne, bringing to an end the use of three hundred year-old succession laws. Perhaps equally momentous, the ban on the monarch being married to a Roman Catholic is also lifted. The succession changes require a raft of historic legislation to be amended, including the 1701 Act of Settlement, the 1689 Bill of Rights, and the Royal Marriages Act 1772. The change to the Royal Marriages Act will end a position in which every descendant of George II is legally required to seek the consent of the monarch before marrying. In future, the requirement is expected to be limited to a small number of the sovereign's close relatives (essentially meaning only those in direct line to the throne).


Queen Elizabeth celebrates her Golden Jubilee with a four-day public holiday containing a Thames river pageant the likes of which have not been seen since the eighteenth century, a concert at the palace end of The Mall, and a service in St Paul's which is rounded off by a popular balcony appearance and three cheers from the Coldstream Guards and amassed crowd in unison.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip about to join the Royal barge
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip as they were being ferried across to the Royal Barge, Spirit of Chartwell, for the river pageant

Later in the same year, the rumbling discontent by Argentina over the ownership of the Falkland Islands sparks further controversy. Argentine President Cristina Kirchner has long been known to be using the issue to mask her growing unpopularity at home during the thirtieth anniversary of the war to expel Argentine troops from the island.

Despite repeated assurances by the islands' residents themselves that they are quite happy to remain British, Kirchner ignores them completely, instead attempting to score political points and garner support amongst likeminded governments. She even goes so far as to attempt to 'handbag' Prime Minister David Cameron at a conference. However, Argentina's military power is so weak after years of cut-backs and purges that it is unable to offer a convincing military threat to the islanders' independence.


The last British troops pull out of Helmand province in Afghanistan, transferring all defensive duties to Afghan forces as the fight against the Taliban continues. US forces in the country are also being reduced to a minimum by the end of the year, although official combat participation formally ends in line with the British on 26 October.

In the same year, Britain announces the establishment of a naval base at Bahrain's Mina Salman Port in order to ensure the stability of the region. The decision also serves to confirm the tradition of cooperation between Britain and Bahrain and is Britain's first permanent military base in the region for forty-three years. The main driving force behind the move is the threat to the region's stability that is posed by Isis.


The terrorist organisation that goes by the self-proclaimed name of Islamic State continues to export terrorism from its main base in northern Syria. At least two serious atrocities are pinned to their door, the first being the massacre in June of thirty-eight people in Tunisia, when a gunman opens fire on tourists who are staying in the popular resort of Port El Kantaoui, just to the north of Sousse. Thirty of the dead are British. The second act takes place on 13 November, when 130 people are killed and up to 368 injured during a series of coordinated attacks across the French capital of Paris.

Isis militia
Isis militia carrying their black flag suddenly launched the sweeping conquest of large areas of northern Iraq in 2014, proclaiming the caliphate in June 2014


The UK takes the rather bizarre decision to isolate itself from the largest single trading market in the world by voting by a slim majority to leave the European Union. The vote on 23 June results in the Prime Minister, David Cameron, resigning his position as the defeated leader of the 'remain' campaign, leaving the path open for the controversial figure of Boris Johnson to take over. Several million EU citizens who live and work in the UK - as well as millions who work with EU businesses from the UK - are left with years of uncertainty about their futures while Scotland plans a new independence referendum with a view to reapplying for EU membership.

Charles III / George VII

Son. Christened Prince Charles Philip Arthur George. Prince of Wales, heir apparent to the throne.

Prince William

Son. Born 21 June 1982. Duke of Cambridge.

Prince George Alexander Louis

Son. Born 22 July 2013.