Monarchs of England 871-1603

Royal Banner of EnglandThere was no concept of ‘England’ before the 9th century.  Before the Romans, Britain was ruled by various tribes.  After the Anglo-Saxon invasions, the approximate area we know as England evolved into various kingdoms which vied for supremacy.  In the 7th century, Northumbria was in the ascendancy; in the 8th century primacy passed to Mercia and in the 9th century the Kingdom of Wessex, by that time corresponding roughly to the modern counties of Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Devon, Berkshire and maybe a few other bits too, became dominant.  The first ruler who had an idea of a united England, so far as we know, was Alfred the Great – so we’ll start with him.

There were several historic kingdoms in Wales.  The first ruler known to have called himself ‘Prince of Wales’ was Llywelyn the Great (born around 1173, died 1240) but by 1284 Wales was pretty much ruled by the Kings of England.

In 1603, Queen Elizabeth I died and the throne passed to King James VI of Scotland, who then also became King James I of England and Ireland.  So what follows is a chronological list of kings and queens of England up to 1603.  Click or tap on a name to reveal a bit about each monarch.

Alfred the Great      871-899     House of Wessex

Born 849 in Wantage, Oxfordshire.  Crowned in Winchester.  Died 899 in Winchester.  Buried first in Winchester’s Old Minster, then the New Minster and moved to Hyde Abbey in 1110.
Father: Aethelwulf, King of Wessex.     Mother: Osburh.
Famous for:  Being pious, allegedly burning cakes whilst hiding from the Danes in Athelney Marsh (Somerset) and beating the Danes at the Battle of Ethandune (Edington) in 878.  In addition to defeating the Danes in open battle, Alfred initiated the fortification of a network of towns, known as ‘burhs’, ‘burgs’, or ‘burghs’ (meaning fort or castle), an effective defensive system against Viking raids.  Many of these burhs remain as modern settlements – eg Winchester, Wallingford and Wareham.  Alfred agreed an area of ‘Danelaw’ in the north and east of England but probably had a vision of a united England under one ruler.  He is also known as a highly skilled administrator, lawmaker and accomplished scholar (at a time when most kings could neither read nor write) as well as being credited with building England’s first navy.  If it were not for Alfred, England would not exist, he is generally known as the first king of the English and is the only English king to be called ‘the Great’.  He may have suffered from Crohn’s disease.

Edward the Elder     899-925     House of Wessex

Born c871, location unknown.    Crowned in Kingston-upon-Thames.      Died 924 in Farndon-on-Dee (Farndon, Cheshire).                  Buried in Winchester, probably Hyde Abbey.
Father: Alfred the Great of Wessex.     Mother: Eaelswith of Mercia.
Famous for:  Extending Alfred’s burghal system (eg Hertford, Bedford, Stamford) and the control of Wessex over former Mercia and East Anglia.  Possibly responsible for creating the midland shires.

Athelstan     925-939     House of Wessex

Born c895, location unknown.    Crowned in Kingston-upon-Thames.      Died 940 in Gloucester.     Buried in Malmesbury.
Father: Edward the Elder.     Mother: Ecgywn (or Egwinna).
Famous for:  Being the first real king of all England.  Athelstan defeated the Danes in York and Northumbria and in 927 received the submission of the kings of the Scots, Strathclyde Welsh, Cumbria and the Earl of Northumbria at Eamont Bridge, Cumbria – establishing the River Eden as the northern border of England.  In 937, Athelstan crushed a combined invasion of Norse and Scots at the Battle of Brunanburh (possibly somewhere on the Wirral).

Edmund     939-946     House of Wessex

Born c922, location unknown.    Crowned in Kingston-upon-Thames.      Died 946 in Pucklechurch, Gloucestershire.     Buried in Glastonbury Abbey.
Father: Edward the Elder.     Mother: Edgiva (or Eadgifu) of Kent.
Famous for:  Fought to regain control of the Five Boroughs (Derby, Leicester, Lincoln, Nottingham and Stamford) from the Danes.  Was stabbed to death at mass (or during a feast) by an outlaw called Leof.

Edred or Eadred     946-955     House of Wessex

Born c923, location unknown.    Crowned in Kingston-upon-Thames.      Died 955 in Frome, Somerset.     Buried in Winchester Cathedral.
Father: Edward the Elder.     Mother: Edgiva (or Eadgifu) of Kent.
Famous for:On going battles (in what is now Yorkshire) over who ruled York and Northumbria, including with the formidable Eric Bloodaxe – the last king of an independent York.  Eadred seems to have had some kind of eating disorder which eventually killed him.

Eadwig or Edwy     955-959     House of Wessex

Born c941, location unknown.    Crowned in Kingston-upon-Thames.      Died 959 in Gloucester.     Buried possibly in Winchester Cathedral.
Father: Edmund, King of Wessex.     Mother:  Aefgifu (or Elgiva) of Shaftesbury.
Famous for: Falling out with the famous Dunstan, Abbot of Glastonbury, who allegedly found Eadwig in bed with an attractive young lady when he was supposed to be at his own coronation feast.  Secondly, the fact that the newly united kingdom was split between north and south of the Thames, with his brother Edgar ruling Mercia and Northumbria.

Edgar ‘the Peaceful’    959-975     House of Wessex

Born c944, location unknown.    Crowned in Bath Abbey.              Died 975 in Winchester.     Buried in Glastonbury Abbey.
Father: Edmund, King of Wessex.     Mother:  Aefgifu (or Elgiva) of Shaftesbury.
Famous for: Making Bishop Dunstan (see Eadwig) feel better by appointing him Archbishop of Canterbury and for receiving the submission of the Kings of the North.  According to legend, Edgar was rowed across the River Dee by Kings Kenneth of Alba, Malcolm of the Cumbrians, Magnus of Man & the Isles, Donald of Strathclyde and Iago of Gwynedd, as well as sundry princes.

Edward the Martyr    975-978     House of Wessex

Born c963, location unknown.    Crowned in Kingston-upon-Thames.      Died 978, murdered in Corfe Castle, Dorset.     Buried in Wareham, reburied in Shaftesbury.
Father: Edgar, King of Wessex.     Mother:  Ethelfleda.
Famous for:Being murdered while still a teenager, possibly either by his half-brother, Ethelred, or his step-mother, Aelfthryth (Elfrida).

Ethelred Unraed (Aethelred the Unready)    978-1016     House of Wessex

Born 968, location unknown.      Crowned in Kingston-upon-Thames.      Died 1016, in London.     Buried in old St Paul’s.
Father: Edgar, King of Wessex.     Mother:  Aelfthryth (or Elfrida).
Famous for: Having a pun for a name – the Anglo-Saxons loved puns.  Ethelred means something like ‘noble counsel’ and unraed has been translated as ‘evil counsel’ or ‘bad plan’ – so ‘Noble Counsel, No Counsel’.  His advisors are thought to have been a pretty poor bunch.  The Danes were still causing problems, and in 991 inflicted a serious defeat on the English at the Battle of Maldon, in Essex.  Athelred tried to buy the Danes off with 10,000 pounds of silver.  Then in 1002 he ordered the massacre of all Danes in the land, including peaceful settlers (the St Brice’s Day Massacre).  This provoked an invasion by King Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark in 1013 and Ethelred fled into exile in Normandy.  Sweyn was preferred as king by many in England but died in 1014 and Ethelred returned, to spend the rest of his days occupied in warfare against Sweyn’s son, Cnut.  Ethelred is also famous for taking Emma of Normandy, who seems to have been a remarkable woman, as his second wife.

Edmund Ironside     1016     House of Wessex

Born 993, location unknown.      Crowned in old St Paul’s.             Died 1016, in Oxford.     Buried in Glastonbury Abbey or Winchester Cathedral.
Father: Ethelred Unraed.     Mother:  Elfleda.
Famous for: Fought against Cnut and was beaten by him at the Battle of Ashingdon (or Assandun).  Cnut and Edmund agree to divide the kingdom between them, but Edmund died (probably assassinated) and Cnut got the lot.

Cnut     1016-1035     House of Denmark

Born c995 in Denmark.   Crowned in old St Paul’s.             Died 1035, in Shaftesbury.     Buried in Winchester Cathedral.
Father: Sweyn Forkbeard.     Mother:  Gunhilda.
Famous for: Failing to turn back the waves and for having a slightly dodgy name.  Despite that, he was a bright lad, married Ethelred’s widow, Emma, pretty much unified England and was also King of Denmark, Norway and parts of Sweden.  Called by some ‘Cnut the Great’, but it’s not a term in general use.

Harold I (Harefoot)     1035-1040     House of Denmark

Born c1017.         Crowned in Oxford.       Died 1040, in Oxford.     Buried in Westminster, reburied in Southwark after being exhumed and beheaded.
Father: Cnut.     Mother:  Elfgifu of Northampton.
Famous for: Not being very nice. Harefoot (possibly a fast runner) was Cnut’s older, but illegitimate, son and claimed the throne on his father’s death, while the designated heir, his half-brother Harthacnut, was busy in Denmark.  Harold Harefoot was probably also involved in the blinding and murder of his stepbrother Alfred at Ely in 1036.  He died before Harthacnut could invade and sort him out.

Harthacnut     1040-1042     House of Denmark

Born 1018.           Crowned in Canterbury.              Died 1042, in Lambeth.     Buried in Winchester Cathedral.
Father: Cnut.     Mother:  Emma of Normandy.
Famous for: Also being King of Denmark and dying at a wedding feast whilst drinking the health of the bride.  It is generally thought he died from a stroke having had too much alcohol, but he could have been poisoned.

Edward the Confessor     1042-1066     House of Wessex

Born 1004.           Crowned in Winchester Cathedral.         Died 1066, in Lambeth.     Buried in Westminster Abbey.
Father: Ethelred Unraed.     Mother:  Emma of Normandy.
Famous for: Being pious, founding Westminster Abbey and allowing England to be ruled by the powerful, and unscrupulous, Earl Godwin (who might have had a hand in the murder of Edward’s brother, Alfred, in collaboration with Harold Harefoot).  Is said to have promised the English throne to William Duke of Normandy, if he died without an heir.

Harold II Godwinson     1066     House of Wessex

Born 1020?           Crowned in Westminster (probably).           Died 1066, at the Battle of Hastings.     Buried near Hastings, then allegedly reburied in Waltham Abbey.
Father: Godwin, Earl of Wessex.     Mother:  Gytha of Denmark.
Famous for: Mainly, losing the Battle of Hastings.  First, he defeated an invasion by his brother Tostig and the King of Norway, Harald Hardrada, at Stamford Bridge near York, and then had to rapidly march south to meet William’s invasion on the Sussex coast.  Harold was the last Anglo-Saxon king of England.

William I (The Conqueror)     1066-1087     House of Normandy

Born 1028 in Falaise, Normandy.               Crowned in Westminster.           Died 1087, in Rouen, France.     Buried St Stephen’s Abbey, Caen.
Father: Robert I, Duke of Normandy.     Mother:  Herleva  (or Arlete) of Falaise.
Famous for: Mainly, winning the Battle of Hastings and stamping Norman authority on England.  William viciously put down any resistance, particularly in the north, and replaced Anglo-Saxon nobility and key appointments with his Norman friends and relations.  Is sometimes known as ‘William the Bastard’ – but never to his face.  He also ordered the Domesday Survey (1086), a remarkable administrative achievement, and which provides a unique record of 11th century England.

William II (Rufus)     1087-1100     House of Normandy

Born 1056 in Normandy.               Crowned in Westminster.           Died 1100, in the New Forest, Hampshire.     Buried Winchester Cathedral.
Father: William I.     Mother:  Matilda of Flanders.
Famous for: Having a ruddy skin and being killed by a stray arrow whilst hunting – maybe on the orders of his brother, Henry – who seemed to be coincidentally on hand at the time. Unpopular with the church, possibly because he flaunted his homosexuality, William was described in the English Chronicle as “loathsome to well nigh all his people.” He was quite busy fighting his brother Robert Curthose in Normandy, but also found time to defeat an invasion by Malcolm III of Scotland and pinch Carlisle and Cumberland while he was there (which the English still haven’t given back).

Henry I     1100-1135     House of Normandy

Born c1068, probably in Selby, Yorkshire.              Crowned in Westminster.           Died 1135, in Lyons-la-Forêt, Normandy.     Buried Reading Abbey, Berkshire.
Father: William I.     Mother:  Matilda of Flanders.
Famous for: Dying of a surfeit of lampreys (eels) – not a surfeit of palfreys (a type of horse).  Also well-known for imprisoning his brother for life, being generally unpleasant and carelessly losing his only legitimate son and heir at sea in the White Ship – which resulted in anarchy after Henry died.

Stephen     1135-1154     House of Blois

Born c1097, Blois, France.             Crowned in Westminster.           Died 1154, in Dover, Kent.     Buried Faversham Abbey, Kent.
Father: Stephen, Count of Blois.     Mother:  Adela, daughter of William I.
Famous for: ‘The Anarchy’ (along with Matilda) – horrendous civil war caused when Stephen pinches the throne from Matilda, Henry I’s daughter.  Eventually, Stephen agrees to Matilda’s son, Henry, becoming king after Stephen dies.  Both things happened.

Henry II     1154-1189     House of Plantagenet (or Angevin)

Born 1133, Le Mans, France.       Crowned in Westminster.           Died 1189, in Chinon Castle, Anjou.     Buried Fontevraud Abbey, France.
Father: Geoffrey, Count of Anjou.     Mother:  Empress Matilda.
Famous for: The murder of his former friend, Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170.  Through a combination of marriage (Henry married Eleanor of Aquitaine) and conquest, Henry ruled an Empire (the Angevin Empire) that stretched from Scotland to the Pyrenees and included Normandy, Maine, Brittany, Anjou, Touraine, Aquitaine, Gascony and Toulouse.  He is also known for his legal reforms, charm and terrifying rages.

Richard I (‘The Lion Heart’)     1189-1199     House of Plantagenet (or Angevin)

Born 1157, Beaumont Palace, Oxford.    Crowned in Westminster.           Died 1199, in Limousin, France.     Buried Fontevraud Abbey, France.
Father: Henry II.     Mother:  Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Famous for: Spending less than 6 months in England after he became king and the rest of his time fighting overseas – in France, Sicily and Palestine.  Richard Coeur-de-Lion went on the Third Crusade to the Holy Land, but despite many victories failed to capture Jerusalem from the Turks.  On his way back from the Holy Land he was captured by the Duke of Austria and only released after a huge ransom had been paid.  One of the many legends about Richard is that his minstrel, Blondel, tracked down where the king was being held by singing a song the two of them had written together at every castle in Europe, until he heard Richard’s voice joining in.  Another tale is the chivalrous meeting between Richard and the fabulous Saracen leader, Saladin – which never happened.  Richard never met Robin Hood, either.

John (‘Lackland’)    1199-1216     House of Plantagenet (or Angevin)

Born 1166, Beaumont Palace, Oxford.    Crowned in Westminster.     Died 1216 in Newark Castle.     Buried Worcester Cathedral.
Father: Henry II.     Mother:  Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Famous for: Being thoroughly obnoxious, hacking everybody off, losing most of England’s lands in France and being forced to agree to Magna Carta in 1215.  He was fond of people’s daughters and wives, lost his jewels in the Wash (which consequently meant he had to find another laundry) and is alleged to have died from eating too many peaches in Newark – but it could just have been dysentery.

Henry III     1216-1272     House of Plantagenet

Born 1207, Winchester Castle, Hampshire.           Crowned in Gloucester Cathedral.     Died 1272 in Westminster.     Buried Westminster Abbey.
Father: King John.     Mother:  Isabella, Countess of Angoulême.
Famous for: Falling out with the barons (a bit like his dad), especially Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester, who beat Henry and took him prisoner at the Battle of Lewes in 1264.  De Montfort called a parliament in 1265 which for the first time included representatives from each shire and borough – seen by many as a precursor to the House of Commons.  But de Montfort was defeated and killed at the Battle of Evesham that same year, by forces led by Henry’s son, Prince Edward, the future Edward I.

Edward I (‘Longshanks’)     1272-1307     House of Plantagenet

Born 1239, Palace of Westminster.     Crowned in Westminster Abbey.     Died  1307 in Burgh by Sands, Cumberland.     Buried Westminster Abbey.
Father: Henry III.     Mother:  Eleanor of Provence.
Famous for: Being at war with Wales and Scotland, making laws, building huge castles (especially in Wales), Eleanor Crosses and the Model Parliament of 1295.  Edward subdued the Welsh, annexed the Principality to the English Crown and made his first-born son ‘Prince of Wales’ – a practice which continues to this day.  Edward will be forever associated with the Wars of Scottish IndependenceMalleus Scotorum, ‘Hammer of the Scots’ was painted on his tomb (though not until the 16th century) – he was on his way to Scotland with an army (again) when he died at Burgh by Sands.  For such a tough medieval king, Edward was particularly affected by the death of his first wife, Eleanor of Castile, who died in 1290 near Lincoln.  Eleanor Crosses were erected at all the places her body rested on its way back to London, the final one being placed near present-day Charing Cross in London.

Edward II     1307-1327     House of Plantagenet

Born 1284, Caernarvon Castle, Wales.     Crowned in Westminster Abbey.     Died  1327 (probably murdered) in Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire.     Buried Gloucester Cathedral.
Father: Edward I.     Mother:  Eleanor of Castile.
Famous for: Losing the Battle of Bannockburn against the Scots in 1314, being generally worthless and enjoying his favourites, like Piers Gaveston and Hugh le Despenser, more than his French wife, Queen Isabella.  Isabella and her very close friend, Roger de Mortimer, deposed Edward, had him imprisoned and probably murdered, possibly very unpleasantly (is there a pleasant form of murder?) – though he may well have just died “of a surfeit in the ordinary way” (Sellar and Yeatman).

Edward III     1327-1377     House of Plantagenet

Born 1312, Windsor Castle.     Crowned in Westminster Abbey.     Died  1377 in Sheen Palace, Surrey.     Buried Westminster Abbey.
Father: Edward II.     Mother:  Isabella of France.
Famous for: Being a warrior king, helping to start the Hundred Years War (with French assistance) and creating the Order of the Garter – motto: honi soit qui mal y pense (shame on him who thinks evil of it).  He won several famous battles, including Halidon Hill against the Scots in 1333 and, against the French, Sluys (a naval battle in 1340), Crécy (1346) and the capture of Calais (1347).  His army also beat the Scots at Neville’s Cross and captured King David II.  The Black Death, which killed about a third of the population, struck during Edward’s long reign.  Edward is well-known for having several famous sons (though his eldest son, the Black Prince, died before him) and for being fond of his mistress, Alice Perrers.  It was the descendants of Edward’s sons who were responsible for the Wars of the Roses.

Richard II     1377-1399     House of Plantagenet

Born 1367, Bordeaux, France.     Crowned in Westminster Abbey.     Died  1400 in Pontefract Castle, Yorkshire (probably starved to death).     Buried Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, reburied in Westminster Abbey by Henry V.
Father: Edward, the Black Prince.     Mother:  Joan of Kent.
Famous for: Helping to suppress the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381 when aged just 14 and getting booted off the throne by his cousin, Henry of Bolingbroke, who he had previously banished and who made himself Henry IV.

Henry IV     1399-1413     House of Lancaster

Born 1366, Bolingbroke Castle, Lincolnshire.     Crowned in Westminster Abbey.     Died  1413 in the Palace of Westminster.     Buried Canterbury Cathedral.
Father: John of Gaunt.     Mother:  Blanche of Lancaster.
Famous for: Seizing the throne from Richard II and having to cope with rebellions, including by Owen Glyndwr and Harry Hotspur.  Also famous for being Henry V’s father.

Henry V     1413-1422     House of Lancaster

Born 1387, Monmouth Castle, Wales.     Crowned in Westminster Abbey.     Died  1422 in Vincennes, France.     Buried  Westminster Abbey.
Father: Henry IV.     Mother:  Mary de Bohun.
Famous for: Being a tough military commander, defeating the French at the Battle of Agincourt and subsequently securing the throne of France for his son (Henry VI).  Henry V was the first king of England who could read and write in English and who used English, rather than French, in his written communication.

Henry VI     1422-1461 and 1470-1471     House of Lancaster

Born 1421, Windsor Castle.     Crowned in Westminster Abbey.     Died  1422 (probably murdered) in the Tower of London.     Buried Chertsey Abbey, reburied in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.
Father: Henry V.     Mother:  Catherine of Valois.
Famous for: Indirectly causing the Wars of the Roses by being too young/weak/pious and slightly bonkers.  Also justifiably famous for founding Eton College, King’s College, Cambridge and All Souls College, Oxford.  Less well-known for being crowned King of France.

Edward IV     1461-1470 and 1471-1483     House of York

Born 1442, Rouen, France.     Crowned in Westminster Abbey.     Died  1483, Palace of Westminster.     Buried  St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.
Father: Richard, Duke of York.     Mother:  Cecily Neville.
Famous for: Being the rival to Henry VI for king during the Wars of the Roses.  Edward was apparently a very capable administrator, excellent soldier and something of a philanderer.  He was helped to the throne by his friend and uncle, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, ‘the Kingmaker’, but they fell out after Edward married a commoner, Elizabeth Woodville.  Warwick was killed at the Battle of Barnet, Edward went on to win the Battle of Tewkesbury, following which he probably had Henry VI murdered.  Edward died suddenly after a period of relative peace.

Edward V     1483     House of York

Born 1470, Palace of Westminster.     Uncrowned     Died  1483, murdered aged 12 in the Tower of London.     Buried Assumed somewhere in the Tower of London.
Father: Edward IV.     Mother:  Elizabeth Woodville.
Famous for: Being one of the Princes in the Tower (with his 9-year old brother, Richard) thought to have been murdered on the orders of their uncle, Richard Duke of Gloucester, who had his nephews declared illegitimate and himself proclaimed King Richard III.

Richard III     1483-1485     House of York

Born 1452, Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire.     Crowned in Westminster Abbey    Died  1485, at the Battle of Bosworth, Leicestershire.     Buried Greyfriars Church, Leicester, skeleton reburied in 2015 in Leicester Cathedral.
Father: Richard, Duke of York.     Mother:  Cecily Neville.
Famous for: Losing the Battle of Bosworth, which ushered in the Tudors, inspiring William Shakespeare, and being found under a car park.

Henry VII     1485-1509     House of Tudor

Born 1457, Pembroke Castle, Wales.     Crowned in Westminster Abbey    Died  1509, at Richmond Palace, Surrey.     Buried Westminster Abbey
Father: Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond.     Mother:  Margaret Beaufort.
Famous for: Winning the Battle of Bosworth, so bringing a final end to the dynastic Wars of the Roses, securing the peace by marrying Elizabeth of York (daughter of Edward IV, thus joining the Houses of York and Lancaster), being the father of Henry VIII and declining to support Christopher Columbus.  He also has a reputation for being tight with money.

Henry VIII     1509-1547     House of Tudor

Born 1491, Greenwich Palace, Kent.     Crowned in Westminster Abbey    Died  1547, at Palace of Whitehall, London.     Buried  St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.
Father: Henry VII.     Mother:  Elizabeth of York.
Famous for: Having six wives, establishing the Church of England with the monarch as its head (thus changing Britain for ever), dissolving the monasteries, bumping people off and being vastly over-weight – as well as a tyrant.  It is a myth that Henry was a Protestant.  His six wives were: Catherine of Aragon (divorced), Anne Boleyn (beheaded), Jane Seymour (died), Anne of Cleves (the ugly one – divorced), Catherine Howard (beheaded), Catherine Parr (survived).

Edward VI     1547-1553     House of Tudor

Born 1537, Hampton Court Palace, Middlesex.     Crowned in Westminster Abbey    Died  1553, at Greenwich Palace, Kent.     Buried  Westminster Abbey.
Father: Henry VIII.     Mother:  Jane Seymour.
Famous for: Being anti-Catholic.  Protestantism was established during Edward’s reign, including the introduction of the Book of Common Prayer.

Lady Jane Grey     1553     House of Grey

Born 1536 or 7, possibly Bradgate Park, Leicestershire.     Uncrowned    Died  1554 – executed at the Tower of London.     Buried  Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London.
Father: Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk.     Mother:  Lady Frances Brandon.
Famous for: Being the nine-day queen, reigning from 10-19 July 1553.  Jane was never crowned and therefore her right to be called ‘queen’ is disputed.  Her story is truly tragic.  On the death of Edward VI, the next in line would have been his half-sister, Mary.  However, Mary was a Catholic, Jane had a genuine claim to the throne, had impeccable Protestant credentials and her accession was due to a last-minute change of will by Edward and the machinations of the influential Duke of Northumberland.  Accordingly, Jane assumed the throne when Edward died, but Mary seized the day, Jane was deposed and, seen as a potential threat, later beheaded aged just 16 or 17.

Mary I  (Bloody Mary)   1553-1558     House of Tudor

Born 1516, Greenwich Palace, Kent.     Crowned in Westminster Abbey    Died  1558, at St James’s Palace, London.     Buried  Westminster Abbey.
Father: Henry VIII.     Mother:  Catherine of Aragon.
Famous for: Restoring Roman Catholicism, sanctioning the persecution of Protestants (which resulted in about 300 people being burnt at the stake), losing Calais and marrying King Philip of Spain.

Elizabeth  I     1558-1603     House of Tudor

Born 1516, Greenwich Palace, Kent.     Crowned in Westminster Abbey    Died  1603, at Richmond Palace, Surrey.     Buried  Westminster Abbey.
Father: Henry VIII.     Mother:  Anne Boleyn.
Famous for: Being the Virgin Queen or Good Queen Bess and presiding over an age generally viewed as being a good one, if you were English, Protestant and enjoyed the theatre.  Elizabeth actually introduced an element of stability after her half-sister’s reign, but was a target for traitors and assassins, often Catholics.  Elizabeth has a reputation for being ambiguous – and cautious.  She reluctantly ordered the execution of her Catholic cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots.  War with Catholic Spain led to the defeat of the Spanish Armada – a serious attempt at invasion – in 1558.  One of England’s greatest monarchs, Elizabeth is also famous for (allegedly) saying, “I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too”.  So there!  She enjoyed the company of men, but never married – possibly because she thought a husband would undermine her position – and when she died without an heir the throne passed to James VI of Scotland.

Monarchs of Scotland 843-1603

Monarchs of Britain 1603-present

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