The Kings and Queens of England

There have been 66 monarchs of England and Britain spread over a period of 1500 years. We have extracted the most important ones.

George VI

George was a shy and nervous man with a very bad stutter. He was very popular and well loved by the English people. The prestige of the throne was low when he became king but his wife Elizabeth and his mother Queen Mary were outstanding in their support of him. The Second World War started in 1939 and throughout the King and Queen set an example of courage and fortitude. They remained at Buckingham Palace for the duration of the war in spite of the bombing. The Palace was bombed more than once. The two Princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, spent the war years at Windsor Castle.

Egbert

He was the first monarch to establish a stable and extensive rule over all of Anglo-Saxon England. After further victories in Northumberland and North Wales, he is recognised by the title Bretwalda (Anglo-Saxon, "ruler of the British".

Alfred the Great

Alfred was well educated and is said to have visited Rome on two occasions. He had proven himself to be a strong leader in many battles, and as a wise ruler managed to secure five uneasy years of peace with the Danes, before they attacked Wessex again in 877. Alfred was forced to retreat to a small island in the Somerset Levels and it was from here that he masterminded his comeback.

William I (The Conqueror)

Also known as William the Bastard (but not normally to his face!), he was the illigitimate son of Robert the Devil, whom he succeeded as Duke of Normandy in 1035. William came to England from Normandy, claiming that his second cousin Edward the Confessor had promised him the throne, and defeated Harold II at the Battle of Hastings on 14th October 1066.

Henry II

Henry of Anjou was a strong king. A brilliant soldier, he extended his French lands until he ruled most of France.Henry is mostly remembered for his quarrel with Thomas A Becket, and Becket's subsequent murder in Canterbury Cathedral.

Richard II

The son of the Black Prince, Richard was extravagant, unjust and faithless. In 1399 Henry of Lancaster returned from exile and deposed Richard, becoming elected King Henry IV. Richard was murdered, probably by starvation, in Pontefract Castle in 1400.

Henry VIII

The best known fact about Henry VIII is that he had six wives! Most school children learn the following rhyme to help them remember the fate of each wife: "Divorced, Beheaded, Died: Divorced, Beheaded, Survived". His first wife was Catherine of Aragon, his brothers widow, whom he later divorced to marry Anne Boleyn. This divorce caused the split from Rome and Henry declared himself the head of the Church Of England.

Mary I (Bloody Mary)

Daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Mary attempted to enforce the wholesale conversion of England to Catholicism. She carried this out with the utmost severity. The Protestant bishops, Latimer, Ridley and Archbishop Cranmer were among those burnt at the stake. The place, in Broad Street Oxford, is marked by a bronze cross. The country was plunged into a bitter blood bath, which is why she is remembered as Bloody Mary.

Elizabeth I

The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth was a remarkable woman, noted for her learning and wisdom. From first to last she was popular with the people and had a genius for the selection of capable advisors. Elizabeth never married.

Victoria

The throne Victoria inherited was weak and unpopular. In 1840 she married her cousin Albert of Saxe-Coburg. The Queen withdrew from public life after the death of Albert in 1861 until her Golden Jubilee in 1887. Her reign saw the British Empire double in size and in 1876 the Queen became Empress of India, the 'Jewel in the Crown'. When Victoria died in 1901, after the longest reign in English history, the British Empire and British world power had reached their highest point. She had nine children, 40 grand-children and 37 great-grandchildren, scattered all over Europe.

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