Modern History - From 1547 to Today:
King Edward VI,
Queen Mary I,
Queen Elizabeth I,
King James I,
The Gunpowder Plot,
King Charles I,
King Charles II,
King James II,
King William III,
Queen Mary II,
King George I,
King George II,
King George III,
King George IV,
King William IV,
King Edward VII,
King George V,
King Edward VIII,
King George VI &
Queen Elizabeth II.
King Edward VI (1547 to 1553) House of Tudor:
King Edward VI became King on the 28th
January 1547 and was crowned at Westminster
Abbey on the 19th February 1547; he was a sickly boy; it is thought
he had tuberculosis; he succeeded his father at the age of 9, the government
being carried on by a Council of Regency with his uncle, the Duke of
Somerset, who fell from power in 1549, and then to the Earl of Warwick,
later created Duke of Northumberland; during his reign he became a staunch
Protestant and the Reformation progressed; Cranmer wrote the Book of
Common Prayer and the uniformity of worship helped turn England into
a Protestant State.
He died of tuberculosis, on the 6th July 1553, at Greenwich Palace,
aged 15 years, 8 months, and 23 days; in his will he nominated Lady
Jane Grey as his successor, a granddaughter of Henry VII, who had recently
married Northumberland's son Lord Guildford Dudley; he wanted to maintain
a Protestant succession.
Giggleswick school, which was founded on half an acre of land leased
by the Prior and Convent of Durham, to James Carr the Chantry Priest
at the local Parish Church of St Alkelda, for the express purpose of
enclosing it and building, at his own expense, one 'Gramar Scole'; by
1512 the school consisted of two small, irregular buildings, next to
the local parish church.
The school was run traditionally by the Chantry Priests until Edward
VI dissolved the position; the school was saved, however, by the petition
of the Kings Chaplain, John Nowell, and in 1553 it received its royal
charter; this granted land to the school, and endowed it with the title:
The Free Grammar School of King Edward the VI of Giggleswick; some locals
of a certain age still refer to Giggleswick as 'The Grammar School'.
Queen Mary I (1553 to 1558) House of Tudor:
After Edward's death there was a dispute
over the succession; under the ordinary laws of succession, Mary I was
next in line to the English throne after her father's cousin, Elizabeth
I; yet, in the eyes of many Catholics, Elizabeth was illegitimate, thus
making Mary I the rightful queen of England, but the Third Succession
Act, passed in 1543 by Parliament, provided that Elizabeth would succeed
Mary I of England on the throne; but as Mary was Catholic, Lady Jane
Grey was named as the next in line to the throne and she was proclaimed
Queen; Jane was only 16 years old at the time and was never crowned.
When Mary heard of the death of Edward she had a meeting with prominent
members of her household, she told them of her plan to assert her right
to the throne and sent Thomas Hungate, to London with a proclamation
of her accession and then announced to the rest of her household that
she was in fact Queen.
She moved to Framlingham Castle, where she rallied her supporters; Jane's
hold on the throne was still secure; she still had the support of nearly
all the highest peers in the land and of the church and her armies were
more significant than Mary's, but Mary's subsequent victory was far
from assured at this time and she was risking her life in moving against
Queen Jane and her council.
However, things began to swing in Mary's favour; her support grew and
men such as Sir Edward Hastings, the Earl of Sussex, Sir Thomas Cornwallis,
Lord Wentworth, Sir Henry Bedingfield, John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford
and many prominent families of eastern England such as the Rochesters,
the Jerninghams and Waldegraves rallied to her side; Queen Jane's ship's
crews mutinied and offered their ships to Mary; members of the Privy
Council began to desert Queen Jane and then the Earls of Arundel and
Pembroke fled to Baynard's Castle to be joined by William Paget; she
was soon proclaimed Queen in various counties and towns.
Finally, on the 19th July 1553, the Earl of Arundel spoke to the Privy
Council, who were split over who should be the rightful queen, and spoke
against the Duke of Northumberland and how the rights of the true Queen,
the Lady Mary, had been usurped; the council eventually agreed to proclaim
Mary as Queen and Pembroke announced Mary's accession to the people
of London that afternoon.
In the Tower of London, Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, interrupted his
daughter's evening meal to inform her that she was no longer Queen;
her canopy of state was taken down and Lady Jane Grey turned from Queen
to prisoner and traitor; the short reign of Queen Jane was over; she
reigned for only 9 days and she was executed in 1554, at age 17.
At this point, Mary was still in the dark. She did not find out that
she had been proclaimed Queen until the 20th July when Paget and Arundel
arrived at Framlingham to give her the news; she became Queen on the
the 19th July 1553 and was crowned at Westminster
Abbey on the 1st October 1553; it was the start of a new era, the
reign of Queen Mary I.
Mary was the daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon; in 1554
she married Philip II of Spain and as a devout Roman Catholic obtained
the restoration of papal supremacy and sanctioned the persecution of
Protestants; she attempted to enforce the wholesale conversion of England
to Catholicism; she carried this out with the utmost of severity; protestant
bishops from around the queendom, such as Latimer, Ridley, Archbishop
Cranmer and Robert Ferrar, the Prior of Nostell Priory, were amongst
those burnt at the stake.
The country was subsequently plunged into a bitter blood bath, which
is why she is remembered as Bloody Mary; she died on the 17th November
1558 at Lambeth Palace.
Robert Ferrar embraced the English Reformation and was made Bishop of
St. David's by Edward VI, but when Queen Mary I became Queen in 1553,
Ferrar was sent to Bench Prison in Southwark; his son Sage was born
that year and in consequence in February 1554 he was charged with a
violation of chastity and in March 1554 he lost his position of bishop;
on the 13th March 1555 he was sentenced to death for his crimes and
on the 30th March 1555 he was burned at the stake in Carmarthen.
Queen Elizabeth I (1558 to 1603) House of Tudor:
Queen Elizabeth I became Queen on the
17th November 1558 and was crowned at Westminster
Abbey on the 15th January 1559; she 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, such
as Drake, Raleigh, Hawkins, the Cecils, Essex and many more made England
respected and feared.
Many attempts were made by Parliament to persuade Elizabeth to marry
and this was backed by the rulers of European states who also made unsuccessful
bids of marriage; however, she found the courtship a useful political
weapon and maintained friendships with, amongst others, the courtiers
Leicester, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Essex; she became known as the Virgin
Queen; she once stated, on being pressed by Parliament to marry, that
‘I have already joined myself in marriage to a husband, namely the
kingdom of England’.
During her Roman Catholic half sister Mary's reign, Elizabeth's Protestant
sympathies brought her under suspicion and she had lived in seclusion
at Hatfield, Hertfordshire, until on Mary's death she became queen and
then through her Religious Settlement of 1559 she enforced the Protestant
religion by law, which was in exact opposition to Mary's reign.
Elizabeth's first act as queen was to reverse the re-establishment of
Catholicism, but during the first years of her reign there was relative
leniency towards Catholics who were willing to keep their religion private,
especially if they were prepared to continue to attend their parish
The arrival in England in 1568 of Mary Queen of Scots and her subsequent
imprisonment by Elizabeth caused a political crisis which led to several
subversive activities of supporters of Mary, Queen of Scots, such as
the costly Rising
of the North in 1569 and two English invasion plots:
Throckmorton Plot of 1584, which
led to Parliament councilling Mary's execution.
Babington Plot of 1586, which led
Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.
These events reinforced the association of Catholicism with treachery
in the popular mind and Elizabeth's government declared all Catholic
priests and all those who sheltered them, to be guilty of treason.
Elizabeth did not believe that her anti-Catholic policies constituted
religious persecution, finding it hard to distinguish between those
Catholics engaged in conflict with her from those Catholics with no
such designs; the number of English Catholics executed under Elizabeth
was significant, including Edmund Campion, Robert Southwell, and Margaret
Clitherow; Elizabeth herself signed the death warrant that led to the
beheading of her cousin, Mary,
Queen of Scots in 1587; the execution of Mary marred what was a
glorious time in English history.
The wording of the official prayer book had been carefully designed
in order to make catholic worship possible by omitting aggressively
'heretical' matter and at first many English Catholics did in fact worship
with their Protestant neighbours, at least until this was formally forbidden
by Pope Pius V's 1570 bull, Regnans in Excelsis, which also declared
that Elizabeth was not a rightful queen and should be deposed, and formally
excommunicated her; the Pope's bull unleashed a nationalistic feeling
which equated Protestantism with loyalty to a highly popular monarch,
rendering every Catholic a potential traitor, even in the eyes of those
who were not themselves extreme protestants.
When the Dutch rebelled against Spanish tyranny Elizabeth secretly encouraged
them; Philip II retaliated by aiding Catholic conspiracies against her;
this undeclared war continued for many years, until the landing of an
English army in the Netherlands in 1585 and Mary's execution in 1587,
which brought it into the open; her conflict with Roman Catholic Spain
led to the attempted invasion of Philip's Spanish Armada in 1588, which
was decisively defeated; the war with Spain continued with varying fortunes
to the end of her reign.
Parliament showed a new independence and in 1601 forced Elizabeth to
retreat on the question of the crown granting manufacturing and trading
monopolies; yet her prestige remained unabated, as shown by the failure
of Essex's rebellion in 1601.
The Elizabethan age was expansionist in commerce and geographical exploration,
and arts and literature flourished; Shakespeare was at the height of
his popularity, at this time and Raleigh's first Virginian colony was
founded; Elizabeth died on the 14th March 1603 at Richmond Palace
King James I (1603 to 1625) House of Stuart:
When Elizabeth died James moved to London
and was crowned King James I of England the first of the Stuart Kings
of the combined crowns of England and Scotland; James became King on
the 24th March 1603 and was crowned at Westminster
Abbey on the 25th July 1603; he was also crowned as James VI of
Scotland at Stirling Castle on the 29th July 1567.
His childhood and
adolescence were unhappy, abnormal, and precarious; he had various guardians,
whose treatment of him differed widely; his education, although thorough,
was weighted with strong Presbyterian and Calvinist political doctrine
and his character, highly intelligent and sensitive, but also fundamentally
shallow, vain, and exhibitionist, reacted violently to this.
The English courtiers were wary of his
Scottish favourites, affairs with male courtiers and uncouth ways; he
sought solace with extravagant and unsavoury male favourites who, in
later years, were to have a damaging effect on his prestige and state
affairs; a suitable Queen was found for him in Anne of Denmark and they
were married in 1589.
As King of Scotland, he curbed the power
of the nobility, although his attempts to limit the authority of the
Kirk, Church of Scotland, were less successful; he
was however a supporter of literature and arts; William Shakespeare
was among the ‘Kings Men’ troupe of actors who performed plays for their
Catholics in England had expected James to be more tolerant of them;
in fact, he proved to be the opposite; his religious policy consisted
of asserting the supreme authority and divine right of the crown and
suppressing both Puritans and Catholics, who not surprisingly objected;
he ordered all Catholic priests to leave England and this so angered
some Catholics that they decided to kill James and put his daughter
Elizabeth on the throne, ensuring that she was a Catholic.
Gunpowder Plot of 1605:
This led to a Gunpowder Plot to kill not
only King James, but also everyone sitting in the Houses of Parliament
at the same time as James was there when he opened Parliament on the
5th November 1605; Guy
Fawkes and his fellow conspirators rented out a house right by the
Houses of Parliament and managed to get 36 barrels of gunpowder into
a cellar of the House of Lords; Guy Fawkes, who had been left in the
cellars to set off the fuse was caught when a group of guards checked
the cellars; he was subsequently tortured, until he confessed, and then
executed with some of the other conspirators.
Guy Fawkes' attempt to blow up Parliament produced an anti-Catholic
reaction, which gave James a temporary popularity which soon dissipated;
however, since that time, due to an act of parliament, the 5th November,
Bonfire Night, has always been celebrated in England.
He commissioned The
King James Bible, which was published in 1611 and remains one of
the most important English translations of the Bible; the Authorized
Version, commonly known as the King James Bible is an English translation
of the Christian Bible by the Church of England that began in 1604 and
was completed in 1611.
In January 1604, James convened the Hampton Court Conference where a
new English version was conceived in response to the perceived problems
of the earlier translations as detected by the Puritans, a faction within
the Church of England; he gave the translators instructions intended
to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology
and reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and its
beliefs about an ordained clergy.
From 1618, Europe was convulsed by the religious conflict known as the Thirty Years' War and despite the peace loving inclinations of King James I, England became involved in the early phase of the war through royal family connections.
In 1612, James' eldest daughter Elizabeth married Frederick V, the youthful Elector of the Palatinate, which was the leading state in the German Protestant Union; in 1618, the Protestant princes chose Frederick and Elizabeth to be King and Queen of Bohemia in defiance of the claims of the Hapsburg Emperor, Ferdinand II; therefore, imperial troops invaded Bohemia and defeated Frederick at the battle of the White Mountain in 1620, whilst Spanish and Bavarian forces invaded the Palatinate itself.
Frederick and Elizabeth were driven into exile in Holland; English Protestants
demanded military intervention to liberate the Palatinate and to restore
Elizabeth, who became a Protestant heroine and was known as the "Queen
of Hearts" a force of English volunteers commanded by Sir Horace
Vere gallantly rode to Elizabeth's rescue, but King James realised that
full scale military intervention on behalf of his daughter and son-in-law
was too costly.
Instead he sought a diplomatic solution by proposing that Elizabeth's
brother Charles, Prince of Wales, later Charles I, should marry the
Infanta Maria, sister of King Philip IV of Spain; James hoped that Charles'
marriage to a Hapsburg would bring family pressure on Ferdinand to restore
Frederick and Elizabeth as well as giving Britain a powerful European
Early in 1623, Prince Charles, accompanied by the Duke of Buckingham, embarked upon an ill-advised journey to Madrid to court the Infanta in person; a papal dispensation was required before the Infanta could marry a Protestant prince; Pope Gregory XV was in favour of the marriage but he died while the negotiations were in progress, after which they broke down in an atmosphere of hostility and mistrust.
Charles and Buckingham returned to England in October 1623, determined to avenge their humiliation by making war on Spain; against King James' better judgement, they persuaded the Parliament of 1624 to vote funds for war.
An army was raised under the command of the mercenary Count Mansfeld
and sent to regain the Palatinate; Mansfeld's expedition failed, but
the English navy was strengthened in preparation for further campaigns
against Spain; although James would not declare war, Charles and Buckingham
pursued their plan and arranged a marriage alliance with Spain's enemy
France, which resulted in Charles' marriage to Henrietta Maria, daughter
of the French King Henri IV.
Frederick died in 1632 and Elizabeth remained in exile until the Peace
of Westphalia brought the Thirty Years' War to an end in 1648 and her
eldest son Charles Louis was restored to the Palatinate.
The Book of Common Prayer:
In the Book of Common Prayer (1662), the text of the Authorized Version
replaced the text of the Great Bible, for Epistle and Gospel readings,
and as such was authorized by Act of Parliament and by the first half
of the 18th century, it was effectively unchallenged as the English
translation used in Anglican and Protestant churches; over the course
of the 18th century, the Authorized Version supplanted the Latin Vulgate
as the standard version of scripture for English speaking scholars.
James's foreign policy aimed primarily at achieving closer relations
with Spain was not liked by Parliament who saw Spain as the Old Catholic
enemy of the Armada and competitor for world trade; his willingness
to compromise politically, even while continuing to talk in terms of
absolutism, largely accounts for the superficial stability of his reign;
however, the effects of many of his actions were long term, becoming
fully obvious only after his death; he died on the 27th March 1625 at
Theobalds Park, Hertfordshire
During his reign the East India Company expanded trade bringing spices
from the East, Jamestown was founded in Virginia, the Pilgrim Fathers
sailed for America in their ship The Mayflower in 1620 and James made
the first ever recorded anti-smoking quote, by stating that "Smoking
is hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, and dangerous to the lungs.”;
by the 1600's Sheffield
was the main centre of cutlery production in England and in 1624 The
Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire was formed to oversee the trade.
King Charles I (1625 to 1649) House of Stuart:
King Charles I became King on the 27th
March 1625 and was crowned at Westminster
Abbey on the 2nd February 1626; he had a profound belief that Kings
were appointed by God to rule by Divine Right.
As a child, Charles suffered from weak ankle joints, probably the result
of rickets, which slowed his physical development; he was also slow
in learning to speak; he outgrew these defects, except for a slight
stammer which he never overcame; his education was overseen by Thomas
Murray, a Scottish Presbyterian who later became Provost of Eton; Charles
was a serious student who excelled at languages, rhetoric and divinity.
Charles was created Duke of Albany at his baptism, Duke of York in 1605
and Prince of Wales in 1616, he was instructed by King James in every
aspect of ruling a kingdom; Henry's death made Charles heir to the throne
of the Three Kingdoms, England, Scotland and Ireland; by strength of
will, he overcame his physical weaknesses to become a good horseman
and huntsman; he developed sophisticated tastes in the arts and earnestly
applied himself to his religious devotions.
In 1625 he married Henrietta Maria, daughter of Henry IV of France;
their children included Charles and James, who became Charles II and
James II, and Mary who married William II of Orange and was the mother
of William III.
Charles came to the throne amid pressure from English Protestants for
intervention against Spain and the Catholic powers in the religious
wars raging in Europe, the Thirty Years War from 1618 to 1648; he allowed
England's foreign policy to be directed by the unpopular Duke of Buckingham,
who launched a series of disastrous military expeditions against Spain
and France with the aim of indirectly assisting the Palatinate.
Encouraged by the Duke of Buckingham, Charles sent a naval expedition
against Spain that was intended to draw Spanish resources away from
the Palatinate, but the English attack on Cadiz was a disastrous failure;
after Buckingham's assassination in 1628, King Charles pursued a more
peaceful foreign policy; despite his best intentions, he never sent
any effective military help to restore Frederick and Elizabeth to the
throne of Bohemia.
Frederick died in 1632 and Elizabeth remained in exile until the Peace
of Westphalia brought the Thirty Years' War to an end in 1648 and her
eldest son Charles Louis was restored to the Palatinate; her younger
sons Prince Rupert and Prince Maurice fought for the Royalist cause
during the English Civil War.
During this time, the economy and character of many West Riding settlements
in Yorkshire became markedly different from the other areas of the county;
farmers combined mining, metal working, weaving, tanning and other crafts
with agriculture in the towns which were not subject to the restrictive
practices of guilds and in 1629, in Leeds, west Yorkshire manufacturers
had started employing men as full time clothiers.
The Dissolving of Parliament:
One of his first acts was to dissolve parliament in 1625 and again in
1626 after attempts to impeach the Duke of Buckingham over war against
Spain and support of the French Huguenots, he was forced to call a third
because he needed funds to pursue his warlike policies; in 1628, Charles'
opponents formulated the Petition of Right, a declaration of the “rights
and liberties of the subject", as a defence against the King's
arbitrary use of his powers; Charles grudgingly accepted the Petition
in the hope that Parliament would grant him subsidies, but in practice
he ignored its provisions; after the assassination of Buckingham in
1628, critics in Parliament turned their attention to Charles' religious
policy; he angrily dismissed his third Parliament in 1629, imprisoned
several of his leading opponents and declared his intention of ruling
The Kings Personal Rule:
This was the start of the eleven year period of the King's Personal
Rule was also described as the "Eleven Year Tyranny" however,
it was initially successful, during the turmoil of the civil wars, many
people looked back upon it as a golden age of peace and prosperity;
Charles had made peace with Spain and France by 1630, trade and commerce
grew, in Leeds manufacturers were employing men full time as clothiers
and the King's finances were stable by 1635.
This enabled him to commission great works of art by Rubens and Van
Dyck and also to build up the Royal Navy for England's defence, but
without Parliament to grant legal taxes, Charles was obliged to raise
income by obscure and highly unpopular means including forced loans,
the sale of commercial monopolies and, most notoriously of all, ship
money; along with Charles' controversial religious policies, these measures
alienated many natural supporters of the Crown, including powerful noblemen
like Lord Saye and Sele and wealthy landowners like John Hampden.
The Star Chamber:
Charles and his advisers made extensive use of the Court of Star Chamber
to prosecute opponents; dating back to the 15th century, Star Chamber
had originally been a court of appeal; under the Stuarts, it came to
be used to examine cases of sedition, which in practice meant that the
court could be used to suppress opposition to royal policies; Star Chamber
sessions were held in secret, with no indictments, no right of appeal,
no juries and no witnesses; it became synonymous with the King's misuse
of his power during the Personal Rule.
In religion, Charles favoured the elaborate and ritualistic High Anglican
form of worship; he appointed William Laud Archbishop of Canterbury
in 1633; Laud insisted upon strict compliance to the established tenets
of the Church and vigorously supported the King's Divine Right; Laud
also made extensive use of Star Chamber and the ecclesiastical Court
of High Commisson to suppress opposition from Puritans who regarded
the High Church Laudian liturgy as dangerously close to Roman Catholicism.
The King's marriage to the French Catholic princess Henrietta Maria
also caused consternation amongst English Protestants, particularly
as she was allowed to practise her religion openly and freely; in some
quarters, Henrietta Maria's influence over the King and the royal children
was regarded as part of an international Papist conspiracy against the
The End Of The Kings Personal Rule:
Although Charles himself was high minded and devout, his religious policies
were deeply divisive and turned Puritans like Pym and Cromwell against
him; in collaboration with Archbishop Laud, he insisted upon religious
conformity across the Three Kingdoms; this went disastrously wrong when
the Anglican liturgy and Laudian Prayer Book, the English Book of Common
Prayer, were forced upon the Scottish Kirk in 1637, resulting in the
creation of the Scottish National Covenant against interference in religion,
and the Bishops' Wars between the two nations; in order to finance war
against the Scots, Charles was obliged to recall Parliament in 1640,
bringing his eleven year personal rule to an end.
The strength of feeling against the King's policies in Church and State
resulted in vehement opposition from the Short Parliament of April 1640
and its successor the Long Parliament; rather than attack the King himself,
however, Parliament impeached and condemned to death his principal ministers
Archbishop Laud and the Earl of Strafford, with Charles doing little
to help them.
In November 1641, news of the Irish uprising reached London, provoking
a crisis over whether King or Parliament should control the army that
was needed to quell the rebellion; against a background of riots and
civil unrest, the King and Royal Family were driven from London in January
1642 following Charles' disastrous attempt to arrest the Five Members
regarded as his leading opponents in Parliament.
The First Civil war:
During the spring and summer of 1642, as King and Parliament appealed
for the support of the nation and manoeuvred to gain control of the
armed forces, a violent confrontation became inevitable; King Charles
raised his standard at Nottingham Castle on the 22nd August 1642, which
was his call-to-arms and the beginning of the First Civil
War; many Yorkshire families were Cavaliers during this Civil War.
Ironically, the navy that Charles had built on the proceeds of ship-money
declared for Parliament; having lost London to the Parliamentarians,
Charles set up his court and military headquarters at Oxford.
Although he lacked military experience, Charles was courageous and developed
strategic skills as the war went on; he personally commanded the army
that outwitted and defeated Sir William Waller in the campaign that
led up to the battle of Cropredy Bridge, then pursued and defeated the
Earl of Essex at Lostwithiel in the summer of 1644; but the Royalist
war effort was hampered by arguments and jealousies amongst its senior
officers, with Charles himself frequently indecisive or capricious.
He was easily swayed by his counsellors, notably Lord Digby, who was
himself conducting a personal vendetta against Prince Rupert; when the
King attempted to bring government troops over from Ireland, Parliament
mounted a successful propaganda campaign, raising fears of a Catholic
conspiracy against English Protestants that greatly damaged the Royalist
cause; the combination of Parliament's alliance with the Scottish Covenanters
and the formation of the professionally run New Model Army brought about
the defeat of the Royalists in 1645.
The End of the Civil War:
Charles's defeat at the Battle of Naseby, near Leicester, in June 1645
by Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army ended all hopes of Royalist victory
and in April 1646 Charles escaped the Siege of Oxford and surrendered
at Newark, Nottinghamshire, to the Scots, Charles fled from Oxford in
April 1646 as the New Model Army approached the city; he surrendered
to the Scottish army rather than to Parliament under secret terms negotiated
by Cardinal Mazarin's envoy Jean de Montereul, who hoped to influence
a settlement between England and Scotland that was favourable to French
interests; Charles attempted to exploit divisions between the Parliamentarians
and the Scots, continually involving himself in plots and intrigues
with the exiled Henrietta Maria in the vain hope of gaining military
help from Ireland and France.
He failed to recognise the damage done to his cause in England by his
association with foreigners and Catholics; after Charles refused to
accept the terms offered under the Newcastle Propositions, the Scots
handed him over to Parliament in January 1647; the New Model Army, which
was itself in disagreement with the Presbyterian faction in Parliament,
secured the King in April 1647.
Charles was held at Hampton Court Palace, where he continued to play
off the Army, Parliament and Scots against one another; he hoped that
the Monarchy would be seen as a beacon of stability amongst the political
turmoil, but his obstructiveness and duplicity in negotiations alienated
Cromwell and others who had been anxious to reach a settlement; believing
that Army radicals were planning to murder him, Charles escaped from
Hampton Court in November 1647.
However, he ignored the advice of the Earl of Lauderdale to go north
to Berwick where the Scots would support him and went instead to the
Isle of Wight to seek the protection of the governor, Colonel Hammond,
intending to take ship from there to France, but being torn between
loyalty to the King and his duty to Parliament, Hammond confined King
Charles at Carisbrooke Castle.
Refusing to compromise over a settlement with the Army or with Parliament,
Charles turned once again to the Scots; under the terms of the Engagement
signed in December 1647, Charles promised to impose Presbyterianism
in England in exchange for a Scottish army to fight against Parliament;
the Marquis of Argyll and the Scottish Kirk opposed the Engagement because
Charles refused to take the Covenant personally or to impose it upon
his subjects, but Argyll's rival the Duke of Hamilton put himself at
the head of the Engager army and prepared to invade England.
The Second Civil War:
The Scottish invasion and simultaneous Royalist uprisings in England
and Wales resulted in the short but bitterly fought Second Civil War,
culminating in Cromwell's victory over the Scots at the battle of Preston
in August 1648; at the end of the war many of the old castles of Yorkshire
such as Helmsley and Pontefract were dismantled so that they could never
again be fortified.
Army officers were furious that Charles could deliberately provoke a
second war when his defeat in the first had been so clear an indication
of God's favour to the Parliamentarian cause; tired of his deceptions
and intrigues, the Army denounced King Charles as the "Man of Blood"
Parliament was purged of Presbyterian sympathisers and moderates in
December 1648 and left with a small "Rump" of MPs that was
totally dependent on the Army.
The Trial, Sentencing and Execution of Charles I:
For the Trial
of Charles I, Parliament appointed a High Court of Justice in January
1649 and Charles was charged with high treason against the people of
England; the King's trial opened on the 20th January; he refused to
answer the charges, saying that he did not recognise the authority of
the High Court, but he was found guilty of the charges against him and
sentenced to death on the 27th January 1649; the King was beheaded on
a scaffold outside the Banqueting House at Whitehall, London on the
30th January; at his execution, he is said to have stated "Death
is not terrible to me; I bless my God I am prepared."
On the 6th February, 1649, the monarchy was abolished. Parliament stated
that "the office of the king in this nation is unnecessary, burdensome
and dangerous to the liberty, society and public interest of the people.";
what became known as a Council of State was set up instead of the monarchy
and Oliver Cromwell was its first chairman.
The King's execution shocked the whole of Europe; he was buried on the
9th February at Windsor rather than at Westminster Abbey to avoid the
possibility of public disorder at his funeral; Charles' personal dignity
during his trial and execution had won him much sympathy and his death
created a cult of martyrdom around him, which was encouraged by the
publication of a book of his supposed meditations during his final months,
Eikon Basilike. The ideal of Charles the Martyr helped to sustain the
Royalist cause throughout the Commonwealth and Protectorate years; after
the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, it was sanctified in the Anglican
Church; to this day, wreaths of remembrance are laid on the anniversary
of King Charles' death at his statue, which faces down Whitehall to
the site of his beheading.
The English Interregnum:
After Charles I's execution the Parliament
of Scotland proclaimed his son Charles, Charles II King of Great Britain
and Ireland in Edinburgh on the 6th February 1649; however, the English
Parliament passed a statute that made any such proclamation unlawful
and England entered the period known as the English Interregnum or the
English Commonwealth and the country was a de facto republic, led by
Oliver Cromwell; Cromwell helped to defeat Charles II at the Battle
of Worcester on the 3rd September 1651 and Charles fled to mainland
Europe, where he spent the next nine years in exile in France, the United
Provinces and the Spanish Netherlands.
Oliver Cromwell (1653 to 1658) Commonwealth:
Cromwell was born in Huntingdon on the 25th April 1599, studied
at Sidney Sussex College and at Cambridge University, became an MP for
Huntingdon in 1628, and became an MP for Cambridge in 1640.
He raised troops for Parliament in 1642,
became a Colonel in the Eastern Association Army in 1643 and then a
Lieutenant General in 1644; he fought in the Battle of Marston Moor
on the 2nd July and the Battle of Newbury on the 27th October; in 1645
he became the Lieutenant General of the New Model Army and fought in
the Battle of Naseby on the14th June; in 1647 he supported the Parliamentary
army in clashes with Parliament and in 1648 he Crushed a royalist uprising
in South Wales and fought at the Battle of Preston against a Scottish
Royalist army on the 18th August.
In 1649 he supported the trial and execution
of King Charles I; in January he commanded an army sent to crush Irish
rebels and in August 1650 he commanded an army sent to crush Scottish
rebels; he fought in the Battle of Dunbar on the 3rd September 1650
and the Battle of Worcester on the 3rd September 1651; on the 20th April
1653 Parliament was dissolved and Cromwell became Lord Protector and
lord general, commander in chief, of all the parliamentary forces on
the 16th December.
In September 1654 he meets with the first
Protectorate Parliament; in October 1655 the System of the Major Generals
is established; in September 1656 he meets with the second Protectorate
Parliament; in April 1657 he rejects Parliament's offer of the crown
and remains Lord Protector and on the 3rd September 1658 he died at
On the 30th January 1661 his body was exhumed
and posthumously 'executed'; the final resting place of Cromwell's physical
remains is still a matter of dispute; however, it is likely that his
body lies near Tyburn in London, now the Marble Arch area; Cromwell's
head became a rather undignified collector's piece until it was bequeathed
to his old Cambridge College in 1960 and was buried near Sidney Sussex
Richard Cromwell (1658 to 1659) Commonwealth:
Cromwell was nominated as Oliver Cromwell' successor and on Oliver's
death he became the second ruling Lord Protector of England, Scotland
and Ireland, but served for just under nine months; Richard was faced
by two immediate problems; the first was the army, which questioned
his position as commander given his lack of military experience; the
second was the financial position of the regime, with a debt estimated
at £2 million.
As a result Richard's Privy council called
a parliament in order to redress the financial problems; this and the
'Other House' of Parliament, sat and argued instead of trying to resolve
the problems; republican malcontents gave filibustering speeches about
the inadequacy of the military contingent and questioned whether, or
not, they where diverging away from the Cause for which the parliamentarians
had originally engaged in Civil War.
The New Model Army was worried about the
lack of Parliamentary commitment and respect for the army, and the fact
that Richard lacked the right military credentials; there were also
fears that Parliament would make military cuts to reduce costs and by
April 1659 the army’s general council of officers had met to demand
higher taxation to fund the regime’s costs.
Their grievances were expressed in a petition
to Richard Cromwell on the 6th April 1659 which he forwarded to the
Parliament two days later; Parliament ignored the army's suggestions
and instead accused an army officer of alleged mistreatment to a royalist
prisoner whilst acting as a Major General under Oliver Cromwell in 1655;
this was followed by two resolutions on the 18th April 1659 which stated
that no more meetings of army officers should take place without the
express permission of both the Lord Protector and Parliament and that
all officers should swear an oath that they would not subvert the sitting
of Parliament by force.
These direct affronts to military prestige
set in motion the final split between the civilian dominated Parliament
and the army and when Richard refused a demand by the army to dissolve
Parliament, troops were assembled and Richard eventually gave in to
their demands and on the 22nd April, Parliament was dissolved and on
the 25th May Richard resigned the position of Lord Protector.
Richard lived out the last of his days
in Finchley in Middlesex, as John Clarke, living off the income from
his estate in Hursley; he died on the 12th July 1712 at the age of 85.
After Richard Cromwell's Resignation:
After Richard resigned, the Protectorate
was abolished and during the civil and military unrest which followed,
George Monck, the Governor of Scotland, was concerned that the nation
would descend into anarchy; therefore, Monck and his army marched into
the City of London and forced the Rump Parliament to re-admit members
of the Long Parliament excluded in December 1648 during Pride's Purge;
the Long Parliament dissolved itself and for the first time in almost
20 years, there was a general election; the outgoing Parliament designed
the electoral qualifications so as to ensure, as they thought, the return
of a Presbyterian majority.
The restrictions against royalist candidates and voters were widely
ignored and the elections resulted in a House of Commons which was fairly
evenly divided on political grounds between Royalists and Parliamentarians
and on religious grounds between Anglicans and Presbyterians; the new
so called Convention Parliament assembled on the 25th April 1660 and
soon afterwards received news of the Declaration of Breda, in which
Charles II agreed, amongst other things, to pardon many of his father's
enemies; the English Parliament resolved to proclaim Charles king and
invite him to return, a message that reached Charles at Breda on the
8th May 1660; in Ireland, a convention had been called earlier in the
year and on the 14th May it declared for Charles as King.
Charles II sailed from his exile in the Netherlands to his restoration
in England in May 1660; he arrived in Dover on the 25th May 1660 and
reached London on the 29th May, his 30th birthday; although Charles
and Parliament granted amnesty to Cromwell's supporters in the Act of
Indemnity and Oblivion, 50 people were specifically excluded; in the
end nine of the regicides were executed; they were hanged, drawn and
quartered; others were given life imprisonment or simply excluded from
office for life and the bodies of Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton and
John Bradshaw were subjected to the indignity of posthumous decapitations.
King Charles II (1660 to 1685) House of Stuart:
King Charles II became King on the 29th May 1660 and was crowned at
Abbey on the 23rd April 1661; his restoration to the throne marked
the end of republican rule in England; those men still alive who had
signed his father’s death warrant 'Charles I' were tried as regicides,
the murderer of a king, and executed; anyone associated with his execution
was put on trial; the only people to escape were the executioners, as
no-one knew who they were, as they wore masks during the execution;
the body of Oliver Cromwell was dug up and posthumously decapitated,
Charles I was venerated a Saint by the Anglican Church, and all legal
documents were post-dated as though Charles II had succeeded on his
father’s death in 1649.
Charles was born on the 29th May 1630, the eldest surviving son of Charles
I; he was 12 when the Civil War began and two years later was appointed
nominal commander-in-chief in western England; however, with the parliamentary
victory he was forced into exile on the continent and was in the Netherlands
in 1649, when he learned of his father's execution.
In 1650 Charles did a deal with the Scots and was proclaimed king; he
was crowned at Scone on the 1st January 1651 and with a Scottish army
he invaded England but was defeated by Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester
in 1651; he escaped into exile and it was not until 1660 that he was
invited back to England to reclaim his throne.
Although those who had signed Charles I's death warrant were punished,
Charles pursued a policy of political tolerance and power sharing; his
desire for religious toleration, due in large part to his own leanings
towards Catholicism, were to prove more contentious; he made a number
of attempts to formalise toleration of Catholics and Non-conformists
but was forced to back down in the face of a strongly hostile parliament.
The early years of Charles's reign saw an appalling outbreak of the
plague in 1665 and the Great
Fire of London in 1666 which destroyed a large part of the city
including St Paul’s cathedral and led to the substantial rebuilding
of the city of London; between 1665 and 1667 England was at war with
the Dutch, the Second Anglo-Dutch War, which ended in a Dutch victory;
in 1670, Charles signed a secret treaty with Louis XIV of France, while
promising to convert to Catholicism and support the French against the
Dutch in the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672 to 1674), in return for which
he would receive subsidies from France, thus enabling him manoeuvring
room with parliament.
In 1677, Charles married his niece Mary to the Protestant William of
Orange, to help re-establish his Protestant credentials; knowledge of
his negotiations with France, together with his efforts to become an
absolute ruler, brought Charles into conflict with parliament, which
he consequently dissolved in 1681; from then until his death he ruled
alone; although Charles had a number of illegitimate children with various
mistresses, he had none with his wife, Catherine of Braganza; therefore
his Catholic brother James was his only heir.
Charles's reign saw the rise of colonisation and trade in India, the
East Indies and America; the British capture of New York from the Dutch
in 1664, the Passage of Navigation Acts that secured Britain's future
as a sea power and he founded the Royal Society for the study of Science
in 1660 and the Royal Observatory at Greenwich; Charles died on the
6th February 1685, converting to Catholicism on his death bed.
King James II (1685 to 1688) House of Stuart:
King James II became King on the 6th February 1685 and was crowned at
Abbey on the 23rd April 1685; he was the second surviving son of
Charles I and younger brother of Charles II; he was created Duke of
York and was in Oxford during the Civil War; after the defeat of the
Royalists he escaped with his mother and brother to The Hague and then
to exile in France; his father was executed in 1649; he served in the
French army and later in the Spanish Army; after the death of Cromwell
and the restoration of the monarchy he returned to England where his
brother was crowned Charles II.
James was created Lord High Admiral and warden of the Cinque Ports and
commanded the Royal Navy during the 2nd and 3rd Anglo-Dutch wars; he
created controversy when in 1660 he married Anne Hyde a commoner and
daughter of Charles’s chief minister Edward Hyde; they had two
daughters Mary 'Queen Mary II' and Anne 'Queen Anne', who were raised
as Protestants but, influenced by his time in France and Spain, James
converted to Catholicism in 1670; following Anne Hyde’s death
in 1671, he married Mary of Modena a 15 year old Italian Catholic princess;
James’s critics described her as ‘an agent of the Pope’.
Parliament became alarmed at the prospect of a Catholic succession and
in 1673 passed the Test Act which excluded Catholics from political
office; in 1679 Shaftesbury attempted to introduce an Exclusion Bill
to exclude James from the succession and substitute Charles’s
illegitimate son the Duke of Monmouth, but this was rebutted by Charles
who dissolved Parliament.
When James became King in 1685, he faced two rebellions which were intent
on removing him, one in Scotland by the Duke of Argyll and the other
from an army raised by the Duke of Monmouth which was defeated by John
Churchill, the 6th great grandfather of Winston Churchill, at the Battle
of Sedgemoor in Somerset in July 1685; the Monmouth rebels were brutally
punished by Judge Jeffrey’s Bloody Assizes.
James, believing his Divine Right as King, issued the Declaration of
Indulgence to suspend the Test Act and promote his Catholic supporters
in Parliament; the Archbishop of Canterbury and seven other bishops
were duly arrested and tried for sedition; amidst widespread alarm,
the birth in 1688 of his Catholic heir James Edward Stuart prompted
a group of nobles to invite Prince William of Orange, who had married
James's daughter Mary, from the Netherlands to England to restore Protestantism
William of Orange landed at Torbay on the 5th November 1688, in 463
ships which were unopposed by the Royal Navy, and with an army of 14,000
troops started to gather local support; his army grew to over 20,000
and he advanced on London in what became known as ‘The Glorious
Many from James’s army including Churchill and James’s daughter
Anne defected to support William; James lost his nerve and fled to France
throwing the Great Seal of the Realm into the River Thames; his daughter
Mary was declared Queen, but she insisted on a joint rule with her husband
William and they were crowned King William III and Queen Mary II.
James and his wife and son lived in exile in France as guests of Louis
XIV; James landed in Ireland in 1689 with French troops in an attempt
to regain the throne and advanced on Londonderry, but was defeated by
William at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690; he lived the rest of his
life in exile in France where he died in 1701;
his son James Edward Stuart 'The Old Pretender' and his grandson Charles
'Bonnie Prince Charlie' made unsuccessful attempts to restore the Jacobite
throne in 1715 and 1745.
King William III (1688 to 1702) &
Queen Mary II (1688 to 1694) House of Orange:
King William III & Queen Mary II became joint King & Queen on
the 13th February 1689, aged 38 and 26 repectively and were both crowned
Abbey on the 11th April 1689; William was born on the 14th November
1650 in the Hague in the Netherlands; he was an only child and never
knew his father William II who died of smallpox before his birth; his
mother was Mary the eldest daughter of Charles I of England; Mary was
born on the 3th April 1662, the eldest daughter of James, Duke of York
and his first wife Anne Hydet Mary and was raised as a Protestant.
William was dour and asthmatic, but a successful soldier; he was appointed
Stadtholder 'Chief Magistrate' and captain-general of the Dutch forces
in 1672 to resist the French invasion of the Netherlands; he forced
Louis XIV to make peace in 1678 and then concentrated on building up
a European alliance against France.
On the 4th November 1677 he married his cousin Mary, the eldest daughter
of James, Duke of York, the future James II; the marriage was intended
to repair relations between England and The Netherlands following the
Anglo-Dutch wars; at the time he was 12 years older and several inches
shorter than his 15 year old English wife Mary who was a reluctant bride.
After their joint coronation Parliament passed the Bill of Rights which
prevented Catholics from succeeding to the throne, ensuring that Mary’s
sister Anne would become the next queen and after the autocratic rules
of Kings Charles II and his brother James II, they limited the powers
of future monarchs so that they could neither pass laws nor levy taxes
without parliamentary consent.
William and Mary were faced in 1689 with two Jacobite attempts to regain
the throne; in Scotland government troops were defeated at Killiekrankie
by Scottish Jacobites but they won shortly afterwards at Dunkeld; and
James II landed in Ireland with French troops and laid siege to Londonderrry;
William’s navy relieved the siege and he led is army to victory
at the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690; James
fled back to France; William returned several times to the Netherlands
but found the English parliament reluctant to support his continuing
war with France.
Williamsburg and the college of William and Mary in Virginia, were named
after the King and Queen in 1693, Mary died of smallpox in 1694 leaving
William to rule alone and the Bank of England was founded in 1694 to
control public expenditure the Treaty of Ryswick, or Ryswyck, was signed
on the 20th September 1697 in the Dutch Republic, which settled the
Nine Years' War, which pitted France against the Grand Alliance of England,
Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and the United Provinces.
William formed an alliance between England, Holland and Austria to prevent
the union of the French and Spanish crowns; this became known as the
‘War of Spanish Succession’.
In 1701 following the death of Prince William, the only surviving son
of Mary’s sister Anne, the Act of Settlement was passed ensuring
succession of Protestant heirs of Sophie of Hanover instead of the Catholic
heirs of James; William died on the 8th March 1702 of pneumonia following
a broken collar bone after a fall from his horse; because his horse
had reputedly stumbled on a mole’s burrow Jacobites toasted 'The
little gentleman in the black velvet waistcoat.'
Queen Anne (1702 to 1714) House of Stuart:
Queen Anne became Queen on the 8th March 1702 and was crowned at Westminster
Abbey on the 23rd April 1702; Anne was the second daughter of James
II and Anne Hyde, daughter of Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon; Anne and
her sister Mary received a Protestant upbringing although their father
converted to Catholicism and remarried; Mary married William of Orange
and in 1683 Anne married Prince George of Denmark.
After her marriage Anne was given a set of buildings in the Palace of
Whitehall, known as the Cockpit, as their London residence and Sarah
Churchill became one of Anne's ladies of the bedchamber; to mark their
friendship and at Anne's request, Anne and Sarah called each other by
their pet names Mrs. Morley and Mrs. Freeman respectively rather than
use their formal styles and titles.
When William landed in England in 1688 to take the throne, Anne on the
influence of her close friend Sarah the wife of John Churchill, supported
her sister and brother-in-law against her father James; Prince George
was made Duke of Cumberland and Churchill was created Duke of Marlborough
by William when he was crowned King William III with her sister Queen
Mary II; Anne detested her brother-in-law however and the Churchills'
influence led her briefly to engage in Jacobite intrigues during William’s
On William’s death in 1702 Anne succeeded to the throne as Queen
Anne; she was a staunch, high church Protestant, shy, stubborn, 37 years
old and in poor health; in a speech to the English Parliament, shortly
after her coronation, she distanced herself from her late Dutch brother-in-law
and said, "As I know my heart to be entirely English, I can very
sincerely assure you there is not anything you can expect or desire
from me which I shall not be ready to do for the happiness and prosperity
Anne appointed her husband Lord High Admiral, giving him nominal control
of the Royal Navy; she gave control of the army to Lord Marlborough,
whom she appointed Captain-General; Marlborough also received numerous
honours from the Queen, he was created a Knight of the Garter and was
elevated to the rank of duke; the Duchess of Marlborough was appointed
Groom of the Stole, Mistress of the Robes and Keeper of the Privy Purse.
John Churchill commanded the English Army in the War of Spanish Succession
and won a series of victories over the French at Blenheim (1704), Ramillies
(1706), Oudenarde (1708) and Malplaquet (1709); the victories of the
Duke of Marlborough abroad gave the country an influence never before
attained in Europe.
On the 1st May 1707, under the Act of Union, two of her realms, the
kingdoms of England and Scotland, were united as a single sovereign
state and became the Kingdom of Great Britain.
Anne's reign was marked by the development of a two party system; in
general, the Tories were supportive of the Anglican church and favoured
the "landed interest" of the country gentry, whilst the Whigs
were aligned with commercial interests and Protestant Dissenters; as
a committed Anglican, Anne was inclined to favour the Tories.
Her first ministry was predominantly Tory and contained such High Tories
as Daniel Finch, 2nd Earl of Nottingham, and her uncle Laurence Hyde,
1st Earl of Rochester; it was headed by Lord Godolphin and Anne's favourite
the Duke of Marlborough, who were considered moderate Tories, along
with the Speaker of the House of Commons, Robert Harley; however, the
Whigs grew more powerful during the course of the War of the Spanish
Succession, until in 1710 Anne dismissed many of them from office.
The influence of the Churchill’s began to decline after a violent
quarrel in 1710 between Anne and Sarah; this was due mainly to political
differences; Sarah had consistently counselled Anne to appoint more
Whigs and reduce the power of the Tories, whom Sarah considered little
better than Jacobites and Anne became increasingly discontented with
her; these political differences finally ended up with Sarah being dismissed
Anne suffered from gout which rendered her lame for much of her later
life; around the court, she was carried in a sedan chair, or used a
wheelchair and around her estates, she used a one horse chaise, which
she drove herself; her sedentary lifestyle resulted in her gaining weight;
in Sarah's words, "she grew exceeding gross and corpulent";
on her death in 1714 her body had swollen so large that she was buried
in an almost square coffin; she died, on the 1st August 1714, of suppressed
gout, ending in erysipelas.
Succession wise, Anne's family loyalty had convinced her that this should
fall to her father's son by his second wife, Mary of Modena, James Edward
Stuart, known as the 'Old Pretender'; however, the Act of Settlement
in 1701 ensured Protestant succession to the throne and Anne was succeeded
by George I, a great grandson of James I.
King George I (1714 to 1727) House of Hanover:
King George I became King on the 1st August 1714 and was crowned at
Abbey on the 20th October 1714; George was the son of the first
elector of Hanover in Germany, Ernest Augustus, and his wife Sophia
who was a granddaughter of James I of England; he became heir through
his father to the hereditary lay bishopric of Osnabrück and the
duchy of Calenberg, which was one part of the Hanoverian possessions
of the house of Brunswick; he acquired the other part by his marriage
in 1682 to his cousin Sophia Dorothea of Celle.
It was not a happy marriage, George had several mistresses and his wife
Sophia eloped with Swedish Count Philip Konigsmark who in 1694 mysteriously
disappeared believed killed with George’s connivance and his body
thrown in a river; Sophia was imprisoned in Castle Ahlden in Celle where
she remained until she died 30 years later; they had two children George,
who later became George II, and Sophia who married Frederick William
of Prussia in 1706 and was the mother of Frederick the Great.
In England Queen Anne had no surviving children and in 1701 Parliament
passed the Act of Settlement to ensure a Protestant line of succession
and oppose the claim of the Catholic James Edward Stuart; George’s
mother Sophia became heiress to the British throne, but she died in
May 1714 a few weeks before Queen Anne so when Anne died in August that
year George became King George I of England and Scotland; this was despite
the fact that over fifty Roman Catholics bore closer blood relationships
to Anne than George, but the Act of Settlement 1701 prohibited Catholics
from inheriting the British throne.
George arrived in England at age 54 able to speak only a few words of
English, with 18 cooks and two mistresses one very fat and the other
thin and tall who became nicknamed ‘Elephant and Castle’
after an area in London; in Hanover he was absolute ruler but in England
he found that he had to govern through Parliament and in particularly
his Whig ministers Earl Stanhope and Robert Walpole.
Within a year of George's accession the Whigs won an overwhelming victory
in the general election of 1715; several members of the defeated Tory
Party sympathised with the Jacobites and in 1715 some disgruntled Tories
sided with a Jacobite rebellion which became known as "The Fifteen";
the Jacobites sought to put Anne's Catholic half-brother, James Stuart
‘The old Pretender’ on the Throne; they were led by Lord
Mar, a Scottish nobleman who had previously supported the 'Glorious
Revolution'; the rebellion was a dismal failure; Lord Mar's battle plans
were poor and James arrived late with too little money and too few arms;
by the end of the year the rebellion had all but collapsed; faced with
impending defeat, Lord Mar and James fled to France.
Spain supported another Jacobite led invasion of Scotland in 1719, but
stormy seas allowed only about three hundred Spanish troops to arrive
in Scotland; a base was established at Eilean Donan Castle on the west
Scottish coast in April, only for it to be destroyed by British ships
a month later; attempts by the Jacobites to recruit Scottish clansmen
yielded a fighting force of only about a thousand men; the Jacobites
were poorly equipped and were easily defeated by British artillery at
the Battle of Glen Shiel; the clansmen dispersed into the Highlands
and the Spaniards surrendered.
George grew frustrated in his attempts to control Parliament; although
this may have been easier if he had ever bothered to learn english;
he grew more dependent upon his advisers as scandal surrounded him;
his supporters turned against him, demanding freedom of action as the
price of reconciliation; due to George rarely attending meetings with
his ministers, the powers of the monarchy diminished and Britain began
a transition to the modern system of cabinet government led by a prime
minister; towards the end of his reign, actual power was held by Sir
Robert Walpole, Britain's first de facto Prime Minister.
Problems arose over financial speculation and the management of the
national debt; certain government bonds could not be redeemed without
the consent of the bondholder and had been issued when interest rates
were high; consequently each bond represented a long term drain on public
finances, as bonds were hardly ever redeemed.
In 1719 the SSC (South Sea Company) proposed to take over £31
million, three fifths, of the British national debt by exchanging government
securities for stock in the SSC; they bribed the Secretary of the Treasury
to support their plan and enticed bondholders to convert their high-interest,
irredeemable bonds to low-interest, easily-tradeable stocks by offering
apparently preferential financial gains; SSC prices rose rapidly; the
shares had cost £128 on the 1st January 1720, but were valued
at £500 when the conversion scheme opened in May; on the 24th
June the price reached a peak of £1050; the SSC's success led
to the speculative flotation of other companies, some of a bogus nature,
and the Government, in an attempt to suppress these schemes and with
the support of the Company, passed the Bubble Act.
With the rise in the market now halted, uncontrolled selling began in
August creating a stock market crash; the stock plummeted to £150
by the end of September and many individuals, including aristocrats,
lost vast sums of money and some were completely ruined; George was
implicated in the scandal but Walpole’s management of the crisis
by rescheduling debts and paying compensation using Government money
helped return the country to financial stability.
Due to the South Sea Bubble scandal and the fact that he quarrelled
with his son George, a trait inherited by successive Hanoverian kings,
he became increasingly unpopular; he spent little time in England, preferring
his beloved Hanover, where he suffered a stroke on the road between
Delden and Nordhorn on the 9th June 1727; he was taken by carriage to
the Prince-Bishop's palace at Osnabrück where he died in the early
hours of the 11th June 1727; he was buried in the Chapel of Leine Castle
but his remains were moved to the chapel at Herrenhausen after World
King George II (1727 to 1760) House of Hanover:
King George II became King on the 11th June 1727 and was crowned at
Abbey on the 11th October 1727;
George was born in Hanover the son of George I and Sophia of Celle;
he married Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach in 1705, an attractive and
intelligent woman, and they had 9 children; in 1708 he took part in
the Battle of Oudenarde in Belgium against the French; in 1714 his father
became King and he became the Prince of Wales.
However, his father’s treatment of his mother, whom he had imprisoned,
left George with a hatred of his father and they regularly quarrelled;
he was even put under arrest by his father who excluded him from public
ceremonies, so when his father died in 1727 and he became King, he set
about changing his father’s policies; he was more English than
his father, but he still relied on Sir Robert Walpole to run the country.
The death of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI in 1740 led to the European
War of Austrian Succession in which the British and Dutch supported
Marie Theresa’s claim to the Austrian throne against the Prussians
and French; George personally led his troops at the Battle of Dettingen
in 1743, becoming the last British monarch to lead his troops into battle.
The Jacobite Rebellion began in 1745, when Charles Edward Stuart,‘Bonnie
Prince Charlie’, landed in Scotland and marched with an Highland
army into England; he was defeated at Culloden in 1746 and the Scottish
opposition was brutally suppressed by George’s second son Prince
William, Duke of Cumberland, known as 'Butcher' Cumberland; Bonnie
Prince Charlie escaped to France and finally died a drunkard's death
The final years of his reign saw George retiring from active politics;
however it was a period in which British dominance overseas grew; William
Pitt the Elder became Prime Minister during the Seven years war against
France, which spread to India and North America;
Robert Clive secured the Indian continent for Britain at the Battle
of Plassey and General Wolfe captured Quebec in Canada; George II died
in 1760 of an aneurysm while seated on his water closet; he was succeeded
by his grandson also called George.
The Seven Years' War (1756 to
Alarmed by the growing power and ambition of Frederick the Great, several
countries France, Spain, Austria, Saxony, Russia and Sweden formed a
coalition with the intention of destroying, or at least crippling, Prussia;
Frederick guessed the intention of the coalition and struck first by
invading Saxony, in August 1756, and knocking them out of the war; Britain,
who was already involved in a colonial conflict with France in North
America and India, allied with Prussia.
British policy was to concentrate on defeating France in its colonial
conflicts, whilst mainly supporting Prussia with large cash subsidies,
though a small british army was sent to western Germany to cooperate
with the Hanoverian army against France; French resources were heavily
drained due to fighting in Europe, which enabled the British to be successful
in their colonial campaigns, winning decisively in America and India,
and Frederick was able to fend off the coalition; Russia dropped out
of the war in 1762 when Catherine the Great became empress and Sweden
came to terms with Prussia in 1762.
The Treaty of Paris, in 1763, between Britain and France forced France
to cede all its possessions in Canada to Britain and to give up all
claims in America east of the Mississippi river and the Treaty of Hubertusburg,
in 1763, ended the war in Europe, Prussia now had possession of Silesia,
acquired from Austria during the War of Austrian Succession in 1740
to 1748; the main effects of the war were to confirm Britain as the
dominant colonial power and Prussia as a major European power.
King George III (1760 to 1820) House of Hanover:
King George III became King on the 25th October 1760 and was crowned
Abbey on the 22nd September 1761; George, unlike his father and
grandfather, was born in England; he was shy and stubborn but well educated
in science and arts and he became heir to the throne when his father
Frederick, Prince of Wales, died in 1751 from a lung abscess, believed
to be caused by a blow on the chest from a cricket ball, before he could
succeed his father.
In 1761, after an official search for a suitable wife, he married Sophia
Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz whom he first met on his wedding day;
the couple enjoyed a happy marriage and he never took a mistress; they
had 16 children including the future George IV and William IV and they
were married for 57 years.
In 1762 he purchased Buckingham House in London which later became Buckingham
Palace; George had high moral standards and was appalled by the loose
morals of his brothers, so he introduced the Royal Marriage Act in 1772,
which made it illegal for members of the Royal Family to marry without
the consent of the Sovereign.
George was interested in agricultural improvement and during his reign
there were advances in manufacturing mechanisation including the spinning
frame and steam engine; he was determined to be thrifty with his own
and public expenses and so he handed Parliament the right of income
from Crown Estates in return for a Civil List annuity for the support
of his household and expenses, an arrangement that still continues today.
Britain had been fighting a colonial war against France since 1756 with
plenty of military success but at high financial cost, so George appointed
Lord Bute to negotiate the Treaty of Paris in 1762 to end the Seven
years war; this caused patriotic outrage for the concessions it gave
to the French including the rights of French colonists in North America
to remain in Quebec and New Orleans.
Lord North became Prime Minister and was determined to make the colonies
pay for their own security; with this in mind the Stamp Act of 1765,
which levied a tax on every official document in the British colonies,
and high customs duties were introduced; these were mostly repealed
in the face of American protests, with the exception of the tax on tea,
which led to the ‘Boston Tea Party’ in 1773, when colonists
in protest over the tax, threw chests of tea overboard in Boston harbour.
The American War of Independence began in April 1775 and american colonists
fought British troops at Lexington; George Washington was appointed
the commander of the Continental Army and on the 4th July 1776 the Continental
Congress under leadership of John Hancock declared their independence;
fighting continued until 1781 when the British were finally defeated
by the Americans and French at Yorktown; in the Treaty of Paris in 1783
Britain agreed to recognise American independence; George took the loss
so badly that he considered abdication before facing the political and
In 1788 George suffered his first attack of insanity, now believed to
be the result of the inherited disease porphyria, which was to plague
him for the rest of his life; his son George, Prince of Wales, was made
temporary regent an arrangement which became permanent in 1810.
In 1789 France was shaken by revolution and King Louis XVI was guillotined
in 1793; Britain was once more at war with France; an attempted revolution
by Catholics and French troops in Ireland was crushed and eventually
a union with Ireland was created in 1801; by 1803 Napoleon Bonaparte
had assembled a fleet for an invasion of England, but the fleet was
defeated by Admiral Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805;
Napoleon defeated the Russians at Austerlitz but was forced to withdraw
from Moscow by the Russian winter; the battles continued with the Peninsular
War in which the British fought to drive the French from Spain; Napoleon
was eventually defeated by joint British and German forces at the Battle
of Waterloo in 1815.
By the late 18th, early 19th century, the British Slave
Trade was, by today's standards, a multi billion pound industry
and its players were some of the richest people in the world; a major
part of their trade came from James Island on the River Gambia in the
Senegambia region, where they exported slaves and other goods such as
ivory and wax; William
Wilberforce was one of the leading political figures of the time
to bring an end to the British Slave trade.
In 1811 the Luddite
movement began with armed men breaking into factories and destroying
machinery, which threatened to affect their livelihood; the Luddite
mentality spread to the surrounding cities of Yorkshire, Leicestershire,
Derbyshire and Lancashire.
The British government mobilised over 12,000 troops to stem the rebellion
and hired spies to infiltrate the Luddites; a man came forward and confessed
to having taken part in a murder, resulting in the trials and hanging
of three men; though others were found, tried and hanged later; several
Luddite leaders were killed during a battle and the movement soon fell
George III died at Windsor Castle on the 29th January 1820, after a
reign of almost 60 years and was succeeded by his son George IV, who
had already ruled as regent since 1810.
Cook sailed from Plymouth on the 26th August 1768, on the first
of his three Pacific voyages, as commander of the HM Bark Endeavour;
in August 1774, Joseph
Priestley discovered an air that appeared to be completely new,
Oxygen gas (O2) and the Bronte sisters, Anne
Charlotte (1816) & Emily
(1818), were all born late in George's reign.
King George IV (1820 to 1830) House of Hanover:
King George IV became King on the 29th January 1820 and was crowned
Abbey on the 19th July 1821; George had already
ruled as Regent from 1810, as the Prince of Wales, during his father’s
period of insanity.
He had several mistresses and in 1785 secretly married a Catholic widow
Maria Fitzherbert in contravention of the Act of Settlement and the
Royal Marriage Act; they had at least two illegitimate children; unlike
his father he was extravagant with money and became badly in debt, but
his extravagant lifestyle contributed to the fashions of the British
He loved the finer things in life and he was a
patron of new forms of leisure, style and taste; during the ‘Regency
Period’ he commissioned John Nash to build the Royal Pavilion
in Brighton and remodel Buckingham Palace and commissioned Sir Jeffry
Wyatville to rebuild Windsor Castle; George was also instrumental in
the foundation of the National Gallery, London and King's College, London.
He was forced to deny his marriage with Mrs Fitzherbert and in return
for paying off his debts officially marry Caroline of Brunswick whom
he detested, so much so that when he became King George IV he refused
to let her attend his coronation; they had one child Princess Charlotte,
but George refused to recognise Caroline as Queen and tried several
times to annul his marriage to her; she died in 1821 claiming on her
death bed that she had been poisoned.
George paid a state visit to Ireland, but initially refused to support
Catholic emancipation up until 1829, when he was encouraged by the Duke
of Wellington to pass the Catholic Relief Act; he visited Scotland in
1822, the first monarch to do so since Charles II, and encouraged by
Sir Walter Scott wore full Highland regalia leading to a revival of
Scottish tartan dress that had been banned after the Jacobite Rebellions.
His heavy drinking, indulgent lifestyle and taste for huge amounts of
food made him obese and he became a popular figure of ridicule when
he appeared in public; he suffered from gout and towards the end of
his life became mentally unstable; his last years were marked by increasing
physical and mental decay and withdrawal from public affairs; privately
a senior aide to the king confided to his diary, "A more contemptible,
cowardly, selfish, unfeeling dog does not exist....There have been good
and wise kings but not many of them...and this I believe to be one of
George died of an heart attack at Windsor Castle in 1830; on George's
death The Times captured elite opinion succinctly: "There never
was an individual less regretted by his fellow-creatures than this deceased
king. What eye has wept for him? What heart has heaved one throb of
unmercenary sorrow? ... If he ever had a friend – a devoted friend
in any rank of life – we protest that the name of him or her never
King William IV (1830 to 1837) House of Hanover:
King William IV became King on the 26th June 1830 and was crowned at
Abbey on the 8th September 1831; although due to hating pomp he
had originally wanted to dispense with the Coronation, but settled for
a simple one and his coronation only cost a tenth of the expense incurred
by George IV's ceremony in 1821.
He was the third son of George III and was not expected to become king;
he was sent off to join the Royal Navy at 13 years old and saw service
at the Battle of St. Vincent against the Spanish in 1780 and in New
York during the American War of Independence; he was later stationed
in the West Indies under Horatio Nelson and left active service in 1790
as a Rear Admiral.
He was created Duke of Clarence and from 1791 set up home with Dorothea
Bland, an Irish actress known as ‘Mrs Jordan’; they lived contentedly
together for 20 years, and had 5 sons and 5 daughters given the surname
Fitzclarence; by 1817 William was in debt but, with the death of Princess
Charlotte, the only daughter of his elder brother, he had become heir
to the throne.
Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen was found for him as a suitable Protestant
wife and they married in 1818; the marriage was happy but despite several
miscarriages there were no children who survived infancy.
William was 64 years old, and the oldest person, to date, to succeed
to the throne, when he became King on the death of his brother George
IV in 1830; he was nicknamed ‘The Sailor King’ and also known as 'Silly
Billy'; he distrusted foreigners and was noted for his informality;
he regularly invited his friends for dinner and when told that his carriage
was not ready to take him to Parliament he is reported to have said
"Then I will go by hackney cab".
In 1834 when fire destroyed the Houses of Parliament at Westminster
he offered Buckingham Palace to Parliament, but they declined and Westminster
was rebuilt by Charles Barry in the Gothic style; he took his responsibilities
seriously but was more used, from his naval career, to giving and receiving
orders than to the intrigues of politics
During his reign he sought to repair Anglo-American relations following
the war during his father’s reign; England abolished slavery in the
colonies in 1833 with the Abolition of Slavery Act; although despite
his experience in the West Indies, he argued against William
Wilberforce who had heavily campaigned to abolish the Slave
Trade and the Reform Act was passed in 1832, which sought to remove
inequalities in the electoral system, including the removal of ‘rotten
boroughs’ which returned a disproportionate representation to actual
voters, had a stormy passage through Parliament; it was only passed
in 1832 after street protests and Lord Grey and his cabinet threatened
to resign unless the king supported them against opposition from the
House of Lords.
William died in 1837 aged 71 of heart failure; he had no legitimate
children and was succeeded by his niece Victoria.
Queen Victoria (1837 to 1901) House of Hanover:
Queen Victoria became Queen on the 20th June 1837 and was crowned at
Abbey on the 28th June 1838.
Alexandrina Victoria was the only child of Edward Duke of Kent and Victoria
Saxe-Coburg; her father died when she was only 1 year old and her domineering
mother kept her away from her ‘wicked’ uncles Kings George and William;
she had a sheltered upbringing and came to the throne shortly after
her 18th birthday in 1837 on the death of her uncle William who had
no surviving legitimate children.
Due to Victoria turning 18, on the 24th May 1837, a regency was avoided
and Victoria became Queen; in her diary she wrote, "I was awoke at
6 o'clock by Mamma, who told me the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord
Conyngham were here and wished to see me. I got out of bed and went
into my sitting-room, only in my dressing gown, and alone, and saw them.
Lord Conyngham then acquainted me that my poor Uncle, the King, was
no more, and had expired at 12 minutes past 2 this morning, and consequently
that I am Queen."
Official documents prepared on the very first day of her reign described
her as Alexandrina Victoria, but her first name was withdrawn at her
own wish and never used again; since 1714, Britain had shared a monarch
with Hanover in Germany, but under Salic law women were excluded from
the Hanoverian succession, so while Victoria inherited all the British
dominions, Hanover passed instead to her father's younger brother, her
unpopular uncle the Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale, who became King
Ernest Augustus I of Hanover.
At the time of her accession, the government was led by the Whig prime
minister Lord Melbourne, who at once became a powerful influence on
the politically inexperienced Queen, who relied on him for advice; Charles
Greville supposed that the widowed and childless Melbourne was "passionately
fond of her as he might be of his daughter if he had one", and Victoria
probably saw him as a father figure; she inherited the revenues of the
duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall and was granted a civil list of £385,000
per year; financially prudent, she paid off her father's debts and she
became the first sovereign to take up residence at Buckingham Palace.
In February 1840 she married her cousin and love of her life Prince
Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; during Victoria's first pregnancy in
1840, in the first few months of her marriage, 18 year old Edward Oxford
attempted to assassinate her while she was riding in a carriage with
Prince Albert on her way to visit her mother; Oxford fired twice, but
both bullets missed; he was tried for high treason and found guilty,
but was acquitted on the grounds of insanity.
Victoria suffered several more attempted assaults; on the 29th May 1842,
she was riding in a carriage along The Mall, London, when John Francis
aimed a pistol at her but did not fire and he escaped; the following
day, she drove the same route, though faster and with a greater escort,
in a deliberate attempt to provoke Francis in to taking a second aim
and catch him in the act; as expected, Francis shot at her, but he was
seized by plain clothes policemen and convicted of high treason; on
the 3rd July, two days after Francis's death sentence was commuted to
transportation for life, John William Bean also fired a pistol at the
Queen, but it was loaded only with paper and tobacco; Oxford felt that
the attempts had been encouraged by his acquittal in 1840; Bean was
sentenced to 18 months in jail.
In a similar attack in 1849, unemployed Irishman William Hamilton fired
a powder filled pistol at Victoria's carriage as it passed along Constitution
Hill, London; in 1850, Victoria actually sustained an injury when she
was assaulted by a possibly insane ex-army officer, Robert Pate; as
she was riding in a carriage, Pate struck her with his cane, crushing
her bonnet and bruising her face; both Hamilton and Pate were sentenced
to seven years' transportation.
The British Empire was at the height of its power and she ruled over
450 million people, one quarter of the world’s population and approximately
one quarter of the world’s landmass; it stretched so far around the
globe from Canada to the Caribbean, Africa, India, Australia and New
Zealand that it was said that the sun never set on the British Empire.
The Victorian era was a time of immense industrial, political, trade,
scientific and military progress for Great Britain; in her early years
she was dependent on her Prime Minister Lord Melbourne and her uncle
King Leopold of Belgium for advice, she was strong willed and her relations
with her prime ministers ranged from the affectionate, with Melbourne
and Disraeli, to the stormy, with Peel, Palmerston and Gladstone.
Albert became her main advisor and exerted tremendous influence over
the Queen and he persuaded her to take a more constitutional role in
leaving the rule of the nation and Empire to him and Parliament and
until his death on the 14th December 1861 was virtual ruler of the country;
he was a pillar of respectability and left two legacies to England.
The first was the tradition of
The Christmas Tree
The second was
The Great Exhibition and it's
Monies in 1851.
Victoria and Albert had four sons, five daughters and 42 grandchildren
who were married to royalty across Europe making her the ‘grandmother
of Europe’; her daughter Victoria was mother of the German Emperor Kaiser
Wilhelm II, and her grand-daughter Alexandria was the wife of Nicholas
II Emperor and last Tzar of Russia.
The death of Albert from typhoid in 1861 plunged Victoria into mourning
and she withdrew almost completely from public life spending her time
at Balmoral Castle in Scotland and Osborne house on the Isle of Wight
where she spent time with her favourite Scottish servant John Brown;
this encouraged republican sentiments and she was the target of several
assassination attempts; however she kept control of affairs, refusing
her son Edward, Prince of Wales, who became Edward VII, any active role
and India, which was the Jewel in the Crown of the British Empire gave
her the title of Empress of India in 1876.
However, not all was well in the British Empire; no man in the world
is so dependent upon weather as the farmer is and for the greater part
of the 1870s and 1880s the Yorkshire farmer experienced not merely spells
but seasons and years of bad weather; for several years in succession
crop after crop was ruined; to this was added further disaster; in 1879
it rained throughout the summer, which ruined around 80% of the crops
and to make matters worse there was an epidemic of sheep-rot, where
millions of sheep died.
All of this was followed four years later by an equally serious outbreak
of foot-and-mouth disease, in which vast numbers of pigs, sheep and
cattle were lost and in the winter of 1885 to 1886, snow fell from October
to May and in many places Yorkshire was covered by a 2ft layer of snow;
in some places the snow was so deep that it covered dry-stone walls
and entombed whole flocks of sheep; some farmhouses were cut off for
several weeks; the snow and subsequent cold caused crops to fail and
killed many animals and people.
During her golden jubilee in 1887 and her diamond jubilee in 1897 she
regained popular support and respect for her matriarchal role as Queen
of the Nation and Empire; when Victoria died at Osborne House on the
22nd January 1901, after the longest reign in English history, 63 years
and 7 months, the British Empire had doubled in size and British world
power had reached its highest ever point; her reign was the longest
of any British monarch, to date, and the longest of any female monarch
in history; she was buried at Windsor.
King Edward VII (1901 to 1910) House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha:
King Edward VII became King on the 22nd January 1901 and was crowned
Abbey on the 9th August 1902; he was the eldest son of Victoria
and Albert, and known to his family as ‘Bertie’; he was subjected to
a strict regime from an early age, as his parents were keen to ensure
he was prepared to rule; he attended both Oxford and Cambridge and briefly
joined the army.
As Prince of Wales he did not meet his parent’s expectations of duty
and during his mother’s long reign devoted himself to being self indulgent;
he was likeable, sociable and outgoing but became known as a playboy
interested in horse racing, shooting, eating, drinking and other men’s
In 1863 he married Princess Alexandra of Denmark and the marriage was
a reasonably happy producing 6 children; Alexandra tolerated his succession
of mistresses who included Lille Lantry, an actress known as the 'Jersey
Lily'; Lady Churchill, mother of Winston Churchill; Sarah Bernhardt,
another actress and Alice Keppel, the great-grandmother of Camilla,
the wife of
Charles Windsor, the Prince of Wales.
Having mistresses was at the time not uncommon amongst the aristocracy,
but his mother despaired of him and kept him away from taking an active
part in politics even after Albert's death and she was elderly and retired
to Balmoral and Osborne; in 1871 Edward survived a serious illness of
typhoid which had killed his father; however, his eldest son Albert
who was engaged to Mary of Teck died of pneumonia.
Edward was well received abroad and as heir-apparent toured India in
1875; when he finally became King on the death of his mother in 1901,
he threw himself into his new role with energy and his reign restored
sparkle to a monarchy that been rather gloomy since his father's death
40 years earlier.
Related to most of European royalty, he was known as the 'Uncle of Europe',
he was able to assist in foreign policy negotiations and his well received
addresses during a state visit to Paris helped pave the way for the
Anglo-French Entente Cordiale of 1904.
Edward was also the first British monarch to visit Russia and contributed
towards the the Triple Entente between Britain, Russia and France which
a few years later would play an important role in affairs on the outbreak
of World War I;
in 1902, he founded the Order of Merit to reward those who distinguished
themselves in science, art or literature; he supported Admiral Fisher’s
expansion of the Royal Navy, including building the new Dreadnought
battleships; he also supported the reform of the army following the
The African conflict (1899 to 1902), known as
The Boer War, was led by
Paul Kruger, who amongst other things,
besieged British garrisons in Africa.
This led to the government sending
British Reinforcements to Africa,
which in turn led to skirmishes, Boer farms being destroyed and many
This in turn led to the setting up of
Concentration Camps, with squalid
conditions and near starvation for many.
The Boer War finally ended with the signing of
The Treaty of Vereeniging in May
The Edwardian period was seen as a golden age for the upper class in
Europe and America, but society was changing, socialism, women suffragettes,
the Labour party and trade unions were becoming powerful and the founding
of Britain’s Welfare State; "We are all socialists now" he is
reported to have remarked.
In an increasing democratic society Edward saw the importance of displaying
the mystique of pomp and circumstance of the monarchy, and seeing and
being seen by the people; a role he and his successors took to well;
he died of pneumonia at Buckingham Palace in 1910 and was succeeded
by his second son George V.
He was a much loved king, the opposite of his dour father and this Edwardian
Age was one of elegance; Edward had all the social graces and many sporting
interests, including yachting, horse-racing and gambling; his own horse
Minoru even won the Derby in 1909.
King George V (1910 to 1936) House of Windsor:
King George V became King on the 6th May 1910 and was crowned at Westminster
Abbey on the 22nd June 1911.
George V was the second son of Edward and Alexandra; he joined the Royal
Navy at 12 and served until 1892 when he became heir to the throne on
the death of his elder brother Albert, Duke of Clarence, who died of
In 1893, he married Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, known as ‘May’ to
her family, who had previously been engaged to his brother; they became
Duke and Duchess of York and lived on the Sandringham Estate, in Norfolk;
the marriage was a success and George unlike his father never took a
mistress; they had 6 children Edward, Albert, Mary, Henry, George and
John; the youngest Prince John suffered from epilepsy and died at 13.
They toured India in 1911 as Emperor and Empress of India; during World
War I (1914 to 1918) he made several visits to the front, and Mary
visited wounded serviceman in hospital; she was a staunch supporter
of her husband during difficult times that included not only the war
with Germany, but also the Russian revolution and murder of George’s
cousin Princess Alix who was Tsarina Alexandra wife of Tsar Nicholas
II, civil unrest including the General Strike in England, the rise of
socialism, and Irish and Indian nationalism.
George V was criticised for not rescuing the Russian Royal family but
at the time there was serious concern that it would incite a similar
revolution in the UK; he sent a ship in 1922 to rescue the Greek Royal
family including the 1 year old Prince Philip now the Duke of Edinburgh.
In 1917 with anti-German sentiment running high, he changed the family
name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, popularly known as Brunswick or Hanover,
to Windsor and he relinquished all German titles and family connections.
During George's reign Amy
Johnson achieved worldwide recognition when, in 1930 at 26, she
became the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia; she left
London, on the 5th May 1930 and landed in Darwin, Australia on the 24th
May 1930; her 8,600 mile flight took 19.5 days; George awarded her the
C.B.E. in recognition of the achievement
George V enjoyed stamp collecting and although considered dull by biographers
he became by his Silver Jubilee in 1935 a much loved King; in 1932 he
started the tradition of the Royal Christmas broadcast which has continued
ever since; his relationship deteriorated with his eldest son Edward,
later Edward VIII, when he failed to settle down and had affairs with
married women, but he was fond of his second son Albert, known as “Bertie”
and later as George VI, and his granddaughter Elizabeth, later Elizabeth
II, whom he called ‘Lilibet’; she called him ‘Grandpa England’; George
died of pleurisy in January 1936 .
King Edward VIII (1936) House of Windsor:
King Edward VIII became King on the 20th January 1936 up until the 11th
December 1936 when he abdicated; he was never crowned; with a reign
of 326 days, Edward was one of the shortest reigning monarchs in British
and Commonwealth history.