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England, Kings and Queens

Henry VIII (1509 - 1547)

Henry the Eighth, the second monarch of the Tudor dynasty, became king when he was only seventeen. He is most famous for having two of his six wives beheaded, and for breaking with the Roman Catholic Church. His desire to divorce Catherine of Aragon, his first wife, compelled him to create the Church of England (Anglican Church), of which he declared himself the head (the Act of Supremacy, 1534). He then outlawed Catholicism, and seized the wealth and land held by the Catholic Church in England by disolving the monastaries. Henry sired three heirs to the throne: Mary I was the daughter of Catherine of Aragón, Eliazbeth I was Anne Boylyn's only surviving child, and Edward VI was the son of Jane Seymour, his third wife.

Edward VI (1547 - 1553)

Edward the Sixth, king at the age of 10, and dead at the age of 16, was the last in the male line of the house of Tudor. Edward was born at Hampton Court, the only son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour. He succeeded to the throne in 1547. Because he was so young, his uncle, Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford, was named Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset. John Dudley, who eventually became Duke of Northumberland, managed to have Somerset removed from power and executed. In 1553 Edward became ill, and Dudley induced him to sign a will depriving his half sisters, who later ruled as Mary I and Elizabeth I, of their claim to the throne. The right of succession then fell to Lady Jane Grey, who had married Dudley's son, but she was soon deposed by Mary I.

Lady Jane Grey (1553)

Queen of England for nine days, Lady Jane Grey was a great-granddaughter of King Henry VII and daughter of Henry Grey, duke of Suffolk and 3rd marquess of Dorset. When Lady Jane was 15 years old, England's powerful lord chamberlain John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, arranged a marriage for her with his son, Guildford Dudley. The duke's purpose was to change, through Lady Jane, the royal succession upon the death of the ailing young king, Edward VI, so that he could continue to control the country through her. Edward approved the marriage and secured witnesses to a deed declaring Lady Jane his successor. Upon the death of the king, on July 6, 1553, Lady Jane was proclaimed queen, but Edward's half sister, Mary Tudor, contested the succession. Lady Jane was subsequently imprisoned in the Tower of London. She and her husband were accused of treason, and both were beheaded on February 12, 1554.

Mary I (1553-1558)

The reign of Queen Mary (1553-58) was marked by religious upheaval and dissension. She had been raised as a Catholic, and she sought to undo the Protestant changes of the past several years. Protestants were suppressed and burned in the hundreds, an act which earned Mary the charming nickname "Bloody Mary". Mary entered into an extremely unpopular marriage with Philip, heir to the throne of Spain. Parliament refused to accept Philip as co-ruler, and after much wrangling he took his place as Mary's consort only, with no right to inherit the throne. Mary seems to have doted on Philip, but he regarded the marriage as an affair of political convenience.

Elizabeth I (1558 - 1603)

Born at Greenwich in 1533, Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and became one of England's greatest queens. Much of her reign was overshadowed by war with Spain. In 1588, Philip II of Spain, her sister Mary's widower, failed in his attempt to invade England when his Armada was routed in the English Channel. Although Elizabeth had many suitors she never married, and the Tudor dynasty which Henry VIII had tried so hard to secure died with her.

Charles I (1625 - 1649)

Charles (b.1600) became heir to the throne when his brother, Henry, died in 1612. A believer in the "Divine Right of Kings", Charles had scant regard for Parliament and in 1642 tried unsuccessfully to arrest five leading opponents in the House of Commons. Both sides took to arms and within months the nation was engulfed in Civil War. Parliament found Charles guilty of waging war against his own people. He was beheaded outside Whitehall Palace on 30th January, 1649.

Charles II (1660-1685)

Charles (b.1630) was Charles I's eldest son. In 1650 he returned, from exile, to Scotland and was crowned King there. However, his attempt to recover the English Crown failed at the battle of Worcester in 1651 when his Scottish army was defeated by that of Oliver Cromwell. Following Cromwell's death in 1658 his son, Richard, succeeded him as Lord Protector. In 1660 Parliment, tiring of Puritan rule, offered Charles the crown.

George III (1760 - 1820)

George was born in 1738. He became heir when his father, Frederick, died in 1751 and married Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1761. His intransigence, allied to political miscalculations by his Prime Minister, Lord North, led to the American War of Independence. The 1790s saw the French Revolution, and wars with France continued until Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in 1815. George's reign was also notable for the coming of the Industrial Revolution.

George IV (1820 - 1830)

George (b.1762) was a man of great style and taste but notorious for his extravagance. He contravened The Act of Settlement by morganatically marrying Maria Fitzherbert, a Roman Catholic. Parliament, ignoring this event, pressed him to marry Caroline of Brunswick in 1795. On becoming King in 1820, George tried to divorce Caroline; the ensuing scandal nearly cost him the Crown. In 1826 George commissioned John Nash to design the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace.

Victoria (1837 - 1901)

Victoria, the niece of William IV, was aged 18 when she became Queen. In 1840 she married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, with whom she was to have nine children. Albert died of typhoid in 1861 and was mourned by Victoria until her death. A cultured man, the success of the 1851 Great Exhibition had largely been due to his efforts. During Victoria's long reign (63 years, often referred to as the "Victorian Age" or the "Victorian Era") Britain dominated world trade and the British Empire grew to cover more than a quarter of the world.

This page for educational purposes only.
Portraits from The Royal Collection, copyright HM Queen Elizabeth II

Links: Monarchs of England
Queen Victoria
Elizabethan Costume Gallery
The House of Tudor
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