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1399 - 1413 HENRY IV

The son of John of Gaunt, Henry Bolingbroke deposed his cousin Richard II in 1399 to claim the throne as Henry IV, becoming the first king of the House of Lancaster. Henry spent most of his 13 year reign defending himself against plots, rebellions and assassination attempts. In Wales Owen Glendower declared himself Prince of Wales and led a national uprising against English rule. Back in England, Henry had great difficulty in maintaining the support of both the clergy and Parliament.

1413 – 1422 HENRY V

The son of Henry IV, he was a pious and skilful soldier. Henry had honed his fine soldiering skills putting down the many rebellions launched against his father and had been knighted when aged just 12. He pleased his nobles by renewing the war with France in 1415 and, in the face of tremendous odds, beat the French at the Battle of Agincourt, losing just 400 of his own soldiers with more than 6,000 Frenchmen killed. On a second expedition Henry captured Rouen, was recognised as the next King of France and married Catherine, the daughter of the French king. Henry died of dysentery whilst campaigning in France.

1422 - 1461 HENRY VI

Henry came to the throne as a baby and inherited a losing war with France, the Hundred Years War finally ending in 1453 with the loss of all French lands except for Calais. The king had an attack of mental illness that was hereditary in his mother’s family in 1454 and Richard Duke of York was made Protector of the Realm. The House of York challenged Henry VI’s right to the throne and England was plunged into civil war. The Battle of St Albans in 1455 was won by the Yorkists. Henry was restored to the throne briefly in 1470. Henry’s son, Edward, Prince of Wales was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury one day before Henry was murdered in the Tower of London in 1471.

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1483–1485 RICHARD III

Richard was the brother of Edward IV and was notoriously ruthless with all those who opposed him.  He is said to have murdered his two nephews (the Princes in the Tower).  He was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth field by Henry Richmond (Tudor) in the last battle of the Wars of the Roses. Richard's skeleton was discovered under a car park in Leicester in 2012 after which he was re-interred at Leicester Cathedral in March 2015. 

1483 Edward V

The eldest son of Edward IV, he succeeded to the throne at the age of 13 and reigned for only two months, the shortest-lived monarch in English history. He and his brother Richard were murdered in the Tower of London – it is said on the orders of his uncle Richard Duke of Gloucester. Richard (III) declared The Princes in the Tower illegitimate and named himself rightful heir to the crown.

1461-1483 EDWARD IV

Edward IV was the son of Richard Duke of York and Cicely Neville.  The first half of his rule was marred by the violence associated with the Wars of the Roses, but he overcame the Lancastrian challenge to the throne at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471 to reign in peace until his sudden death.  His poor morals resulted in him being an unpopular king.  During his reign the first printing press was established in Westminster by William Caxton. Edward died suddenly in 1483 leaving two sons aged 12 and 9, and five daughters.

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1485 - 1509 HENRY VII

Henry attained the throne when his forces defeated King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, the culmination of the Wars of the Roses. He was the last king of England to win his throne on the field of battle. He cemented his claim by marrying Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and niece of Richard III. Henry was successful in restoring the power and stability of the English monarchy after the civil war. 

1509 – 1547 HENRY VIII

Henry is famous for having 6 wives, two of which he beheaded.  His first wife was Catherine of Aragon, his brothers widow, whom he later divorced to marry Anne Boleyn. This divorce caused the split from Rome and Henry declared himself the head of the Church Of England. The Dissolution of the Monasteries began in 1536, and the money gained from this helped Henry to bring about an effective Navy. In an effort to have a son, Henry married four further wives, but only one son was born, to Jane Seymour. Henry had two daughters both to become rulers of England – Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon, and Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn.

1558-1603 ELIZABETH I

The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth was a remarkable woman, noted for her learning and wisdom. From first to last she was popular with the people and had a genius for the selection of capable advisors. Drake, Raleigh, Hawkins, the Cecils, Essex and many many more made England respected and feared. The Spanish Armada was decisively defeated in 1588 and Raleigh’s first Virginian colony was founded.  Shakespeare was also at the height of his popularity.  

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​1603 - 1625 JAMES I and VI of Scotland

Son of Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley. First king to rule over Scotland and England. Subject to the failed Gunpowder plot when Guy Fawkes and his Catholic friends tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament.   It was during James' reign, in 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers sailed for America in their ship The Mayflower.

1625-1649 CHARLES I

Reigned during the English Civil War which started in 1642.  Son of James I and Anne of Denmark.  The Parliamentarian New Model Army, led by Oliver Cromwell, captured Charles after which he was tried and condemned to death, beheaded on 30 January 1649. Following this the British monarchy was abolished and a republic called the Commonwealth of England was declared.

1653 - 1658 OLIVER CROMWELL, Lord Protector

Cromwell took power as Lord Protector in 1653.  A leading parliamentarian he organised the New Model Army, which he led to victory over the Royalists at the Battle of Naseby in 1645 and the beheading of Charles I in 1649.  Cromwell declared Britain a republic ‘The Commonwealth’ and went on to defeat the Irish clans and the Scots loyal to Charles II between 1649 and 1651. In 1653 he finally expelled the corrupt English parliament and with the agreement of army leaders became Lord Protector.

1658 - 1659 ​RICHARD CROMWELL, Lord Protector

Richard was the third son of Oliver Cromwell, he was appointed the second ruling Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland, serving for just nine months. Richard lacked military experience and as such failed to gain respect or support from his New Model Army. He was eventually ‘persuaded’ to resign from his position as Lord Protector and exiled himself to France until 1680, when he returned to England.

1660 - 1686 ​CHARLES II

Son of Charles I.  After the collapse of the Protectorate following the exile of Richard Cromwell to France, the Army and Parliament asked Charles to take the throne. Although very popular he was a weak king and his foreign policy was inept.  The Great Plague in 1665 and the Great Fire of London in 1666 took place during his reign.

1685 - 1688 JAMES II and VII of Scotland

The second surviving son of Charles I and younger brother of Charles II. James had been exiled following the Civil War and served in both the French and Spanish Army. He became very unpopular because of his persecution of the Protestant clergy and was generally hated by the people.  William was married to Mary, James II’s Protestant daughter. William landed in England and James fled to France where he died in exile in 1701.

​1689 - 1702 WILLIAM III and 1689-1694 MARY II

William led, under invitation of many in Britain, the Glorious Revolution which ousted the unpopular King James II.  Many of James II’s army had defected to support William, as well as James’s other daughter Anne. William and Mary were to reign jointly, and William was to have the Crown for life after Mary died in 1694. James plotted to regain the throne and in 1689 landed in Ireland after which James was defeated at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland.

1702 - 1714 ANNE

Anne was the second daughter of James II. A staunch Protestant, Anne was 37 years old when she succeeded to the throne. It was during Anne’s reign that the United Kingdom of Great Britain was created by the Union of England and Scotland.  After her death the succession went to the nearest Protestant relative of the Stuart line. This was Sophia, daughter of Elizabeth of Bohemia, James I ‘s only daughter, but she died a few weeks before Anne and so the throne succeeded to her son George.

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1714 - 1727 ​GEORGE I

George was the son of Sophia and the Elector of Hanover, great-grandson of James I. George never learned English and spent little time in England, so the conduct of national policy was left to the government of the time with Sir Robert Walpole becoming Britain’s first Prime Minister.  In 1715 the Jacobites (followers of James Stuart, son of James I) tried to oust George, but failed. 

1820 - 1830 GEORGE IV

George IV led an extravagant lifestyle that contributed to the fashions of the Regency era. His poor relationship with both his father and his wife, Caroline of Brunswick, and his dissolute way of life, earned him the contempt of the people and damaged the prestige of the monarchy. 

​1830 - 1837 WILLIAM IV

William served 10 years in the Royal Navy before becoming king aged 64. He hated pomp and ceremony which made him popular with the people as he had a lack of pretension.  His reign saw several reforms: the poor law was updated, child labour restricted, slavery abolished in nearly all of the British Empire, and the British electoral system refashioned by the Reform Act 1832.

1837 - 1901 VICTORIA

Victoria was the only child of Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg and Edward Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III. In 1840 she married her cousin Albert of Saxe-Coburg who went on to exert huge influence over the Queen and, until his death, was virtual ruler of the country. Her reign saw the British Empire double in size and in 1876 the Queen became Empress of India. When Victoria died in 1901, the British Empire and British world power had reached their highest point.

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1901 - 1920 EDWARD VII

The eldest son of Victoria & Albert, Edward was a popular King and loved horse-racing, gambling and women along with sporting interests such as yachting and horse-racing. He married Alexandra of Denmark in 1863 and they had six children. He travelled throughout Britain performing ceremonial public duties, and represented Britain on visits abroad.

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1910 - 1936 GEORGE V

George became king as a result of his brother's death when he became heir.  He loved the sea, joining the Navy in 1877.  His reign saw the rise of Socialism, Communism, FascismIrish Republicanism, and the Indian independence movement, all of which radically changed the political landscape.  In 1932 he began the royal broadcasts on Christmas Day and in 1935 he celebrated his Silver Jubilee. His latter years were overshadowed by his concern about the Prince of Wales and his infatuation with Mrs. Simpson.

1936 - 1952 GEORGE VI

Very popular with the people, George was a shy and nervous man with a very bad stutter, the exact opposite of his brother the Duke of Windsor.  He became more confident with the support of his wife Elizabeth ( later to become The Queen Mother) and his mother Queen Mary.  During George's reign, the British Empire transformed into the Commonwealth of Nations.  George adopted the new title of Head of the Commonwealth. He was beset by health problems in the later years of his reign. He was succeeded by his elder daughter, Elizabeth II.

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