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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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