The British Monarchy has evolved over almost 2 millennium. This web site explores the history, chronology, and the multifarious and fascinating characters of the individual kings and queens from ad 839 until ad 2000
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London 7 May 1603. James VI triumphal journey from Edinburgh reached its climax today when he led his retinue into London, which, once he has been crowned king of England, will be his new capital. This has been a dazzling progress, growing ever more splendid as it proceeded south. Now, courtiers and local dignitaries in every town have vied to to greet the new king with pomp and circumstance.
London 5 November 1605. That king and parliament may sleep safely in their beds tonight is no thanks to a group of Catholic plotters who tried to blow up the palace of Westminster today. The plot was devised by Robert Catesby, a devout Catholic set on avenging what he saw as persecution. The plotters were betrayed when one, Francis Trensham, sent a warning to his brother-in-law, Lord Mounteagle - who would have been a potential victim. He in turn told the government. Guy Fawkes, the most notorious survivor of the gunpowder gang, was hanged, drawn and quartered today. Robert Catesby is dead, shot while resisting arrest.
London 6 January 1610. Prince Henry, the heir to the throne, was instituted as prince of Wales today. The prince, was born at Stirling Castle 16 years ago. He has shown himself as a serious young man with an independent outlook.
London November 1612. The Prince of Wales is dead. The heir to the English and Scottish thrones died on 6 November. An athletic man his illness gave no initial concern but he grew worse and died of typhoid.
London 7 June 1614. The king has dismissed parliament with the comment: “I am surprised that my ancestors should have permitted such an institution to come into existence”. It had been called on the advice of the attorney-general, Sir Francis Bacon. But its two month sitting only widened the gap between the house of Stuart and the House of Commons. Extravagances, such as selling £10,000 of crown lands to provide a wedding gift for Robert Carr, the Earl of Somerset, have left the treasury empty.
Hertford shire 27 March 1625. King James - dubbed “the wisest fool in Christendom” by Henry IV of France - died today at Theobalds, his favourite home. Crippled by arthritis, he caught a fever and then suffered a stroke which caused him to lose control of his body. It was not a kingly death, but James, having been a king almost all his life, was never regal.
Westminster 27 March 1625. King James’s death has brought to the throne his 24 year-old second son Charles, a serious-minded, dignified, pious figure. A frail and sickly child Charles grew up in the shadow of his elder brother Henry who died of Typhoid in 1612. He is shy and has a slight speech defect.
Dover June 1625. King Charles today officially met his prospective bride, Henrietta Maria the 15-year-old daughter of Henry IV of France for the first time. They have already been married by proxy in Paris and Charles appears delighted by his queen who has warmth and wit and promises to add much to the court life
Westminster 26 March 1626. The second parliament of King Charles I’s reign is sinking into accusations and recriminations. A collection of royal jewellery, set to date back to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, has disappeared and Sir John Elliot, leader of the Commons, claims it has been pawned abroad.
Portsmouth 23 August 1628. The king’s favourite, the Duke of Buckingham, while on his way to make a further attempt to recover La Rochelle, was stabbed to death at the Greyhound Inn here today by a lone assassin, John Felton
Whitehall 29 May 1630. Barely a year since the first prince lived but one day, a new prince Charles has been born to the king and queen. England once more has an heir to the throne. The country rejoices but none more so than the royal parents themselves, for whom the birth brings not just a child but a symbol of how their own relationship has gained a far happier aspect.
London 20 June 1632. The king has ordered members of the gentry to return to their estates in the country. To Charles, this reflects a somewhat nostalgic vision of the harmonious social order which he wishes to foster - a society where landowners fulfil their magisterial duties and attend to the tenants and the poor of their estates.
London 22 September 1639. Thomas Wentworth, for the last six years lord deputy in Ireland, has returned to London in response to an urgent message from the king “Come when you will, ye shall be welcome, Charles R.”.
Westminster, December 1640. The second parliament this year has assembled in an atmosphere of deep suspicion of the king and his advisers. Alarming stories have been circulating of popish plots encouraged by the queen Henrietta Marie and Thomas Wentworth the Earl of Strafford.
London 12th May 1641. Thomas Wentworth or “Black Tom the Tyrant” to his enemies, has been executed. An enormous crowd had gathered to watch. The king - who had specifically guaranteed the earl’s safety, yet was forced to sign his death warrant is shattered and regards the execution as a rape of his honour.
London 11 January 1642. The king has fled and London is in the hands of the parliament. Just a week after Charles confidently entered the House of commons to arrest John Pym, John Hampden and others, the MP’s have returned to Westminster in triumph.
Nottingham 13 September 1642. The king has unfurled his standard and called his loyal subject to arms. The day was wet and gloomy, and the royal proclamation had been so altered by Charles at the last moment that his herald could hardly read it out. It was greeted by the 5,000-strong population neither with enthusiasm nor hostility.
London 27 January 1649. Charles Stuart was found guilty of treason today and sentenced to death. Efforts are underway to collect signatures for his death warrant, not an easy task as there are potential risks. Fifty-nine men, mostly soldiers, led by Oliver Cromwell and Henry Ireton have signed. A notable absent signature was Sir Thomas Fairfax.
Whitehall 30 January 1649. A great howl went up from the crowd huddled outside Whitehall palace today as Charles, the British king, was beheaded for treason.
Whitehall 29 May 1660. The excitement was great when Charles Stuart arrived in the capital to claim his throne. An estimated 20,000 people lined the streets the bells of the city rung out the nobility in their colourful robes.
London 23 April 1661. Last night the king moved in state to the Tower of London by barge along the Thames. Today - St. George’s Day - he rode through the streets to Westminster abbey to be crowned. The procession set off from Tower Hill at eight this morning, but crowds had been packing the abbey and makeshift scaffolding along the way since before dawn.
London 22 May 1662. Twice today, if rumours are to be believed, King Charles has gone to the alter to get married, each ceremony with the same woman, the 23-year-old daughter of the king of Portugal, Catherine of Braganza. The first, a private catholic wedding, the second conducted publicly by the bishop of London. Catherine will remain a Catholic.
Hampton Court 1663. Any hopes which Queen Catherine had that Charles would change his ways after marriage have been swiftly disappointed. Lady Castlemaine, his mistress, bore him a son last year and he visits her every evening. He has now cast his eye over 15-year-old Frances Stewart who joined the court this year as a maid but is virtuous.
London July 1665. King Charles and his court have abandoned the capital and fled to Oxford in an attempt to avoid the ravages of the plague which is now afflicting London. Parliament has been prorogued and the Exchequer has moved to Nonesuch Palace near Ewell in Surrey.
New England 1676. There is now taking place the steady colonisation of North America. King Charles is locked in deadly competition with the Dutch to secure control of these lucrative new lands and with slaves fetching £18 a piece in Virginia it is a prize well worth fighting for.
Whitehall 28 January 1680. King Charles today told the privy council he is formally inviting his brother James, Duke of York back from exile in Scotland sent there after the Popish plot.
Whitehall 5 February 1685. This evening the dying King Charles was received into the Catholic church in a private ceremony arranged by his brother James.
London 6 February 1660. General Monck, whose army is the only effective source of power in the leaderless British kingdoms, has added his voice to calls for a new parliament. Monck has issued an ultimatum to M.P’s showing his exasperation with the rump of a parliament first summoned in 1640.
Westminster 23 April 1685. King James was today crowned King of England, succeeding his brother Charles - the second monarch named James in England, and the seventh in Scotland. He is 51 and more importantly, the first avowed Catholic monarch since Mary Tudor. James is truly devout, and this conviction seems set to bring renewed conflict, not least because he believes in the “Divine Right of Kings” which caused a civil war in the reign of his father.
Westminster 4 April 1687. The king has issued a declaration of indulgence suspending all the penal laws against dissenters and Catholics. For many months he has been issuing individual exemptions to dissenters, including William Penn, the Quaker, and has promoted many Catholic officers in the army. The new declaration makes exemptions general.
The Hague 1686. Prince William of Orange, the Protestant husband of the heir to the British throne, is being informed by supporters of the increasing tension in England and Scotland. William, the Dutch head of state has a great reputation as a statesman and soldier.
London 30 June 1688. A conspiracy is afoot to overthrow King James and bring over William and Mary of Orange. A group of Tory and Whig nobles today wrote to Prince William urging him to bring an army to oust James and secure the Protestant succession. Prince William is the husband of Princess Mary, the king’s eldest daughter who, until the birth of Prince James earlier this month was heir to the throne.
London 15 October 1688. James Francis Edward, the Prince of Wales, was baptised today as a Roman Catholic. Even though King James has belatedly awoken to the challenge posed by Prince William and his own daughter, he went ahead with what may seem a provocative christening.
Salisbury 26 November 1688. The king has been deserted by some of his most senior officers, including, Churchill, Kirke and Trelawny, who put down Monmouth’s rebellion. The king has 25,000 men under arms but they will not fight without leaders.
London 23 December 1688. King James II has fled the country. The queen and Prince of Wales left two weeks ago. William of Orange entered London on 18 Dec. and is now undisputed master of England, having overthrown James in six weeks.
Tayside 27 July 1689. Government forces today clashed with a rebel army loyal to the ousted King James in a narrow gorge at Killiecrankie. The rebels were led by Viscount Dundee. As support for Dundee grew in the highlands, the government declared him a rebel and sent a 3,000 strong army north under General Hugh Mackay. The government troops were forced to retreat but Dundee was killed
Drogheda Ireland 1 July 1690. Realising he had to confront James on Irish soil, King William sailed to Carrickfergus near the River Boyne, and today has dealt a fatal blow to James’s hopes of regaining the throne. With the backing of the French King Louis XIV, the deposed king James II landed in County Cork in March last year.
Highlands, Scotland 13 February 1692. A brutal massacre of men, women and children took place this morning in the bleak setting of Glencoe. Dozens of members of the Macdonald clan, including their chief were butchered by soldiers of the Argyll regiment led by Robert Campbell of Glenlyon. On 1 February Glenlyon, a sworn enemy of the Macdonalds, quartered 120 Campbells in Glencoe, ostensibly to collect taxes. Although welcomed by the Macdonalds, treachery was afoot, for Glenlyon had orders to kill every Macdonald under the age of 70.
It has emerged that the order for the massacre in Glencoe was signed by the king himself
Kensington 28 December 1694. Just over a week ago Queen Mary began to complain of feeling ill. Two days later her doctors diagnosed smallpox, and this morning she died, leaving her desolate husband as sole ruler of the kingdom. Mary was only 32, but she had been in poor health for some time and sensed that she should prepare for death. William was devastated by her illness - both his parents died of smallpox - and he had a bed made up for him in Mary’s room. Yesterday Mary, who said she felt little pain, took the last sacrament and said farewell to William.
Windsor 30 July 1700. William the Duke of Gloucester, the only survivor of Princess Anne’s 18 pregnancies, died this morning. Anne, younger daughter of James II, and Prince George were at his bedside. Six days ago the young duke danced at his 11th birthday party here, but he retired soon after complaining of a chill and sore throat. Fever set in two days later and he became delirious and his condition - thought to be smallpox or scarlet fever -worsened.
Kensington 8 March 1702. King William III of Orange died this morning, two weeks after a fall from his horse in Richmond park. He was 51 years old. The king’s health had been failing for a year or more, with asthma and leg swellings, but his final decline was precipitated by his horse tripping over a molehill.
Westminster 11 April 1689. William and Mary were crowned as King and Queen of Britain today in a ceremony in Westminster Abbey which combined the traditional pageantry of the past with the revolutionary new oaths of constitutional monarchy. For the first time in British history the monarchs swore that they would govern according to the ‘statutes of parliament’ and maintain the ‘Protestant reformed religion established by law’. Today’s ceremony was also the first coronation in which two individuals were crowned to reign jointly.
London 23 April 1702. Queen Anne the second daughter of James II was crowned today. A plain looking and stout woman of 37, she is not regarded as being particularly clever and is certainly not in physical good health. Married to Prince George of Denmark in 1683, she has been pregnant annually ever since and has suffered six miscarriages and has twelve babies none of whom have survived to see her crowned. Two years ago her deeply loved son William died at the age of eleven.
Edinburgh August 1703. The Scottish parliament has united against the idea of union with England, and this month it has voted a series of measures to try to protect Scottish sovereignty. The most serious The Act of Security of the Kingdom, threatens to bar the Hanovarians - the heirs to the English throne - from the throne of Scotland, raising the spectre of war and the return of the Catholic Stuarts from exile.
London 1 May 1707. A thanksgiving service, attended by Queen Anne and all the great officials of state was held today at St. Pauls Cathedral to mark the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. The act uniting the parliaments of England and Scotland.
Kensington Palace 1 August 1714. The queen died today at 7.30 am. She had not emerged from a coma into which she had fallen some hours before. Dr. Arbuthnot, her physician said “Sleep was never more welcome to a weary traveller than death was to her”. The crown will pass to Prince George Elector of Brunswick-Luneberg.
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