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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Westminster 30 October 1485. Two months after the crown of England fell from a dying king and rolled under a bush, it has been placed formally on the head of the new king. Today’s glittering ceremony of coronation and anointing followed traditional lines but was notable for the magnificence of the costumes and trappings.
It shows just how far Henry Tudor has come since August when he landed near Milford Haven to claim his throne.
His promise to marry Elizabeth of York, the sister of the deposed king Edward V, is meant to unite the warring factions of the red and the white roses, and he has shown restraint in dealing with many who took the Yorkist side. Yet by dating his reign from the day before the battle of Bosworth Field, he retains the power to treat anyone who fought against him as a traitor. The heir to the House of York, the 15-year-old Edward, the earl of Warwick, has already been taken to the Tower of London
Beaulieu, October 1497. Perkin Warbeck, the man who claimed to be Richard IV, has been captured by forces loyal to Henry VII. For six years he has pursued his claim to the throne, purporting to be Prince Richard, the Duke of York, who is thought to have been murdered with his brother Edward V, in the Tower in 1483. Now he has confessed that the claim was false and asked for forgiveness.
London 24 November 1499. Perkin Warbeck was hanged today, some eight years after his first claim to be England's rightful king. A public confession and stints in the stocks preceded his incarceration the Tower.
Richmond, Surrey, 21 April 1509. Henry VII, the victor of Bosworth and the first king for a century to bring peace to a country long ravaged by civil war is dead. He had reigned for more than 23 years and was 52 years old.
The king’s health had been failing for some time, and when in 1507 he had fallen seriously ill of a “quinsy” it was feared that he had but days to live. His death has heralded a wave of complaints and disenchantment with his reign which had been carefully suppressed while he was alive. Yet Henry was an astute, capable ruler. Above all he was a working monarch who came to the throne after decades of dissension and left it secure with his son Henry becoming king.
London 24 April 1509. King Henry VIII has succeeded peacefully to the throne on the death of his father. He has already seized the reigns of power, and has arrested the late king’s detested ministers, the tax collectors, Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley. Their sudden fall is hugely popular. Clearly the new king who is not yet 18, intends to be his own master.
Henry VII was quite parsimonious and authoritarian. Henry VIII will be equally autocratic, but he delights in the splendours of monarchy and his court will be youthful and dazzling as he is.
Greenwich 11 June 1509. King Henry VIII has married his brother Arthur’s widow, Catherine of Aragon, in the church of the Franciscans at Greenwich today. The king is just 18 and the princess is five years older. She is the daughter of King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile.
Greenwich 13 June 1514. The greatest battleship in the world, the “Henri Grace a Dieu“ popularly known as the Great Harry was christened here today by King Henry VIII. The whole court attended the magnificent ceremony marking the occasion. The ship has five tiers of guns and five masts and was laid down two years ago.
Frankfurt 28 June 1519. Charles, King of Spain, has been elected Holy Roman Emperor in succession to his Habsburg grandfather Maximilian. Henry of England entered the contest belatedly encouraged by the Pope. His campaign was mismanaged and he has now been emphatically put in his place.
London 1519. King Henry VIII has fathered a son. Elizabeth Blount, his mistress, for the past two years gave birth recently to Henry Fitzroy. Although the child is scarcely a plausible heir to the throne, his birth has reassured the king of his ability to produce male issue.
London 22 June 1527. After sharing his bed with her for 18 years, Henry VIII today told Catherine of Aragon that they have never been truly man and wife. He plans to ask the pope to revoke the dispensation permitting their marriage. being Henry’s brothers widow at age 17.
Westminster 1 June 1533. The king has turned this Whitsunday into a spectacle of royal magnificence on the coronation of Anne Boleyn. The crowd were subdued and her advanced state of pregnancy was noticeable.
Westminster 28 November 1534. Beginning with Henry VIII, a loyal catholic, seeking help from Rome to rid himself of a wife, it has ended with the king being recognized as the “only supreme head in earth of the Church of England”.
Hampton Court 24 October 1537. Queen Jane Seymour died here today, just 12 days after producing the long awaited male heir, Prince Edward.
London 31 January 1547. King Henry VIII died three days ago after a long illness caused by his obesity and a bad sore on his leg.
London 28 January 1547. A small pale-faced boy and his half-sister wept for hours today when they learnt of the death of their father, Henry VIII. Nine year old Edward is an unlikely heir to Henry’s throne.
London 31 January 1547. Edward VI’s uncle, his mother, Jane Seymour’s brother, advanced himself from the earldom of Hertford to the dukedom of Somerset and declared himself to be the protector of the kingdom.
13 October 1549. Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and lord protector of England is a prisoner in the Tower of London tonight after being deposed by the Earl of Warwick. Somerset’s poor handling of the rebellions in the south west and East Anglia did much to damage his credibility.
Norfolk, 24 January 1551. A bitter religious battle between the king and his half-sister, Mary, has brought the threat of invasion from Mary’s cousin, Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. Edward demanded an end to the illegal Masses said in Mary’s household.
London, 6 July 1553. Edward VI, who died today, had been bequeathed a most difficult legacy by his father, Henry VIII. While Henry himself had been ambivalent about the reformation he had himself created, from an early age Edward made it clear that he had no doubts about his Protestant faith.
London 21 June 1553. England is certain to be plunged into a major crisis with the imminent death of Edward VI. As the king lies dying at Greenwich palace, the powerful Duke of Northumberland - knowing that his own head is in grave danger should the Catholic Princess Mary become Queen, - is making one last desperate bid to maintain his position. Northumberland’s first move was to marry his son, Guildford Dudley, to Lady Jane Grey, who is descended from Henry VIII’s sister Mary, and thus has a place in the line of succession, albeit a vague and tenuous one. The strictly Protestant king is determined that a Catholic shall not inherit the throne and has drawn up a “device” - a form of will - that bars both Mary and Elizabeth from the line of succession. Town criers were ordered to stand on every street corner in London and proclaim that Mary and Elizabeth, the daughters of Henry VIII, are illegitimate. The state council reluctantly agreed to name Lady Jane Grey to be the future queen.
London 3 August 1553. Thousands lined the streets of London to cheer Mary Tudor, Henry VIII’s daughter who has arrived here at the head of an ever growing army of supporters to occupy the throne of England as the country’s first “queen regnant”. Lady Jane Grey, the 16 year-old Norfolk aristocrat who was proclaimed queen nine days ago is now in the Tower of London.
Winchester 25 July 1554. Five days after arriving in England, Philip II of Spain has married Mary of England in a magnificent ceremony at Winchester cathedral. Mary was apparently impressed with her future husband who is 11 years her junior. Mary is 38 and desperate for an heir who will sustain her Catholic principles.
London 12 February 1554. A few hours before her execution, 16 year old Lady Jane Grey, bade farewell to her equally youthful husband Lord Guildford Dudley. From her cell window and watched as his head and carcass were brought back to the Tower chapel in a cart.
22 May 1554. After two months of confinement in a damp, dank room in the Tower of London, Princess Elizabeth is today on her way to the royal palace at Woodstock with an escort of 100 guardsmen.
London 28 November 1554. Queen Mary’s cherished ambition to restore England to the Roman faith came closer to fulfilment today when parliament petitioned for reconciliation with the holy See. In two days time Cardinal Reginald Pole, the papal legate, will pronounce a solemn absolution. Today’s petition does not mean the return of seized monastic property to the church; the present holders can remain in occupation.
London 17 November 1558. It seems likely that even on her deathbed, Mary Tudor, who died early today, was secretly hoping again that she was not ill but pregnant. For the past four and a half years the first queen regnant of England had lived with two obsessions. The first was bearing an heir to the throne; the second was ensuring that her half-sister, Elizabeth did not succeed to the throne. The court is in mourning for a queen whose life always seemed doomed to be tragic. Born to be the most devout of Catholics, she was forced to witness the humiliation of her own mother, Catherine of Aragon, at the hands of her father, Henry VIII.
Westminster 10 February 1559. Queen Elizabeth - the most desirable match in Europe - quelled speculation about her possible marriage by assuring the House of Commons that she is content to remain a virgin.
Hampton Court October 1562. Queen Elizabeth is gravely ill with smallpox. Dr. Burcot the skilled German physician has returned to administer medicine, with the result that red spots have begun to appear on the queens hands. The irascible doctor on hearing the patient moan cried “God’s pestilence, which is better? To have the pox in the hand or on the face, or in the heart and kill the whole body”.
Edinburgh 19 June 1566. Three months after foiling a coup attempt in which her Italian secretary was murdered, Mary Queen of Scots has given birth to a son, James in the royal apartments of Edinburgh Castle. James’s birth is a major event for the baby - a great great grandson of Henry VII of England - is heir not only to the throne of Scotland but also while Elizabeth is childless, to that of England also.
Warwickshire 27 July 1575. Eighteen days of some of the most lavish revels ever held ended today with the departure of Queen Elizabeth and her court from Kenilworth castle to continue their “summer progress” through the country. The Queen was so well entertained by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, at his newly restored castle that courtiers now declare they have never seen anything like it.
England 1583. In a new study the statesman Sir Thomas Smith has provided a revealing anatomy of Elizabethan England in which he divides the nation into four classes: gentlemen, citizens, yeomen, and manual workers. He sees the gentlemen as the class which runs the country.
London February 1587. Queen Elizabeth is grief stricken and hysterical at the news of Queen Mary’s execution. Sir William Davison, her secretary of state, who saw the despatch of the death warrant, has been tried in the star chamber and locked up in the tower during the Queen’s pleasure. Elizabeth herself, signed the death warrant on 1 February after much prevarication.
Channel August 1588. Spain has suffered the most humiliating defeat in its naval history. The ragged and scattered remnants of its once-mighty armada are now sailing north along the east coast seeking escape.
Richmond Palace, 24 March 1603. Queen Elizabeth has died aged 69. In her last hours the council came to her to ask who would inherit her crown. She told the councillors that it would be no rascal and explained that a king should succeed her. “And who should that be but our cousin of Scotland?” she said. “I pray you trouble me no more, I’ll have none but him”. Later when she was beyond speech, they asked her again for a sign, and she raised herself in bed and joined her fingers above her head in the form of a crown, to show that she wished James to inherit the kingdom.
Westminster 15 January 1559. Elizabeth the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and half-sister to the late Queen Mary, was crowned at Westminster abbey today after two days of public display which suggest that she has already won the affection of her people. At the coronation service the 25 year-old queen made her most emphatic mark by refusing to be present while Bishop Oglethorpe elevated the host - a Roman Catholic ritual she hates.
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