English monarchs from the Norman Line to the Windsors

English monarchs from the Norman Line to the Windsors

The Crown of St. Edward / theguardian.com

The Crown of St. Edward / theguardian.com

Before a Norman Duke successfully invaded England, there had been in the Danish or Viking Line six kings including the last two, Edward the Confessor (started building Westminster Abbey) and Harold II (very much a Viking, killed at the Battle of Hastings). Then it goes as follows:-

Norman Line: William the Conquerer 1066-87 – William II known as Rufus, murdered perhaps at the order of Henry I followed by Stephen and then Henry II (first of the Plantagenet dynasty, who had four sons, three of whom were revolting for one reason or other – Richard Lionheart, John and Geoffrey who was never King. After these came Henry III (1216 – 72 fifty-six years in which he did not do much for anybody including himself but was father of Edward I who did a great deal and was one of England’s greatest kings whatever Mel Gibson says. He had a son who became Edward II who did unsuitable things with male favourites such as the Despensers, ancestors of Diana, Princess of Wales, and a Gascon knight called Piers Gaveston. All three favourites were bumped off by the Barons, as was poor Edward, murdered in Berkeley Castle at the orders of his wife and Mortimer. Then came Edward III 1327 – 77, another long reign and a great King, though he was indeed the son of Edward II. After him came twenty-two years of Richard II, who started well by extinguishing the Peasants’ Revolt, but went wrong, made himself disliked by his barons, and got murdered in 1399 just in time for the –

Plantagenet, Lancastrian Line:  Henry IV, Bolingbroke (‘Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’ Shakespeare) whose unruly son straightened himself out and became Henry V, victor over the French at Agincourt, who unfortunately died young after marrying a French Princess and siring a weakling called Henry VI. He is best remembered for founding Eton College and King’s College. Meanwhile Henry V’s widow married a Tudor and what a lot of trouble that caused.

Plantagenet, Yorkist Line:  Edward IV Wars of the Roses etc., who reigned twice, 1461 – 70 and 1470/71, who was father to Edward V who was placed in the Tower with his younger brother the Duke of York and was never seen again. Edward IV’s brother the Duke of Gloucester became Richard III, inaccurately called ‘Crouchback’ or ‘Crookback’, who reigned only two years before his throne was usurped by-

The House of Tudor, in the person of Henry VII 1485 – 1509 who was the father of Henry VIII who played royal tennis well, and married six times. He chopped off the heads of two of his Queens and divorced two more. He went from bad to bad and reigned from 1509 – 47. One of his wives, a girl he neither beheaded nor divorced called Jane Seymour gave him a weakling son called Edward VI who felt drawn towards the Protestant cause and liked watching Catholics burning. He died young in 1553 but not before telling his councillors that he wished to be succeeded by Lady Jane Grey, a clever young bluestocking married to Guildford, a son of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. The daughter of Henry VIII by his first wife Catherine of Aragon objected to this and in just nine days her followers had defeated poor little Jane, chopped her and her husband up, and the queen was Mary I Tudor. This lady was very Catholic and carried on with the burnings, but this time of Protestants. She was also married, albeit briefly, to one of the greatest of all those innumerable Spanish kings, Philip II. Mary reigned only five years before dying in dreadful pain, and was succeeded by Elizabeth I, Mary’s half-sister, being the daughter of Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth was a great monarch, encouraged piracy to fill her coffers, flirted with young men who often lost their heads, and defeated the Spanish King’s Armadas on a number of occasions, not just once. But she had no heir so the great and good turned to Scotland for help in the Succession, producing –

The Royal House of Stuart in the person of James I (of England) and VI (of Scotland) thus founding the United Kingdom. James was married of course and had a quiverful of children but preferred the company of gentlemen like Buckingham. He also hated tobacco. His son was Charles I, who was not very tall but very brave, challenging the might of his own Parliament which he never liked or understood. After two civil wars the Parliament, led by Oliver Cromwell, shortened the king by a head (1649) and tried to catch his teenage son, who escaped after amazing adventures and stayed in exile until his Restoration in 1660. This was Charles II, two yards high, very forthright with the ladies (a practice . . . it was said . . . much helped by the prodigious size of his membrum viril). Charles stayed married to his Portuguese wife whom he dearly loved, but she could give him no surviving children. Charles made up for this by fathering numerous bastards most of whom he recognised, gave them Dukedoms etc. He is still called ‘The Merry Monarch’, though biographers do not find him merry at all. How could he be? He spent most of his reign (1660 – 85) arguing uselessly with his Parliaments, who never agreed with him, getting pensions from his extremely rich cousin Louis XIV of France, and trying to deal with his fractious, captious, capricious and annoying bastard son Monmouth, one of the results of his special relation with Lucie Walter. He loved the sea however, and did much to continue building up his navy. He was succeeded by his younger brother James II, who might have been a Good King and a Good Thing except that he was Roman Catholic in fact and by conviction so he lasted three years on the throne before the so-called Glorious Revolution toppled him off it and into exile. He had been surrounded by traitors, but, unlike his brother Charles, he did not know how to deal with them.

House of Orange and Stuart:  the Glorious Revolutionaries got hold of a Dutchman called William III and his wife Mary, who was a Stuart anyway, and they became a joint monarchy William and Mary (1689 – 1702).

House of Stuart Again:  the next to reign was Anne who has given her name to a style of architecture, and was very friendly with the naughty wife of a soldier called John Churchill, later to become the Duke of Marlborough, who won battles everywhere, especially against the French. Anne’s reign lasted twelve years.

House of Brunswick and Hanover: 1714 – 1901:  Anne had no heirs so once again representatives of Parliament had to find a new monarch so they chose a German who spoke no English called George I. The Hanoverians disliked their own sons so George hardly spoke to George II, who never spoke unless he had to, with his son George III who loved his wife very much but spent long periods as a semi-lunatic. He is said to have lost the American colonies, but I cannot see that it was his fault. Perhaps he was not entirely sure where they were. The next monarch was ‘The Sailor King’ William IV who reigned for only seven years before ushering in a really good Queen called Victoria. She was another long-timer who reigned from 1837 to 1901.

House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha:  Edward VII was the eldest of the many children of Queen Victoria and her husband the German Prince Consort. His mother had not liked or trusted him, but he made a good King for the brief time he was allowed before dying in 1910.

 House of Windsor:  George V thought his surname rather too German, especially as everyone knew the Kaiser (his first cousin) was preparing for war with Britain. George changed his name to the satisfyingly English Windsor. This caused the Kaiser to make his only known joke – “I suppose we will now have to call the play ‘The Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha”. George was one of the few male Windsors not to play merry hell with the ladies, partly because of his wife Queen Mary, a puissant and rather terrifying woman who disapproved strongly of philandering. George’s eldest son was a wastrel who became Edward VIII (the Abdication Crisis) but was never crowned, which English History can perhaps call a Good Thing. Luckily, he had a brother who became George VI (1936 – 52), a man of very different fibre. But he was worn out by illness, affairs of state, smoked incessantly, and stammered badly until this personal problem was partially sorted out by his wife, Lady Elizabeth, whose Scottish family goes back into the thickest of historical mists – the Earls of Strathmore were barons even before the time of Macbeth and Malcolm Canmore. One of George and Elizabeth’s two children became Elizabeth II, who began her extraordinary reign in 1952 and is still there on the throne as I write this; a woman of great beauty and mystery, certainly a worthy monarch of Great Britain and the Commonwealth. Should she die as we all do in the end, she will probably NOT be succeeded by her oldest son Charles, Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall who is nearly seventy. In that case there will be another William on the throne, if Britain does not become a republic.

About the Author:

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.


  1. Charles C. Rhys November 28, 2013 at 6:56 am - Reply

    Was there some sort of enmity between the de Berkley’s and Henry TUDOR? It seems odd to me that after such a prolonged effort to secure a male heir for the throne that he did not legitimize Sir John Perrott…son by Mary de Berkley/Pughe. Any thoughts and why he was not legitimized? Kind Regards C.C. Rhys

    • Dean Swift December 3, 2013 at 1:13 pm - Reply

      Charles, forget about ‘de Berkley’, it is simply Berkeley, and has been since the deepest mists of time. The family still live at Berkeley Castle as you no doubt know. The present Berkeleys are charming. The answer to your question however is that all great families, dynastic or not, loathed Henry VII because he was a scheming, plotting, spider-like miser who hoarded gold and silver, and instructed his tax gatherers to squeeze every last penny out of dynastic families etc. His son was much worse, because should you disagree with him he would shorten you by a head, something that happened to the Howards, Cliffords, Percies, Villiers, Berkeleys etc. Incdientally, are you related to all the Rhyses who are now famous film actors?

  2. Charles C. Rhys December 6, 2013 at 12:42 am - Reply

    To your qustion of the Rhys family of actors….I have not researched that and do not know.

    I would be if THEY are related to Sir Rhys ap Thomas 1449 of Bosworth Field , Wm. ap Thomas ap Rhyse 1480 & the Martin/Bateman famlies of Pembrokshire. The actual connection is a matter being fought out with a cadre of Historians regarding John Parrott II son of Sir John Perrot 1527 ca.

    The paramour one, Sybl Johns, gave us the potential grandson of Henry Tudor VIII who’s liason with a fine Christian woman in Wales yielded my 7th great grand father, one PERROTT ap Rhys 1600. My contention is that the blood does not lie, and I have amassed evidence that alleges sons of Henry Tudor who lived, ie: Stuckley/Pollard and Perrott/Berkley-Pughe had sons, Butler, and others who share the RARE haplogroup I-1 which is distincly non-Conquorer stock. Interestingly, the non-royal Tudors of Wales also share the i-1 Haplo group.

    I have my family as living proof of a blood connection to Sir John Perrott but the slippery Mr. Perrott ap Rhys 1600 got away with faking his own death in order to escape a huge debt…& the looming Civil War lead by cousin Oliver Cromwell. Therefore, his DEATH in 1640 is deemed more real than I and my family, who indeed cary the near exact countenances of famous ancestoral faces walking about the USA are mere accidents of time. Double gangers of James I, Elizabeth Carey, female version of Richard III (in the family by virtue of the Harrington family) Elizabeth Woodville done as an artistic reconstruction yielded yet another of Nieces, Cosomo De Mediccii, Henry Tudor’s VII and VIII and Bloody Mary simply cut no influance on the paper- bound historians with whom I commune. One or two would be mere accidental but 8 doublegangers? That’s not a coincidence, and yes I have forensic experience. Perrott ap Rice 1600 began life in the Virginia Colonies on the James River as Captain John Rice: His deceased Cavalier Brother killed about 1650-55. I wish I could tell you with certainty: but my associates would say I assume too much. Regards, Charles C. Rhys

    • Dean Swift December 16, 2013 at 9:20 am - Reply

      Charles, there are three well known actors with ‘Rhys’ in their names . . . John Rhys-Davies who played the dwarf king in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as Indiana Jones’ buddy in at least two of the ‘Indiana Jones’ quartet. Then there is the boy who plays Henry VIII as a very young man in the TV series ‘The Tudors’ – good acting from him in a really awful series, and then there is the boy who plays Captain Hornblower again in a successful TV series, ‘Hornblower’ adapted brilliantly from the Forrester books on the Nelsonian Navy. Best regards Dean.

  3. Charles C. Rhys December 18, 2013 at 12:33 am - Reply

    I am not too keen on the association with H.T. VIII….You may be more interested in the John Lackland and Adelaide le Blanch de Anjou and Foulques II comt de Anjou grandparents which have recently surfaced…to say more would not be proper…I am a fan of yours, and I myself am just learning of this Dynamic English Family which springs forth from the GREAT CHurchill and Herberts of Pembrokshire and de la Roche famlies…Kind Regards. Charles C. Rhys 1948

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