medieval throne and helmet

Kings and Queens of England facts

I always thought it was a shame that when I was at school, history was all based on much more recent history like World War 2 and the Cold War. I think I’d probably have enjoyed it more if we’d done more about the history of kings and queens of England and Britain, with all the blood and gore, and characters that they were. Instead, my interest was gleaned from reading my mum’s Jean Plaidy books as a teen, and Elizabeth Chadwick novels as an adult. Otherwise watching Horrible Histories (a lot) with my son has also increased my knowledge from 0 to a bit more.

For those of you who want to know a few facts about each, or who in fact the Kings and Queens of England were (and are), this list might help.

The only time when there was no King or Queen in Britain was when the country was a republic between 1649 and 1660. King Charles I was executed and Britain became a Republic for those eleven years before the monarchy was restored in 1660.

What a list of castles to visit in the UK. Check out the post which includes a printable checklist.

Timeline of ‘houses’ in England 1066-present day

  • House of Wessex 802-1016
  • Danish 1014-1042
  • Saxons 1042-1066
  • The Normans 1066-1154
  • Plantagenets 1154-1216, and 1216-1399
  • House of Lancaster 1399-1461
  • House of York 1461-1485
  • Tudors 1485-1603
  • Stuarts 1603-1649 and 1660-1714
  • House of Hanoverians 1714-1901
  • Saxe-Coburg-Gotha 1901-present day
trivia facts about the kings and queens of england

Mnemonic to remember the reigning houses of England

“No Plan Like Yours To Study History Wisely”

Norman, Plantagenet, Lancaster, York, Tudor, Stuart, Hanover, Windsor

Kings and Queens of England (eventually becoming United Kingdom)


Egbert 802-839 

Aethelwulf 839-858

Aethelbald 858-860

Aethelberht 860-866

Aethelred I 866-871

Alfred the Great 871-899

Elected king after his brother died from battle wounds, over his brother’s sons. Alfred founded a court school to improve educational standard (he himself was illiterate until older childhood), and to secure his hard won boundaries Alfred founded a permanent army and an embryonic Royal Navy. He suffered a debilitating illness for 20 years, now believed to have been Crohn’s disease. 

Edward the Elder 899-925

Athelstan 925-939

Edmund the Magnificent 939-946

Eadred 946-955

Eadwig (Edwy) All-Fair 955-959

Edgar the Peaceable 959-975

Edward the Martyr 975-978

Crowned king at age 12. Assassinated at Corfe Castle, with his half brother Aethelred rumoured ot  have had a part in it.

Aethelred II (Ethelred the Unready) 979-1013 and 1014-1016

Edmund II (Ironside) 1016


Cnut (Canute) 1016-1035

King of England, Denmark and Norway, he was respected by the pope and Roman emperor at the time. Elected by the Witan (English council). Cnute divided England into the four earldoms of East Anglia, Mercia, Northumbria and Wessex.

(I remember learning about Canute’s coming over to England by boat when on a school residential trip to Poole, along with pirate stories)

Harold I 1035-1040

Hardicnut 1040-1042


Edward (the Confessor) 1042-1066

Restored the rule of the House of Wessex to the English throne. A deeply religious man, he oversaw the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey, leaving much of the running of the country to Earl Godwin and his son Harold. Edward died childless, eight days after Westminster Abbey was finished being built

Harold II 1066

No direct bloodline to the throne, he was elected king by the Witan (a council of high ranking nobles and religious leaders). William said he’d been promised the throne, so invaded with Harold killed at the Battle of Hastings.


William I (William the Conqueror) 1066-1087

William claimed the throne in 1066 after conquering England in the Battle of Hastings, wiping out the ruling classes and claiming all the land. He also replaced English with French as the language of government. The Domesday Survey begun in 1085.

William II 1087-1100

Prevented the dissolution of political ties between England and Normandy, but his strong-armed rule earned him a reputation as a brutal, corrupt tyrant. He died in a suspicious hunting accident in the New Forest, rumoured to help Henry to the throne.

Henry I 1100-1135

Youngest son of William the Conqueror. When he died, his entrails were buried in Rouen France, the rest of his body was buried in England.

Stephen 1135-1154

Brought up by his uncle King Henry I, he had vast lands in England, Normandy and Boulogne. He claimed the crown when Henry’s daughter Matilda wasn’t wanted on the throne, because she was a woman.


Henry II 1154-1189

Of 34 years of reign, he was only in England for 14 of them. Henry laid the foundations for the English Jury System.  He had disagreements with his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, his children and Thomas Becket who was eventually murdered in Canterbury Cathedral. Evidently Henry was bow legged from riding his horse so much.

Richard I (Richard the Lionheart) 1189-1199

By the age of 16, Richard was leading his own army putting down rebellions in France. He used taxes to fund leading the 3rd Crusade to the Holy Land. Died from the infection after being shot in the shoulder.

John 1199-1216

Waged war on his brother Richard, but wasn’t made king until Richard died. He was cruel, self-indulgent, selfish and avaricious. He raised punitive taxes which pitted all of society against him. The Barons of England rebelled, and forced him to sign the Magna Carta which limited the power any monarch had.

Infamous for his evilness, Prince John, and later as King John, features heavily in various Robin Hood films of today.

Henry III 1216-1272 

Henry was 9 years old when his father King John died. In 1264 Henry was captured during the rebellion of barons led by Simon de Montfort and forced to set up a ‘Parliament’ at Westminster, the start of the House of Commons. He was a patron of medieval architecture and ordered the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey. He was given a polar bear by King of Norway, and kept it in the Tower of London.

Edward I 1272-1307

He strengthened the crown in the feudal hierarchy through a series of statutes, forming the Model Parliament in 1295, bringing the knights, clergy and nobility, as well as the Lords and Commons together Commissioned a giant trebuchet during the siege of Stirling Castle. They surrendered but he wanted to still try out the machine.

Edward II 1307-1327

Beaten by Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn, Scotland. He was invaded by his former wife and her new man Roger Mortimer, who deposed Edward and enabled his son to be crowned. Created a statute that said no armour could be worn in parliament.

Edward supposedly dressed up as a pheasant for a Christmas party, and conceived the idea of a chivalric fellowship that developed the Order of the Garter

Edward III 1327-1377

Led England into the Hundred Years’ War with France.

Richard II 1377-1399

His coronation was celebrated with fountains of wine. Richard was deposed by his cousin Henry Bolinbroke (IV) due to his unjust rule.

medieval throne and helmet


Henry IV 1399-1413

Henry was the first native English speaking king since the Norman Conquest. Had to protect himself against lots of different rebellions. Suffered a debilitating skin disease. 

Henry V 1413-1422.

Henry V reunited the English in 1415 by defeating the French at the infamous Battle of Agincourt. Combining the French and English crowns in 1420 is considered to be one of Henry V’s greatest achievements. Death was suspected due to a combination of heatstroke and dysentery, just before he took the french throne.

Shakespeare created plays featuring Henry V.

Henry VI 1422-1461

Henry VI was only 9 months old when his father died, suceeding to the throne when he was 8 years old. Henry founded both Eton College and King’s College, Cambridge. He began to show signs of mental illness – schizophrenia. His release from capture after the Battle of Northampton was dependent on the Duke of York becoming King after Henry’s death. Instead the Queen led the Lancastrians to battle before they lost and the new Duke of York, took the throne while Henry was taken prisoner in the Tower of London.


Edward IV 1461-1483

Took the throne from the House of Lancaster following victory in the Battle of Towton. Unpopular due to poor morals (lots of mistresses, and ended up with lots of children).

Edward V 1483

It has long been assumed that he was murdered after just 78 days on throne on the orders of his successor, Richard III. He was just 12 years old at the time.

Richard III 1483-1485.

After the death of his brother Edward IV, Richard was named Lord Protector of the Realm until Edward’s son, Edward V was old enough. Dying at the Battle of Bosworth field, this ended the Wars of the Roses and the end of the middle ages in England.


Henry VII 1485-1509

First monarch to have their portrait on coins. Married Elizabeth of York and united the warring York and Lancaster houses. (his wife appears on playing cards after they were invented during his reign)

Henry VIII 1509-1547

Renowned for his ruthless ways, having 6 wives of whom 2 he had beheaded. He split from the Roman Catholic church after the pope refused his divorce to Catherine of Aragon. Henry started the Church of England.

Edward VI 1547-1553

Succeed Henry as a child. A keen geographer, he chartered an exploration of the Arctic

Lady Jane Grey 1553

Only ruled for 9 days

Mary I (Bloody Mary) 1553-1558

Eldest surviving child of Henry VIII (Catherine of Aragon’s daughter). Devout catholic, she reversed the English Reformation and restored the catholic church. She had Protestants burnt at the stake. 

Elizabeth I 1558-1603

Anne Boleyn’s daughter, and ruled alone.. She was popular with the people and had a genius for the selection of capable advisors. 


James I 1603-1625

James was the King of Scotland from 1567 until 1603 and also of England and Ireland until 1625, making him the first king of the union, although the 3 thrones were kept separate until much later. Evidently he had a huge tongue which meant a speech impediment, and a lot of drooling while he ate. 

Charles I 1625-1649

Believed he ruled by divine right. Captured by Cromwell during the English Civil War, and tried for treason. The only English monarch to be executed.


Oliver Cromwell 1649-1658

Cromwell was a Puritan, after converting in the 1630s.  As commander-in-chief led armies to fight against Charles 1 during the English Civil War.  After Charles’ defeat Cromwell became Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England Scotland and Ireland, and expelled parliament to rule.

Richard Cromwell 1658-1659

Unlike his father Oliver, he was weaker in his role as the second Lord Protector. He was ‘persuaded’ to resign from his position as protector.

STUARTS (royalty restored)

Charles II 1660-1685

The Merry Monarch. Charles was asked to be king by the army and parliament.  He had 13 known mistresses including Nell Gwynne, and had many illegitimate children. 

James II 1685-1688

Converted to catholicism, and was disliked due to his persecution of  protestant clergy.  

William III 1689-1702

William of Orange became joint monarch with Mary II (died 1694) after defeating James II at Battle of the Boyne. He died of an infection after falling from his horse (supposedly it tripped in the molehill)

Anne 1702-1714

Had 17 pregnancies, with no heirs surviving past childhood. During her reign, Scotland and England joined in a united kingdom, there was advancement in industry, with the economic and political base set firm. Anne didn’t get any credit during her lifetime for what was achieved.


George I 1714-1727

Didn’t learn English and was rarely in the country, so the Government led national policy.

George II 1727-1760

The last King to lead his troops into battle, at Dettingen. 

George III 1760-1820

His reign was one of elegance and the age of some of the greatest names in English literature, statesmen and military men.  This included the years of the defeat of France in the Seven Years’ War, the American War of Independence and the Napoleonic Wars. George suffered from a mental illness and eventually became blind and insane. His son ruled as Prince Regent after 1811 until George’s death.

George IV 1820-1830

Married twice, the first in secret to a catholic. George was considered a great wit, but was also a buffoon and his death was hailed with relief! George took laudenum before meeting the Foreign Secretary.

William IV 1830-1837

Oldest monarch when he became King, at 73 years. William was known as the ‘Sailor King’ having been in the navy from a young age. Before his accession he lived with an actress, who he had ten children with. He had to marry in order to secure the succession so married Adelaide of Saxe-Coburg in 1818 but they had no living children. George Washington unsuccessfully plotted to have him assassinated.

Victoria 1837-1901

Victoria came to the throne age 18 following the death of her uncle, and was the longest serving monarch in England until Queen Elizabeth II. Some argue that she saved the monarchy from the contempt the poor and the powerful were starting to feel towards it during previous monarchs.  She was also head of Britain when the empire was at its most powerful.

Wearing black from when her husband Prince Albert died, she had nine children, 40 grand-children and 37 great-grandchildren, leading to many descendants in royal houses across Europe. 


Edward VII 1901-1910

Much loved king, the opposite of his dour father. He loved horse-racing, gambling and women! 


George V 1910-1936

Younger son who’d not expected to be king. Reigned during 1st world war. In 1932 he began the royal broadcasts on Christmas Day.

It was only announced 50 years later, King George V was injected with fatal doses of morphine and cocaine by his doctor. This was to assure him a painless death in time, for the announcement to be carried in the morning papers rather than the less appropriate evening journals.

Edward VIII 1936-1936

Abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, so ruled for only 326 days. 

George VI 1936-1952

In 1926, the future king George VI competed in the men’s doubles tournament at Wimbledon. The shy younger son who never expected to be king, Ruled through the 2nd world war. He suffered with a stammer (The King’s Speech film was based on George’s story). 

Elizabeth II 1952 – 2022

Longest reigning British monarch, with her Platinum Jubilee of 70 years in rule in 2022. She’s been head of 32 independent countries during her reign. The first monarch to have a televised coronation.

King Charles III 2022-

Charles has been the heir apparent for the longest time of all British monarchs (taking that position age 3). He inherited the throne when he was 73 years old in 2022, with his coronation on 6th May 2023. We’re now in the next Carolean era.

How to remember the English and British monarchs

Of course, the question is how to remember the Kings and Queens of England and then Great Britain. If you can it’s a pretty good party trick.  

There are various mnemonic style verses of the monarchs floating around. I have to admit to only remembering parts of the song from Horrible Histories. More work needed I think!

Rhyme to remember monarchs since William the Conqueror

Willie Willie Harry Stee
Harry Dick John Harry three;
One two three Neds, Richard two
Harrys four five six … then who?
Edwards four five, Dick the bad,
Harrys (twain),VII VIII Ned six (the lad);
Mary, Bessie, James you ken,
Then Charlie, Charlie, James again…
Will and Mary, Anna Gloria,
Georges four,I II III IV Will four Victoria;
Edward seven next, and then
Came George the fifth in nineteen ten;
Ned the eighth soon abdicated
Then George six was coronated;
After which Elizabeth
And that’s all folks until her death.

After Liz, who will it be?/
The next in line is Charlie Three
But if he’s not then alive
The next in line is Willie Five.

For remembering the monarch’s from Queen Anne, who was the first Great British monarch, try this visual memory hack.


What do you remember learnings about the Kings and Queens of England over the years?

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  1. Oh that was a super fun read! I just devoured every single word of it. I have been obsessed with all monarchies recently. It fascinates me how royal families are supposed to be the most educated and most civilized of their societies, yet the insanely brutal things they did to maintain power is far from civilized. I can’t get enough of films, period dramas, and documentaries on this topic. I need to find some good reading material as well. Thank you for providing this easy to read summary of British monarchs. It gets very confusing trying to figure out who ruled when and which child belonged to which monarch!


    1. Thanks Shelbee. I’m the same, it’s so interesting, so much history, but so brutal, and inter-related across the world.

  2. I have always been quite interested in history, so this was definitely an interesting read through. I love visiting different areas that tell a story of their past, or castles etc. Thank you for sharing this post x

    1. It’s weird because as a child I’d have found much of it boring, but I think as I’ve got older, and had a son interested in history, it’s made me want to find out more. Love visiting a castle too.

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