History Files
 

Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms

Kings of England

 

England

England today forms the driving force behind the geographical and political entities which are known as Britain (England and Wales), Great Britain (with Scotland added), and the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland' (including the remnants of a single island of Ireland which was held until 1922). The union is not a single entity in the way of the Spanish union of states (for example, although even that union is under increasing strain). Instead the four 'home nations' have many of their own institutions and, since 1999, devolved governments which largely handle internal affairs. These are increasingly becoming independent governments in waiting, especially since the highly-divisive Brexit referendum of 2016.

The origins of England lie with the West Saxons. They had formed one of the most powerful Anglo-Saxon kingdoms during the period after the end of Roman power in Britain, and during the two subsequent centuries of colonisation and territorial advance. In fact it was their kingdom which had ended up standing almost alone amongst the by-then native English kingdoms in the face of the overwhelming onslaught of Danish attacks in the last quarter of the ninth century. As a result, almost all of the later Bretwaldas - the most powerful of Anglo-Saxon rulers who were acknowledged as such by their peers - were West Saxon kings. This was so much the case that the kings of Wessex effectively merged that title into their own kingship.

MapThat Danish onslaught and the enforced merging into a single state of the remaining free English territories produced a united kingdom of English peoples, although it was far from a kingdom of all of England - not until the Danish-controlled territories could be conquered (see map via the link, right). While that process was largely initiated by Alfred the Great, it was his grandson, Æthelstan, who could claim to be the first king of a single, United England. Despite reservations on the part of some modern historians, from 927 Æthelstan actually was the recognised ruler or overlord not only of all of England, but of the principalities of Wales and all of Scotland and Strathclyde too.

The ascendancy of Wessex remained with subsequent kings, although the Scandinavian kingdom of York proved to be a continual source of distraction until it fell to King Eadred in 954. He now ruled a definitively united kingdom. The early Anglo-Saxon kings still had their powerbase in Wessex, and still spent much of their time there but, now that they had a far greater domain, Wessex became somewhat demoted in the form of an earldom which existed alongside several other great, pre-Norman earldoms of England.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Mick Baker, from Æthelstan: The First King of England, Sarah Foot (2011), from the BBC series, King Alfred and the Anglo-Saxons, first broadcast from 6 August 2013, from The Oxford History of England: The English Settlements, J N L Meyers, from The Oxford History of England: Anglo-Saxon England, Sir Frank Stenton, from Wessex, Barbara Yorke, from Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Bede, from the Oxford Online Dictionary of National Biography: Cenwalh, Barbara Yorke (2004), from The Earliest English Kings, D P Kirby (1992), from Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England, Barbara Yorke, from the Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales, John Marius Wilson (1870-1872), from The Peterborough Chronicle (the E Manuscript version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia of Earth, and Early Christian to medieval settlement and cemetery (Historic England), and Devolved Parliaments and Assemblies (UK Parliament).)

House of Hanover (United Kingdom)
AD 1714 - 1839

The last of the Stuart monarchs of Britain, Queen Anne, had approved the 'Act of Union' between the two crowns of England and Scotland in 1707-1708. The deed was necessary at least in part because the Scottish parliament refused to endorse the Hanoverian succession in case Anne was unable to produce a viable successor of her own. Indeed, despite having a great many pregnancies none of her surviving offspring outlasted her to extend the Stuart hold on the throne.

Under the Act of Settlement of 1701 her distant cousin, the Protestant elector of Hanover, was invited to succeed her as King George I. The initial beneficiary was to be his mother, Electress Sophia, daughter of Elizabeth Stuart (herself the daughter of King James I), but she died just days before Anne. George was the son of the duke of Brunswick-Lüneberg, and he inherited this title along with that of the duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg.

Hanoverian rule witnessed the emergence of modern Britain, and the near-accidental build-up towards what would eventually be known as the British empire. It was also during the reign of George I that the position of prime minister became cemented within Parliament and a recognisably modern government began to emerge. The post of 'First Lord of the Treasury' had been entrusted to the most senior member of the commission of treasury lords from 1612 onwards. From 1714 this commission was made permanent.

Rival claimants to the throne still existed, primarily in the form of the Jacobite descendants of James II. In fact the Jacobite cause posed the greatest threat to Hanoverian rule, but it never received the required backing to be able to oppose it militarily. Jacobitism reached its high point in 1745 but also ended in the following year as a viable political alternative, although this was only recognised later. These and any other rivals are shown with a shaded background. The full list of successive Jacobite claimants is shown the early modern Scotland list.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from History of the Rebellion of 1745-6, Robert Chambers (W & R Chambers, 1869), from The Jacobites: Britain and Europe, 1688-1788, Daniel Szechi (Manchester University Press, 1994), from The Hanoverian Succession: Dynastic Politics and Monarchical Culture, Andreas Gestrich & Michael Schaich (Routledge, 2016), and from External Link: Royal Stuart Society.)

1714 - 1727

George I

Elector of Hanover. Great-gndson of James I Stuart by Sophia.

1715 - 1716

Having lost a vote to repeal the union with England in 1713, the Jacobites rise in rebellion in support of James Edward Francis Stuart, the 'Old Pretender'. Seeking to overthrow George I, they want to replace him with James Edward as James III. A force of about 10,000 is assembled in Scotland, mostly made up of Highlanders, and this marches southwards after some delays which allow George I time to assemble a response.

Hanoverian King George I
Following the Welsh-descended Tudors and the Scots-descended Stuarts, the German Hanoverians created links with continental Europe which would survive until the First World War forced them to be broken off

Reinforcements of two thousand men are defeated at the Battle of Preston on 15 November 1715, and the main force fights the duke of Argyll's smaller force of 3,500 at Sheriffmuir on 13 November. The outcome is indecisive but this, along with the defeat at Preston, is enough to herald the collapse of the First Jacobite Rebellion.

1716

The Whigs win an overwhelming victory in the Parliamentary general election, but several of the defeated Tories side with a new Jacobite rebellion known as 'The Fifteen'. The Jacobite pretender to the throne is James Francis Stuart, who is supported by Lord Mar in Scotland. However, with poor planning behind it, the rebellion is a total failure. The main protagonists flee to France in February 1716.

1717 - 1720

The Moghul emperor allows the British East India Company to purchase duty-free trading rights in Bengal, although so weak is the emperor's authority that the governor of Bengal ignores him and continues to collect duty tax.

In Europe of 1717, King Philip V of Spain is unhappy with the arrangements which were set at the end of the War of Succession, so he occupies Sardinia and Sicily, triggering the War of the Quadruple Alliance. The war begins with Philip's first actions of 1717, and is formally declared in 1718. Austria, Britain, France, and Holland unite to defeat Spain, and peace is again declared with the Treaty of The Hague which is signed in 1720.

The Battle of Glenshiel in 1719
The Battle of Glenshiel in 1719 was the second and final defeat of a doomed small-scale Spanish-supported invasion of Scotland, part of the War of the Quadruple Alliance

1727 - 1760

George II

Son. Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. Died aged 77.

1727

George II is the last British monarch to have been born outside the confines of the kingdom. His early years see him effecting little control over policy, as he is dominated by Sir Robert Walpole's Whig Parliament.

FeatureOne notable snippet regarding the king is that he is great-grandfather to Duchess Augusta of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. She marries the future Duke Frederick III of Württemberg in 1780, and in 1805 their son, Paul, fathers Karolina von Rothenburg, the great-great-great-grandmother of Boris Johnson, mayor of London (2008-2012 - see feature link, right) and later prime minister.

1766 - 1788

Charles Edward Stuart 'Young Pretender'

Son of James Francis Stuart. Also 'Bonnie Prince Charlie'.

1739

FeatureDick Turpin, probably the famous most English highwayman, is hanged for horse theft at York Knavesmire. At around the same time, a formalised system of mail coaches is being brought onto existence (see feature link), while Europe is plunged into the War of Jenkins' Ear against Spain. That descends into the War of the Austrian Succession, and in 1743 George II enthusiastically leads his troops into battle at Dettingen, the last British monarch to do so.

1745 - 1746

In 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie lands at Eriskay in the Hebrides, Scotland, to lay claim to the British throne. He is backed by the French, who are at present heavily embroiled in the Austrian War of Succession against Britain.

Fighting in his still-living father's name, he raises his standard at Glenfinnan, Scotland on 19 August, igniting the Second Jacobite Rebellion. On 21 September, his Jacobite forces defeat English forces at the Battle of Prestonpans but in December the future Landgrave Frederick II of Hessen-Kassel lands on the Scottish coast with six thousand troops to support his father-in-law, George II.

The Battle of Culloden
The Battle of Culloden saw the destruction of the clans in Scotland at the hands of Britain's modern army

The following year, in the last battle to be fought on British soil, the Jacobites are routed at Culloden by the duke of Cumberland. The Jacobite cause effective dies, but Charles Edward's claim is passed on, first through his brother, Henry, in 1788, and then through the Savoyard kings of Sardinia from 1807.

1751

Frederick Louis

Son of George II. Prince of Wales. Predeceased his father.

1752

Britain switches from the outdated Julian calendar to the Gregorian one, 'losing' twelve days in the process and moving the start of the year from 25 March to 1 January (except for the tax office, which refuses to budge up to and including the present day by which time the end of the old year is 5 April).

1756 - 1763

The Seven Years' War - the first truly 'global' conflict - erupts as Britain declares war on France. Troops of Hessen-Kassel again serve under British command, led by Landgrave William VIII. In 1759, General James Wolfe claims the Canadian territories for Britain with a victory over the French near Quebec.

In 1762 the Spanish colony of Cuba is captured by Britain and held for a year before being handed back as part of the peace settlement, in exchange for Florida. Britain also formally gains New France from the French, renaming it the province of Quebec as part of their colonies in the Americas.

1757

The British East India Company is victorious over the nawab of Bengal, an ally of the French, which signals the end of any serious French ambitions in what had been Moghul India. Instead, the company's Bombay presidency begins to assume more and more authority.

1760 - 1820

George III

Son of Frederick. The 'Mad' King.

1765

John III, the final 'King of the Isles of Man', is pressured by the British crown into relinquishing the title in return for a substantial payment. Direct authority passes to the crown, and the rampant smuggler trade which has made the most of the island's independence is suppressed by governors.

Coffee revolution
The coffee revolution was to an extent inspired by improved production methods by countries such as El Salvador, although supplies to Europe may have been occasionally interrupted by the frequent Central American revolutions

1770

British navigator and explorer Captain James Cook becomes the first European to explore Australia. In the same year, the 'Boston Massacre' takes place in the British Colonies in the Americas when three members of a mob are shot by British soldiers.

1775 - 1783

FeatureRevolutionaries in the American colonies begin a war with the intention of driving out English rule. It takes the revolutionaries over seven years to force Britain to declare that it will cease hostilities and withdrawn its troops and Hessian allied units. The United States of America are formed from the liberated thirteen colonies, but British authority to the north of these continues, using as a core the recently-captured Quebec. In the same year in which the war ends, a massive volcanic eruption in Iceland causes 23,000 deaths in Britain (see feature link).

1787

The 'First Fleet' carrying convicts in eleven vessels sets sail for Australia. Once there it will set up the first penal colony on the landmass - in fact the first European colony of any description. Two members of the fleet are Royal Navy vessels while six carry the convicts.

1788 - 1807

Henry Benedict Cardinal Stuart

Son of James Francis Stuart. Last Jacobite claimant.

1789

During a return voyage from Tahiti, Fletcher Christian leads a successful mutiny aboard HMS Bounty against the captain, William Bligh. The captain and his seventeen loyal officers are given a boat while the remaining crew and officers attempt to settle on Tubuai.

The Battle of Glenshiel in 1719
Rebelling against Captain William Bligh (pictured here) and his autocratic governance of HMS Bounty, Fletcher Christian and much of the crew eventually found a safe, if troubled, home on Pitcairn Island

1793 - 1797

FeatureFollowing the French Revolution, Britain is at war with France almost continuously until 1815. As part of the First Coalition, Great Britain, Naples, the Netherlands, and Spain join Austria and Prussia in attacking France, but the coalition is peppered with self-interests. Prussia withdraws in 1795, along with Spain, and the coalition is ended in 1797, although Austria has already benefited from the partitions of Poland-Lithuania. In that same year a British attempt to capture Puerto Rico is defeated.

1798

The British East India Company signs a treaty with the sultans of Oman & Zanzibar. In the same year, the United Irishmen rebel against British rule in Ireland, but despite French help they are defeated.

1801

The Act of Union with Ireland is passed by Parliament, creating the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland'. The Irish parliament is dissolved, not to be reassembled until independence has been won for Ireland outside of Ulster in 1922.

1804 - 1805

Napoleon Bonaparte is crowned emperor of France in 1804 and king of Italy in 1805. In that same year, the naval Battle of Trafalgar proves once and for all Britain's supremacy at sea, pounding the French and their Spanish allies in a crushing defeat.

Britannia between Death and the Doctors
Britannia between Death and the Doctors shows an ailing Britannia being approached by Death in the guise of Napoleon, while her politicians squabble (LC-USZC4-8794)

FeatureOn the home front in 1805, a sixty-one year-old Mrs Rundell sends an unedited collection of recipes, remedies, and advice on running a home to John Murray, son of the Scottish printer of the same name who had set up a small publishers in London in 1768. Once the collection is edited and properly presented in book form, It goes on to sell more than 245,000 copies in the UK.

1807 - 1811

France defeats the Austrians and Russians at Freidland in 1807, and goes on to occupy Portugal. The following year, Spain falls. An Anglo-Portuguese army is formed in Lisbon, eventually under the command of General Wellesley, and by 1811 Portugal has been liberated as part of the ongoing Napoleonic Wars.

1814 - 1816

The Anglo-Nepalese War culminates in a treaty which establishes Nepal's modern boundaries in 1816. In the middle of all this, on 18 June 1815, Arthur Wellesley, the soon-to-be duke of Wellington, leads an Anglo- Dutch-German army to victory over Napoleon's French army at the Battle of Waterloo in co-operation with the Prussian army, ending twenty-five years of war in Europe.

Also in 1814-1815, troops are landed on Corsica by Lord William Bentinck, the commanding officer for British operations in Italy. They take control of the island from French Napoleonic troops, and Bentinck foresees the recreation of the Anglo-Corsican kingdom. The Treaty of Bastia is agreed between him and Corsica's post-Napoleonic representatives, with the Corsicans agreeing to Britain having sovereignty over the island.

Cape Mortella
The British invasion of Corsica in 1794 soon resulted in the creation of the British 'Martello Tower' named after, and a corruption of, Cape Mortella, the island's tower which held a French garrison of troops who were able to put up a spirited resistance to the invasion

Foreign Secretary Lord Castelreagh subsequently insists that Corsica should be returned to the restored French monarchy, while as a descendant of the dukes of Brunswick, Prince George agrees to pass on Saxe-Lauenburg to his cousin in Denmark as part of the new German Confederation.

1820 - 1830

George IV

Son of George III. Prince Regent (1810-1820).

1821

The British presence along the West African coast is formalised with the creation of the Gold Coast crown colony. This not only helps to keep the competing French and their Ivory Coast territory from expanding eastwards, but also gives Britain a foothold in influencing the affairs of the Asante kingdom.

1830 - 1837

William IV

Brother. Childless. Last Hanoverian king.

1831

Russia puts down the First (November) Insurrection in partitioned Poland and many Polish soldiers involved in the uprising choose to seek protection in Prussia, where they are disarmed and are not particularly welcome. Eventually the surviving 212 Poles are placed on board a ship at Gdansk to be deported.

The ship is bound for the USA, but a storm forces it to seek shelter in Portsmouth in Britain. The Poles settle, mainly in London where they form the country's first Polish community (Lennard Goodman, a former judge on the BBC show, Strictly Come Dancing, is descended from one of their number).

Polish-Russian War of 1830-1831
The Polish kingdom of Poland was created as a result of agreement between the partitioning powers of Austria, Prussia, and Russia, rather than being the sovereign decision of the Polish people themselves, so there was always going to be resistance against a Russian king of the Poles - which led to the outbreak of open warfare in 1830

1833

Britain reassumes control of the Falkland Islands following a short-lived attempt by the Argentine confederation to settle people there. The islands remain part of Britain's overseas possessions from this point onwards, based both on this reoccupation and the initial formal claim of ownership of 1765 which had not been opposed by the Spanish authorities of the time. Settlers create a capital at Port Stanley and the islands' population remains almost completely British.

1835

FeatureLondon is excluded from the 1835 Municipal Corporations Act, and various attempts are made thereafter to create a unitary entity. These eventually lead to the formation of the Greater London Authority at the end of the twentieth century (see feature link).

1837

In extremely ill health, William's wish is that he survives for long enough that his chosen successor, the seventeen year-old Victoria, should reach the age of eighteen so that her manipulative and incompetent mother will have no power over her or the throne.

Railway accident 1830
The 1830s saw astonishing advances, although the remarkable inaugural day of running on the Manchester to Liverpool railway line was marred by a dreadful tragedy (click or tap on image to read more on a separate page)

Victoria is the daughter of Edward, duke of Kent, a younger brother William's who had died within a couple of years of her birth. William succeeds in his wish, with the result that Victoria is able to succeed as the first monarch of the soon-to-be Saxe-Coburg-Gotha dynasty.