Kings of England


Edward the Elder,

son of Alfred the Great, succeeded his father in 901. His succession was disputed by his cousin, Ethelwald the Atheling, who obtained the help of the Danes. The conflict ended with the death of Ethelwald in battle, in 905. But Edward still carried on war with the Danes, and Mercia, Northumbria, and East Anglia were subdued by him; and he extended his dominions by conquests in Scotland and Wales. Died, 925.

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Edward the Martyr,

son of Edgar, king of England, was born in 962, and Crowned in 975. He was murdered by order of his stepmother Elfrida, at Corfe Castle, after a reign of three years.

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Edward the Confessor,

king of England, was the son of Ethelred II., and succeeded Hardicanute in 1042. He had been brought up in Normandy, and there lived till he was called to the throne. Throughout his reign the chief power was in the hands of the great Earl Godwin, whose daughter Edgitha he married. He restored Malcolm to the throne of Scotland, which had been usurped by Macbeth. He caused the Saxon laws to be revised, amended, formed into one body, and translated into Latin; hence they were called his laws. He consulted William of Normandy about the choice of a successor, which furnished that prince with a plea for invading the kingdom after the death of Edward, which happened in Jan. 1066.

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Edward I.

(Longshanks), king of England, eldest son of Henry III. and his queen, Eleanor of Provence, was born in 1239. At ten years of age he was named governor of Gascony, and married in 1254 the Princess Eleanor of Castile. He took a prominent part in state affairs during the latter part of his father's reign, and showed that ability, quick energy, and decision of character which distinguished him throughout his reign. In the barons' war, which began in 1261, he had generally the conduct of the royal forces; was defeated and taken prisoner by De Montfort at Lewes, in 1264; escaped the next year, and defeated De Montfort at Evesham, thus securing the liberty of his father, and ended the war by the reduction of the Isle of Ely in 1267. He soon after took the cross, and set out to join St. Louis in the crusade, but did not arrive in the Holy Land till 1271. After various successes and a narrow escape from assassination - -his wife, it is said, sucking the poison from his arm --he set out on his return, arriving in England in August, 1274. He had been proclaimed king on the death of his father nearly two years previously, and was crowned, with his queen, soon after his arrival.

War filled up the greater part of his reign. The principal events are the conquest of Wales and the wars with Scotland. Llewellyn, prince of Wales, refusing to attend the English parliament and do homage, was defeated by Edward in 1277 ; and having again revolted, was again defeated, and at last slain in 1282. Edward built many castles in Wales, and settled the government by the statute of Rhuddlan. He treated the Jews with great cruelty and injustice, hung hundreds of them on a charge of clipping the coin, and in 1290 banished them. In 1291 the numerous competitors for the crown of Scotland submitted their claims to Edward's decision, which was in favour of John de Baliol. Baliol did homage to Edward, and was made to feel his dependence too keenly; so that war soon broke out between the two kingdoms. Then came the terrible devastation of Scotland, temporary submission, insurrection of Wallace, his victory of Stirling, his defeat at Falkirk, numerous invasions and truces, capture and execution of the great patriot leader, fresh revolt, and coronation of Robert Bruce in 1306, and a final expedition against the Scots in the following year, which was cut short by the death of Edward at Burgh-on-the- Sands, near Carlisle, 7th July, 1307. Very great and important legislative changes took place in this reign. Edward left by his first wife, four sons and nine daughters; and by his second, Margaret of France, whom he married in 1299, two sons and one daughter. Margaret survived him.

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Edward II.,

king of England, was the son of Edward I., and was born at Carnarvon (Caernarfon) in 1284. He succeeded his father in 1307, and was governed by his favourites, Gaveston and the Despensers, which occasioned the barons to rise against him. After resigning his crown, he was confined in Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire, and was there traitorously murdered by the contrivance of his queen, Isabella, and her favourite, Roger Mortimer; Earl of March, in 1328. His deposition took place in 1327.

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Edward III.,

king of England, eldest son of Edward II. and Isabella of France, was born at Windsor in 1312, and succeeded to the throne, on the deposition of his father, in 1327. Although a regency was appointed, the chief power was held by the queen and her paramour, Roger Mortimer, Earl of March. In 1328 Edward was married to Philippa, daughter of William III., Count of Holland and Hainault, and two years later he assumed the government, had Mortimer seized and hanged, and imprisoned Queen Isabella. In 1333 Edward invaded Scotland, which had been nominally subjected to England by Edward Baliol; besieged Berwick, and defeated the regent at Halidon Hill. The greater war with France soon withdrew his attention from Scotland. He assumed the title of king of France, invaded the country from Flanders, but without any successful result, renewed the invasion in 1340, when he defeated the French fleet at Sluys, besieged Tournay, and concluded a truce. The war was renewed and another truce made in 1348, to be broken the following year.

In 1346 he won the great victory of Crecy, took Calais in 1347, and concluded another truce. During Edward's absence in France the Scots invaded England, and were defeated at Nevil's Cross, David II. being taken prisoner. Edward aimed at the acquisition of Flanders, hoped to get his son Edward, the Black Prince, made Earl of Flanders by the aid of Philip van Arteveldt and the free towns; but Philip was murdered in an insurrection at Ghent. In 1356 Edward, the Black Prince, invaded France, and gained the victory of Poitiers, taking the French king and his son prisoners. The king was released after four years on the conclusion of the peace of Bretigny. David of Scotland was released for a heavy ransom in 1357. War broke out again with France in 1369, and in 1378 John of Gaunt marched without resistance from Calais to Bordeaux. The long wars of Edward III., though almost fruitless of practical result, appear to have been popular; and his numerous parliaments granted liberal supplies for carrying them on, gaining in return confirmations of the Great and other charters, and many valuable concessions. His victories raised the spirit and also the fame of his country, and with the evident military power of England grew also her commerce and manufactures. In this reign Wickliffe began his assault on the church of Rome; the order of the Garter was instituted, and the Round Tower at Windsor was hastily built by command of the king, to receive the round table for the new knights (1344): cannon began to be used in war; and the first English gold coin was struck. Edward died at Shene, now Richmond, June 21, 1377. By his queen Philippa, he had six sons and five daughters. [See Perrers, Alice.]

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Edward IV.,

king of England, son of Richard, Duke of York, was born at Rouen in 1441, and succeeded Henry VI. in 1461. Edward came to the throne in the midst of the fierce struggle between the Yorkists and Lancastrians, in which he greatly distinguished himself by his courage and military skill. He won a great victory over the Lancastrians, at Northampton, in July, 1460, and a second at Mortimer's Cross, in February, 1461; after which he marched on London, and was proclaimed. A few weeks after his accession he defeated them a third time at Towton, in Yorkshire. The war continued with varying fortunes till 1464. In the same year he married Lady Elizabeth Grey, which so offended the Earl of Warwick commonly called the king-maker that he joined the Lancastrian party, and the civil war was recommenced. Warwick defeated Edward's forces near Banbury in 1469. Soon afterwards Warwick fled to France, whence he returned with a supply of troops, and proclaimed Henry. Edward escaped beyond sea, and Warwick released Henry from the Tower, and set him on the throne; but Edward returned with succours, and marched to London, where he took Henry prisoner. He shortly after won the battle of Barnet, in which Warwick fell. Another victory at Tewkesbury secured to him the quiet possession of the throne. Preparations were made for war with France, and an expedition sent, which was, however, fruitless. War broke out also with Scotland, but nothing of importance occurred. In 1478 Edward had his brother, the Duke of Clarence, condemned and put to death as a traitor. Edward died in 1483.

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Edward V.,

king of England, eldest son of Edward IV., and his queen Elizabeth, was born in the Sanctuary at Westminster, November 4, 1470. He was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Ludlow and succeeded his father, April 9, 1483. He was at the time at Ludlow, and while on his way to London, under the care of his uncle Anthony, Earl Rivers, fell into the hands of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who placed him in the Tower. There he was joined by his brother the Duke of York. Meanwhile Richard was named Protector and fixed the day for the coronation of Edward, which however never took place. Richard assumed the crown on June 26 and the two young princes were seen no more. According to the account given very minutely and confidently by Sir Thomas More, they were murdered in the Tower by order of Richard III., who employed Sir James Tyrrel to do the foul deed, and were buried under a heap of stones at the stair-foot. Tyrrel and his agents are said to have subsequently confessed the deed. And the discovery, in 1674, of bones, every way answering to those of the princes, at the foot of a staircase in the White Tower gives strange confirmation to this account. The bones were removed by order of Charles II. to Westminster Abbey, where they now rest. Some writers, however, doubt the truth of this story, and contend for the innocence of Richard.

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Edward VI.,

king of England, the only son of Henry VIII., by his queen, Jane Seymour, was born at Hampton Court in 1537. His mother died soon after his birth. He was carefully educated, and had for tutors Sir Anthony Cooke and Sir John Cheke. He succeeded his father in 1547, but by reason of his tender age and early death had little to do with the important measures that mark his reign. His uncle, the Earl of Hertford, was named Protector, and created Duke of Somerset; but in 1549 his place was taken by Dudley, Earl of Warwick, created Duke of Northumberland; and Somerset, two years later, was charged with treason and felony, and beheaded. Both of these, however, carried on the work of the Reformation. Somerset made an expedition into Scotland, and gained the victory of Musselburgh or Pinkie in 1547; Warwick defeated the insurgents under Ket, the Norfolk tanner, in 1549; a very severe law was passed against vagabonds, but had to he soon repealed; the act of Six Articles was repealed, and the use of the book of Common Prayer established. By the intrigues of Northumberland, Edward was induced in his last illness to name Lady Jane Grey his successor. He died at Greenwich in July, 1553. Edward VI. was the founder of Bridewell and St. Thomas's Hospitals, and of numerous Grammar Schools. Return to Index

Edward VII (Monarch 1901-1910)

'Bertie', otherwise King Edward VII, the son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, was 59 on his accession to the throne and had been heir apparent to the throne for longer than anyone else in history. His Queen was Alexandra of Denmark who was Princess of Wales from 1863 to 1901, the longest anyone had held that title. Edward's mother's longevity and the strictness of his upbringing had prompted him to find a role in racy late Victorian high society and he became known for his generous parties, lavish receptions, dalliances and humour; but he was well liked and restored colour and popularity to the monarchy. For the wealthy it was an era of motor cars, country pursuits, great architects and their houses, conspicuous consumption, even (just) aeroplanes: Edward enjoyed it.

He ascended the throne during the continuing turmoil of the Boer War (1899-1902). By 1901 military setbacks, expenditure, European opprobrium and tensions with Germany in Africa brought political issues in their wake. The Peace Vereeniging, while ending the conflict, had more than a sting in the tail for Britain's Empire: it had been challenged and the treaty was seen to be something of a face saver. The Boer republics were granted their independence (Transvaal and Orange Free State) and in 1910 The Union of South Africa was created. The British Empire was fragile after all, and the twentieth century then saw its continued demise.

These developments dominated press attention during Edward's reign, along with developing difficulties with Germany. Kaiser Wilhelm was Edwards's uncle and presided over an increasingly powerful German economy and army, impressive banking and educational systems, innovative engineering and a growing ambition at sea and for empire. German sights were on 'a place in the sun', a perceived threat which vexed Edward and his governments. The Kiel Canal was opened in 1895 which gave the German High Seas Fleet year round naval-base access to the North Sea. By the end of Edward's reign Europe was divided into two diplomatic camps, The Triple Entente (France, Britain, Russia) and the Triple Alliance (Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary) - a diplomatic and military concoction which, in 1914, would bring war. Clearly Britain's 19th century 'Splendid Isolation' had ended and the agenda was being set on a wider framework - very dangerous to the future. Germany and the Alliance tested the entente - at Tangier in 1905 and Bosnia in 1908, with the growing realisation that the political maps were being tested.

The Conservative and Unionist ascendancy in Britain lasted to 1905 when Balfour was replaced by Campbell-Bannerman and then Asquith (1908- 1915). These years, especially after the 1906 election, saw Educational reform and, after national debate, a return to the values of Free Trade and strong social legislation in the period 1906-1910. Largely instigated by Asquith's Chancellor Lloyd George 'The People's Budget' of 1910 set a new agenda (arguably looking to the German example)) of welfare legislation covering rudimentary pensions, sickness and unemployment benefit and a re-distribution of wealth. The Lords opposed but successive elections confirmed the changes and Lloyd George and Asquith basked in political light. The Lords' challenge led directly to their powers being trimmed: they became a reviewing and delaying chamber. It was during this volcanic political activity that Edward died, already conscious that his Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, was alarmed by the possibility of war in Europe.

Edward and Alexandra's eldest son, Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, pre-deceased his parents, leaving their second son, George to succeed to the throne on Edward's death in 1910. They had 4 other children, Louise, Princess Royal and Duchess of Fife, Princess Victoria Alexandra, Maud, Queen of Norway, and Prince Alexander John.

  ['Edward VII' was written by Richard Miller, © 2009]

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King Edward VIII (Monarch 1936)

Edward VIII was the son of King George V and Queen Mary of Teck. As Prince of Wales he sparkled in court and social circles, bringing a freshness and informality to his role and an admired role as ambassador for the state. Hence there were high hopes for his succession at age 41. He was unmarried in 1936; and it was his resolve to marry an American double-divorcee, Mrs Wallis Simpson, opposed by the court and church and politicians, that led him to his abdication from the throne, uncrowned, on 11 December 1936. All this, at the same time as Hitler's re-occupation of the Rhineland, the Spanish Civil War and Mussolini's military adventure in Abyssinia. The Prime Minister of the day, Stanley Baldwin, had to steer the nation through these troubled waters. Controversy has raged over the abdication ever since, the overwhelming contemporary feeling being that Edward had reneged on his primary duty to the state. He took Wallis Simpson to Paris where they saw out their lives perplexed, it is said, that they remained ostracised by the British Royal Family. His throne was succeeded to by his brother Prince Albert, as George VI. ['Edward VIII' was written by Richard Miller, © 2009]

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king of Northumbria, was son of Ella, the Bretwalda, and being an infant at his father's death in 588, the kingdom was seized by Ethelfrith of Bernicia. The story of Edwin is overlaid with myths, but it is probable that, by the aid of Redwald, king of East Anglia, with whom he had taken refuge, he was placed on the throne in 617. He is said to have made himself master of all Britain except Kent. He married Ethelburga, daughter of Ethelbert of Kent, the patron of the monk Augustine; and by her influence, and that of Bishop Paulinus, he was led to profess the Christian faith and to make it the religion of his people. He was baptized at York in 627, and there built the first church of wood. A war with the Mercians broke out soon after, and Edwin was defeated and slain by Penda, at Hatfield, in Yorkshire, 638. Edwin was afterwards canonized.

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The above information except for Edward VII & VIII was gleaned from various sources and then put together by Colin Hinson © 1996.

The Edward VII & VIII information was written by Richard Miller © 2009.

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