Biographies of famous Kings and Queens from England and Europe.
British Kings and Queens
Boudicca (1st Century AD) – From the tribe of Iceni (Norfolk). Boudicca became a leader of native British tribes in the revolt against the Roman occupation. Initially victorious, her army of 100,000 sacked Colchester and then London, though her army was later defeated.
King Alfred (849 – 899) (King 871 to 899) Alfred was King of Wessex, but during his reign, he was able to unite different areas of England and move the country towards greater unity. He had a rare combination of being a formidable warrior – defeating the Vikings, and also being a scholarly and educated man.
King Arthur (5- 6th Century). King Arthur is a legendary figure who is said to have united the British tribes in defeating the Saxon invaders. The legends of King Arthur were important in the medieval traditions of chivalry and knighthood.
Henry II (1133 – 1189) His reign lasted from (1154-1189). He married Eleanor of Aquitaine. Henry was an energetic King who sought to regain lost territory from France. He tried to reform the church, which led to the murder of his old friend and rival the Archbishop of Canterbury – Thomas Beckett.
Richard I – The Lionheart (1189-1199) Richard I was a crusading King who gained fame for his chivalry, courage and indefatigable spirit. He earned the respect of his great enemy Saladin. Though his commitment to the crusades was at the cost of neglecting England, where he spent little time during his reign.
King Edward I (1272 – 1307) King Edward was an imposing figure and personality who transformed the fortunes of Britain. He strengthened the role of Parliament, creating the seeds of modern government. He also waged brutal wars of conquest in Wales and Scotland, which united the Kingdom.
Richard III (1452 – 1485) King Richard III was King from (1483-85), where he died at the Battle of Bosworth. Richard III was the last York king and was succeeded by Henry VII.
Henry V (1413 – 1422) King from 1413 until his death at the age of 35 in 1422. Henry helped to unify the rule of England; he promoted the use of the English language and presided over a period of relative domestic stability. Defeated the French at Agincourt, and immortalised in a play by William Shakespeare.
Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) King from 1509 to 1547. Henry VIII split the Church of England from Rome, leading to the rise of Protestantism in England. Had six wives, two of whom were executed. Dissolved the monasteries.
Anne Boleyn (1501-1536) 2nd wife to Henry VIII. Anne Boleyn was influential in forcing Henry VIII to break with Rome and set up the Church of England. Anne Boleyn refused to be Henry’s mistress – only Queen. She was crowned Queen in 1533, but after failing to produce a male heir, Boleyn was executed on trumped up charges in 1536.
Queen Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603) Queen from (1558 to 1603). Known as the Virgin Queen, she remained unmarried. Under Elizabeth’s reign, she mostly avoided the descent into religious strife. She also rallied her navy, before the famous defeat of the Spanish Armada when England looked vulnerable to invasion.
Charles I (1600 – 1649) Charles I was King of England, Scotland and Wales from 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles I saw his role as an absolute monarch with power vested from God. His refusal to compromise with Parliament led to the English Civil War and the ultimate defeat of Royalist forces. Charles I’s execution symbolised the passing of a king with unlimited power and increased the influence of Parliament.
King George III (1760-1820) Under George III, the British lost the American colonies in the American War of Independence. George III also presided over an extended war with Napoleon’s Revolutionary France. Towards the end of his reign, he experienced periods of mental instability.
Queen Victoria (1837-1901) Queen from (1837-1901), at the time, she was the longest reigning monarch. During her reign, Britain was transformed into a modern industrial nation, and the British Empire spread across the globe.
King Edward VII (1841 –1910) King (1901-1910) On coming to the throne, he was able to use his charm and personality to win over European allies (especially France). He also reinstalled a vigour and pomp and ceremony to the monarchy after the long retreat of Queen Victoria.
King George VI (1895 – 1952) – King (1936-52) Second in line to the throne, he only came to power after the abdication of his brother Edward VIII. George overcame his personal shyness and speech impediment to provide leadership and strength during the Second World War.
Queen Elizabeth II (1926 – ) (Queen from 1953- ) The longest serving British monarch, Elizabeth has presided over six decades of rapid social change. The period has seen Britain divest itself of Empire, and become relatively less influential.
Famous members of the royal family
Princess Diana of Wales (1961 – 1997) Married Prince Charles in 1981. Split after acrimonious divorce in 1996. Committed to many charity and humanitarian works.
Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mother (1900-2002) Widow of King George V, and mother of Queen Elizabeth II. She was known as Queen Mother for several decades after the death of George V.
Prince Charles (1948 – ) Eldest child of Queen Elizabeth II and heir apparent to the British throne. Married to Princess Diana, later remarried Camilla Parker Bowles. Has been involved in charitable and environmental projects.
Prince William (1982- ) Eldest child of Prince Charles and Diana. William is 2nd in line to the throne. Married Catherine Middleton in 2012.
Prince Harry (1984 – ) 2nd child of Charles and Diana. Prince Harry has served in the army.
Duchess of Cambridge (1982 – ) Born Kate Middleton, married Prince William in 2012.
Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122 – 1204) The first Queen of France. Two of her sons Richard and John went on to become Kings of England. Educated, beautiful and highly articulate, Eleanor influenced the politics of western Europe through her alliances and influence over her sons.
Catherine de Medici (1519 – 1589) Born in Florence, Italy, Catherine was married to the King of France at the age of 14. She was involved in interminable political machinations seeking to increase the power of her favoured sons. This led to the disastrous St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.
Louis XIV (1638 – 1715) ‘The Sun King’ – Louis XIV was King of France from 1643 until his death 72 years later. He is the longest serving monarch in European history, setting the tone for Seventeenth-Century France.
Peter the Great (1672 – 1725) Tsar of all Russia (1682 – 1721) and Emperor of All Russia (1721-1735). Through successful wars, Peter the Great, expanded the Russian empire and shaped modern Russia. He also implemented elements of the social and cultural changes of the European enlightenment and founded many Russian government institutions.
Maria Theresa (1740–1780) The only female ruler of the Habsburg Empire. Maria Theresa succeeded to the throne after the death of her father Charles VI. With great strength of will, Maria held together the disparate empire and instituted military, financial and education reforms which strengthened the international position of the Habsburg Empire. See: Famous Austrians
Louis XVI (1754 – 1793) was King of France and Navarre from 1774 until executed during the revolution of 1791. He attempted to reform French society to make the rich pay high taxes. But, he was vetoed by other aristocrats and was unable to end the division in society.
Marie Antoinette (1755 – 1793) Wife of King Louis XVI. Marie Antoinette is often held up as a symbol of Royal decadence and profligacy, which sparked the French revolution. Whether fair or not, she was executed in 1793 for treason and holding principles in opposition to the French revolution.
Catherine the Great (1729-1796) – One of the greatest political leaders of the Eighteenth Century. Catherine the great was said to have played an important role in improving the welfare of the Russian serfs. She placed great emphasis on the arts and helped to cement Russia as one of the dominant countries in Europe.
Alexander II (1818 – 1881) Emperor of Russia from 1855 until his death in 1881. He is credited with helping reform Russian society, including the emancipation of serfs in 1861, and reducing the power of the landed aristocracy.
Francis Joseph I (1830–1916) Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, from 1848 to 1916. Joseph was one of the longest serving Kings of Europe. He was wedded to preserving the traditions of the monarchy and Catholic Church. Under his conservative rule, his Empire began to splinter under the forces of emerging nationalism. It was Joseph who signed Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war, setting in train the start of the First World War.
Tsar Nicholas II (1868 – 1918) The last Russian Emperor. As head of state, Tsar Nicholas II approved Russia’s entry into the First World War. Russia lost over 3.3 million men – and disillusionment with the running of the war led to his overthrow in 1917 and Russia’s ultimate exit from the war.
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan “Famous Kings and Queens”, Oxford, www.biographyonline.net, 11th June 2013.
Kings and Queens of Britain
Including; King Alfred, Queen Victoria, Richard I, Henry V, Elizabeth I and King Edward