1. King Alfred (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 the formidable warrior – defeating the Vikings, and also being a scholarly and educated man.
2. Queen Victoria (1837-1901) The second longest reigning monarch, Queen Victoria presided over the pinnacle of British power. During her reign, Britain was transformed into a modern industrial nation, and the British Empire spread across the globe. Throughout these rapid changes, Victoria proved to be a stabilising influence – an epitome of Victorian values.
3. Richard I – The Lionheart (1189-1199) Richard I was a crusading King who gained fame for his chivalry, courage and indefatigable spirit. He earnt the respect of his great enemy Saladin. Though his commitment to the crusades gained him respect for his fighting spirit, it was at the cost of neglecting England, where he spent little time out of his reign.
4. Henry V (1413 – 1422) Immortalised by Shakespeare for his efforts in defeating the French at the Battle of Agincourt, Henry was successful militarily. At home, he helped unify the rule of England. He was the first king to promote the use of the English language and was able to preside over a period of relative domestic stability.
5. Queen Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603) – After the tumultuous reign of Henry VIII, Elizabeth brought a degree of welcome stability and calm to the kingdom. Despite the religious rift of the Reformation, Elizabeth largely avoided the descent into religious strife. Elizabeth also rallied her navy before the famous defeat of the Spanish Armada when England looked vulnerable to invasion.
6. King Edward I (1272 – 1307) King Edward was an imposing figure and personality who transformed the fortunes of Britain. On the domestic front, Edward strengthened the legal and administrative code; he strengthened the role of Parliament, creating seeds of our modern government. He also waged brutal wars of conquest in Wales and Scotland, which united the kingdom but at the cost of great brutality.
7. King Edward VII (1901 – 1910) Edward VII incurred the displeasure of his mother, Queen Victoria for his playboy lifestyle. But, on coming to the throne, he was able to use his charm and personality to win over European allies (especially France). He also reinstalled vigour to the monarchy after the long retreat of Queen Victoria. The Edwardian period was an era of great social and economic progress.
8. Queen Elizabeth II (1953 – ) The longest-serving 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. Despite ups and downs, Elizabeth has been an important stabilising influence.
9. King George VI (1936 – 52) George never expected to be king. He came to the throne when his charismatic brother unexpectedly abdicated. Shy and modest, George was able to see through the constitutional challenge. In his own quiet way, he provided leadership and strength during Britain’s greatest test – the Second World War.
10. 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. Unfortunately, reliable sources are vague about the exact details of King Arthur and his knights.
Other notable kings and queens
King Canute (995 – 1035) Danish prince who became King of England and Denmark. Canute was widely regarded as a wise ruler who succeeded in ending Viking invasions and brought a degree of peace and stability to England. He was also generous to the Christian church and sponsored religious projects.
King Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) Tudor English King. To marry his 2nd wife – Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII split the Church of England from Rome, a key element in the English Protestant Reformation.
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan “Famous English Kings and Queens“, Oxford, www.biographyonline.net, 11th June 2014. Last updated 13 July 2019.
Kings and Queens of Britain
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A brief note on choosing the Top 10 English kings and queens.
Across the centuries, it is hard to judge and rank different queens. The qualities needed for a medieval king were very different to those of the Nineteenth Century. Some great Kings, like Edward I, also had reputations for great brutality in their conquest of Scotland so it is difficult to rank them. However, some medieval kings like King Stephen, who lacked a ruthless touch, also presided over anarchy and a disintegration of basic law. This is one reason why in the medieval ages, strength and military success were deemed essential components of a king.
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