Art UK has updated its cookies policy. By using this website you are agreeing to the use of cookies. To find out more read our updated Use of Cookies policy and our updated Privacy policy.

This Curation is based on the podcast 'Willie Willie Harry Stee', written and presented by Charlie Higson, which explores the lives of the English monarchs since William the Conqueror, listed in the mnemonic rhyme:


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, Ned six (the lad);
Mary, Bessie, James you ken,
Then Charlie, Charlie, James again;
Will and Mary, Anna Gloria,
Georges four, Will four, Victoria;
Edward seven, George and Ted,
George the sixth, now Liz instead.


I'll add artworks of the monarchs from the UK's national collection each week, as the podcasts are released.

34 artworks

1066

King William I ('The Conqueror')
Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

William I

William was a contender for the throne of England held by the childless Edward the Confessor, his first cousin, who died in 1066. Arguing that Edward had promised the throne to him, William invaded England, leading an army of Normans to victory over the Anglo-Saxon forces of Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings.

His reign in England was marked by the construction of castles, settling a new Norman nobility on the land, and change in the composition of the English clergy.

Whilst in France in 1087, William either fell ill or was injured by the pommel of his saddle. His lands were divided after his death: Normandy went to his eldest son Robert Curthose, and England went to his second surviving son, William Rufus. He was buried in Caen.

King William I ('The Conqueror') 1590–1610
unknown artist
Oil on panel
H 56.8 x W 41.4 cm
National Portrait Gallery, London

1087

William II (c.1056–1100)
Photo credit: National Trust Images

William II

William was the third of four sons born to William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders. He is known as William Rufus (Rufus being Latin for 'the Red'), perhaps because of his ruddy appearance or, more likely, having red hair.

He consolidated his power over Normandy and increased his influence in Scotland, but less so in Wales.

William died after being hit by an arrow while hunting in the New Forest. Circumstantial evidence in the behaviour of those around him raises strong, but unproven, suspicions of murder. The king's body was abandoned by the nobles at the place where he fell. His body was taken to Winchester Cathedral by a few countrymen, including Eli Parratt, an arrow maker who discovered William's body.

William II (c.1056–1100) c.1660
British (English) School
Oil on panel
H 46.5 x W 38 cm
National Trust, Westwood Manor

1100

Henry I (c.1068/1069–1135)
Photo credit: National Trust Images

Henry I

Henry was in England when his brother King William died in a hunting accident, so Henry quickly seized the English throne.

His older brother, Robert, who invaded England from Normandy in 1101, disputed Henry's control of England. A negotiated settlement followed. Peace was short-lived, and Henry invaded Normandy in 1105 and 1106, finally defeating Robert, and keeping him imprisoned for the rest of his life.

Henry's son William drowned in the White Ship disaster of 1120, throwing the royal succession into doubt. He declared his daughter Matilda his heir and married her to Geoffrey of Anjou. Henry died in Lyons-la-Foret. According to the chronicler Henry of Huntingdon, he ate 'a surfeit of' lampreys (a type of jawless fish).

Henry I (c.1068/1069–1135) c.1660
British (English) School
Oil on panel
H 46.5 x W 38 cm
National Trust, Westwood Manor

1135

King Stephen
Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

Stephen

Stephen was born in France, the fourth son of Stephen-Henry, Count of Blois, and Adela, daughter of William the Conqueror. Despite Henry I's plans for his daughter Matilda, Stephen seized the throne, resulting in a civil war known as the Anarchy.

Stephen's early reign saw fierce fighting with disloyal English barons, rebellious Welsh leaders, and Scottish invaders. Following a major rebellion in the south-west of England, Matilda invaded in 1139 with the help of her half-brother Robert of Gloucester.

The Treaty of Winchester saw Stephen recognise Henry as his heir in exchange for peace, passing over William, Stephen's second son.

He was buried at Faversham Abbey with his wife Matilda and son Eustace.

King Stephen 1590–1610
unknown artist
Oil on panel
H 57.8 x W 44.7 cm
National Portrait Gallery, London

1154

Henry II (1133–1189)
Photo credit: By permission of Dulwich Picture Gallery

Henry II

During his reign, Henry controlled England, substantial parts of Wales and Ireland, and much of France (including Normandy, Aquitaine and Anjou), later called the Angevin Empire, and held power over Scotland and the Duchy of Brittany.

Henry came into conflict with Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, over the rights and privileges of the Church. Becket was murdered by followers of the King in Canterbury Cathedral.

Henry's heir, ‘Young Henry’, rebelled against his father, joined by his brothers Richard and Geoffrey and their mother. King Henry was eventually defeated by his son Richard and Philip II of France. Suffering from a bleeding ulcer, Henry retreated to Chinon Castle in Anjou, dying soon afterwards.

Henry II (1133–1189) c.1618–1620
British School
Oil on oak panel
H 57.5 x W 41.9 cm
Dulwich Picture Gallery

1189

Richard I (1157–1199)
Photo credit: Parliamentary Art Collection

Richard I

Richard was born in England, where he spent his childhood. Before becoming king, he lived most of his adult life in the Duchy of Aquitaine, in southwest France. Following his accession, he spent very little time, perhaps as little as six months, in England.

Most of his life as king was spent on Crusade, in captivity, or actively defending his lands in France. Richard is thought to have preferred to use his kingdom as a source of revenue to support his armies and Crusades.

Richard was hit in the shoulder by a crossbow bolt, and the wound turned gangrenous. His heart was buried at Rouen, his entrails in Chalus (where he died), and the rest of his body at the feet of his father at Fontevraud Abbey, Anjou.

Richard I (1157–1199)
John Birnie Philip (1824–1875)
Caen stone & gilding
Parliamentary Art Collection

1199

King John (1166–1216)
© the artist. Photo credit: Robert H Taylor / Art UK

King John

John was the youngest of the four surviving sons of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. He was nicknamed John Lackland because he was not expected to inherit significant lands. He was proclaimed king after his brother Richard died participating in the Third Crusade.

John lost the Duchy of Normandy and most of his other French lands to King Philip II of France, resulting in the collapse of the Angevin Empire.

Magna Carta was drafted as a peace treaty between John and the barons, and agreed in 1215. Neither side complied with its conditions and civil war broke out shortly afterward.

John is portrayed as a villain in Robin Hood folklore.

King John (1166–1216) 2016
Alan Beattie Herriot (b.1952) and Powderhall Bronze (founded 1989)
Bronze

1216

Henry III (1207–1272)
Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

Henry III

The son of King John and Isabella of Angouleme, Henry became king when he was nine.

In 1230, he attempted to reconquer the provinces of France that had once belonged to his father, but the invasion was a disaster.

In 1263, a baron, Simon de Montfort, seized power, resulting in the Second Barons' War. Henry persuaded King Louis IX of France to support his cause and mobilised an army. Henry was defeated at the Battle of Lewes and taken prisoner. His eldest son, Edward, escaped from captivity to defeat de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham the following year and freed his father.

His reign of 56 years was the longest in medieval English history. He is buried in Westminster Abbey, which he had rebuilt in the second half of his reign.

Henry III (1207–1272) 1873
Elkington & Co. and Domenico Brucciani (1815–1880) and William Torel (after)
Electrotype
H 111.8 cm
National Portrait Gallery, London

1272

Edward I Presents the First Prince of Wales to the Welsh Chieftains at Carnarvon, AD 1284
Photo credit: Lambeth Council

Edward I

Also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots.

Edward conquered Wales, establishing English rule, building castles and towns in the countryside and settling them with English people. He invaded Scotland, fighting against forces led by William Wallace and by Robert the Bruce. Edward confiscated the Stone of Destiny – the Scottish coronation stone – and brought it to Westminster, placing it in what became known as King Edward's Chair. He also found himself at war with France (a Scottish ally) after King Philip IV confiscated the Duchy of Gascony.

He is credited with establishing Parliament as a permanent institution, but condemned for his wars against Scotland and for expelling the Jews from England in 1290.

Edward I Presents the First Prince of Wales to the Welsh Chieftains at Carnarvon, AD 1284
John Gilbert (1817–1897) (copy of)
Oil on canvas
H 151.1 x W 120.7 cm
Lambeth Council

1307

Edward II (1284–1327), Founder of Oriel College in 1326
Photo credit: Oriel College, University of Oxford

Edward II

The fourth son of Edward I, Edward became the heir to the throne following the death of his older brother Alphonso. He married Isabella of France, the daughter of King Philip IV, as an attempt to resolve tensions between the English and French crowns.

Edward had a close and controversial relationship with Piers Gaveston, who was seized and executed by a group of the barons, beginning several years of armed confrontation.

English forces were pushed back in Scotland, where Edward was defeated by Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn.

He was forced to relinquish his crown in favour of his son, Edward III, and he died in Berkeley Castle, probably murdered on the orders of the new regime.

Edward II (1284–1327), Founder of Oriel College in 1326 20th C
British (English) School
Oil on canvas
H 76.2 x W 61 cm
Oriel College, University of Oxford

1327

Edward III (1312–1377)
Photo credit: The Queen's College, University of Oxford

Edward III

Edward was crowned at age 14 after his father was deposed by his mother, Isabella, and her lover Roger Mortimer. After a successful campaign in Scotland, he declared himself rightful heir to the French throne, starting the Hundred Years' War.

His 50-year reign was one of the longest in English history. It saw developments in legislation and government, in particular the evolution of the English Parliament, as well as the ravages of the Black Death. His later years were marked by international failure and domestic strife, largely as a result of his inactivity and poor health.

He outlived his eldest son, Edward the Black Prince, and the throne passed to his grandson Richard II.

Edward III (1312–1377) 16th C
British (English) School
Oil on panel
H 57 x W 43.3 cm
The Queen's College, University of Oxford

1377

Richard II (1367–1400)
Photo credit: National Trust Images

Richard II

Richard succeeded to the throne aged 10 and during his first years as king, government was in the hands of a series of regency councils, influenced by Richard's uncles John of Gaunt and Thomas of Woodstock. England then faced various problems, most notably the Hundred Years' War. A major challenge of the reign was the Peasants' Revolt in 1381.

In 1399, after John of Gaunt died, Richard disinherited Gaunt's son, Henry Bolingbroke, who had previously been exiled. Henry invaded England with a small force that quickly grew in numbers. Meeting little resistance, he deposed Richard and had himself crowned king. Richard is thought to have been starved to death in captivity, although questions remain regarding his final fate.

Richard II (1367–1400) 17th C (?)
British (English) School
Oil on panel
H 57 x W 45 cm
National Trust, Anglesey Abbey

1399

Henry IV (1367–1413)
Photo credit: By permission of Dulwich Picture Gallery

Henry IV

Henry was the first English ruler since the Norman Conquest, over 300 years prior, whose mother tongue was English rather than French.

Henry faced several rebellions, including those of Owain Glyndwr, the last Welsh Prince of Wales, and the English knight Henry Percy (Hotspur), who was killed in the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403.

He had six children from his first marriage to Mary de Bohun, while his second marriage to Joan of Navarre was childless. Henry and Mary's eldest son, Henry of Monmouth, assumed the reins of government in 1410 as the king's health worsened. Henry IV died in 1413, and his son succeeded him as Henry V.

Henry IV (1367–1413) c.1618
British School
Oil on chamfered oak panel
H 58.1 x W 45.4 cm
Dulwich Picture Gallery

1413

Henry V (1386–1422)
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Jane Bradford / Art UK

Henry V

Despite his relatively short reign, Henry's outstanding military successes in the Hundred Years' War against France made England one of the strongest military powers in Europe. His first military campaign included his victory at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.

By 1420, his armies had captured Paris and had come close to conquering the whole of medieval France. The Treaty of Troyes recognised Henry V as heir to the French throne, and he was subsequently married to Charles's daughter Catherine of Valois.

Henry died at the Chateau de Vincennes, possibly of dysentery. His body was brought back to England, and he is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Henry V (1386–1422) 1990s
John Blakeley (b.1928)
Bronze

1422

Henry VI (1421–1471)
Photo credit: Christ's Hospital of Abingdon

Henry VI

Henry was King of England from 1422 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471, and disputed King of France from 1422 to 1453. The only child of Henry V, he succeeded to the English throne at the age of nine months upon his father's death, and succeeded to the French throne on the death of his maternal grandfather, Charles VI, shortly afterwards.

Starting in 1453, Henry had a series of mental breakdowns, and tensions mounted between Margaret (his wife) and Richard of York over control of the incapacitated King's government and succession to the English throne. Civil war broke out in 1455, leading to a long period of dynastic conflict now known as the Wars of the Roses.

Henry died in the Tower of London, possibly ordered by Edward IV.

Henry VI (1421–1471) 1607
Sampson Strong (c.1550–1611)
Oil on panel
H 91.3 x W 73.7 cm
Christ's Hospital of Abingdon

1461

Edward IV (1442–1483)
Photo credit: Society of Antiquaries of London

Edward IV

Edward was King of England from 4 March 1461 to 3 October 1470, then again from 11 April 1471 until his death in 1483.

His marriage to Elizabeth Woodville led to conflict with his chief advisor, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (the Kingmaker). In 1470, a revolt led by Warwick and Edward's brother George, Duke of Clarence, briefly re-installed Henry VI.

Edward fled to Flanders, where he gathered support and invaded England in March 1471; after victories at the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury, he resumed the throne. Shortly afterwards, Henry VI was found dead in the Tower of London. Despite a continuing threat from Henry Tudor, the last Lancastrian claimant, Edward reigned in relative peace for the next twelve years.

Edward IV (1442–1483) c.1510
British (English) School
Oil on oak panel
H 32 x W 20 cm
Society of Antiquaries of London

1483

The Princes in the Tower
Photo credit: Royal Holloway, University of London

Edward V

Edward V was never crowned, and his brief reign was dominated by the influence of his uncle and Lord Protector, the Duke of Gloucester, who deposed him to reign as King Richard III. This was confirmed by the Act entitled Titulus Regius, which denounced any further claims through his father's heirs.

Edward V and his younger brother Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, were the Princes in the Tower who disappeared after being sent to heavily guarded royal lodgings in the Tower of London. Responsibility for their deaths is widely attributed to Richard III, but the lack of solid evidence and conflicting contemporary accounts allow for other possibilities.

Edward V's sister married Henry VII, uniting the York and Lancaster Houses.

The Princes in the Tower 1878
John Everett Millais (1829–1896)
Oil on canvas
H 147.2 x W 91.4 cm
Royal Holloway, University of London

1483

Richard III (1452–1485)
© the artist's estate. Photo credit: Nick Linnett / Art UK

Richard III

The last English king to be killed in battle, Richard’s defeat and death at the Battle of Bosworth marked the end of the Middle Ages in England. His corpse was taken to Leicester and buried without ceremony.

In 2012, an excavation commissioned by Philippa Langley with the Richard III Society uncovered a human skeleton in the first dig at a city centre car park, which was found to be Richard III as a result of radiocarbon dating, comparison with contemporary reports of his appearance, identification of trauma sustained at Bosworth and comparison of his mitochondrial DNA with that of two matrilineal descendants of his sister Anne. He was reburied in Leicester Cathedral in 2015.

Richard III (1452–1485) 1980
James Butler (1931–2022)
Bronze

1485

Henry VII (1457–1509)
© the artist. Photo credit: Dainis Ozols / Art UK

Henry VII

Henry was the first monarch of the House of Tudor. He was the last king of England to win his throne on the field of battle. He cemented his claim by marrying Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV.

Henry restored power and stability to the English monarchy following the civil war. He is credited with many administrative, economic and diplomatic initiatives. His supportive policy toward England's wool industry and his standoff with the Low Countries had long-lasting benefit to the English economy.

His first son, Arthur, Prince of Wales, died suddenly at Ludlow Castle, very likely from a viral respiratory illness known at the time as the ‘English sweating sickness’, making his second son, Henry, Duke of York, heir to the throne.

Henry VII (1457–1509) 2015–2017
Harriet L. Addyman (b.1963)
Bronze & stone
H 190 x W 45 x D 45 cm

1509

Henry VIII (1491–1547)
Photo credit: Lady Lever Art Gallery

Henry VIII

Henry succeeded the throne at age 17. He is best known for his six marriages, and his efforts to have his first marriage (to Catherine of Aragon) annulled. His disagreement with Pope Clement VII about the annulment led Henry to initiate the English Reformation, separating the Church of England from papal authority. He appointed himself Supreme Head of the Church of England and dissolved convents and monasteries, for which he was excommunicated by the pope.

He expanded the Royal Navy, oversaw the annexure of Wales to England, and was the first English monarch to rule as King of Ireland.

He was an author and composer (but did not write 'Greensleeves'). As he aged, he became severely overweight and his health suffered.

Henry VIII (1491–1547) 19th C
British School
Marble
H 75 cm
Lady Lever Art Gallery

1547

Edward VI (1537–1553)
Photo credit: Warwick Shire Hall

Edward VI

Edward was the son of Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour, who died from postnatal complications soon after his birth. He was crowned at the age of nine. Henry VIII's will named sixteen executors, who were to act as Edward's council until he reached the age of eighteen, with Edward Seymour, his uncle, becoming Lord Protector of the Realm and Governor of the King's Person.

Edward was the first English monarch to be raised as a Protestant. Religious reforms during his reign included the abolition of clerical celibacy and the Mass, and the imposition of compulsory services in English.

Edward died at the age of 15 at Greenwich Palace. The cause of his death is not certain, but it is thought it was a disease of the lungs.

Edward VI (1537–1553) 16th C
Guillim Scrots (active 1537–1553) (by or after)
Oil on canvas
H 203 x W 89 cm
Warwick Shire Hall

1553

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey
Photo credit: City of London Corporation

Lady Jane Grey

Jane was great-granddaughter of Henry VII, a grandniece of Henry VIII, and first cousin once removed of Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I. In 1553, the dying Edward VI wrote his will, nominating Jane and as successor to the Crown, in part because his half-sister Mary was Catholic, while Jane was a Protestant and would support the reformed Church of England, whose foundation Edward laid.

After Edward's death, Jane was proclaimed queen, but support for Mary grew quickly, and most of Jane's supporters abandoned her. The Privy Council of England changed sides, and proclaimed Mary as queen. Jane was imprisoned in the Tower of London and executed in 1554. At the time of her death, Jane was either 16 or 17 years old.

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey c.1834
Paul Delaroche (1797–1856)
Oil on canvas
H 46 x W 53 cm
City of London Corporation

1553

Mary I (1516–1558)
Photo credit: National Trust Images

Mary I

Mary was the only surviving child of Henry VIII by his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. She was declared illegitimate and barred from the line of succession after the annulment of her parents' marriage in 1533, though she would later be restored in 1543.

Mary attempted to reverse the English Reformation, which had begun during the reign of her father, and during her five-year reign, she had over 280 religious dissenters burned at the stake in the Marian persecutions.

She was married to King Philip II from January 1556 until her death in 1558. Although Mary's will stated that she wished to be buried next to her mother, she was interred in Westminster Abbey in a tomb she eventually shared with Elizabeth.

Mary I (1516–1558) 16th C
Antonis Mor (1512–1516–c.1576) (possibly after)
Oil on panel
H 76 x W 61 cm
National Trust, Petworth House

1558

Elizabeth I (1533–1603)
Photo credit: Trinity College, University of Cambridge

Elizabeth I

Elizabeth was the only surviving daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, his second wife, who was executed when Elizabeth was two years old. During Mary I's reign, Elizabeth was imprisoned for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels.

Elizabeth became queen at the age of 25. One of her first actions as queen was the establishment of an English Protestant church, of which she became the supreme governor. In government, Elizabeth was more moderate than her father and siblings had been. One of her mottoes was video et taceo (‘I see and keep silent’).

Although she received many offers, she never married and remained childless. She reigned for 44 years, providing stability for the kingdom.

Elizabeth I (1533–1603) 1597
unknown artist
Stone & gilding
Trinity College, University of Cambridge

.

Mary, Queen of Scots (1542–1587)
Photo credit: Historic Environment Scotland

Mary, Queen of Scots

Yes, I know she didn’t rule the whole of Britain, but this Curation relates to the 'Wille, Willie, Harry, Stee' podcast, which did include an episode on Mary, to put this period of history into context.

Mary was only six days old when her father, James V of Scotland, died and she inherited the throne. Her first husband was the Dauphin of France, then after his death she married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. They had a son, James. After Darnley’s murder, she married James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, who is thought to have been behind Darnley’s death.

Seeing Mary as a threat, Elizabeth had her confined in castles across England for eighteen and a half years, before she was beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle in 1587.

Mary, Queen of Scots (1542–1587)
Daniel Mytens (c.1590–1647) (after)
Oil on panel
H 70.5 x W 54 cm
Historic Environment Scotland

1603

James I (1566–1625)
Photo credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

James I

James was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and great-great-grandson of Henry VII, King of England and Lord of Ireland, and therefore, a potential successor to all three thrones. He succeeded to the Scottish throne at thirteen months, after his mother was forced to abdicate in his favour, becoming James VI of Scotland. He married Anne of Denmark in 1589.

James succeeded his cousin Elizabeth I in 1603 to become James I of England, after she died childless. He was an advocate of a single parliament for England and Scotland. The Gunpowder Plot, led by Guy Fawkes, was exposed during James’ reign.

Under James, a ‘Golden Age’ of Elizabethan literature and drama flourished, through William Shakespeare, John Donne, Ben Jonson and Francis Bacon.

James I (1566–1625) c.1610
John de Critz the elder (1551/1552–1642)
Oil on canvas
H 104.2 x W 83.8 cm
National Maritime Museum

1625

Charles I (1600–1649)
Photo credit: St John's College, University of Oxford

Charles I

Charles was the second son of James VI of Scotland, but after his father inherited the English throne, he moved to England, where he spent much of the rest of his life. In 1625, he married Henrietta Maria of France.

From 1642, Charles fought the armies of the English and Scottish parliaments in the English Civil War. After defeat in 1645 to the Parliamentarian New Model Army, he fled north and surrendered to a Scottish force. He escaped captivity in 1647, but was recaptured.

Charles was tried, convicted, and executed for high treason in January 1649. The monarchy was abolished and the Commonwealth of England was established as a republic.

Charles I (1600–1649) c.1635
Hubert Le Sueur (c.1580–1658)
Bronze
St John's College, University of Oxford

1653

Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658)
Photo credit: Bridgeman Images

Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector

Cromwell was born in Huntingdon in 1599, educated at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and was elected MP for Huntingdon in 1628.

He came to prominence during the 1639 to 1653 Wars of the Three Kingdoms, initially as a senior commander in the Parliamentarian army and later as a politician. A leading advocate of the execution of Charles I in 1649, which led to the establishment of The Protectorate, he ruled as Lord Protector from December 1653 until his death in September 1658.

Cromwell remains a controversial figure due to his use of the army to acquire political power, and the brutality of his 1649 campaign in Ireland.

Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658) 1649
Robert Walker (1599–1658)
Oil on canvas
H 127.7 x W 102.9 cm
Leeds Museums and Galleries

1660

Charles II (1630–1685)
Photo credit: Highland Council

Charles II

Charles II was the eldest surviving child of Charles I and Henrietta Maria of France. The political crisis that followed Cromwell's death in 1658 resulted in the restoration of the monarchy, and Charles was invited to return to Britain.

New concepts and discoveries being found at this time fascinated Charles, not only in science and medicine, but in topics such as botany and gardening. He was fascinated by clock mechanisms and had clocks distributed all around Whitehall, including seven of them in his bedroom.

Charles's marriage to Catherine of Braganza produced no surviving children, but he acknowledged at least 12 illegitimate children by various mistresses. He was succeeded by his brother James.

Charles II (1630–1685)
Peter Lely (1618–1680) (attributed to)
Oil on canvas
H 72.5 x W 58.5 cm
Highland Council

1685

James II (1633–1701)
Photo credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

James II

James succeeded to the throne following the death of his brother, Charles. He was the last Catholic monarch of England, Scotland and Ireland.

James was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which ended a century of political and civil strife in England by confirming the primacy of the English Parliament over the Crown. He was succeeded by his protestant daughter, Mary, and her husband, William. James worked to build an army in Ireland to regain the crown, but was ultimately defeated at the Battle of the Boyne on 1 July 1690.

He died in France in 1701, aged 67. His descendants later attempted to restore the Stuart dynasty through the Jacobite rebellions.

James II (1633–1701) c.1686
Nicolas de Largillière (1656–1746)
Oil on canvas
H 76.2 x W 46.1 cm
National Maritime Museum

1689

Queen Mary II (1662–1694)
Photo credit: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Mary II

Mary was the eldest daughter of James II and his first wife, Anne Hyde. At fifteen she married her cousin William of Orange. William and Mary became king and queen regnant after the Glorious Revolution, deposing James.

Mary mostly deferred to her husband, a renowned military leader and principal opponent of Louis XIV, when he was in England. She did, however, act alone when William was engaged in military campaigns abroad, proving herself to be a powerful, firm, and effective ruler. Mary's death from smallpox at the age of 32 left William as sole ruler until his death in 1702.

Queen Mary II (1662–1694) c.1695
John van Nost the elder (c.1655–c.1712) (possibly)
Terracotta, paint & gilding
H 61 x W 31 x D 21 cm
Victoria and Albert Museum

1689

William III (1650–1702)
Photo credit: Gordon Baird / Art UK

William III

William ruled Britain and Ireland alongside his wife Mary. He was the only child of William II, Prince of Orange, and Mary, Princess Royal, the daughter of Charles I of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

During his early reign, he was occupied abroad with the Nine Years' War (1688-1697), leaving Mary to govern Britain alone. In 1696 the Jacobites, a faction loyal to the deposed James II, plotted unsuccessfully to assassinate William and restore the James to the throne.

William's lack of children and the death of his nephew, the son of his sister-in-law Anne, threatened the Protestant succession. William and Mary's cousins, the Protestant Hanoverians, were placed in line to the throne after Anne with the Act of Settlement, 1701.

William III (1650–1702) 1734
Peter Scheemakers II (1691–1781) and J. & G. Mossman and Cant & Lindsay
Lead & stone

1702

Queen Anne
Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

Anne

Anne was the fourth child of James II and his first wife, Anne Hyde.

During her reign, she favoured moderate Tory politicians, who were more likely to share her Anglican religious views than their opponents, the Whigs. The Whigs grew more powerful during the course of the War of the Spanish Succession, until 1710 when Anne dismissed many of them from office.

Her close friendship with Sarah Churchill turned sour as the result of political differences. Churchill took revenge with an unflattering description of Anne in her memoirs, which was widely accepted by historians until Anne was reassessed in the late 20th century.

Despite 17 pregnancies, she died without surviving issue and was the last monarch of the House of Stuart.

Queen Anne 1705
Michael Dahl (1656/1659–1743)
Oil on canvas
H 236.8 x W 144.8 cm
National Portrait Gallery, London

1714

George I (1660–1727)
Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

George I

George was born in Hanover to Ernest Augustus and Sophia of Hanover. He married his cousin Sophia, with whom he had two children; they divorced in 1694.

As the senior Protestant descendant of James I (his great-grandfather), George inherited the British throne following the deaths in 1714 of his mother, Sophia, and his second cousin Queen Anne. Jacobites attempted, but failed, to depose George and replace him with James Stuart, Anne's Catholic half-brother.

During his reign the powers of the monarchy diminished, and Britain began a transition to the modern system of cabinet government led by a prime minister.

George died of a stroke in Hanover, where he was buried. He is the most recent British monarch to be buried outside the UK.

George I (1660–1727) c.1720–1735
John Michael Rysbrack (1694–1770)
Terracotta
H 62.9 cm
National Portrait Gallery, London