This is a list of British monarchs, that is, the monarchs on the thrones of some of the various kingdoms that have existed on, or incorporated, the island of Great Britain, namely:
Since 1559 English monarchs have had the title Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
In 1328, on the death of the French king, Charles IV, Edward III (nephew of Charles IV) claimed the French throne. British monarchs then styled themselves "King/Queen of France" until the Act of Union, which led to the creation of the United Kingdom in 1801. By then France had been a republic for ten years. See: English Kings of France
For the small kingdoms which existed before the formation of England, Scotland or Wales, see:
Complications over Title and Style
Royal titles are also complicated because in some cases, names of kingdoms are used that did not officially come into existence until later, or came into existence earlier without immediate adoption of the royal title.
- For example, in October 1604, one year after James VI of Scotland had become king of England, he decreed that the Royal Title would use the term Great Brittaine to refer to the "one Imperiall Crowne" made up of England and Scotland. However using that title is problematic because the 'state' of Great Britain was only created in the Act of Union 1707. Nor was the united crown generally referred to as 'imperial'. Furthermore, monarchs continued to use ordinals attached to the two previous kingdoms, for instance James VII/II. To avoid confusion, historians in general thus refer to all monarchs up to 1707 as monarchs of England and Scotland (so explaining their two ordinals where they existed), with the monarch's title at all times accurately following the official name or names of the state or states they reigned over, where it differed from the official royal title. (Hence though many English and British monarchs claimed France as part of their official title, that had no reality in substance, so it isn't used.) After the Union, the ordinal has either been the English number, or the greater of the two numbers - the results have been the same and there is no formal rule.
- In different documents, the terms Kingdom of Great Britain and United Kingdom of Great Britain feature, even documents as official as the Act of Union 1707. Most historians presume the United was meant to be descriptive (indicating a union as a form of unity by marriage rather than coercion). For clarity and because the United is far more strongly associated with the later name United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland produced in the Act of Union 1800, the 1707 kingdom is generally referred to as the Kingdom of Great Britain.
The list of monarchs below cannot be exhaustive. For succession to the many thrones often did not pass smoothly from parent to child; lack of heirs, civil wars, murders and invasions affected the inheritance in ways that a simple list does not show. The relationships that formed the basis for claims to throne are noted where we know them and the dates of reign indicated.
|Monarchs of England ||Monarchs of Scotland |
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A useful rhyme for memorising the names of the English and UK monarchs since the Norman Conquest in chronological order:
Willy Willy Harry Steve,
Henry Dick John Henry three;
Then three Edwards Richard two,
Henry Four, Five Six then who?
Edward four five, Dick the bad,
Two more Henries, Ned the lad;
Bloody Mary she came next,
Then we have our Good Queen Bess.
From Scotland we got James the Vain;
Charlie one, two, James again.
William and Mary, Anna Gloria,
Four Georges, William, and Victoria.
Edward, George, the same again,
Now Elizabeth - and the end.
A popular variation
Willy, Willy, Harry, Steve,
Harry, Dick, John, Harry Three;
One, two, three Neds, Richard Two,
Harries Four Five Six, then who?
Edwards Four Five, Dick the Bad,
Harries (twain) Ned Six (the lad);
Mary, Bessie, James ye ken,
Then Charlie, Charlie, James again
Will and Mary, Anna Gloria
Georges four, Will Fourth, Victoria
Edward Seven next, and then
Came George the Fifth in nineteen ten
Ned the Eighth soon abdicated
Then George the Sixth was coronated
After which Elizabeth
And that's all folks until her death
The above version was featured in part in the movie King Ralph.
(Compare with Chinese history mnemonics.)