Brief History of the Royal Family


1066! The start of the royal family on these
fair isles. Well, there were kings and mini countries before that and druids before that,
and Pangaea before that, but we have to start somewhere and a millennia ago is plenty far
— if that leaves out Æthelred the Unready, so it goes. William the Conqueror, conquered in the ‘Norman
Conquest’ — Norman here being code for *French*. Because it’s the olden days, people had lots
of kids, but to keep things simple this family tree is going to leave out many of them on
each branch because not every child matters. So William had three kids we care about: William
II, Henry I and Adela. If you’ve seen the video about royal succession
— click here if you haven’t — you’ll know that formal rules for passing on the crown
will get established, but for now, it’s a free-for-all, home team advantage to the eldest
son, but never forget bigger-army diplomacy. Upon William the Conquerors death, William
II became king. William II didn’t marry, and on a bros day
out with Henry died in a ‘Hunting Accident’ that gave Henry I the crown. Henry I had at least 26 children of which
only two were 100% legit. He declared his daughter would rule next (after his son died
in a ship wreck) and swore his knights to honor Empress Matilda by crossing their hearts,
hoping to die, sticking a needle in their eye — *but* when Henry I died while Matilda
was in France, many ignored this while her cousin Stephen raced to Westminster using
faster army diplomacy to get coronated first. Empress Matilda did eventually return and
start a decades-long civil war — that was pretty much a stalemate because turtling in
the 1100s was an effective RTS tactic. While she did rule part of the island, as
Matilda never had an official coronation, her monarchical status is disputed. Now, as Stephen’s children were either dead,
disinterested, or a nun — his crown went to his nephew, Henry II who had four sons:
Henry the Young, Richard the Lionheart, King John… and Geoff. (Guess who died before
his turn?) Henry II saw the history thus far of conquering,
assassination, (maybe) usurpation, attritional war — and decided waiting until after the
death of the current king before sorting out the *next* king didn’t work. So Henry II changed the system and crowned
Henry the Young co-king with him, invoking the rule of two: one is none. Two is one.
If it’s important, you need a backup. It was a good plan for stability, helped by
the young King’s popularity, but unfortunately — the apprentice rebelled against the master,
rallying his brothers — which resulted in another civil war of disputed monarchs during
which Henry the Young died of dysentery, Henry the Elder died of fever, and Richard I took
the crown. After Richard came John and four eldest son
successions in a row: John to Henry III (insert Magna Carta here) to Edward I (Longshanks)
to Edward II — to Edward III. Actually Ed II was overthrown by Isabelle
of France A.K.A the She-Wolf of France A.K.A. his wife. After deposing her husband, she
acted as regent for their son. Every one of these arrows glosses over a bit of complexity. Edward III had five sons: Edward the Black
Prince, Lionel, John, Edmund, and Thomas, none of which would wear the crown. When Edward III died, his throne would have
gone to The Black Prince, but he was dead at the time so the crown went to his boringly
named son Richard, now the second. There’s a bunch of drama lamma stuff around
Richard the second which your English teacher might force you to read about — but spoiler
alert, history’s ending is always the same: bigger-army diplomacy, this time from Henry
IV who gets the crown and Richard II gets starvation in captivity. Another Henry before we get to the War of
the Roses: A war that strikes terror (and boredom) in
the minds of students of history the nation over who have to deal with *this* family tree
‘simplified’ to explain why everyone was angry, but the shortest version ever is Edward III’s
great, great, grandsons duked it out, even though one of them was dead for part of the
fight — but we can’t get into that now so Henry VI to Edward IV to Henry VI to Edward
IV. The end. Edward IV, on his deathbed left his crown
to his son. But being twelve he needed protection, so Richard, his best-ist uncle in the world,
promised to take super-good care of him. Edward V then promptly disappeared under suspicious
circumstances that left Richard to become Richard the third. But he didn’t stay king for long because Edward
III’s great, great, great, great grandson Henry VII — took the crown, put a ring on
Elizabeth of York to lock down that royal legitimacy and then sired Henry VIII — splitter
of churches, and ladies. Henry VIII thought it was high time to formalize
the rules of inheritance, so he wrote them out in his will — basically saying oldest
boys first, girls only if there aren’t any boys — and Parliament approved the rules. Which should have made everything neat and
tidy, but we’re about to enter the really messy time… … Because Henry’s son lived just long enough
to screw it up — inheriting the throne at 9 there was, of course, a scheming protectorate
running things, yet he still declared at 15 that his father’s rules were dumb and his
sisters were dumb and that his first cousin once removed, Lady Jane Grey, should be the
next monarch instead. Then he died and Lady Jane Grey became queen
at sweet sixteen, sort of — in a disputed status way for nine days, until beheaded by
Mary, the first really, truly officially nobody doubts it Queen. Mary didn’t have any kids, and passed the
crown to Elizabeth I who became the second queen in a row… to also not have children.
But, no problem because Lady Jane Grey was next in … oh. Right. Now, this is the point at which we acknowledge,
Scotland Exists. They’d been doing their own royal thing which for our purposes joins the
English branch where Edward III’s great granddaughter married into it in the 1400s and then goes:
James, James, James, James, James, Mary Queen of Scotts, James. Bringing us back to the
1600s. Henry the VIII’s sister importantly also married
into this line of the family giving it English legitimacy points in the eyes of the English
Parliament, which asked to borrow Scotland’s James, making him king of two countries with
two numbers in his name depending on where you’re counting from. James had a son, Charles I, and you might
think this unification of the monarchs means the very messy time is over. But no. Because Cromwell. Cromwell didn’t like kings and beheaded Charles
I: declaring no royals no longer, making himself The Lord Protector which was in no way like
a king — even though he was in charge and it was a hereditary office passed to his son. But the Cromwells didn’t last — mainly because
his son was a fancy country squire who didn’t follow rule 0: keep the army happy — giving
Charles’s son, Charles II, the ability to reestablish the monarchy. Charles II had lots of children, all of which
were illegitimate, leaving his brother, James II next in line. But James II was *Catholic*
and ever since Henry split the church, Catholics had terrible approval ratings. But conveniently,
he had nice Protestant daughters, one married to a Dutch Prince who by the nature of these
things was the grandson of Charles I. Bonus English legitimacy points, plus, who doesn’t
like the Dutch? With James so unpopular and William and Mary
so popular, the army and nobles pretty much invited the royal couple to ‘invade’ and James
II fled. William and Mary ruled as co-monarchs, but
without children the crown went to Queen Anne, who also didn’t produce any heirs, though
not from lack of effort — she was pregnant *seventeen* times. Again, finding themselves with a no-royals-no-longer
situation, Parliament decided it was really, truly seriously the time to sort out the rules
of inheritance to avoid pretenders from every branch of this messy tree fighting over the
crown. Parliament did a royal reboot to clear the
cruft, defining Sophia of Hanover — the granddaughter of James dual numbers to be the new starting
point for all claims to the crown. These rules finally stuck, thus ending the
very messy time. George I, son of Sophia, was the first king
under the new rules, then his son George II, to George III, and even though he lost America
and his mind, never fear, the rules are here, so the crown continued to calmly descend the
family tree, going to George IV, who didn’t have any surviving children, to William IV
who had ten children — all illegitimate, then passing through his dead younger brother
to Queen Victoria who started her reign in 1837 and made it to just over the finishing
line of the 20th century. Which is a doubly impressively long time given the state of
medical technology then. After the end of her age, the crown went to her son Edward
VII to George V… to Edward VIII who *finally* breaks up this
neat and tidy (and somewhat boring) line of succession by committing a scandal: marrying
a commoner. An American Commoner! An American Commoner *divorcee*! *twice over* ::Gasp:: Actually, the divorces were a real problem
and weren’t compatible with the Monarch’s role as Head of State *and also* the Church
of England in the 1930s. Edward abdicated to his brother George VI — who was reluctant
to take the crown, and then had to oversee World War II and the subsequent breakup of
the British Empire — which drained the reluctant King’s health, who died at 56 leaving the
crown to Elizabeth the Second, in 1952 at the age of 25. Seven years older than Victoria,
her great great grandmother was on her coronation day, but in early September, 2015, Elizabeth
became the longest-reigning Queen in not just British history, but world history. From Elizabeth II the crown continues on to
Charles, the longest heir apparent in British history, to his son William, to his son George. And that, is a brief history of the royal
family.

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