Most of us can identify a few British kings off the tops of our heads. All for English historical past? William the Conqueror and Henry VIII. Basic literature? The Scottish king Macbeth and Henry V (or a minimum of, Shakespeare’s traditionally skewed variations of them). American historical past? George III, or as he’s extra generally recognized, “Mad King George.” And who hasn’t heard of Queen Victoria?
The kings and queens of Nice Britain are in all probability the best-known royals in historical past. However there are nonetheless some British monarchs who achieved nice issues of their lifetimes however are virtually unknown at present. Right here, we’re exploring the lives of 10 British monarchs you’ve by no means heard of.
10 King Louis
In Might 1216, the inheritor to the French throne landed unopposed on the island of Thanet with an enormous military in tow. From there, he marched on London. As an alternative of rejecting the French king, the individuals of London opened the town’s gates and proclaimed him king of England in Previous St. Paul’s Cathedral with most of the English nobles and even the king of Scotland watching. His declare to the throne was tenuous at greatest.
The English the Aristocracy had grown sick of King John’s reign. They invited Louis to take the throne after it turned clear that John had no intention of holding the promise he’d made when he signed the Magna Carta the yr earlier than.
John deserted London to Louis after which the previous Anglo-Saxon capital of Winchester, which Louis had additionally seized by June. By midsummer, over half the dominion belonged to him.
Nevertheless, the momentum turned when John died of dysentery in October. Abruptly, the king of England was a nine-year-old Henry—a a lot smaller menace to baronial authority. His regent was William Marshal, probably the most revered males in England on the time. He was capable of persuade the barons again from Louis’s aspect.
Although the chances have been stacked towards Louis, the warfare continued for an additional 12 months. In September 1217, after dropping some key battles and having his provide strains reduce, Louis was pressured to signal the Treaty of Lambeth. In it, he agreed that he’d by no means return to England and that he’d by no means been the professional king of England. In return, he acquired 10,000 marks.
He turned king of France in 1223.
9 King Kenneth I
On the time of Kenneth’s start round 810, modern-day Scotland was cut up between the Gaelic kingdom of Dalriada and the dominion of the Picts. Pictland had been a lot stronger than Dalriada, however by the point Kenneth turned king of Dalriada in 839, it was in the midst of a disaster. 5 totally different claimants fought over the dominion over the subsequent decade, severely weakening it.
Round 848, Kenneth turned king of the Picts and united Scotland beneath a single monarch for the primary time. How precisely he turned king is unknown. Among the many numerous theories are that his mom was associated to a Pictish claimant, that he was elected by the Picts, or that he seized the dominion by pressure.
Kenneth confronted some preliminary resistance from a few of the Picts however was capable of endure. His 10-year reign laid the foundations for a dynasty that lasted till 1034 and a state that has remained united till this present day.
He’s principally recognized for shifting the administration of the Scottish kings inland to guard it from Viking assaults, which relocated the spiritual capital from Iona to Dunkeld. He was additionally the primary Gaelic king of all Scotland. Not a single Pict turned king of Scotland after his reign. Subsequently, he began the method of Gaelicization that led to the disappearance of the Picts by 1100.
eight King Athelstan
Athelstan was elected king of Mercia in 924 following the demise of his father, Edward. By late 925, he’d been elected king of Wessex, too, although not earlier than he needed to put down a insurrection.
With the may of the 2 biggest Anglo-Saxon kingdoms behind him, Athelstan completed what his grandfather Alfred the Nice had began. In 927, Athelstan conquered the final Viking territory in England—the Kingdom of York—and have become the primary monarch in historical past to be king of all England.
He didn’t cease there. By 934, he’d additionally invaded Scotland and compelled the Scottish king, Malcolm, to pay him homage. King Malcolm was sad with this association and sided with the Vikings to invade northern England in 937.
The following Battle of Burnanburh was a decisive victory for Athelstan and secured his place as probably the most highly effective man in Britain for the remainder of his lifetime. He referred to as himself the king of Britain, and the Welsh and Scottish kings have been pressured to attend his council, the place they witnessed and accepted his legal guidelines.
Athelstan was a king who was actively concerned within the authorities of the realm. Extra legal guidelines survive from his reign than another 900s king. He centralized the Anglo-Saxon authorities and made efforts to reform the foreign money, however the majority of his laws was aimed toward tackling the rampant anarchism and theft that dominated England on the time.
His council was the primary in English historical past to commonly include figures from throughout England moderately than from only a single Anglo-Saxon kingdom. Nevertheless, Athelstan himself not often left Wessex. This manner of governing, an early type of nationwide meeting, did a lot to interrupt down the regional obstacles between the previous kingdoms and to determine a standard English id.
7 King Edmund Ironside
Edmund Ironside was by no means anticipated to be king. Throughout a time of peace and stability in Anglo-Saxon England, he was third in line to the throne behind his two brothers. Nevertheless, that modified when the Viking King Cnut invaded in 1015.
Most of the English earls turned their backs on King Aethelred and supported Cnut, however Edmund raised a military to withstand them. He was betrayed by the English Earl Eadric Streona, chief of Mercia, who submitted to Cnut.
When his father did not arrive to steer the military he’d raised, Edmund and Earl Uhtred of Northumbria took issues into their very own arms and joined forces, raiding Eadric’s lands in retaliation for his betrayal. Cnut’s military landed in Northumbria and compelled Uhtred to submit earlier than killing him, leaving Edmund with none allies.
When Aethelred died in early 1016, Edmund made his approach to London to be topped the brand new king of England. Each of his brothers had died in 1014. In a last effort to halt the Danish invasion, he went to Wessex to boost a military. He fought the Danes at Penselwood and Sherston. Then he made his solution to London the place he efficiently broke the Danish siege.
He pursued them to Brentford and gained a decisive victory. His forces have been depleted, nevertheless, and he retreated to Wessex to boost one other military. By this time, Eadric and a number of other different English earls had switched again to his aspect.
Edmund defeated the Danish military as soon as once more, this time at Otford, and chased Cnut’s retreating military into Kent. The momentum clearly seemed to be with him. Issues modified, although, when he met the Danish military at Assandun.
Eadric, who was main a portion of Edmund’s military, as soon as once more defected and retreated in the midst of the battle, leaving a gap within the English strains. Cnut shortly capitalized on this and gained a devastating victory, placing an finish to Edmund’s marketing campaign. His reign got here to an finish together with his demise later that yr. He’d been king for lower than 12 months.
6 King Edgar The Atheling
Edgar the Atheling was one of many shortest-reigning monarchs in British historical past. A part of the Anglo-Saxon resistance throughout William the Conqueror’s invasion, he was elected king by the royal council in London in October 1066. By December, he had sworn homage to King William and fled to Scotland in exile. So ended the reign of the final Anglo-Saxon king of England, barely two months after it had began.
That wasn’t the top of his story, although. He returned to England in 1069 to steer a riot in Northumbria and joined forces with the Danes in 1070 once they invaded northern England, even seizing York in his identify. The revolt lasted for nearly a yr, with Edgar main a guerrilla marketing campaign from the Yorkshire marshes earlier than ultimately retreating to Scotland.
In 1074, the French King Philip provided him lands and a fort in northern France to harass William’s lands. Edgar accepted. However his ship from Scotland was caught in a storm, and he was shipwrecked on the English coast.
He and a handful of males barely escaped to Scotland with their lives. Seeing his makes an attempt as futile, the Scottish king, Malcolm—who was additionally the husband of Edgar’s sister—satisfied Edgar to surrender his declare and return to England.
In 1093, Malcolm died. The dominion ought to have gone to his son, Edgar (named after the Atheling), however as an alternative it was seized by one other noble. Edgar the Atheling had turn out to be fairly highly effective in England by this time. So he raised a military and led it north, driving out the pretender and putting in his nephew on the Scottish throne.
5 King Robert II
Robert II of Scotland was in his fifties when he turned king of Scotland in 1371. He had been the inheritor presumptive for over 50 years. He was additionally the primary king of the Stuart dynasty, which dominated Scotland till 1603 after which all of Britain till 1714.
By the point he turned king, Robert was very skilled within the authorities of the realm and knew precisely methods to twist it to his wishes. Whereas the final king had tried to dominate and suppress his nobles, Robert as an alternative granted them extra native powers and earned their goodwill. Somewhat than take their lands by drive, he paid them vital quantities of cash after which gave the lands to his sons.
By the top of Robert’s reign, over half probably the most highly effective nobles in Scotland have been Stuarts, all however making certain their dominance of Scotland for the subsequent few centuries. In contrast to earlier Scottish kings who’d spent most of their time courting their followers in lowland Scotland, Robert often toured your complete nation together with his courtroom, partaking in diplomacy together with his vassals and securing their help and respect.
His expertise in diplomacy prolonged past the dominion, too. Inside weeks of being topped, Robert shaped the alliance with France that may be essential to Scottish safety in later centuries by defending them from English ambitions.
Nevertheless, his clever, levelheaded strategy to governance couldn’t final perpetually. When tensions started to rise as soon as extra between England and Scotland, Robert did all the things he might to keep away from struggle and alienated lots of his supporters within the course of.
Ultimately, the royal council stripped him of a giant portion of his royal energy. They gave it to his son as lieutenant of Scotland, who promptly led the dominion to warfare. Robert spent the remainder of his reign as a figurehead king with little, if any, energy.
four King Edgar The Peaceable
Whereas Athelstan was the very first king of England, it was Edgar the Peaceable who laid the foundations of a long-lasting, highly effective realm. He labored tirelessly to centralize the facility of the monarchy over the entire kingdom. He was additionally liable for defining a system of weights and measures for use throughout the dominion. Though many kings had tried this, he was the primary whose system was extensively carried out and used.
His legal guidelines basically formed medieval England and would lengthy be thought-about the usual which English individuals anticipated their kings to comply with. When King Cnut invaded many years after Edgar’s dying, Cnut swore that he would proceed to uphold the legal guidelines of King Edgar.
Edgar the Peaceable was additionally instrumental within the basis of a contemporary, nationalized foreign money for England. Earlier than his reign, coinage was produced on a regional foundation. The typical silver penny different in measurement, weight, and stamp throughout the dominion.
By the top of his reforms, the penny had a standardized measurement and was stamped with the identical design in any respect the royal mints. Edgar’s foreign money reform dramatically elevated the wealth of the English monarchs and allowed later Anglo-Saxon kings to maintain the peace by paying cash to the Vikings, stopping them from burning coastal settlements.
three King William II ‘Rufus’
When William the Conqueror was dying of his wounds in 1087, he made the succession clear: His eldest son, Robert, was to not be king of England. As an alternative, he can be made duke of Normandy and the dominion that William had constructed for 20 years would move to his second surviving son.
Rufus—a nickname that supposedly referred to his ruddy complexion and probably to his drunkenness or indignant nature—was removed from good as a king. However he was definitely a more sensible choice than Robert, who’d as soon as began a full-on revolt as a result of his youthful brothers emptied a chamber pot over his head.
When William Rufus turned king, Robert naturally disputed it. He launched a revolt towards Rufus, however the rebel fell aside shortly when Robert failed to show up.
Safe in his throne, Rufus dominated for 13 years. He was triumphant towards the Scots, securing the border and taking Cumbria for the English throne, and he made a lot of cash for the royal coffers by levying excessive taxes on the realm.
He additionally profited from the free investiture guidelines (enacted by his father) by purposely leaving bishoprics empty, which means their incomes routinely went to Rufus. Nevertheless, this additionally disadvantaged individuals of the spiritual management they needed.
This act particularly appears to have earned him many enemies. Alongside the truth that he had by no means married, this may increasingly have led to the widespread anger and accusations of sodomy that many chroniclers (who have been often monks) threw at him within the years following his dying.
William Rufus was an unpopular king both method and was stated to have been extra enthusiastic about having fun with himself than governing the nation correctly. When he died in a searching accident in 1100, only a few individuals mourned his loss.
2 King Henry I
Henry was in contrast to his brother Rufus in virtually each means. Henry’s nickname, Beauclerk, hinted at his discovered nature and his information of Latin. When Rufus died in 1100, Henry was on the identical searching journey and his brother Robert was away within the Holy Land. The coincidence has led many historians to accuse Henry of assassination.
Because the older brother, Robert felt that he had a higher declare to the throne than Henry and hurried residence from the campaign to take the dominion for himself. To start with, most of the the Aristocracy have been on his aspect, however Henry was capable of flip them by issuing the Constitution of Liberties, a doc which pledged to undo the corrupt practices of his brother and restore regulation and order to the dominion.
It additionally promised to clear any money owed or homicide expenses nonetheless dealing with any nobles who joined Henry, a crafty scheme to influence them to take his aspect to keep away from their punishments. The Constitution of Liberties positioned many restrictions on the king and successfully prevented him from interfering within the succession of his vassals in any respect.
Henry imprisoned Robert for all times after capturing him in 1106. With Henry in a a lot stronger place, he ignored most of the restrictions set out within the Constitution of Liberties.
As an alternative, he was chargeable for establishing probably the most environment friendly and superior English state that had been seen as much as that time. He made many new royal justices who roamed the countryside making certain that courts have been functioning correctly and that each one criminals paid their charges to the crown.
He additionally established the workplace of the exchequer, which even at the moment manages the revenue and expenditures of the British state. Henry reformed the foreign money 3 times throughout his reign—in 1107, 1108, and 1125. The primary pipe roll, the data that stored monitor of royal expenditures, was created in 1130.
1 King Constantine II
If Kenneth was the primary king of a united Scotland, then his grandson Constantine was the king who formed the nation into one thing we’d acknowledge as Scotland right now. Over the course of his 43-year reign, it went from being referred to as the Kingdom of the Picts to the Kingdom of Alba, the Gaelic phrase for “Scotland.” The phrases “Scot” and “Scotland” have been first used throughout his reign.
Within the third yr of Constantine’s reign, the Vikings returned and pillaged the dominion. They made it so far as Dunkeld, the place they looted many Scottish spiritual treasures. From then on, Constantine’s principal focus appears to have been on defeating the Vikings.
He allied himself with the English for a lot of his reign, even deigning to go to the courtroom of Athelstan and witness his legal guidelines in return for peace and cooperation. In 918, he labored with the Northumbrians. Collectively, the Scottish and English armies met the Vikings on the Battle of Corbridge.
Probably the most highly effective Vikings have been the Ui Imair, who had their base within the Hebrides. Whereas the historical past of the battle between Constantine and the Ui Imair is shrouded in uncertainty, their affect had pale within the face of a centralized Scotland by the top of Constantine’s rule.
When he was in his sixties, Constantine had been king for therefore a few years that he merely handed the dominion to his nephew, Malcolm, and lived the remainder of his life because the abbot of St. Andrews, dedicating his time to educating and research. The peaceable succession was a rarity in each Scotland and England on the time and divulges simply how profitable his efforts to create a peaceable, secure realm had been.