How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Kings and Queens Made Clear

Before I begin, I want to say that my prayers and tears go out to our persecuted brethren in Iraq. May the blessings of God’s love be theirs, no matter how far away any comfort appears. May He protect and deliver them.

I tried to post yesterday, but my internet connection was out. And, technically, my post wasn't ready anyway, so it was a good excuse. : )

My brain must look like a dizzying swirl of thoughts. I’m editing England Adventure (Six Cousins, Book 2) once again before I send it off to another reader or two. I’m spending every spare moment researching for my own England adventure, which begins in two weeks. On top of those things are various and sundry other necessities that need attention. But I’m in high spirits and learning many things about God’s faithfulness.

The focus of this post today is one item that I’m learning about—ostensibly for the sake of my trip, but really, it’s something I’ve always wanted to understand—the chronology and genealogy of all the kings and queens of England. I read so many things about the UK and its history that it would have been nice long ago to connect all the crowns. It seems now that I have at least a working knowledge of who preceded whom, when they reigned, how they became monarch, and other tidbits about their personal lives and the important events they took part in.

Although it’s not scholarly, I’m finding the book The King and Queens of England: A Tourist Guide by Jane Murray to be my gateway to clarity. It has a chapter on each monarch, starting with Elizabeth II and working backward, and tells their stories plainly and entertainingly, with a focus on their personalities and relationships with relatives and courtiers. It’s rather irreverent … not even Queen Victoria escapes … but the author makes sure that every aspect of their personality, good and bad, is explained, so I feel it’s balanced. There’s no disguising that these people were flawed human beings—who, for whatever reason in God’s design, ruled one of the most powerful nations in the history of the world.

I hope to make this next section as interesting as I can, because it’s fascinating to me: Here is a list of the kings and queens, when they ruled, and what literary gems were written about or produced during their times (because, you know, everything on this blog and in my mind has to tie back to literature). But I’m only going as far back as Henry VIII, since that’s how far I’ve gotten in the book, and I’m still fuzzy on the kings in the hundreds of years between John I and Henry VII. In this post, I’m only going to the last of the Stuarts; the Hanovers will have to wait till next time.

Elizabeth I (Wikimedia Commons)

The Tudors
Henry VIII (r. 1509 –1547).
Edward VI (r. 1547 –1553). The prince in Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper (1881).
Mary I (r. 1553–1558).
Elizabeth I (r. 1558–1603). Many of Shakespeare’s plays. Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1590 and 1596). Scott’s Kenilworth (1821).

The Stuarts
James I (r. 1603–1625). James was the Tudors’ cousin. Shakespeare’s plays. Cervantes’s Don Quixote (1605 and 1615).
Charles I (r. 1625–1647). The Duke of Buckingham, Charles’s friend and chief minister, is a major player in Dumas’s The Three Musketeers (1844), set at the beginning of Charles’s reign. The end of his reign is marked by the English civil war, which features in the sequel to The Three Musketeers. Charles I was executed in 1649.
(Oliver and Richard Cromwell, Lord Protectors, ruled in this interim.)
Charles II (r. 1660–1685). Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667). Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678).
James II (r. 1685–1688). James was Charles’s younger brother, and because he was a Catholic there was controversy about his reign. The Monmouth Rebellion, created by Charles’s illegitimate son the Duke of Monmouth who disputed with James II, is the backdrop to Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood (1933) and Richard Blackmore’s Lorna Doone (1869).
William III and Mary II (r. 1689–1702 and 1689–1694). Mary was James II’s Protestant daughter, and the Dutch William of Orange was her husband (and cousin) who jointly ruled. (England had made a law that only Protestants could rule, and William and Mary usurped James II; he went into exile.)
Anne (r. 1702–1714). Anne was Mary’s sister and James II’s second daughter.

Charles I (Wikimedia Commons)

James Stuart (1688–1766) was James II’s son by a second marriage. Being a Catholic, England rejected him. His supporters were called the Jacobites (I always wondered who the Jacobites were), and Scotland was several times the scene of their battles with the English for James’s sake, and later for his son, Bonnie Prince Charlie (1720–1788). Scott’s Rob Roy (1818) dealt with the first Jacobite Rising in 1715, when James “III” tried for the throne after Anne’s death. His Waverley (1814) dealt with the Jacobite Rising of the 1740s, and Stevenson’s Kidnapped (1886) was set in the aftermath.

And of course I couldn’t go without mentioning G. A. Henty’s wonderful historical novels! He wrote about many important events from these eras—too many to name.

Can you think of other literature that I missed that was written during or about these times? Were you ever confused by what English monarch was reigning during certain historical events?


  1. ...just a short note to shout out G. A. Henty. I love quite a few of his books; he had a fantastic way of making history come alive, especially parts that I was not familiar with.

    1. Cool! What are your favorites? He does have a way with him. I think quite a bit of what I remember about certain historical subjects came from the books I've read of his.

  2. I have a few books on English monarchs, but it is interesting to see them tied to some literature... I at least knew about the Jameses and Bonnie Prince Charlie, being particularly interested in the Scottish stuff of those times. Glad to hear you know about Jacobites now! ;)

    My sister says "The Perilous Gard" by Elizabeth Marie Pope took place at the time of Mary I and Elizabeth I... I need to read that; have you?

    Also yes, Henty is fabulous. I find his heroes' adventures can make most any history interesting to me, when the bare facts wouldn't interest me as much.

    1. Yes! I like making connections. I don't like it when historical events float about in space, unconnected to each other!
      I've been wanting to read "The Perilous Gard." It sounds fascinating.
      Henty is great! I'm glad that he wrote so many books. The more eras he covered, the better. : )

  3. I studied the kings and queens of England quite a bit at one time, so I can still almost keep track of all of the dynasties in my mind--going back into the medieval Plantagenets as well.

    When you get to the Hanovers, you'll be in for some fun! These kings were almost uniformly so marvelously unqualified to rule countries, on so many levels, that they're just entertaining to read about. It took Victoria's long reign to give the English monarchy some dignity again. :P

    1. These people are so interesting! And they are easy to keep track of, easier than other nations, for some reason (at least to me! Maybe I just need to harder with the other royal families). It's a handy thing to know them when you're reading literature.
      Oh, the Hanovers! I've read about them now. They were marvelous. :D
      I still like Elizabeth I and Victoria the best. : )