Monarchy timeline: from Hastings to the Windsors in 122 moments
Historian Tracy Borman selects 122 significant moments in the history of the monarchy, from the Norman conquest of 1066 through the upheaval of civil war in the 17th century to the reign of our current queen, Elizabeth II
1069, the 'Harrying of the North'
When a new revolt breaks out in northern England, William the Conqueror responds by burning villages to the ground, destroying crops and livestock, and slaughtering thousands of men and women in a campaign dubbed the 'Harrying of the North'.
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1086, the Domesday Book is completed
The Domesday Book is completed. This vast survey of William’s kingdom is meant to assess its wealth and settle arguments about landownership after 20 years of conquest.
1087, William the Conqueror dies
William is injured (or falls ill) while defending against a French invasion of Normandy, and dies on 9 September. His eldest son, Robert Curthose, becomes Duke of Normandy; England passes to William’s second surviving son, who becomes William II, known as William Rufus.
1096, the First Crusade
Many Normans depart for the Holy Land on the First Crusade. These include Robert Curthose, who cedes Normandy to his younger brother, William Rufus.
1100, William II dies
William Rufus is struck by an arrow and killed while hunting in the New Forest. The throne passes to his younger brother, Henry I, who is crowned just three days later.
1101, Robert Curthose gives up his claim
Robert Curthose invades England but concludes a treaty with his brother, Henry I, in which he agrees to relinquish his claim to the English throne in return for custody of Henry’s lands in Normandy.
1120, the White Ship disaster
Henry’s only legitimate son, William the Ætheling, is drowned while sailing from Normandy to England. To prepare his daughter Matilda to succeed him, Henry marries her to Geoffrey Plantagenet, count of Anjou.
1135, Henry I dies
Henry dies in Normandy on 1 December. Many of his barons reject the rule of Matilda and instead crown her cousin, Stephen, as England’s new king. | Read more about the Anarchy
1141, the Anarchy rages
Matilda’s army defeats Stephen’s at the battle of Lincoln, but she is never officially crowned. A few months later her cousin’s forces take the upper hand once more.
1152, Eleanor of Aquitaine marries
Matilda’s eldest son, Henry of Anjou, marries Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in western Europe. The pair wield authority over a vast empire.
1154, the Anarchy ends
Stephen’s death ends the vicious civil war, a year after he signed the Treaty of Wallingford recognising as his heir Matilda’s son, who takes the throne as Henry II.
1170, the murder of Thomas Becket
Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, is murdered at Canterbury Cathedral by four of Henry II’s soldiers. Thomas’ death sends shockwaves across Catholic Europe and prompts Henry to make a show
1173, the barons rebel
Henry II faces an uprising led by his eldest sons and rebellious barons, with support from overseas – and from his own wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Henry eventually crushes the revolt and imprisons Eleanor for the rest of his reign.
1189, Henry II dies
Henry II falls ill while fighting in France, and dies on 6 July. The throne passes to his eldest surviving son, Richard “the Lionheart”. Anti-Jewish riots mar Richard’s coronation celebrations in September.
1190, Jews are massacred
As soon as Richard leaves England for his first crusade, further riots break out, culminating in the massacre of the entire Jewish population of York.
1199, Richard I dies
Richard dies after being shot in the shoulder with a crossbow bolt while defending his Angevin lands against the French king. He is succeeded as king of England and Duke of Normandy by his brother, King John.
1204, King John loses Normandy
John loses Normandy to the French, bringing to an end the mighty Anglo-Norman empire established by William the Conqueror.
1211, a plot against the king
John suppresses a Welsh rising with customary brutality. Soon afterwards, he learns of a plot against his life involving some of his most powerful magnates and officials.
1215, King John seals Magna Carta
Rebellious barons force John to sign Magna Carta, a sweeping defence of civil liberties against incursions by the crown. This has far-reaching consequences, permanently changing the relationship between monarch and subjects.
The Plantagenets, 1216–1485
1216, King John dies
King John dies of dysentery at Newark after losing part of his baggage train (though not, as legend would have it, the crown jewels) in the Wash estuary. He is succeeded by his son, Henry.
1245, Westminster Abbey rebuilt
Henry III begins rebuilding Westminster Abbey at a cost of almost £55,000 (equivalent to around £40 million today). The abbey hosts the crowning of the nation’s monarchs for the next 700 years.
1258, the barons rebel
Powerful barons, including Simon de Montfort, force Henry III to accept the Provisions of Oxford, effectively making his rule subject to the barons.
1265, Simon de Montfort is defeated
Henry III’s eldest son and heir, Prince Edward defeats Simon de Montfort at Evesham. Edward becomes king upon the death of his father seven years later.
1284, the Statute of Wales
Having previously defeated rebel Welsh leader Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Edward I is instrumental in pushing through the Statute of Wales, making the principality almost entirely subject to English administration, government and law. | Read more about the conquest of Wales
1290, Eleanor of Castile dies
Edward’s beloved consort, Eleanor of Castile, dies near Lincoln. The king orders memorial crosses to be built at each place her body rests on its way to Westminster Abbey for burial.
1295, the Model Parliament forces change
The so-called Model Parliament forces Edward to concede that no further taxation can be raised without the “good will and assent” of parliament – a pivotal moment in the history of the crown’s relationship with parliament.
1296, Edward I conquers Scotland
Edward conquers Scotland in just 21 weeks, ousting John Balliol from the throne and earning the sobriquet Malleus Scotorum (“Hammer of the Scots”). Ten years later, Edward’s rule in Scotland is overthrown by Robert Bruce.
1307, Edward II becomes king
Edward I dies and his son takes the throne as Edward II. One of his first acts is to recall his favourite, Piers Gaveston, from exile. Five years later, Gaveston is summarily executed by a group of powerful nobles.
1314, the battle of Bannockburn
Edward II’s army suffers a crushing defeat to the Scots at Bannockburn. The shameful episode will haunt him for the rest of his reign.
1321, the Despensers are attacked
The uneasy peace that had been established between Edward and his nobles is shattered when the lands of the king’s new favourites, the Despensers, are attacked, and England is plunged into civil war.
1327, Edward II is deposed
Edward II is deposed by his wife, Isabella of France, and her lover, Roger Mortimer. His 14-year-old son is proclaimed king as Edward III. The ousted Edward is held prisoner at Berkeley Castle, where he dies in September.
1346, the battle of Crécy
Edward III draws first blood in the Hundred Years’ War when he bests the French at Crécy. He later founds the Order of the Garter (complete with French motto) to promote his claim to the French throne.
1348, the Black Death strikes
The bubonic plague – or Black Death, as it became known – wipes out at least one-third of England’s population in just over a year. It is the most devastating epidemic the world had ever experienced.
1376, the Black Prince dies
Edward III’s eldest son, known as the Black Prince, dies, and the prince’s young son becomes next in line to the throne. He is crowned Richard II upon the death of his grandfather the following year.
1381, the Peasants' Revolt
A new poll tax sparks the Peasants’ Revolt led by Wat Tyler, who marches on London with 20,000 men. Richard II personally intervenes to bring the situation under control.
1399, Richard II is deposed
1403, the battle of Shrewsbury
Henry IV defeats a rebel army led by Henry Percy (nicknamed Harry Hotspur) of Northumberland at the battle of Shrewsbury – the first clash in which English archers fight each other on English soil.
1413, Henry V plans war
On the death of his father, Henry V becomes king and immediately begins planning a campaign against France. Two years later he is victorious at Agincourt – the most celebrated battle in English history.
1422, Henry V dies
Henry V dies while on campaign in France. The throne passes to his nine-month-old son, also Henry. As he grows to maturity, it becomes clear that Henry VI is ill-suited for kingship.
1455, the Wars of the Roses begin
1461, Henry VI is deposed
Henry VI is deposed by York’s eldest son, who is crowned Edward IV. The latter is briefly deposed in 1470, but Henry VI is murdered within a year of his restoration and Edward retakes the throne.
1483, the Princes in the Tower disappear
Edward IV dies. His young son succeeds him as Edward V, with his uncle Richard as lord protector. Edward and his brother Richard disappear in the Tower of London, and their uncle is proclaimed king as Richard III. | Read more about the Princes in the Tower
1485, the battle of Bosworth
The Tudors and Stuarts, 1485–1649
1485, Henry VII begins the Tudor dynasty
1487, the battle of Stoke Field
1502, the Tudor heir dies
Henry VII’s eldest son, Arthur Tudor, dies a few months after marrying Catherine of Aragon. After his second son, also Henry, becomes king seven years later, the new monarch takes his late brother’s widow as his wife.
1513, Henry VIII sees victory at war
1520, the Field of the Cloth of Gold
Henry VIII and his greatest rival, Francis I of France, meet at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in a summit intended to cement the peace between their countries – but they are soon at war again.
1533, Henry marries Anne Boleyn
1534, Henry becomes head of a new church
Henry VIII is declared supreme head of the new Church of England, separating his kingdom from Rome. The dissolution of the monasteries begins two years later.
1536, Anne Boleyn loses her head
Anne Boleyn is executed on trumped-up charges of adultery and treason. An Act of Union makes Wales part of England. Henry marries Jane Seymour, who gives birth to a son, the future Edward VI, the following year but dies 12 days later.
1540, Thomas Cromwell is executed
1547, Henry VIII dies
Henry VIII dies, leaving the throne to his nine-year-old son Edward, a staunch Protestant.
1549, the Book of Common Prayer is established
Parliament passes an Act of Uniformity, establishing the Book of Common Prayer as the only legal form of worship. The king’s uncle and former lord protector, Edward Seymour, is executed after a coup by his rival, John Dudley.
1553, the reign of the 'nine days queen'
The dying king alters the succession in favour of his cousin, Lady Jane Grey. She reigns for just nine days before Edward’s elder half-sister, Mary, takes the throne.
1554, Mary Tudor marries
Mary marries Philip of Spain, with their betrothal sparking a rebellion led by Thomas Wyatt. Although they are not involved in the plot, Lady Jane Grey is executed and Mary’s half-sister Elizabeth is imprisoned.
1555, 'Bloody Mary' earns her nickname
In an attempt to return England to the Roman Catholic fold, Mary I orders the burning of Protestants. By 1558, some 290 “heretics” have been put to death, and the queen earns the sobriquet “Bloody Mary”.
1558, Elizabeth I comes to the throne
In January, England loses Calais, its last outpost in France. Mary dies in November, leaving the throne to Elizabeth I.
1559, religious divisions deepen
Another Act of Uniformity is passed, aiming to resolve the deep religious divisions within England.
1568, Mary, Queen of Scots seeks sanctuary
Mary, Queen of Scots, Elizabeth’s greatest rival, seeks sanctuary in England after being forced to abdicate in 1567. Kept prisoner for the following 19 years, Mary is executed in 1587 for her involvement in the Babington conspiracy.
1577, Francis Drake begins his journey
Francis Drake begins his circumnavigation of the globe, becoming the second person to complete it, in 1580.
1588, the defeat of the Spanish Armada
1603, the end of the Tudors
Elizabeth dies at Richmond Palace, aged 69 – and with her the Tudor dynasty. The throne passes to the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, who unites the crowns of Scotland and England as James VI and I.
1605, the gunpowder plot is thwarted
The gunpowder plot – an attempt by a group of discontented Catholics to blow up the king and his parliament – is discovered by the authorities a few hours before it is carried out.
1607, a British colony is founded in North America
Jamestown is founded in the new colony of Virginia – the first permanent British settlement in North America.
1616, Shakespeare dies
William Shakespeare dies. Sir Walter Ralegh is released from the Tower of London after 13 years, and departs to lead an expedition to the fabled “City of Gold”, El Dorado, believed to be in South America. The expedition fails, and Ralegh is executed in 1618.
1625, Charles I comes to the throne
James VI and I dies and is succeeded by his son, Charles I, whose relationship with parliament is stormy from the beginning. In 1629, Charles dissolves parliament and rules without it for 11 years.
1628, George Villiers is assassinated
The widely despised royal favourite George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, is assassinated by a disgruntled soldier.
1642, Civil War is sparked
Charles is refused entry to Hull by the city’s parliamentary governor, Sir John Hotham, sparking the start of the Civil War between king and parliament.
1649, King Charles I is executed
Charles is put on trial by Oliver Cromwell and his parliamentarian supporters on 20 January. Although he refuses to recognise the legality of the trial, Charles is found guilty and executed 10 days later. The conflict ends with victory for the parliamentarians two years later.
Restoration to Regency, 1660–1837
1660, the monarchy is restored
The Commonwealth (the British republic) ends when the son of Charles I is invited to take the throne as Charles II. The following year, the new king has the remains of Oliver Cromwell exhumed and beheaded.
1665, the Great Plague strikes
The Great Plague rages across London, claiming an estimated 100,000 lives – perhaps almost a quarter of the city’s population.
1666, London is devastated by the Great Fire
The Great Fire of London, which begins in a bakery on Pudding Lane, wreaks devastation across the capital. Charles II appoints Sir Christopher Wren to rebuild the city, including a new St Paul’s Cathedral.
1685, Charles II dies
Charles II dies with no legitimate heirs, and the throne passes to his brother, James II and VII. The late king’s illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth, launches a rebellion but is defeated and executed.
1688, the 'Glorious Revolution'
Protestant politicians invite William of Orange to take the throne as William III, with wife Mary, eldest daughter of James II and VII. He invades in the “Glorious Revolution”, and James flees to France.
1689, Britain becomes a constitutional monarchy
The Bill of Rights is passed, whereby the crown cedes virtually all its political power to parliament. Britain becomes a constitutional monarchy.
1701, an act restricts succession to Protestants
The Act of Settlement determines that the British throne will henceforth pass only to Protestant heirs, thereby disinheriting James and his descendants.
1702, Queen Anne's reign begins
William III dies, some eight years after his wife, and the throne passes to his sister-in-law, Anne, the second daughter of James II and VII.
1704, the battle of Blenheim
1707, the Act of Union is passed
The Act of Union is passed whereby England and Scotland are “United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain”.
1714, the house of Hanover succeeds Queen Anne
Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch, dies and is succeeded by George, elector of Hanover. A Jacobite rising the following year attempts to replace George I with James II’s son James Edward Stuart, known as the “Old Pretender”.
1720, the South Sea Bubble bursts
The collapse of the investment speculation frenzy dubbed the South Sea Bubble wreaks financial ruin on many, but it paves the way for Robert Walpole, who is instrumental in resolving the crisis, to become Britain’s first prime minister.
1727, George I dies
George I dies while on a visit to Hanover and is succeeded by his eldest son and namesake.
1743, George II heads into battle
George II becomes the last British monarch to lead his troops into battle when he takes part in a conflict at Dettingen, part of the War of the Austrian Succession.
1746, the Jacobite cause is defeated
The Jacobites are routed at Culloden, putting an end to hopes that a Stuart could take back the throne. In the patriotic fervour that follows, the song ‘God Save the King’, later known as the National Anthem, is popularised.
1760, George III comes to the throne
George II dies at Kensington Palace and – his eldest son, Frederick, having died nine years earlier – is succeeded by his grandson as George III.
1761, Buckingham House becomes a royal residence
George III purchases Buckingham House as a residence for himself and his growing family. It is later transformed into Buckingham Palace, still the principal seat of the monarchy.
1772, royal marriages are restricted
The Royal Marriages Act forbids the marriage of any member of the royal family under the age of 25 without the monarch’s approval. Its repercussions will reverberate down the centuries.
1781, British sovereignty in America comes to an end
1800, George III reigns over Great Britain and Ireland
The British and Irish parliaments pass an Act of Union, which comes into effect on 1 January 1801. George III is subsequently proclaimed king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
1805, victory for Nelson at Trafalgar
Admiral Nelson wins a celebrated victory over Napoleon Bonaparte’s fleet at Trafalgar on the south-west coast of Spain in October, ending the threat of invasion. Ten years later, the Duke of Wellington’s victory at Waterloo ends the long-running wars with France.
1811, the Regency begins
George III becomes incapacitated by “madness”, and his eldest son and namesake becomes regent.
1817, Princess Charlotte dies
The Prince Regent’s only legitimate child, Princess Charlotte, dies in childbirth, plunging the succession into crisis.
1820, George VI comes to the throne
1837, a young Victoria becomes queen
William IV dies, content in the knowledge that his niece Alexandrina Victoria has recently turned 18, so her mother (whom he despises) will not become regent. She rules as Queen Victoria.
Victorians to Windsors, 1837–2022
1840, Victoria and Albert marry
Victoria marries her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Their first child, Victoria (known as Vicky), is born the same year. They go on to have a total of nine children, 42 grandchildren and 87 great-grandchildren.
1845, Ireland is devastated by famine
The Great Famine in Ireland, which ensued after potato crops failed as a result of the fungal infection known as blight, causes the deaths of more than a million people. Another million emigrate, many to North America.
1851, the Great Exhibition
1857, an Indian mutiny ends in violence
A violent uprising launched by sepoys serving in the East India Company’s army poses a considerable threat to British rule in India and leads to terrible bloodshed on both sides. Twenty years later, Victoria becomes empress of India.
1861, Prince Albert dies
Prince Albert dies, possibly of typhoid fever, aged just 42. In her grief, Victoria largely retreats from public royal duties for more than a decade.
1897, Victoria celebrates 60 years of rule
Victoria celebrates her diamond jubilee. She makes a six-mile procession by carriage through London, witnessed by vast crowds of well-wishers and troops from all over the empire.
1901, Queen Victoria dies
1910, George V comes to the throne
On the death of Edward VII, his eldest surviving son takes the throne as George V.
1914, WW1 begins
The First World War begins. Lasting four years, it claims the lives of around 9 million military personnel and 13 million civilians.
1917, the name Windsor is adopted
To address widespread public disquiet about his family’s German origins, George V issues a royal proclamation that all descendants of Queen Victoria will henceforth bear the family name Windsor.
1924, Ramsay MacDonald becomes prime minister
George V invites Ramsay MacDonald to become Britain’s first Labour prime minister.
1932, the first royal Christmas speech
George V establishes a new tradition for monarchs: the royal Christmas message, broadcast first on BBC radio. This first message was written by Rudyard Kipling and delivered from Sandringham.
1936, Edward VIII abdicates
George V dies in January and is succeeded by his eldest son, who reigns as Edward VIII but abdicates in December so that he can marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson. The throne passes to his brother “Bertie”, who becomes George VI.
1939, Britain goes to war
Britain declares war on Nazi Germany, and another global conflict ensues. The following year, Buckingham Palace is bombed – the first of nine such occasions – and the king’s study narrowly avoids destruction.
1945, Victory in Europe
Victory in Europe is declared, prompting wild celebrations across Britain. The king and his family appear several times on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
1952, Elizabeth II comes to the throne
George VI dies, aged 56. His eldest daughter, Elizabeth, who is married to Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, ascends the throne as Elizabeth II. Her coronation the following year is the first in British history to be televised.
1955, Princess Margaret courts controversy
The Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, announces that she will not marry Peter Townsend, a divorcee, after a controversial courtship.
1969, a royal documentary falls flat
A fly-on-the-wall documentary, Royal Family, is broadcast by the BBC. It is a PR disaster and the Queen later limits its transmission. Her eldest son, Charles, is invested as Prince of Wales shortly afterwards.
1981, Charles and Diana marry
1992, an "annus horribilis"
The Queen’s “annus horribilis” sees the collapse of three of her children’s marriages – that of Princess Anne to Mark Phillips, Prince Andrew to Sarah Ferguson and Prince Charles to Diana – as well as a devastating fire at Windsor Castle.
1997, Diana, Princess of Wales dies in a car crash
Diana, Princess of Wales and her lover, Dodi Fayed, are killed in a car crash in Paris, plunging the country into mourning.
2011, Prince William marries
Prince William marries Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey. That year, a new bill stipulates that age always takes precedence in the royal succession, irrespective of gender.
2015, Elizabeth II reign breaks records
On 10 September, Elizabeth II becomes the longest-reigning monarch in British history, superseding Victoria’s record of 63 years and 216 days.
2018, Prince Harry and Megan Markle marry
William’s younger brother, Harry, marries Meghan Markle, an American actor. Less than two years later they create shockwaves by announcing their departure from royal duties.
2021, Prince Philip dies
Prince Philip, the longest-serving consort in British history, dies in April at the age of 99.
2022, Elizabeth II celebrates 70 years of rule
On 6 February Elizabeth II celebrates her platinum jubilee, becoming the first British monarch to reach this milestone.