Hastings to Magna Carta, 1066–1215


1066, Edward the Confessor dies

Edward the Confessor dies, and the English throne is taken by his brother-in-law, Harold Godwinson. Harold sees off a Norwegian contender but is defeated by William of Normandy at the battle of Hastings.

William of Normandy
William of Normandy. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

This timeline was written by Tracy Borman as part of a five-part video series that charts the changing fortunes of the monarchy, from the bloody Norman conquest of 1066 through the upheaval of civil war in the 17th century to the reign of our current queen, Elizabeth II.

Watch all episodes now

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.

William Rufus
William Rufus. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

Henry I
Henry I. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

The White Ship disaster
The White Ship disaster, as depicted in a 14th-century manuscript. (Images by Alamy)

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.

Eleanor of Aquitaine, shown with her husband, Henry II
Eleanor of Aquitaine, shown with her husband, Henry II. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

Henry II.
Henry II. (Image by Getty Images)

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
of penance.

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.

Richard “the Lionheart”.
Richard “the Lionheart”. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

King John.
King John. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

King John
King John. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

Eleanor of Castile
Eleanor of Castile. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn.
Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

The battle of Crécy
The battle of Crécy. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

The Black Death
The Black Death. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

Wat Tyler leads the Peasants' Revolt
Wat Tyler leads the Peasants' Revolt. (Image by Getty Images)

1399, Richard II is deposed

Richard II is deposed by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke (who rules as Henry IV), eldest son of Edward III’s fourth son, John of Gaunt. This act dangerously destabilises the crown.

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.

The battle of Agincourt.
The battle of Agincourt. (Image by Getty Images)

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

Royal forces are crushed by those of Richard, Duke of York (a great-grandson of Edward III) at St Albans, marking the start of the Wars of the Roses between the houses of Lancaster and York.

Edward IV
Edward IV. (Image by Getty Images)

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

The Princes in the Tower.
The Princes in the Tower. (Image by Getty Images)

1485, the battle of Bosworth

Richard III is defeated by Henry Tudor at the battle of Bosworth, bringing an end to the York dynasty.

The Tudors and Stuarts, 1485–1649

1485, Henry VII begins the Tudor dynasty

Henry VII becomes the first Tudor monarch of England. The following year he marries Edward IV’s eldest child, Elizabeth of York, to unite the warring houses of Lancaster and York.

Henry VII.
Henry VII. (Image by Getty Images)

1487, the battle of Stoke Field

The forces of Henry VII defeat those of the pretender Lambert Simnel at Stoke Field – commonly regarded as the last battle of the Wars of the Roses.

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.

Elizabeth of York.
Elizabeth of York. (Image by Getty Images)

1513, Henry VIII sees victory at war

Henry VIII triumphs over the French at the battle of the Spurs near Calais. Shortly afterwards, his army claims a more significant victory over the Scottish at Flodden.

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.

The Field of the Cloth of Gold.
The Field of the Cloth of Gold. (Image by Getty Images)

1533, Henry marries Anne Boleyn

Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn in January; the annulment of his first marriage is passed in May. Anne gives birth to a daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth I, in September.

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.

Anne Boleyn.
Anne Boleyn. (Image by Getty Images)

1540, Thomas Cromwell is executed

Henry VIII’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, is executed for treason on the same day that the king marries his fifth wife, Catherine Howard.

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.

Lady Jane Grey is executed.
Lady Jane Grey is executed. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

Elizabeth I and her court.
Elizabeth I and her court. (Image by Getty Images)

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

Philip II of Spain launches an Armada against England. It is the biggest threat England has faced since 1066 but is defeated by the navy – and the weather.

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.

James VI and I.
James VI and I. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

William Shakespeare.
William Shakespeare. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

Charles I.
Charles I. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

Charles II.
Charles II. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

The Great Fire of London.
c (Image by Getty Images)

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.

Portraits of William III and Mary II, the only joint sovereigns in British history
Portraits of William III and Mary II, the only joint sovereigns in British history. (Images by Getty Images)

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.

Queen Anne
Queen Anne. (Image by Getty Images)

1704, the battle of Blenheim

The allied armies of England, the Dutch Republic and the Holy Roman Empire win a celebrated victory over a combined French-Bavarian army at Blenheim, Bavaria.

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”.

George I.
George I. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

George III
George III. (Image by Getty Images)

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

The American War of Independence culminates in the siege of Yorktown, at which British troops are defeated. British sovereignty in America officially ends two years later.

The siege of Yorktown.
The siege of Yorktown. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

The battle of Trafalgar
The battle of Trafalgar. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

The Prince Regent and future George IV.
The Prince Regent and future George IV. (Image by Getty Images)

1820, George VI comes to the throne

The Prince Regent becomes George IV upon the death of his father. In poor health after a lifetime of excess, he reigns for just 10 years and is succeeded by his brother as William IV.

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.

Young Queen Victoria.
Young Queen Victoria. (Image by Getty Images)

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

The Great Exhibition, brainchild of Prince Albert and civil servant Henry Cole, opens in the magnificent Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, showcasing the cream of 19th-century industry and culture.

The 1851 Great Exhibition
The 1851 Great Exhibition. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

Queen Victoria.
Queen Victoria. (Image by Getty Images)

1901, Queen Victoria dies

Victoria dies at Osborne House, her holiday home on the Isle of Wight, having reigned for longer than any monarch before her. She is succeeded by her eldest son, “Bertie”, who is crowned Edward VII.

1910, George V comes to the throne

On the death of Edward VII, his eldest surviving son takes the throne as George V.

Edward VII.
Edward VII. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

George V sits at a radio.
George V sits at a radio. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

The royals on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
The royals on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip on the queen's coronation day.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip on the queen's coronation day. (Image by Getty Images)

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

Prince Charles marries Lady Diana Spencer. They go on to have two sons, William and Harry, but their marriage unravels on a very public stage, with infidelity on both sides.

Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, kiss on their wedding day.
Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, kiss on their wedding day. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

Young Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh
Young Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh. (Image by Getty Images)

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.

Queen Elizabeth II.
Queen Elizabeth II. (Image by Getty Images)

Enjoyed this timeline and want to learn more? In this five-part series exclusively available to subscribers of HistoryExtra, historian Tracy Borman charts the changing fortunes of the monarchy, from the bloody Norman conquest of 1066 through the upheaval of civil war in the 17th century to the reign of our current queen, Elizabeth II. She also charts the evolution of the crown and reveals the secrets behind its remarkable survival. Join HistoryExtra today for full access to every episode.


Tracy Borman
Tracy BormanAuthor, historian, joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces

Tracy Borman is a best-selling author and historian, specialising in the Tudor period. She works part-time as joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces and as Chief Executive of the Heritage Education Trust.