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#otd in Royal History 1-14 February

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

On This Day In Royal History 1-14 February blog header

1 February

King Edward III of England

1 February 1327

Edward III coronation

Edward III was crowned King of England, aged fourteen. although the country was ruled by his mother Queen Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer.

Edward III (born.13 November 1312, Windsor Castle – d.21 June 1377, Sheen Pal, Richmond) was King of England from 25 January 1327 until his death; he is noted for his military success & for restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II.

Edward III transformed the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe. His long reign of fifty years also saw vital developments in legislation & government in particular the evolution of the English parliament as well as the ravages of the Black Death.

Edward was crowned at age fourteen after his father Edward II was deposed by his mother Isabella of France & her lover Roger Mortimer. At age seventeen he led a successful coup against Mortimer, the de facto ruler of the country, & began his personal reign. After a successful campaign in Scotland he declared himself rightful heir to the French throne in 1337 but his claim was denied due to the Salic law. This started what would become known as the Hundred Years' War. Following some initial setbacks the war went exceptionally well for England; victories at Crécy & Poitiers led to the highly favourable Treaty of Brétigny. Edward's later years, however, were marked by international failure & domestic strife, largely as a result of his inactivity & poor health. He died in 1377 aged 64.

Edward III was a temperamental man but capable of unusual clemency. He was in many ways a conventional king whose main interest was warfare. Admired in his own time & for centuries after.


Prince Frederick, Prince of Wales Portrait by Philippe Mercier (1736)
Prince Frederick, Prince of Wales Portrait by Philippe Mercier (1736)

1 February 1707

Frederick, Prince of Wales was born

Prince Frederick Louis was born on 1 February 1707 in Hanover, Germany, son of the future King of Great Britain George II & Caroline of Ansbach. Frederick was nicknamed "Griff" within the family.

In the year of Queen Anne's death & the coronation of king George I, Frederick's parents, George, Prince of Wales (later George II), & Caroline of Ansbach, were called upon to leave Hanover for Great Britain when their eldest son was only seven years old. He was left in the care of his grand-uncle Ernest Augustus, Prince-Bishop of Osnabrück, & did not see his parents again for 14 years.

In 1722, Frederick was inoculated against smallpox on the instructions of his mother Caroline. His grandfather, George I, created him Duke of Edinburgh, Marquess of the Isle of Ely, Earl of Eltham in the county of Kent, Viscount of Launceston in the county of Cornwall, & Baron of Snaudon (Snowdon) in the county of Carnarvon, on 26 July 1726.

Frederick arrived in England in 1728 as a grown man, the year after his father had become King George II. By then, George & Caroline had had several younger children, & Frederick, himself now Prince of Wales, was a high-spirited youth fond of drinking, gambling & women. The long separation damaged their relationship, & they would never be close. He married Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha in 1736, they had nine children including the future king George III. Frederick was heir apparent to the British throne from 1727 until his death in 1751 from a lung injury at the age of 44.


2 February

King Charles I of England

2 February 1626

Charles I coronation

Charles was crowned at Westminster Abbey, but without his Catholic wife Henrietta Maria of France at his side because she refused to participate in a Protestant religious ceremony.

Charles, born on 19 November 1600 was monarch from 27 March 1625 until his execution on 30 January 1649. Charles was the second son of King James VI of Scotland, but after his father inherited the English throne in 1603, he moved to England, where he spent much of the rest of his life. He became heir apparent to the throne on the death of his elder brother, Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, in 1612. In 1625 he married the Bourbon princess Henrietta Maria of France.

After his succession, Charles quarrelled with the Parliament of England, which sought to curb his royal prerogative. Charles believed in the divine right of kings & thought he could govern according to his own conscience. Many of his subjects opposed his policies, in particular the levying of taxes without parliamentary consent, & perceived his actions as those of a tyrannical absolute monarch. His attempts to force the Church of Scotland to adopt high Anglican practices led to the Bishops' Wars, which strengthened the position of the English & Scottish parliaments & helped precipitate his own downfall.

From 1642, Charles fought the armies of the English & Scottish parliaments in the English Civil War. After his defeat in 1645, he surrendered to a Scottish force that eventually handed him over to the English Parliament. Charles refused to accept his captors' demands for a constitutional monarchy, & temporarily escaped captivity in November 1647. Re-imprisoned on the Isle of Wight, Charles forged an alliance with Scotland, but by the end of 1648 Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army had consolidated its control over England. Charles was tried, convicted, & executed for high treason in January 1649. The monarchy was abolished & a republic called the Commonwealth of England was declared.


Queen Victoria

2 February 1901

Queen Victoria funeral

The queen died on Tuesday, 22 January 1901, at half past six in the evening, at the age of 81. Her son & successor King Edward VII, & her eldest grandson, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, were at her deathbed. Her favourite pet Pomeranian, 'Turri', was laid upon her deathbed as a last request.

Back in 1897, Victoria had written instructions for her funeral, which was to be military as befitting a soldier's daughter & the head of the army, & white instead of black. On 25 January, Edward VII, the Kaiser & Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, helped lift her into the coffin.

She was dressed in a white bridal outfit & her wedding veil.. An array of mementos commemorating her extended family, friends & servants were laid in the coffin with her, at her request, by her doctor & dressers. One of Prince Albert's dressing gowns was placed by her side, with a plaster cast of his hand, while a lock of John Brown's hair, along with a picture of him, was placed in her left hand concealed from the view of the family by a carefully positioned bunch of flowers. John Brown was a Scottish personal servant & favourite of Queen Victoria for many years. Items of jewellery placed on Victoria included the wedding ring of John Brown's mother, given to her by Brown in 1883.

Her funeral was held on Saturday, 2 February, in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, & after two days of lying-in-state, she was interred beside Prince Albert in Frogmore Mausoleum at Windsor Great Park. As she was laid to rest at the mausoleum, it began to snow.

With a reign of 63 years, seven months & two days, Victoria 'was' the longest-reigning British monarch & the longest-reigning queen regnant in world history at the time of her death. She was the last monarch of Britain from the House of Hanover. Her son & heir Edward VII belonged to her husband's House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.


3 February

Sweyn Forkbeard

3 February 1014

Sweyn Forkbeard died

Sweyn (Svein) was the first Viking king of England. England’s forgotten king, he ruled for just 5 weeks. He was declared King of England on Christmas Day in 1013 & ruled until his death on 3rd February 1014, although he was never crowned.

Sweyn, known as Forkbeard due to his long, cleft beard, was the son of Harald Bluetooth, king of Denmark & was born around 960 AD. Sweyn was baptised a Christian, his father having converted to Christianity.

Sweyn was a brutal man who lived in a brutal time; he was a violent warlord & warrior. He started his life of violence with a campaign against his own father: in around 986 AD Sweyn & his ally Palnatoke attacked & deposed Harald.

He then turned his attention to England & in the early AD 990s led a campaign of fear & destruction, laying waste to large areas of the country. Ethelred the Unready was king of England at this time. He decided to pay Sweyn to return to Denmark & leave the country in peace, a tax which became known as Danegeld.

However, the Danes continued raiding in the north of England, albeit on a smaller scale. Some even began to settle there. Ethelred was persuaded that in order to protect England, he would have to rid the land of these Danish settlers.

On St. Brices Day, November 13th 1002 Ethelred ordered a general massacre of all Danes in England, including men, women & children. Amongst those killed was Sweyn’s sister Gunhilde. Sweyn swore revenge on Ethelred & in 1003 landed in England with an invading force. His attacks were on an unprecedented scale, his forces pillaging & plundering without mercy. Such was the devastation that King Ethelred again paid off the Danes in order to gain respite for the terrified populous. The raids continued on & off until in 1013 Sweyn returned to invade once more, landing this time at Sandwich in modern-day Kent. He rampaged through England, the terrified locals submitting to his forces. Finally he turned his attention to London, which proved more difficult to subdue. At first Ethelred & his ally Thorkell the Tall held their ground against him but soon the people began to fear severe reprisals if they did not submit. Disillusioned with their ineffective king, the English earls reluctantly declared Sweyn king & Ethelred fled into exile, first to the Isle of Wight and then to Normandy.

Sweyn was proclaimed king on Christmas Day 1013, but his reign lasted for a matter of weeks; he died suddenly at his capital, Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, on February 3rd 1014. Sweyn was buried in England & his body was later removed to Roeskild Cathedral in Denmark. How he died is not certain. One account describes him falling from his horse, & another that he died of an apoplexy, but a later legend has him murdered in his sleep by St Edmund, himself martyred by Vikings in the 9th century. It is said that Edmund returned from the grave in the dead of night during Candlemass and killed him with a spear.

Did You Know? King Sweyn’s descendants through his daughter Estrid continue to reign in Denmark today. Margaret of Denmark, a direct descendant, married James III of Scotland in 1469 introducing the bloodline in the Scottish royal family. Sweyn’s decedents became monarchs in England once again in 1603 after James VI of Scotland inherited the English throne.


Tomb of Robert Curthouse, Duke of Normandy, at Gloucester Cathedral
Tomb of Robert Curthouse, Duke of Normandy, at Gloucester Cathedral

3 February 1134

Robert Curthose died

Robert Curthose (c. 1051 – 3 February 1134) was the eldest son of William the Conqueror & Matilda of Flanders & succeeded his father as Duke of Normandy in 1087, reigning until 1106. Robert was also an unsuccessful claimant to the throne of the Kingdom of England. The epithet "Curthose" had its origins in the Norman French word courtheuse 'short stockings' & was apparently derived from a nickname given to Robert by his father; the chroniclers William of Malmesbury & Orderic Vitalis reported that William the Conqueror had derisively called Robert brevis-ocrea ("short boot").

Robert mortgaged his duchy to finance his participation in the First Crusade, where he was an important commander. Eventually, his disagreements with Henry I led to defeat in battle & lifelong captivity, with Normandy absorbed as a possession of England.

Robert Curthose during the Siege of Antioch, as imagined by Jean-Joseph Dassy
Robert Curthose during the Siege of Antioch, as imagined by Jean-Joseph Dassy


John of Gaunt

3 February 1399

John of Gaunt died (aged 58), at Leicester Castle

John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, was a member of the House of Plantagenet, the third surviving son of King Edward III & Philippa of Hainault. He was called "John of Gaunt" because he was born in Ghent, then rendered in English as Gaunt.

As a younger brother of Edward, the Black Prince, John exercised great influence over the English throne during the minority of his nephew, Richard II, but was not thought to have been among the opponents of the king.

John of Gaunt's legitimate male heirs, included Kings Henry IV, Henry V, & Henry VI. His other legitimate descendants included, by his first wife, Blanche, his daughters Queen Philippa of Portugal & Elizabeth, Duchess of Exeter; & by his second wife, Constance, his daughter Queen Catherine of Castile. .

John fathered five children outside marriage, one early in life by a lady-in-waiting to his mother, & four surnamed "Beaufort" (after a former French possession of the Duke) by Katherine Swynford, Gaunt's long-term mistress & third wife. The Beaufort children, three sons & a daughter, were legitimised by royal & papal decrees after John & Katherine married in 1396. Descendants of this marriage included Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland, grandmother of Kings Edward IV & Richard III; John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, the grandfather of Margaret Beaufort, the mother of King Henry VII; & Joan Beaufort, Queen of Scots, from whom are descended, beginning in 1437, all subsequent sovereigns of Scotland, & successively, from 1603 on, the sovereigns of England, of Great Britain & Ireland, & of the United Kingdom to the present day.

The three succeeding houses of English sovereigns from 1399, the Houses of Lancaster, York & Tudor were descended from John through Henry IV, Joan Beaufort & John Beaufort, respectively. Lancaster's eldest son & heir, Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford, was exiled for ten years by King Richard II in 1398 as resolution to a dispute between Hereford & Thomas de Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk.

When John of Gaunt died in 1399, his estates & titles were declared forfeit to the crown as King Richard II named Hereford a traitor & changed his sentence to exile for life. Henry Bolingbroke returned from exile to reclaim his inheritance & depose Richard. Bolingbroke then reigned as King Henry IV of England (1399–1413), the first of the descendants of John of Gaunt to hold the throne of England. Due to some generous land grants, John was one of the richest men in his era.

John of Gaunt was buried beside his first wife, Blanche of Lancaster, between the choir stalls of St Paul's Cathedral. The grave and monument were destroyed with the cathedral in the Great Fire of London in 1666. A modern monument in the crypt lists John of Gaunt's grave as among the important ones lost.


4 February

Anne of York, daughter of Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville

4 February 1495

Anne of York married Thomas Howard

On 4 February 1495, Anne was married to Thomas Howard (b.1473 – d.25 August 1554, later 3rd Duke of Norfolk) at Westminster Abbey. Howard was the eldest son & heir of Sir Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Surrey (later 2nd Duke of Norfolk) by his first wife, Elizabeth Tilney. As Thomas Howard did not succeed to the earldom of Surrey or the dukedom of Norfolk until after Anne's death, Anne was never Countess of Surrey or Duchess of Norfolk. Their only son known with certainty was Thomas Howard (c. 1496 – 1508). There are also suggestions of short-lived Henry Howard & William Howard resulting from this marriage. There was at least one stillborn child.

👑 Anne of York (b.2 November 1475 – d.23 November 1511) was the fifth daughter of King Edward IV & his wife, Elizabeth Woodville.


Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk by Hans Holbein the Younger


5 February

5 February 1649

Charles Stuart, the son of King Charles I, was declared King Charles II by the Scottish Parliament.

Charles II was the eldest surviving child of Charles I & Henrietta Maria of France. After Charles I's execution at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War, the Parliament of Scotland proclaimed Charles II king on 5 February 1649. But England entered the period known as the English Interregnum or the English Commonwealth, & the country was a de facto republic led by Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell defeated Charles II at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651, & Charles fled to mainland Europe. Cromwell became virtual dictator of England, Scotland & Ireland. Charles spent the next nine years in exile in France, the Dutch Republic & the Spanish Netherlands. The political crisis that followed Cromwell's death in 1658 resulted in the restoration of the monarchy, & Charles was invited to return to Britain. On 29 May 1660, his 30th birthday, he was received in London to public acclaim. After 1660, all legal documents stating a regnal year did so as if he had succeeded his father as king in 1649.


6 February

Queen of of Great Britain

6 February 1665

Queen Anne was born

Anne was born at 11:39 p.m. on 6 February 1665 at St James's Palace, London, the fourth child & second daughter of James, Duke of York (later king James II & VII), & his first wife, Anne Hyde. Her father was the younger brother of King Charles II, & her mother was the daughter of Lord Chancellor Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon.

At her Anglican baptism in the Chapel Royal at St James's, her older sister, Mary, was one of her godparents, along with the Duchess of Monmouth & the Archbishop of Canterbury, Gilbert Sheldon. The Duke & Duchess of York had eight children, but Anne & Mary (both future queen's) were the only ones to survive into adulthood.

Anne became Queen of England, Scotland & Ireland on 8 March 1702. On 1 May 1707, under the Acts of Union, two of her realms, the kingdoms of England & Scotland, united as a single sovereign state known as Great Britain. She continued to reign as Queen of Great Britain & Ireland until her death in 1714. .

Anne was plagued by ill-health throughout her life. From her 30s onwards, she grew increasingly lame & obese. Despite seventeen pregnancies by her husband, Prince George of Denmark, she died on 1 August 1714 without any surviving children & was the last monarch of the House of Stuart.


King Charles II of England & Scotland

6 February 1685

Charles II died

Charles suffered a sudden apoplectic fit on the morning of 2 February 1685, & died aged 54 at 11:45 am four days later at Whitehall Palace.

The suddenness of his illness & death led to suspicion of poison in the minds of many, including one of the royal doctors; however, a more modern medical analysis has held that the symptoms of his final illness are similar to those of uraemia (a clinical syndrome due to kidney dysfunction). On his deathbed Charles asked his brother, James, to look after his mistresses: "be well to Portsmouth, & let not poor Nelly (Nell Gynne) starve", & told his courtiers: "I am sorry, gentlemen, for being such a time a-dying". On the last evening of his life he was received into the Catholic Church, though the extent to which he was fully conscious or committed, & with whom the idea originated, is unclear.

He was buried in Westminster Abbey "without any manner of pomp" on 14 February. He was King of Scotland from 1649 until 1651, & King of Scotland, England & Ireland from the 1660 Restoration of the monarchy until his death in 1685. Charles was succeeded by his brother, who became James II of England & Ireland & James VII of Scotland.


King George VI

6 February 1952

George VI died

On the morning of 6 February, George VI was found dead in bed at Sandringham House in Norfolk. He had died from a coronary thrombosis in his sleep at the age of 56. His daughter Elizabeth flew back to Britain from Kenya as Queen Elizabeth II.

The stress of the war had taken its toll on the King's health, exacerbated by his heavy smoking & subsequent development of lung cancer among other ailments, including arteriosclerosis & possibly thromboangiitis obliterans.

A planned tour of Australia & New Zealand was postponed after the King suffered an arterial blockage in his right leg, which threatened the loss of the leg & was treated with a right lumbar sympathectomy in March 1949.

Princess Elizabeth, the heir presumptive, took on more royal duties as her father's health deteriorated. The delayed tour was re-organised, with Elizabeth & her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, taking the place of the King & Queen.

The King was well enough to open the Festival of Britain in May 1951, but on 23 September 1951, his left lung was removed by Clement Price Thomas after a malignant tumour was found. In October 1951, Princess Elizabeth & the Duke of Edinburgh went on a month-long tour of Canada; the trip had been delayed for a week due to the King's illness.

At the State Opening of Parliament in November, the King's speech from the throne was read for him by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Simonds. His Christmas broadcast of 1951 was recorded in sections, and then edited together.

On 31 January 1952, despite advice from those close to him, the King went to London Airport to see off Princess Elizabeth, who was going on her tour of Australia via Kenya. The was the last time the future queen saw her father alive.


6 February 1952

Queen Elizabeth II accession

When her father died on 6 February 1952, Elizabeth, then 25 years old, became queen regnant of seven independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, & Ceylon, as well as Head of the Commonwealth. Elizabeth has reigned as a constitutional monarch through major political changes such as the Troubles in Northern Ireland, devolution in the United Kingdom, the accession of the United Kingdom to the European Communities, the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union, Canadian patriation, & the decolonisation of Africa. The number of her realms has varied over time as territories have gained independence, & as realms, including South Africa, Pakistan, & Ceylon (renamed Sri Lanka), have become republics. Her many historic visits and meetings include a state visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011 and visits to or from five popes.

Significant events have included the Queen's coronation in 1953 & the celebrations of her Silver, Golden, Diamond, Sapphire & Platinum jubilees in 1977, 2002, 2012, 2017 & 2022 respectively.

Queen Elizabeth II


7 February

Empress Matilda

7 February 1102

Empress Matilda was born

Empress Matilda (c. 7 February 1102 – 10 September 1167), also known as the Empress Maude, was one of the claimants to the English throne during the civil war known as the Anarchy. She was the daughter of King Henry I of England & Matilda of Scotland. As a child she moved to Germany when she married the future Holy Roman Emperor Henry V (m.1114). She travelled with her husband to Italy in 1116, was crowned in St Peter's Basilica, & acted as the imperial regent in Italy. Matilda & Henry V had no children, & when he died in 1125, the imperial crown was claimed by his rival Lothair of Supplinburg.

Matilda's younger brother, William Adelin, died in the White Ship disaster of 1120, leaving Matilda's father & realm facing a potential succession crisis. On Emperor Henry V's death, Matilda was recalled to Normandy by her father, who arranged for her to marry Geoffrey of Anjou to form an alliance to protect his southern borders.

This marriage led to the centuries-long reign of the Plantagenet dynasty in England. The name "Plantagenet" was taken from Geoffrey's epithet.

Henry I had no further legitimate children & nominated Matilda as his heir, making his court swear an oath of loyalty to her & her successors, but the decision was not popular in the Anglo-Norman court. Henry died in 1135, but Matilda & Geoffrey faced opposition from Anglo-Norman barons. The throne was instead taken by Matilda's cousin Stephen of Blois, who enjoyed the backing of the English Church. Stephen took steps to solidify his new regime but faced threats both from neighbouring powers & from opponents within his kingdom.

In 1139, Matilda crossed to England to take the kingdom by force, supported by her half-brother Robert of Gloucester & her uncle King David I of Scotland, while her husband, Geoffrey, focused on conquering Normandy. Matilda's forces captured Stephen at the Battle of Lincoln in 1141, but the Empress' attempt to be crowned at Westminster collapsed in the face of bitter opposition from the London crowds. As a result of this retreat, Matilda was never formally declared Queen of England, & was instead titled "Lady of the English". Robert was captured following the Rout of Winchester in 1141, & Matilda agreed to exchange him for Stephen. Matilda became trapped in Oxford Castle by Stephen's forces that winter, & to avoid capture was forced to escape at night across the frozen River Isis to Abingdon, reputedly wearing white as camouflage in the snow. The war degenerated into a stalemate, with Matilda controlling much of the south-west of England, & Stephen the south-east & the Midlands.

Matilda returned to Normandy, now in the hands of her husband, in 1148, leaving her eldest son to continue the campaign in England; he eventually succeeded to the throne as Henry II in 1154, forming the Angevin Empire. She settled her court near Rouen & for the rest of her life concerned herself with the administration of Normandy, acting on her son's behalf when necessary. Particularly in the early years of her son's reign, she provided political advice. She worked extensively with the Church, founding Cistercian monasteries, & was known for her piety. She was buried under the high altar at Bec Abbey after her death in 1167.


Image: Early 14th century depiction of Edward I (left) declaring his son Edward (right) the Prince of Wales

7 February 1301

Edward of Caernarvon (later king Edward II)

became the first English Prince of Wales

Edward II was born in Caernarfon Castle in north Wales on 25 April 1284, less than a year after Edward I had conquered the region, & as a result is sometimes called Edward of Caernarfon. The king probably chose the castle deliberately as the location for Edward's birth as it was an important symbolic location for the native Welsh, associated with Roman imperial history, & it formed the centre of the new royal administration of North Wales. Edward's birth brought predictions of greatness from contemporary prophets, who believed that the Last Days of the world were imminent, declaring him a new King Arthur, who would lead England to glory. David Powel, a 16th century clergyman, suggested that the baby was offered to the Welsh as a prince "that was borne in Wales & could speake never a word of English", but there is no evidence to support this account.

Edward II (25 April 1284 – 21 September 1327), also called Edward of Caernarfon, was King of England & Lord of Ireland from 1307 until he was deposed in January 1327.

Caernarfon Castle, Wales
Caernarfon Castle


8 February

Mary, Queen of Scots

8 February 1587

Mary , Queen of Scots was executed

Mary, Queen of Scots was executed following a trial having been implicated in the Babington Plot. The Babington Plot was a plot in 1586 to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I, a Protestant, & put the rescued Mary, Queen of Scots, her Roman Catholic cousin, on the English throne. It led to the execution of Queen Mary Stuart of Scots as a direct result of a letter sent by Queen Mary who had been imprisoned for 18 years since 1568 in England at the behest of Queen Elizabeth in which Queen Mary consented directly to the assassination of Elizabeth.

At Fotheringhay, she spent the last hours of her life in prayer, distributing her belongings to her household, & writing her will & a letter to the King of France.

The scaffold that was erected in the Great Hall was two feet high & draped in black. It was reached by two or three steps & furnished with the block, a cushion for her to kneel on & three stools, for her & the earls of Shrewsbury & Kent, who were there to witness the execution.

The executioners (one named Bull & his assistant) knelt before her & asked forgiveness. She replied, "I forgive you with all my heart, for now, I hope, you shall make an end of all my troubles." Her servants, Jane Kennedy & Elizabeth Curle, & the executioners helped Mary to remove her outer garments, revealing a velvet petticoat & a pair of sleeves in crimson-brown, the liturgical colour of martyrdom in the Catholic Church, with a black satin bodice & black trimmings.

As she disrobed she smiled & said that she "never had such grooms before ... nor ever put off her clothes before such a company". She was blindfolded by Kennedy with a white veil embroidered in gold, knelt down on the cushion in front of the block, on which she positioned her head, & stretched out her arms. Her last words were, "In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum" ("Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit")

The first blow missed her neck & struck the back of her head. The second blow severed the neck, except for a small bit of sinew, which the executioner cut through using the axe. Afterward, he held her head aloft & declared, "God save the Queen." At that moment, the auburn tresses in his hand turned out to be a wig & the head fell to the ground, revealing that Mary had very short, grey hair. A small dog owned by the queen, a Skye terrier, is said to have been hiding among her skirts, unseen by the spectators. Following the beheading, it refused to be parted from its owner's body & was covered in her blood, until it was forcibly taken away & washed.


The badge of the Royal House of Windsor
House of Windsor

8 February 1960 – The Queen confirmed that she and her children would continue to be known as the "House & Family of Windsor", as would any agnatic descendants who enjoy the style of Royal Highness & the title of prince or princess. Still, Elizabeth also decreed that her agnatic descendants who do not have that style & title would bear the surname Mountbatten-Windsor.


9 February

Princess Margaret

9 February 2002

Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon died

Princess Margaret's later life was marred by illness & disability. She had smoked cigarettes since at least the age of 15 & had continued to smoke heavily for many years. On 5 January 1985 she had part of her left lung removed; the operation drew parallels with that of her father over 30 years earlier. In 1991 she quit smoking, though she continued to drink heavily. In January 1993 she was admitted to hospital for pneumonia.

She experienced a mild stroke in 1998. The following year the Princess suffered severe scalds to her feet in a bathroom accident, which affected her mobility to the extent she required support when walking & sometimes used a wheelchair. In January & March 2001, further strokes were diagnosed, which had left her with partial vision & paralysis on the left side.

Margaret's last public appearances were at the 101st birthday celebrations of her mother in August 2001, & the 100th birthday celebration of her aunt, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, that December. Princess Margaret died in the King Edward VII Hospital, London, on 9 February 2002 at the age of 71 after suffering another stroke. Her funeral was held on 15 February 2002, the 50th anniversary of her father's funeral. In line with her wishes, the ceremony was a private service for family & friends.

Unlike most other members of the royal family, Princess Margaret was cremated. Her ashes were placed in the tomb of her parents, King George VI & Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (who died seven weeks after Margaret), in the King George VI Memorial Chapel in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, two months later. A state memorial service was held at Westminster Abbey on 19 April 2002.

Click here for more about Princess Margaret,

Ma’am Darling: : The hilarious, bestselling royal biography
Ma’am Darling: : The hilarious, bestselling royal biography - £8.49


10 February

The Marriage of Queen Victoria, 10 February 1840
The Marriage of Queen Victoria, 10 February 1840, by George Hayter

10 February 1840

Queen Victoria married Prince Albert

Victoria arrived in a procession of carriages from Buckingham Palace. She wore a white dress of heavy silk satin, trimmed with Honiton lace. She had a white lace veil & wore a diamond necklace & earrings as well as a sapphire brooch given her by Albert and she carried a wreath of orange blossoms, a symbol of fertility.

Albert was in a British field marshal’s uniform & was escorted by a squadron of Life Guards. He entered the chapel to the strains of Handel’s ‘See, the conquering hero comes’, followed by Victoria, who was given away by her uncle the Duke of Sussex. Twelve young bridesmaids carried her train.

The wedding breakfast was held at Buckingham Palace & the wedding cake weighed 300 pounds. The newlyweds went off to Windsor Castle for a three-day honeymoon. Victoria described her wedding day as ‘the happiest day of my life!’

Victoria was pregnant within a couple of months of the wedding &, although she would always detest pregnancy & childbirth, she & Albert would have nine children.

For more about the wedding click here


11 February

Elizabeth of York, Queen of England

11 February 1466

Elizabeth of York was born

Elizabeth was born at the Palace of Westminster as the eldest child of King Edward IV & his wife, Elizabeth Woodville.

Elizabeth was queen consort of England from 1486 until her death. As the wife of Henry VII, she was the first Tudor queen. She married Henry VII following his victory at the Battle of Bosworth which started the last phase of the Wars of the Roses. She was the mother of King Henry VIII.

Therefore, she was the daughter (of Edward IV), sister (Edward V), niece (Richard III), wife (Henry VII), mother (Henry VIII), & grandmother of successive kings & queens of England (Edward VI, Mary I & Elizabeth I).

As a Yorkist princess, Henry Tudor knew the importance of Yorkist support for his invasion & promised to marry her before he arrived in England; this was an important move, which, however, failed to bring him the desired Yorkist support.

Her marriage seems to have been successful, though her eldest son Arthur, Prince of Wales, died at age 15 in 1502, & three other children died young. She seems to have played little part in politics. Her surviving children became a king of England & queens of France & Scotland; it is through the Scottish Stuart dynasty that her many modern royal descendants trace their descent from her.

Elizabeth of York

11 February 1503

Elizabeth of York died

In 1502 Elizabeth of York became pregnant again, & spent her confinement period in the Tower of London. On 2 February 1503, she gave birth to Katherine, but the child died a few days later (10 February). Succumbing to a post partum infection, Elizabeth of York died on 11 February, her 37th birthday.

Her husband & children appear to have mourned her death deeply. According to one account, Henry Tudor "privily departed to a solitary place & would no man should resort unto him." This is notable considering that, shortly after Elizabeth's death, records show he became extremely ill himself & would not allow any except his mother Margaret Beaufort near him. For Henry Tudor to show his emotions, let alone any sign of infirmity, was highly unusual & alarming to members of his court.

Annually on her death day, Henry VII decreed a requiem mass be sung, the bells be tolled, & 100 candles be lit in her honour.

Did You Know? According to folklore, the "queen ... in the parlour" in the children's nursery rhyme "Sing a Song of Sixpence" is Elizabeth of York, while her husband is the king counting his money.

The symbol of the Tudor dynasty is the Tudor rose, which became a royal symbol for England upon Elizabeth's marriage to Henry VII in 1486. Her White Rose of York is most commonly proper to her husband's Red Rose of Lancaster & today, uncrowned, is still the floral emblem of England.

Elizabeth of York was a renowned beauty, inheriting her parents' fair hair & complexion. All other Tudor monarchs inherited her reddish gold hair & the trait became synonymous with the dynasty.


12 February

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, by the French painter Paul Delaroche, 1833. National Gallery, London.

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, by the French painter Paul Delaroche, 1833. National Gallery, London.

12 February 1554

Lady Jane Grey was executed

On the morning of 12 February 1554, the authorities took Jane's husband Lord Guildford Dudley from his rooms at the Tower of London to the public execution place at Tower Hill, where he was beheaded.

A horse & cart brought his remains back to the Tower, past the rooms where Jane was staying. Seeing her husband's corpse return, Jane is reported to have exclaimed: "Oh, Guildford, Guildford."

Jane was then taken out to Tower Green, inside the Tower, to be beheaded. Jane gave a speech upon ascending the scaffold:

"Good people, I am come hither to die, & by a law I am condemned to the same. The fact, indeed, against the Queen's highness was unlawful, & the consenting thereunto by me: but touching the procurement & desire thereof by me or on my behalf, I do wash my hands thereof in innocency, before God, & the face of you, good Christian people, this day.

She then recited Psalm 51 (Have mercy upon me, O God) in English, & handed her gloves & handkerchief to her maid. The executioner asked her forgiveness, which she granted him, pleading: "I pray you dispatch me quickly." Referring to her head, she asked, "Will you take it off before I lay me down?", & the axeman answered: "No, madam." She then blindfolded herself. Jane then failed to find the block with her hands, & cried, "What shall I do? Where is it?" Probably Sir Thomas Brydges, the Deputy Lieutenant of the Tower, helped her find her way. With her head on the block, Jane spoke the last words of Jesus as recounted by Luke: "Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit!"

Jane & her husband Guildford are buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula on the north side of Tower Green. Jane's father, Duke of Suffolk, was executed 11 days after Jane, on 23 February 1554.

The Streatham portrait, discovered at the beginning of the 21st century and believed to be based on a lost contemporaneous portrait

The Streatham portrait, discovered at the beginning of the 21st century & believed to be based on a lost contemporaneous portrait.

Lady Jane Grey (c. 1537 – 12 February 1554), later known as Lady Jane Dudley (after her marriage) & as the "Nine Days' Queen".

The accession of Lady Jane Grey as Queen was engineered by the powerful Duke of Northumberland, President of the King's Council, in the interests of promoting his own dynastic line. He persuaded the sickly Edward VI to name Lady Jane Grey as his heir just before his death on 6 July 1553. As one of Henry VIII's great-nieces, the young girl was a genuine claimant to the throne.

Jane was the great granddaughter of Henry VII through his younger daughter Mary, & was a first cousin once removed of Edward VI. She had an excellent humanist education & a reputation as one of the most learned young women of her day. In May 1553, she married Lord Guildford Dudley, a younger son of Edward's chief minister John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. In June 1553, Edward VI wrote his will, nominating Jane & her male heirs as successors to the Crown, in part because his half-sister Mary was Catholic, while Jane was a committed Protestant & would support the reformed Church of England, whose foundation Edward laid. The will removed his half-sisters, Mary & Elizabeth, from the line of succession on account of their illegitimacy, subverting their claims under the Third Succession Act.

After Edward's death, Jane was proclaimed queen on 10 July 1553 & awaited coronation in the Tower of London. Support for Mary grew quickly, & the majority of Jane's supporters abandoned her. The Privy Council of England suddenly changed sides & proclaimed Mary as queen on 19 July 1553, deposing Jane. Her primary supporter, her father-in-law the Duke of Northumberland, was accused of treason & executed less than a month later. Jane was held prisoner in the Tower & was convicted of high treason in November 1553, which carried a sentence of death—though Mary initially spared her life. Jane soon became viewed as a threat to the Crown when her father, Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk, became involved with Thomas Wyatt's rebellion against Queen Mary's intention to marry Philip II of Spain. Both Jane & her husband were executed on 12 February 1554.


13 February

Catherine Howard, Queen of England as the fifth wife of Henry VIII

13 February 1542

Catherine Howard was executed on the grounds of treason for committing adultery while married to King Henry VIII.

The night before her execution Catherine is believed to have spent many hours practising how to lay her head upon the block, which had been brought to her at her request. She died with relative composure but looked pale & terrified; she required assistance to climb the scaffold. She made a speech describing her punishment as "worthy & just" & asked for mercy for her family & prayers for her soul. Catherine was beheaded with one single stroke of the executioner's axe. She was aged 18-19.

Catherine Howard (c. 1521-25 – 13 February 1542), also spelled Katherine Howard, was Queen of England from 1540 until 1541 as the fifth wife of Henry VIII. She was the daughter of Lord Edmund Howard & Joyce Culpeper, cousin to Anne Boleyn (the second wife of Henry VIII), & niece to Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. Thomas Howard was a prominent politician at Henry's court, & he secured her a place in the household of Henry's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, where she caught the King's interest. She married him on 28 July 1540 at Oatlands Palace in Surrey, just 19 days after the annulment of his marriage to Anne. He was 49, and she was between 15 & 19 years old.

Catherine was stripped of her title as queen in November 1541. She was beheaded three months later on the grounds of treason for committing adultery with her distant cousin Thomas Culpeper.


Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia

13 February 1662

Elizabeth Stuart, queen of Bohemia died

Elizabeth Stuart (19 August 1596 – 13 February 1662) was Electress of the Palatinate & briefly Queen of Bohemia as the wife of Frederick V of the Palatinate. Because her husband's reign in Bohemia lasted for just one winter, Elizabeth is often referred to as the "Winter Queen".

Elizabeth was the second child & eldest daughter of James VI & I, King of Scotland, England, & Ireland, & his wife, Anne of Denmark. When Queen Anne of Great Britain, the last Stuart monarch died in 1714, Elizabeth's grandson by her daughter Sophia of Hanover succeeded to the British throne as George I, initiating the House of Hanover.

For more about Elizabeth Stuart click here


14 February

Richard II, King of England

14 February 1400

Richard II, king of England died

Richard II (6 January 1367 – c. 14 February 1400), also known as Richard of Bordeaux, was King of England from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399. Richard's father, Edward, Prince of Wales, died in 1376, leaving Richard as heir apparent to his grandfather, King Edward III. Upon the death of Edward III, the 10-year-old Richard succeeded to the throne.

During Richard's first years as king, government was in the hands of a series of regency councils, influenced by Richard's uncles John of Gaunt & Thomas of Woodstock. A major challenge of the reign was the Peasants' Revolt in 1381, & the young king played a central part in the successful suppression of this crisis. Less warlike than either his father or grandfather, he sought to bring an end to the Hundred Years' War. A firm believer in the royal prerogative, Richard restrained the power of the aristocracy & relied on a private retinue for military protection instead. In contrast to his grandfather, Richard cultivated a refined atmosphere centred on art & culture at court.

The king's dependence on a small number of courtiers caused discontent among the influential,& in 1387 control of government was taken over by a group of aristocrats known as the Lords Appellant. By 1389 Richard had regained control, & for the next eight years governed in relative harmony with his former opponents. In 1397, he took his revenge on the Appellants, many of whom were executed or exiled. The next two years have been described by historians as Richard's "tyranny". In 1399, after John of Gaunt died, the king disinherited Gaunt's son, Henry Bolingbroke, who had previously been exiled. Henry invaded England in June 1399 with a small force that quickly grew in numbers. Meeting little resistance, he deposed Richard & had himself crowned king. Richard is thought to have been starved to death in captivity, although questions remain regarding his final fate.


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