Updated: May 17, 2020
This blog focuses on the House of Stuart, & also briefly the House of Orange, with William III. A Royal Signature is attached to each portrait plus some interesting facts. Rather than write about the obvious facts, Henry VIII had six wives etc, I am aiming to look at each monarch/consort as an individual, their contemporary description where possible, character, education & interests. Also included are my personal book recommendations.
(b.8 December 1542 – d.8 February 1587) Mary, Queen of Scots also known as Mary Stuart or Mary I of Scotland, reigned over Scotland from 14 December 1542 to 24 July 1567. Mary, the only surviving legitimate child of King James V of Scotland & and his French second wife, Mary of Guise, was six days old when her father died & she acceded to the throne. A popular tale, first recorded by John Knox, states that James, upon hearing on his deathbed that his wife had given birth to a daughter, ruefully exclaimed, "It cam wi' a lass & it will gang wi' a lass! His House of Stuart had gained the throne of Scotland in the 14th century via the marriage of Marjorie Bruce, daughter of Robert the Bruce, to Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland. The crown had come to his family through a woman, & would be lost from his family through a woman. This legendary statement came true much later—not through Mary, but through her descendant Anne, Queen of Great Britain She spent most of her childhood in France having been sent there at five years of age, while Scotland was ruled by regents. Mary was vivacious, beautiful, & clever (according to contemporary accounts). Mary had a promising childhood. At the French court, she was a favourite with everyone, except Henry II's wife Catherine de' Medici. Mary learned to play lute & virginals, was competent in prose, poetry, horsemanship, falconry, & needlework, & was taught French, Italian, Latin, Spanish, & Greek, in addition to speaking her native Scots. Her future sister-in-law, Elisabeth of Valois, became a close friend of whom Mary "retained nostalgic memories in later life". Mary's maternal grandmother, Antoinette de Bourbon, was another strong influence on her childhood & acted as one of her principal advisors. Portraits of Mary show that she had a small, oval-shaped head, a long, graceful neck, bright auburn hair, hazel-brown eyes, under heavy lowered eyelids & finely arched brows, smooth pale skin, a high forehead, & regular, firm features. She was considered a pretty child & later, as a woman, strikingly attractive.
At 5ft 11” tall (1.80m) Mary was eloquent & especially tall, even by modern standards. While Henry II's son & heir, Francis, stuttered & was unusually short. On 4 April 1558, Mary signed a secret agreement bequeathing Scotland & her claim to England to the French crown if she died without issue. Twenty days later, she married the Dauphin at Notre Dame de Paris, and he became king consort of Scotland. Mary was queen consort of France from his accession in 1559 until his death in December 1560. Widowed, Mary returned to Scotland, arriving in Leith on 19 August 1561.
Four years later, she married her half-cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, & in June 1566 they had a son, James (later king of Scotland, then England). In February 1567, Darnley's residence was destroyed by an explosion, & he was found murdered in the garden. James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, was generally believed to have orchestrated Darnley's death, but he was acquitted of the charge in April 1567, & the following month he married Mary. Following an uprising against the couple, Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle. On 24 July 1567, she was forced to abdicate in favour of her one-year-old son. After an unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne, she fled southward seeking the protection of her first cousin once removed, Queen Elizabeth I of England. Mary had once claimed Elizabeth's throne as her own & was considered the legitimate sovereign of England by many English Catholics, including participants in a rebellion known as the Rising of the North. Perceiving Mary as a threat, Elizabeth had her confined in various castles & manor houses in the interior of England. After eighteen & a half years in custody, Mary was found guilty of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth in 1586, & was beheaded the following year at Fotheringhay Castle. Mary was not beheaded with a single strike. 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. Afterwards, 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. Cecil's nephew, who was present at the execution, reported to his uncle that after her death "Her lips stirred up & down a quarter of an hour after her head was cut off" & that a small dog owned by the queen emerged from hiding among her skirts—though eye-witness Emanuel Tomascon does not include those details in his "exhaustive report". Items supposedly worn or carried by Mary at her execution are of doubtful provenance; contemporary accounts state that all her clothing, the block, & everything touched by her blood was burnt in the fireplace of the Great Hall to obstruct relic hunter.
(b. 19 June 1566 – d. 27 March 1625) James was King of Scotland as James VI from 24 July 1567 & King of England & Ireland as James I from the union of the Scottish & English crowns on 24 March 1603 until his death in 1625. The kingdoms of Scotland & England were individual sovereign states, with their own parliaments, judiciaries, & laws, though both were ruled by James in personal union. James was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, & a great-great-grandson of Henry VII, King of England & Lord of Ireland, & thus a potential successor to all three thrones. His father was Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, also a great-grandson of King Henry VII of England, on his mother’s side. James succeeded to the Scottish throne at the age of thirteen months, after his mother was compelled to abdicate in his favour. Four different regents governed during his minority, which ended officially in 1578, though he did not gain full control of his government until 1583. In 1603, he succeeded the last Tudor monarch of England & Ireland, Elizabeth I, who died childless. He continued to reign in all three kingdoms for 22 years, a period known after him as the Jacobean era, until his death. After the Union of the Crowns, he based himself in England (the largest of the three realms) from 1603, returning to Scotland only once, in 1617, & styled himself "King of Great Britain & Ireland". He was a major advocate of a single parliament for England & Scotland. In his reign, the Plantation of Ulster & British colonisation of the Americas began. At 57 years & 246 days, James's reign in Scotland was the longest of any Scottish monarch. He achieved most of his aims in Scotland but faced great difficulties in England, including the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 & repeated conflicts with the English Parliament. Under James, the "Golden Age" of Elizabethan literature & drama continued, with writers such as William Shakespeare, John Donne, Ben Jonson, & Sir Francis Bacon contributing to a flourishing literary culture. James himself was a talented scholar, the author of works such as Daemonologie (1597), The True Law of Free Monarchies (1598), & Basilikon Doron (1599). He sponsored the translation of the Bible into English that would later be named after him: the Authorized King James Version. Sir Anthony Weldon claimed that James had been termed "the wisest fool in Christendom", an epithet associated with his character ever since. Since the latter half of the 20th century, historians have tended to revise James's reputation & treat him as a serious & thoughtful monarch. He was strongly committed to a peace policy, & tried to avoid involvement in religious wars, especially the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) that devastated much of Central Europe. He tried but failed to prevent the rise of hawkish elements in the English Parliament who wanted war with Spain. He married fourteen-year-old Anne of Denmark, younger daughter of Protestant Frederick II. Shortly after a proxy marriage in Copenhagen in August 1589, Anne sailed for Scotland but was forced by storms to the coast of Norway. On hearing that the crossing had been abandoned, James sailed from Leith with a 300-strong retinue to fetch her. James blamed the storms on witchcraft, & became concerned with the threat posed by witches & wrote Daemonologie in 1597, a tract inspired by his personal involvement that opposed the practice of witchcraft. He attended the North Berwick witch trials, the first major persecution of witches in Scotland under the Witchcraft Act 1563. Several people were convicted of using witchcraft to send storms against James's ship, most notably Agnes Sampson. The couple were married formally at the Bishop's Palace in Oslo on 23 November & returned to Scotland on 1 May 1590. By all accounts, James was at first infatuated with Anne &, in the early years of their marriage, seems always to have shown her patience & affection. The royal couple produced three children who survived to adulthood: Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, who died of typhoid fever in 1612, aged 18; Elizabeth, later queen of Bohemia; & Charles, his successor. Anne died before her husband, in March 1619.
(b. 19 November 1600 – d. 30 January 1649) Charles was King of England, King of Scotland, & King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. He was born into the House of Stuart as the second son of King James VI of Scotland & Anne of Denmark, Charles was a weak & sickly infant, After his father inherited the English throne in 1603 (as James I), his parents & older siblings left for England in April & early June that year. Charles remained in Scotland with his father's friend Lord Fyvie, due to his fragile health. Eventually, Charles apparently conquered his physical infirmity, which might have been caused by rickets He became an adept horseman & marksman, & took up fencing. He became heir apparent to the three kingdoms of England, Scotland & Ireland in 1612 on the death of his elder brother Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales. An unsuccessful & unpopular attempt to marry him to the Spanish Habsburg princess Maria Anna culminated in an eight-month visit to Spain in 1623 that demonstrated the futility of the marriage negotiations. Two years later he married the Bourbon princess Henrietta Maria of France. After his succession in 1625, Charles quarrelled with the Parliament of England, which sought to curb his royal prerogative. Charles believed in the divine right of kings, & was determined to 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 religious policies, coupled with his marriage to a Roman Catholic, generated the antipathy & mistrust of Reformed groups such as the English Puritans & Scottish Covenanters, who thought his views were too Catholic. His attempts to force the Church of Scotland to adopt high Anglican practices led to the Bishops' Wars, 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 & the Commonwealth of England was established as a republic. The monarchy would be restored to Charles's son, Charles II, in 1660. Charles became a passionate & knowledgeable art collector, amassing one of the finest art collections ever assembled. In Spain, he sat for a sketch by Velázquez, & acquired works by Titian & Correggio, among others. In England, his commissions included the ceiling of the Banqueting House, Whitehall, by Rubens & paintings by other artists from the Low Countries such as van Honthorst, Mytens, & van Dyck.
In 1627 & 1628, Charles purchased the entire collection of the Duke of Mantua, which included work by Titian, Correggio, Raphael, Caravaggio, del Sarto & Mantegna. His collection grew further to encompass Bernini, Bruegel, da Vinci, Holbein, Hollar, Tintoretto & Veronese, & self-portraits by both Dürer & Rembrandt. By Charles's death, there were an estimated 1,760 paintings, most of which were sold & dispersed by Parliament.
Archbishop William Laud, who was beheaded by Parliament during the civil war, described Charles as "A mild & gracious prince who knew not how to be, or how to be made, great." He deliberately pursued unpopular policies that ultimately brought ruin on himself. Both Charles & his father were advocates of the divine right of kings, but while James's ambitions concerning absolute prerogative were tempered by compromise & consensus with his subjects, Charles believed that he had no need to compromise or even to explain his actions. He thought he was answerable only to God. "Princes are not bound to give account of their actions," he wrote, "but to God alone".
(b. 25 November 1609 – d. 10 September 1669) Henrietta Maria of France (French: Henriette Marie; was queen consort of England, Scotland, & Ireland as the wife of Charles I. She was mother of his two immediate successors, Charles II James II & VII. Contemporaneously, by a decree of her husband, she was known in England as Queen Mary, but did not like this name & signed her letters "Henriette R". Her identity as a Roman Catholic made her unpopular in England, & also prohibited her from being crowned in a Church of England service; therefore she never had a coronation. She began to immerse herself in national affairs as civil war loomed on the horizon, & was compelled to seek refuge in France in 1644, following the birth of her youngest daughter, Henrietta, during the height of the First English Civil War. The execution of Charles I in 1649 left her impoverished. She settled in Paris, & then returned to England after the Restoration of her eldest son, Charles II, to the throne. In 1665, she moved back to Paris, where she died four years later. Henrietta Maria was the youngest daughter of Henry IV of France (Henry III of Navarre) & his second wife, Marie de' Medici, & named after her parents. She was born at the Palais du Louvre. Henrietta Maria was trained, along with her sisters, in riding, dancing, & singing, & took part in the French court plays. Although tutored in reading & writing, she was not known for her academic skills; Views on Henrietta Maria's appearance vary; her niece Sophia of Hanover commented that the "beautiful portraits of Van Dyck had given me such a fine idea of all the ladies of England that I was surprised to see that the queen, who I had seen as so beautiful & lean, was a woman well past her prime. Her arms were long & lean, her shoulders uneven, & some of her teeth were coming out of her mouth like tusks.... She did, however, have pretty eyes, nose, & a good complexion. Henrietta Maria had a strong interest in the arts, & her patronage of various activities was one of the various ways in which she tried to shape court events. Henrietta Maria & Charles were "dedicated & knowledgeable collectors" of paintings. Henrietta Maria was particularly known for her patronage of the Italian painter Orazio Gentileschi, who came to England with Henrietta Maria in 1626 as part of her favourite François de Bassompierre's entourage. Orazio & his daughter Artemisia Gentileschi were responsible for the huge ceiling paintings of the Queen's House at Henrietta Maria's palace in Greenwich. Henrietta Maria became a key patron in Stuart masques, complementing her husband's strong interest in paintings & the visual arts. She performed & various works herself, including as an Amazon in William Davenant's 1640 "Salmacida Spolia". Henrietta Maria also helped to support the musical works of English composer Nicholas Lanier, & was responsible for Davenant being appointed the Poet Laureat in 1638. The queen liked physical sculpture & design too, & retained the designer Inigo Jones as her surveyor of works during the 1630s. Like Charles, Henrietta Maria was enthusiastic about garden design, although not horticulture itself. During his 1631 Northwest Passage expedition in the ship Henrietta Maria, Captain Thomas James named the north west headland of James Bay where it opens into Hudson Bay for her. The US state of Maryland was named in her honour by her husband, Charles I. George Calvert, 1st Baron Baltimore submitted a draft charter for the colony with the name left blank, suggesting that Charles bestow a name in his own honour. Charles, having already honoured himself and several family members in other colonial names, decided to honour his wife.
(b. 29 May 1630 – d. 6 February 1685) Charles II was king of England, Scotland, & Ireland. He was king of Scotland from 1649 until his deposition in 1651, and king of England, Scotland & Ireland from the 1660 Restoration of the monarchy until his death in 1685. Charles II was the eldest surviving child of Charles I of England, Scotland & Ireland & 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. However, 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, and 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. A political crisis that followed the death of Cromwell 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. Charles's English parliament enacted laws known as the Clarendon Code, designed to shore up the position of the re-established Church of England. Charles acquiesced to the Clarendon Code even though he favoured a policy of religious tolerance. The major foreign policy issue of his early reign was the Second Anglo-Dutch War. In 1670, he entered into the Treaty of Dover, an alliance with his cousin King Louis XIV of France. Louis agreed to aid him in the Third Anglo-Dutch War & pay him a pension, & Charles secretly promised to convert to Catholicism at an unspecified future date. Charles attempted to introduce religious freedom for Catholics & Protestant dissenters with his 1672 Royal Declaration of Indulgence, but the English Parliament forced him to withdraw it. In 1679, Titus Oates's revelations of a supposed Popish Plot sparked the Exclusion Crisis when it was revealed that Charles's brother & heir presumptive, James, Duke of York, was a Catholic. The crisis saw the birth of the pro-exclusion Whig & anti-exclusion Tory parties. Charles sided with the Tories, &, following the discovery of the Rye House Plot to murder Charles & James in 1683, some Whig leaders were executed or forced into exile. Charles dissolved the English Parliament in 1681, & ruled alone until his death in 1685. He was received into the Catholic Church on his deathbed. Charles was one of the most popular & beloved kings of England, known as the Merry Monarch, in reference to both the liveliness & hedonism of his court & the general relief at the return to normality after over a decade of rule by Cromwell & the Puritans. Charles's wife, Catherine of Braganza, bore no live children, but Charles acknowledged at least twelve illegitimate children by various mistresses. He was succeeded by his brother James. The Royal Oak After the defeat of Charles' Royalist army at the hands of Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army, the King fled with Lord Derby, Lord Wilmot & other royalists, seeking shelter at the safe houses of White Ladies Priory & Boscobel House. Initially, Charles was led to White Ladies Priory by Charles Giffard, a cousin of the owner, & his servant Francis Yates, the only man later executed for his part in the escape. There, the Penderel (Pendrell or Pendrill) family, tenants & servants of the Giffard family began to be important in guiding & caring for him. The King was disguised as a woodman by Charles Giffard & the Penderel family. From White Ladies, Richard Penderel led Charles in an unsuccessful attempt to cross the Severn near Madeley, Shropshire. They were forced to retrace their steps & Charles took refuge at Boscobel. On 6 September 1651, he there met with William Careless (or Carlis), a native of nearby Brewood, one of the last royalists to escape the battlefield. Careless's rank is variously reported as Captain, Major & Colonel. Careless suggested that the house was unsafe & recommended that the king hide in an oak tree in the woodlands surrounding Boscobel House. The king & Careless took some food & drink & they spent all day hiding in a pollarded oak tree which became known as the Royal Oak. From the oak they could see patrols of Parliamentary soldiers searching for the king. He ultimately escaped the region posing as the servant of Jane Lane of Bentley, whose family were also landowners at Broom Hall & the Hyde in Brewood. After the Restoration in 1660 Charles granted annuities to the Penderels for their services (still paid to their descendants to this day) & for Careless's help during the escape from Worcester & for other services he was made a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, & Charles, by letters patent, granted Careless the new surname of Carlos (Spanish for Charles) & a new "appropriate" coat of arms. The escapades of Charles after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester remained important to him throughout his life. He delighted & bored listeners with tales of his escape for many years. Numerous accounts of his adventures were published, particularly in the immediate aftermath of the Restoration. Though not averse to his escape being ascribed to divine providence, Charles himself seems to have delighted most in his ability to sustain his disguise as a man of ordinary origins, & to move unrecognised through his realm. Ironic & cynical, Charles took pleasure in retailing stories which demonstrated the undetectable nature of any inherent majesty he possessed. Plague & Fire In 1665, Charles was faced with a great health crisis: the Great Plague of London. The death toll reached a peak of 7,000 per week in the week of 17 September. Charles, with his family & court, fled London in July to Salisbury; Parliament met in Oxford. Plague cases ebbed over the winter, & Charles returned to London in February 1666. After a long spell of hot & dry weather through mid-1666, what later became known as the Great Fire of London started on 2 September 1666 in a bakehouse on Pudding Lane. Fanned by a strong easterly wind & fed by stockpiles of wood & fuel that had been prepared for the coming colder months, the fire eventually consumed about 13,200 houses & 87 churches, including St Paul's Cathedral. Charles & his brother James joined & directed the fire-fighting effort. Charles had no legitimate children, but acknowledged a dozen by seven mistresses, including five by Barbara Villiers, Lady Castlemaine, for whom the Dukedom of Cleveland was created. His other mistresses included Moll Davis, Nell Gwyn, Elizabeth Killigrew, Catherine Pegge, Lucy Walter & Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth. As a result, in his lifetime he was often nicknamed "Old Rowley", the name of his favourite racehorse, notable as a stallion. His subjects resented paying taxes that were spent on his mistresses & their children, many of whom received dukedoms or earldoms. The present Dukes of Buccleuch, Richmond, Grafton & St Albans descend from Charles in unbroken male line. Diana, Princess of Wales, was descended from two of Charles's illegitimate sons: the Dukes of Grafton & Richmond. Diana's son, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, second in line to the British throne, is likely to be the first British monarch descended from Charles II. Charles's eldest son, the Duke of Monmouth, led a rebellion against James II, but was defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor on 6 July 1685, captured & executed. James was eventually dethroned in 1688, in the course of the Glorious Revolution by William III. Restless he rolls from whore to whore A merry monarch, scandalous and poor Charles, a patron of the arts & sciences, founded the Royal Observatory & supported the Royal Society, a scientific group whose early members included Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle & Sir Isaac Newton. He was the personal patron of Sir Christopher Wren, the architect who helped rebuild London after the Great Fire & who constructed the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which Charles founded as a home for retired soldiers in 1682. As a patron of education, he founded a number of schools, including the Royal Mathematical School in London & The King's Hospital in Dublin, as well as the Erasmus Smith schools in various parts of Ireland. The anniversary of the Restoration (which was also Charles's birthday)—29 May—was recognised in England until the mid-nineteenth century as Oak Apple Day, after the Royal Oak in which Charles hid during his escape from the forces of Oliver Cromwell. Traditional celebrations involved the wearing of oak leaves but these have now died out. Charleston, South Carolina, & South Kingstown, Rhode Island, are named after him.
(b. 25 November 1638 – d. 31 December 1705) Catherine of Braganza (Portuguese: Catarina de Bragança was queen consort of England, of Scotland & of Ireland from 1662 to 1685, as the wife of King Charles II. She was the daughter of King John IV, who became the first king of Portugal from the House of Braganza in 1640 after overthrowing the rule of the Spanish Habsburgs over Portugal. Negotiations for the marriage with the future Charles II began during the reign of King Charles I, & were renewed immediately after the Restoration, & on 23 June 1661, in spite of Spanish opposition, the marriage contract was signed. England secured Tangier (in North Africa) & the Seven Islands of Bombay (in India), trading privileges in Brazil & the East Indies, religious & commercial freedom in Portugal, & two million Portuguese crowns (about £300,000). In return Portugal obtained British military & naval support (which would prove to be decisive) in her fight against Spain & liberty of worship for Catherine. On 21 May 1661 the couple were married at Portsmouth in two ceremonies – a Catholic one conducted in secret, followed by a public Anglican service. On 30 September 1662 the married couple entered London as part of a large procession, which included the Portuguese delegation & many members of the court. There were also minstrels & musicians, among them ten playing shawms & twelve playing Portuguese bagpipes, those being the new Queen’s favourite instruments. The procession continued over a large bridge, especially designed & built for the occasion, which led into the palace where Henrietta Maria, the Queen Mother waited, along with the British court & nobility. This was followed by feasting & firework displays. Catherine became pregnant & miscarried at least three times, & during a severe illness in 1663, she imagined, for a time, that she had given birth. Charles comforted her by telling her she had indeed given birth to two sons & a daughter. Her position was a difficult one, & though Charles continued to have children by his many mistresses, he insisted she be treated with respect, & sided with her against his mistresses when he felt she was not receiving the respect she was due. After her three miscarriages, it seemed to be more & more unlikely that the queen would bear an heir. Royal advisors urged the monarch to seek a divorce, hoping that the new wife would be Protestant & fertile – but Charles refused. This eventually led to her being made a target by courtiers. Throughout his reign, Charles firmly dismissed the idea of divorcing Catherine, & she remained faithful to Charles throughout their marriage. Although her difficulties with the English language persisted, as time went on, the once rigidly formal Portuguese Infanta mellowed & began to enjoy some of the more innocent pleasures of the court. She loved to play cards & shocked devout Protestants by playing on Sundays. She enjoyed dancing & took great delight in organising masques. She had a great love for the countryside & picnics; fishing & archery were also favourite pastimes. Owing to her devotion to the Roman Catholic faith in which she had been raised, Catherine was unpopular in England. She was a special object of attack by the inventors of the Popish Plot. In 1678 the murder of Edmund Berry Godfrey was ascribed to her servants, & Titus Oates accused her of an intention to poison the king. These charges, the absurdity of which was soon shown by cross-examination, nevertheless placed the queen for some time in great danger. On 28 November Oates accused her of high treason, & the English House of Commons passed an order for the removal of her & of all Roman Catholics from the Palace of Whitehall. Several further depositions were made against her, & in June 1679 it was decided that she should stand trial, which threat however was lifted by the king's intervention, for which she later showed him much gratitude. At Charles' final illness in 1685, she showed anxiety for his reconciliation with the Roman Catholic faith, & she exhibited great grief at his death. When he lay dying in 1685, he asked for Catherine, but she sent a message asking that her presence be excused & "to beg his pardon if she had offended him all his life." He answered, "Alas poor woman! she asks for my pardon? I beg hers with all my heart; take her back that answer." She returned to Portugal in March 1692. In 1703, she supported the Treaty of Methuen between Portugal & England. She acted as regent for her brother, Peter II, in 1701 & 1704–05. She died at the Bemposta Palace in Lisbon on 31 December 1705 & was buried at the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora Lisbon. Catherine is often credited with the introduction of tea drinking to Britain, although Samuel Pepys makes reference to drinking tea for the first time in his diary entry for 25 September 1660, prior to Catherine's emigration to England & marriage to Charles. It is more likely that she popularised the drink, which was unusual in Britain at the time. Beyond tea, her arrival brought & promulgated goods such as cane, lacquer, cottons, & porcelain
(b. 14 October 1633 – d. 16 September 1701) James II and VII was King of England & Ireland as James II & King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685 until he was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. He was the last Roman Catholic monarch of England, Scotland & Ireland; his reign is now remembered primarily for struggles over religious tolerance. However, it also involved the principles of absolutism & divine right of kings, & his deposition ended a century of political & civil strife by confirming the primacy of Parliament over the Crown. James inherited the thrones of England, Ireland & Scotland from his elder brother Charles II with widespread support in all three countries, largely based on the principles of divine right or birth. Tolerance for his personal Catholicism did not apply to it in general & when the English & Scottish Parliaments refused to pass his measures, James attempted to impose them by decree; it was a political principle, rather than a religious one, that ultimately led to his removal. In June 1688, two events turned dissent into a crisis; the first on 10 June was the birth of James's son & heir James Francis Edward, threatening to create a Roman Catholic dynasty & excluding his Anglican daughter Mary & her Protestant husband William of Orange. The second was the prosecution of the Seven Bishops for seditious libel; this was viewed as an assault on the Church of England & their acquittal on 30 June destroyed his political authority in England. Anti-Catholic riots in England & Scotland now made it seem only his removal as monarch could prevent a civil war. Leading members of the English political class invited William of Orange to assume the English throne; after he landed in Brixham on 5 November 1688, James's army deserted, & he went into exile in France on 23 December. In February 1689, a special Convention Parliament held that the king had "vacated" the English throne & installed William & Mary as joint monarchs, establishing the principle that sovereignty derived from Parliament, not birth. James landed in Ireland on 14 March 1689 in an attempt to recover his kingdoms, but despite a simultaneous rising in Scotland, in April a Scottish Convention followed that of England by finding that James had "forfeited" the throne & offered it to William & Mary. After his defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690, James returned to France, where he spent the rest of his life in exile at Saint-Germain, protected by Louis XIV. Did you know? During the civil war, after the siege of Oxford in 1646, the victorious Parliamentary leaders ordered the then Duke of York to be confined in St James's Palace. Disguised as a woman, he escaped from the Palace in 1648 with the help of Joseph Bampfield, & crossed the North Sea to The Hague.
(b. 4 November 1650 – d. 8 March 1702) William III (Dutch: Willem Hendrik), also widely known as William of Orange, was sovereign Prince of Orange from birth, Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders & Overijssel in the Dutch Republic from the 1670s & King of England, Ireland & Scotland from 1689 until his death. Popular histories usually refer to his joint reign with his wife, Queen Mary II, as that of William & Mary. As King of Scotland, he is known as William II. He is sometimes informally known as "King Billy" in Northern Ireland & Scotland, where his victory at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 is still commemorated by Unionists & Ulster loyalists, often showing orange colours in his honour. William was the only child of William II, Prince of Orange, who died a week before his birth, and Mary, Princess of Orange, the daughter of King Charles I of England. In 1677, during the reign of his uncle King Charles II of England, he married his cousin Mary, the fifteen-year-old daughter of Charles II's brother James, Duke of York. A Protestant, William participated in several wars against the powerful Catholic King Louis XIV of France, in coalition with Protestant & Catholic powers in Europe. Many Protestants heralded him as a champion of their faith. In 1685, his Catholic uncle & father-in-law, James, became King of England, Scotland & Ireland. James's reign was unpopular with the Protestant majority in Britain, who feared a revival of Catholicism. Supported by a group of influential British political & religious leaders, known afterward as the "Immortal Seven", William invaded England in what became known as the Glorious Revolution. In 1688, he landed at the south-western English port of Brixham. Shortly afterwards, James was deposed. William's reputation as a staunch Protestant enabled him & his wife to take power. During the early years of his reign, William was occupied abroad with the Nine Years' War (1688–97), leaving Mary to govern the kingdom alone. She died in 1694. In 1696, the Jacobites plotted unsuccessfully to assassinate William & return his father-in-law to the throne. William's lack of children & the death in 1700 of his nephew Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, the son of his sister-in-law Anne, threatened the Protestant succession. The danger was averted by placing distant relatives, the Protestant Hanoverians, in line. Upon his death in 1702, the king was succeeded in Britain by Anne & as titular Prince of Orange by his cousin, John William Friso. William's primary achievement was to contain France when it was in a position to impose its will across much of Europe. His life's aim was largely to oppose Louis XIV of France. This effort continued after his death during the War of the Spanish Succession. Another important consequence of William's reign in England involved the ending of a bitter conflict between Crown & Parliament that had lasted since the accession of the first English monarch of the House of Stuart, James I, in 1603. The conflict over royal & parliamentary power had led to the English Civil War during the 1640s & the Glorious Revolution of 1688. During William's reign, however, the conflict was settled in Parliament's favour by the Bill of Rights 1689, the Triennial Act 1694 & the Act of Settlement 1701. William endowed the College of William & Mary (in present-day Williamsburg, Virginia) in 1693. Nassau, the capital of The Bahamas, is named after Fort Nassau, which was renamed in 1695 in his honour. Similarly Nassau County, New York, a county on Long Island, is a namesake. Long Island itself was also known as Nassau during early Dutch rule. Though many alumni of Princeton University think that the town of Princeton, New Jersey (& hence the university) were named in his honour, this is probably untrue. Nassau Hall, at the university campus, is so named, however. New York City was briefly renamed New Orange for him in 1673 after the Dutch recaptured the city, which had been renamed New York by the British in 1665. His name was applied to the fort & administrative centre for the city on two separate occasions reflecting his different sovereign status—first as Fort Willem Hendrick in 1673, & then as Fort William in 1691 when the English evicted Colonists who had seized the fort & city The modern day Orange Order is named after William III, & makes a point of celebrating his victory at the Battle of the Boyne with annual parades in Northern Ireland, Liverpool & parts of Scotland & Canada on 12 July.
(b. 6 February 1665 – d. 1 August 1714) Anne was Queen of England, Scotland & Ireland between 8 March 1702 & 1 May 1707. On 1 May 1707, under the Acts of Union, 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’s poor health Anne's final pregnancy ended on 25 January 1700 with a stillbirth. She had been pregnant at least seventeen times over as many years, & had miscarried or given birth to stillborn children at least twelve times. Of her five liveborn children, four died before reaching the age of two. Anne suffered from bouts of "gout" (pains in her limbs & eventually stomach & head) from at least 1698. Based on her foetal losses & physical symptoms, she may have had systemic lupus erythematosus, or antiphospholipid syndrome. Alternatively, pelvic inflammatory disease could explain why the onset of her symptoms roughly coincided with her penultimate pregnancy. Anne's gout rendered her lame for much of her later life. Around the court, she was carried in a sedan chair, or used a wheelchair. Around her estates, she used a one-horse chaise, which she drove herself "furiously like Jehu & a mighty hunter like Nimrod". She gained weight as a result of her sedentary lifestyle.
Anne was crowned on St George's Day, 23 April 1702. She was carried to Westminster Abbey in an open sedan chair, with a low back to permit her train to flow out behind her. There was something of majesty in her look, but mixed with a gloominess of soul". Sir John Clerk, 1st Baronet, described her in 1706 "under a fit of the gout & in extreme pain & agony, & on this occasion everything about her was much in the same disorder as about the meanest of her subjects. Her face, which was red & spotted, was rendered something frightful by her negligent dress, & the foot affected was tied up with a poultice & some nasty bandages. I was much affected by this sight ...". Anne became queen upon the death of King William III on 8 March 1702, & was immediately popular. In her first speech to the English Parliament, on 11 March, she distanced herself from her late Dutch brother-in-law & said, "As I know my heart to be entirely English, I can very sincerely assure you there is not anything you can expect or desire from me which I shall not be ready to do for the happiness & prosperity of England." She took a lively interest in affairs of state, & was a patron of theatre, poetry & music. She subsidised George Frideric Handel with £200 a year. She sponsored high-quality medals as rewards for political or military achievements. They were produced at the Mint by Isaac Newton & John Croker. She knighted Newton when she visited Cambridge in 1705. She attended more cabinet meetings than any of her predecessors or successors, & presided over an age of artistic, literary, scientific, economic & political advancement that was made possible by the stability & prosperity of her reign. In architecture, Sir John Vanbrugh constructed Blenheim Palace & Castle Howard. Queen Anne-style architecture & Queen Anne-style furniture were named after her. Writers such as Daniel Defoe, Alexander Pope, & Jonathan Swift flourished. Henry Wise laid out new gardens at Blenheim, Kensington, Windsor & St James's. The union of England & Scotland, which Anne had fervently supported, created Europe's largest free trade area.
The political & diplomatic achievements of Anne's governments, & the absence of constitutional conflict between monarch & parliament during her reign, indicate that she chose ministers & exercised her prerogatives wisely.
Look out for my next blog The House of Hanover