The Kings of England: 1509 to 1820

The Kings and Queens of England received the loyalty of their subject in various degrees. To understand the politics of the day, and the reasons the people in the Winthrop fleet of 1630 felt threatened, and the reasons the people of 1772 felt the English king was “foreign”, it helps to understand the line of succession of the monarchs of those times.

Henry VII (TUDOR) (d. 1509) left children which included Margaret and Henry VIII.

Henry VIII not only established the King of England as firmly ruling the country, but also, important to the history of England and New England, Henry VIII broke England from the Roman Catholic Church and started the Church of England. The Church of England, with the King of England as the head of the Church, became the legally the established church, in which all persons in England subjects were to worship and were to support by tithing of their incomes. For the next two hundred years, internal dissension on who should be the King of England was due in large part to the prevailing English view that the Catholic religion was the “wrong” religion, and the attempts by later monarchs to return the country to the Catholic religion.

Henry VIII secured parliamentary authorization to will the crown as he chose among the children of his various wives. With a disregard of the niceties of law, he fixed the succession to be first his son Edward, than his daughter Mary, then his daughter Elizabeth. When Henry VIII died in 1547, his son Edward VI (d. 1553 at the age of 16) carried forward the Church of England his father had started, by authorizing the first Church of England Prayer Book.

After Edward’s death the crown went to his sister Mary I. Mary I, known as “bloody Mary” attempted to restore Catholicism and married the very Catholic King Phillip of Spain. Fortunately, when Mary died in 1558, her successor Elizabeth I restored calm and peace and order to England.

Elizabeth I was a successful monarch, and a “tough act to follow:” When Elizabeth died in 1603 she had no direct descendents.

With the death of Elizabeth, Parliament looked to find a new King or Queen. Parliament looked backward in her line to where Henry VIII had a sister Margaret Tudor. Margaret had married James IV of Scotland (STUART). James IV of Scotland and Mary had left children that included James V, King of Scotts who, in turn, left a child Mary, Queen of Scotts, who, in turn had a son James VI of Scotland.

Thus, at the death of Elizabeth I the English crown was placed on James VI of Scotland who became the king of England, known as James I of England, (STUART) (d. 1625). Thereby there became a union of England and Scotland under the kingship of the same person.

James VI of Scotland and I of England died in 1625. His son Charles I became king.

After a troublesome session with parliament, Charles I in 1629 resolved to rule without parliament and dissolved it. Tumultuous times resulted, with justified fear that Charles I would impose the Catholic religion on his subjects, would increase his use of his army in enforcing his civil decrees on his subjects, and would increase taxes on the populace. It was then that the Massachusetts Bay Colony settlers set out to form a new colony in New England.

Later in the reign of Charles I, namely in 1642, the first English Civil War began, with great violence and turmoil that turned the kingdom upside down for four years. The second English Civil War then began, ending with the execution of Charles I in 1651.

With the death of Charles I, the crown went into “limbo”, while Cromwell became Lord Protector of the “commonwealth”. The commonwealth was formally established in 1653 and lasted from 1649 to 1660. The monarchy was restored at the death of Cromwell and the crown went to Charles II (d. 1685). His son James became James II. One of his children was Mary, who had married William II of Orange.

When James II died, Parliament ultimately decided to ask his daughter Mary, who became Mary II (d. 1694) to become Queen and have her husband be King (William II). When he died the crown went by regular succession to Mary’s son William III (ORANGE).

When William III of Orange died in 1702, the line of succession reverted, under regular rules of succession, back to the Stuart line of James II, to wit: to James II’s daughter Anne I (d. 1714).

When Anne I died in 1714 she had no direct descendents. Parliament then then looked backwards to the line of James VI of Scotland and I of England, James VI of Scotland and I of England had left a line that married into the Electors of Hanover who ruled an area in what is today Germany. The Hanover Elector at the time was George, who became George I of England I (HANOVER) (d. 1727)

So with the death of George I in 1717, there succeeded George II (d. 1760), and George III, who had a long reign through the American Revolution, the American war of 1812, and the Napoleonic Wars, dying in 1820.