Wikijunior:Kings and Queens of England/The House of Windsor
George V (1910–1936)[edit | edit source]
The first monarch of the House of Windsor was George V. However, he started out as being of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and so he can be read about in the previous chapter.
Edward VIII (1936)[edit | edit source]
Edward VIII was born at White Lodge, Richmond upon Thames on 23 June 1894. Edward was the eldest son of George V and Queen Mary. He was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas, and Emperor of India from 20 January 1936 until his abdication on 11 December 1936, after which he was Prince Edward and then Duke of Windsor until his death on 28 May 1972. During World War II he was the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Bahamas after spending a great deal of time in Bermuda. He was known to his family and close friends, by his last Christian name, David.
Prince of Wales[edit | edit source]
In 1910, George V made Edward Prince of Wales. When the First World War broke out in 1914 Edward joined the army, serving with the Grenadier Guards. Although Edward was willing to serve on the front lines, the British government refused to allow it, because of the harm that the capture of the heir to the throne would cause. However, Edward did witness at first hand the horror of trench warfare, and visited the front line as often as he could. His role in the war, although limited, led to his great popularity among veterans of the conflict.
Throughout the 1920s the Prince of Wales represented his father, King George V, at home and abroad on many occasions. He took a special interest in visiting the poorest areas of the country. Abroad the Prince of Wales toured the British Empire, undertaking 13 tours between 1919 and 1935.
In 1928, King George V gave Edward a home, Fort Belvedere, near Sunningdale in Berkshire. There Edward had relationships with a series of married women, including the American Wallis Simpson. Simpson had divorced her first husband in 1927 and later married Ernest Simpson. Edward's relationship with Wallis Simpson further weakened his poor relationship with his father, King George V. The King and Queen refused to receive Mrs Simpson at court, and his brother, Prince Albert, urged Edward to seek a more suitable wife. Edward, however, had now fallen in love with Wallis and the couple grew ever closer.
Reign[edit | edit source]
King George V died on 20 January 1936, and Edward became King Edward VIII. The next day he broke royal protocol by watching the proclamation of his own accession to the throne from a window of St James's Palace in the company of the still-married Mrs Simpson. It was also at this time that Edward VIII became the first British monarch to fly in an aeroplane, when he flew from Sandringham to London for his Accession Council.
It was now becoming clear that the new King wished to marry Mrs Simpson, especially when divorce proceedings between Mr and Mrs Simpson were brought at Ipswich Crown Court. Powerful figures in the British government deemed marriage to Mrs Simpson impossible for Edward, even if Wallis obtained her second divorce, because he had become the Supreme Governor of the Church of England which prohibited remarriage after divorce.
On 16 July 1936, an attempt was made on the King's life. Jerome Bannigan produced a loaded revolver as the King rode on horseback at Constitution Hill, near Buckingham Palace. Police spotted the gun and pounced on him, and he was quickly arrested. At Bannigan's trial, he alleged that "a foreign power" had paid him £150 to kill Edward, a claim the court rejected.
On 16 November 1936, Edward met with Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin at Fort Belvedere and expressed his desire to marry Wallis Simpson when she became free to do so. The Prime Minister responded by presenting the King with three choices: he could give up the idea of marriage; marry Wallis against his ministers' wishes; or abdicate. It was clear that Edward was not prepared to give up Wallis. By marrying against the advice of his ministers, it was likely that he would cause the government to resign, prompting a constitutional crisis. The Prime Ministers of the British dominions had also made clear their opposition to the King marrying a divorcée; only the Irish Free State was not opposed to the idea of marriage. Faced with this opposition, Edward chose to abdicate. Edward duly signed an instrument of abdication at Fort Belvedere on 10 December 1936. The next day, he performed his last act as King when he gave Royal Assent to His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act 1936 which applied to the United Kingdom and all the dominions except the Irish Free State. The Free State passed the equivalent External Relations Act, which included the abdication in its schedule, the next day.
On the night of 11 December 1936, Edward, now reverted to the title of The Prince Edward, made a broadcast to the nation and the Empire, explaining his decision to abdicate. He famously said, "I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love."
After the broadcast, Edward left the United Kingdom for France, though he was unable to join Wallis until her divorce became absolute, several months later. His brother, Prince Albert, Duke of York succeeded to the throne as King George VI. George VI made Edward the Duke of Windsor. The Duke of Windsor married Mrs Simpson, who had changed her name by deed poll to Wallis Warfield, in a private ceremony on 3 June 1937 at Chateau de Candé, Monts, France. None of the British royal family attended.
World War II[edit | edit source]
In 1937, the Duke and Duchess visited Germany as personal guests of the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, a visit much publicised by the German media. The couple then settled in France. When the Germans invaded the north of France in May 1940, the Windsors fled south, first to Biarritz, then in June to Spain. In July the pair moved to Lisbon. In August a British warship took them to the Bahamas, where the Duke of Windsor was made Governor. He held the post until the end of World War II in 1945.
Death[edit | edit source]
After the war, the couple returned once again to France in Neuilly near Paris, where they spent much of the remainder of their lives in retirement. The Royal Family never accepted the Duchess and would not receive her formally, although the former King sometimes met his mother and a brother after his abdication. The Duke died of throat cancer in 1972 in Paris, and his body was returned to Britain for burial at Frogmore near Windsor Castle. The Duchess travelled to England to attend his funeral, staying at Buckingham Palace during her visit. The Duchess, on her death a decade and a half later, was buried alongside her husband in Frogmore simply as "Wallis, his wife". The Duke and Duchess had no children.
George VI (1936–1952)[edit | edit source]
George VI was born at York Cottage on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk on 14 December 1895. He was the second son of George V and Queen Mary. He was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the British dominions beyond the seas from 11 December 1936 until his death on 6 February 1952. George VI was also the Emperor of India (until 1947) and King of Ireland (until 1949). George VI came the throne after the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII. He was king during the Second World War. He was known as Bertie, after his first name, Albert, to his family.
Early life[edit | edit source]
As a child, George often suffered from ill health and he was described as "easily frightened and somewhat prone to tears". Albert developed a severe stammer that lasted for many years as well as chronic stomach problems. He also suffered from knock knees, and to correct this he had to wear splints, which were extremely painful. He was also forced to write with his right hand although he was a natural left-hander.
In 1909, Bertie joined the Royal Navy and served as a naval cadet. Despite coming in at the bottom of the class, Albert moved to Dartmouth and served as a midshipman. He was still in the Navy when Edward VII died on 6 May 1910. Albert was now second in line for the throne. Albert served during World War I. He saw action aboard HMS Collingwood in the Battle of Jutland in 1916. In 1917 Albert joined the Royal Air Force but did not see any further action in the war. After the war, Albert studied history, economics and civics for a year at Trinity College, Cambridge, from October 1919. In 1920, he began to take on royal duties, representing his father, King George V.
Marriage and children[edit | edit source]
Albert had a great deal of freedom in choosing his wife. In 1920 he met Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the youngest daughter of Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and set his sights on marrying her. She rejected his proposal twice before she said yes. They were married on 26 April 1923. They had two children: Elizabeth, born in 1926, and Margaret, born in 1930.
Reign[edit | edit source]
The Duke and Duchess lived a relatively sheltered life at their London residence, 145 Piccadilly. When Edward VIII he abdicated on 11 December 1936, however, Albert became King George VI.
The growing likelihood of war in Europe would dominate the reign of King George VI. Initially the King and Queen took an appeasement stance against the German dictator Adolf Hitler, and supported the policy of Neville Chamberlain. In 1939, the King and Queen visited Canada from where they made a shorter visit to the United States of America. George was the first reigning British monarch to visit either of these countries. The aim of the tour was mainly political, to shore up Atlantic support for Britain in any upcoming war. The King and Queen were extremely enthusiastically received by the Canadian public. They were also warmly received by the American people, visiting the 1939 New York World's Fair and staying at the White House with President Roosevelt. When war broke out in 1939, George VI with his wife chose to stay in London and not flee to Canada, as had been suggested. The King and Queen officially stayed in Buckingham Palace throughout the war, although they often escaped to Windsor Castle to avoid bombing raids. George VI and Queen Elizabeth narrowly avoided death when a lone German bomber despatched to bomb Buckingham Palace attacked. The bomb exploded in the courtyard, shattering windows in the palace.
Throughout the war, the King and Queen provided morale-boosting visits throughout the UK, visiting bomb sites and munition factories. On Victory in Europe (VE) Day, the Royal Family appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to celebrate the end of the war in Europe. After the war, George VI's reign saw the start of the break up of the British Empire, in particular when India became an independent dominion, with George VI giving up the title of Emperor of India.
Death[edit | edit source]
The war had taken its toll on the King's health. This was made worse by his heavy smoking and he got lung cancer. Increasingly his daughter Princess Elizabeth, the heir to the throne, would take on more of the royal duties as her father's health got worse. On 6 February 1952, George VI died aged 56 in his sleep at Sandringham House in Norfolk. He was buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle. In 2002, the body of his wife Elizabeth and the ashes of his daughter Princess Margaret were interred in a tomb alongside him.
Elizabeth II (1952–2022)[edit | edit source]
Elizabeth II was born at 17 Bruton Street in Mayfair, London on 21 April 1926. She was the eldest daughter of George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Elizabeth II was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of many other independent nations. She became Queen on 6 February 1952 at age 25, and ruled until her death on 8 September 2022. Her 70-year reign was the second-longest after King Louis XIV of France (72 years), and the longest of any British monarch ever.
Early life[edit | edit source]
Elizabeth was thirteen years old when World War II broke out. She and her younger sister, Princess Margaret, were evacuated to Windsor Castle, Berkshire. There was some suggestion that the princesses be sent to Canada, but their mother refused to consider this, famously saying, "The children could not possibly go without me, I wouldn't leave without the King, and the King will never leave". In 1940 Princess Elizabeth made her first radio broadcast, addressing other children who had been evacuated.
In 1945 Princess Elizabeth joined the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service. She was the first and so far only female member of the royal family actually to serve in the military. Elizabeth made her first official visit overseas in 1947, when she went with her parents to South Africa. On her 21st birthday she made a broadcast to the British Commonwealth and Empire pledging to devote her life to the service of the people of the Commonwealth and Empire.
Marriage and children[edit | edit source]
Elizabeth married Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark on 20 November 1947, who was created the Duke of Edinburgh on the same date. The Duke was Queen Elizabeth's second cousin once removed, as they both descended from Christian IX of Denmark. The couple were also third cousins. After their wedding Philip and Elizabeth took up residence at Clarence House, London. But at various times between 1946 and 1953, the Duke of Edinburgh was stationed in Malta as a serving Royal Navy officer. Philip and Elizabeth lived in Malta for a period between 1949 and 1951. On 14 November 1948 Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, Charles. They later had three other children: Anne, Andrew and Edward.
Reign[edit | edit source]
King George's health declined during 1951 and Elizabeth frequently stood in for him at public events. She visited Greece, Italy and Malta (where Philip was then stationed) during the year. In October she toured Canada and visited President Truman in Washington, DC. In January 1952 Elizabeth and Philip set out for a tour of Australia and New Zealand. They had reached Kenya when word arrived of the death of her father on 6 February 1952. They were staying at the Treetops Hotel, where Prince Philip was the one who informed Elizabeth that she was now queen.
After the coronation, Elizabeth and Philip moved to Buckingham Palace in central London. It is believed, however, that like many of her predecessors she dislikes the Palace as a residence and considers Windsor Castle, west of London, to be her home. She also spends time at Balmoral Castle in Scotland and at Sandringham House in Norfolk.
At the time of Elizabeth's accession there was much talk of a "new Elizabethan age". As nations have developed economically and in literacy, Queen Elizabeth has witnessed over the past 50 years a gradual transformation of the British Empire into its modern successor, the Commonwealth. She has worked hard to maintain links with former British possessions, and in some cases, such as South Africa after the end of Apartheid, she has played an important role in retaining or restoring good relations. Queen Elizabeth has become the most widely travelled head of state in history and has visited many Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth countries. Her son Charles, the Prince of Wales, welcomed his first child Prince William in 1982.
In 2002, Queen Elizabeth celebrated her Golden Jubilee, marking the 50th anniversary of her accession to the Throne. The year saw a large tour of the Commonwealth Realms, including numerous parades and official concerts. Then in 2012, the Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, marking the 60th anniversary of her accession to the Throne. A year later, her grandson William had his first son Prince George. Queen Elizabeth surpassed her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria to become the longest-reigning British monarch in 2015, and she later became the first British monarch to celebrate her Sapphire Jubilee (65 years) and Platinum Jubilee (70 years) on the throne.
In 2021, the Queen's husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, died age 99, after 73 years of marriage. Her health started to decline around the same time, and it became more common for the Queen to cancel royal engagements. At the State Opening of Parliament in 2021, she could not attend, and Prince Charles had to give the speech from the throne in her place. Queen Elizabeth was also absent from the celebrations of her Platinum Jubilee during the summer of 2022. Seven months later, on 8 September 2022, she died at Balmoral age 96, bringing the second Elizabethan era to an end.
Charles III (2022 onwards)[edit | edit source]
Charles III was born at Buckingham Palace in London on 14 November 1948. He is the eldest son of Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Charles III is King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and 14 other independent nations, as well as Head of the Commonwealth. He became King on 8 September 2022 after the death of his mother. He was only 3 years old when his mother became Queen, but 73 when she died. This makes Charles both the longest-serving heir to the British throne, and the oldest new king in British history.
Before his accession, Charles (at the time known as the Prince of Wales) worked extensively on charity, particularly for the Prince's Trust. His personal life drew a large amount of public attention, particularly his marriages to the late Lady Diana Spencer and later to Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. In the final years of his mother's life, Charles began taking over some of her royal duties.
Early life[edit | edit source]
Charles was born when his grandfather George VI was on the throne, and his mother Elizabeth was first in line. When George VI died in 1952, his mother became Queen as Elizabeth II. Charles became first in line, and also gained the titles Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay (in Scotland only), which are titles that both automatically go to the heir to the throne.
He went to Hill House School in West London, and later the Cheam preparatory school in Berkshire, which the Duke of Edinburgh had also gone to. The Prince finished his education at Gordonstoun, a private boarding school in the north east of Scotland. His father, the Duke of Edinburgh, had previously attended Gordonstoun, becoming head boy. It is often reported that the Prince hated his time at the school, where he was a frequent target for bullies. In 1966 Charles spent two terms at Geelong Grammar School in Victoria, Australia during which time he also visited Papua New Guinea. On his return to Gordonstoun he followed in his father's footsteps by becoming head boy. In 1967 he left Gordonstoun with two A levels, in history and French.
Traditionally, the heir to the throne would go straight into the military after finishing school. However, Charles went to university at Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied Anthropology and Archaeology, and later History, earning a 2:2 (a lower second class degree). Charles was the first member of the British royal family to be awarded a degree. He also went to the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth to learn the Welsh language, making him the first English-born Prince of Wales ever to make a serious attempt to do so.
He was created the Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester in 1958, though his actual investiture did not take place until 1 July 1969. This was a major ceremony, held at Caernarfon Castle in north Wales, a place traditionally associated with the creation of the title in the 13th century. The Welsh borough of Swansea was granted city status to mark the occasion. He served on HMS Norfolk as Sub Luietenant Prince of Wales in the early seventies.
Marriages and children[edit | edit source]
In 1980, the Prince of Wales began dating Lady Diana Spencer (born 1961), a woman from the Spencer family of nobility. They announced their engagement on 24 February 1981, and their wedding took place at St Paul's Cathedral on 29 July 1981, before 3,500 invited guests. An estimated 750 million people watched it on television around the world, making it one of the most viewed events in television history. Almost immediately, Princess Diana became a star attraction, chased by the press, her every move (including every change in hairstyle) closely followed by millions. However, the marriage soon became troubled. Within five years of the wedding the marriage was already on the brink of collapse, and though they remained publicly a couple, they had effectively separated by the mid-1990s, with him living in Highgrove and her in Kensington Palace. They divorced on 28 August 1996. They had had two sons, Prince William born in 1982 and Prince Henry (known by the name "Harry") born two years later. Princess Diana died in a car accident in Paris, France in 1997.
During Charles and Diana's marriage, and even before it, rumors were circulating that Charles was having an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles (herself married to British Army officer Andrew Parker Bowles). Prince Charles confirmed this after his and Diana's divorce, explaining that this was one reason for why their marriage fell apart. As Camilla and her husband had also divorced, Charles and Camilla's relationship became publicly known. Over time, opinion shifted to a point where a civil marriage would be acceptable. They married on 9 April 2005 at Windsor Guildhall in Berkshire.
Out of respect for Diana, who in the eyes of the public had become closely associated with the title Princess of Wales, it was announced that Camilla would not use this title (even though she as the wife of the Prince of Wales was formally entitled to do so). Camilla was instead Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall. It was also decided at the time that when Prince Charles one day became king, Camilla would be known as princess consort rather than queen. At the Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2022, the Queen announced that she wanted Camilla to be known as queen when Charles became king, which happened when Elizabeth II died later that year.
Personal interests[edit | edit source]
Charles is a keen horseman and huntsman. He served in the Royal Navy from 1971 to 1976, commanding HMS Bronington, a minehunter, from February 1976 until December 1976. He is also a watercolour artist and a published writer. He has exhibited and sold a number of paintings. The Prince's Trust, which he founded, is a charity that works mainly with young people, offering loans to groups, businesses and people (often in deprived areas) who had difficulty receiving outside support. Fundraising concerts are regularly held for the Prince's Trust, with leading pop, rock and classical musicians taking part
To put his ideas on architecture and town planning into practice, Charles is developing the village of Poundbury in Dorset. Prior to commencing work on Poundbury he had published a book and produced a documentary called A Vision for Britain. In 1992 he also established The Prince of Wales Institute of Architecture and began the publication of a magazine dealing with architecture, but the latter has since ceased independent operation after being merged with another charity to create The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment in 2001. He is also keen on growing and promoting organic food, although he drew some ridicule when he joked about sometimes talking to his houseplants. Before becoming king, Charles was president of 16 charities, and raised over £100 million for charity in 2004.
Reign[edit | edit source]
Charles became king immediately when his mother died on 8 September 2022. The following day, he named his eldest son William as the new Prince of Wales. Charles III and his wife Camilla were coronated on 6 May 2023 in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey.