Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Brief History of the British Royal Family

I was going to post on Evolution today as part of my series, but it has come to my attention that far too many of my friends basically have no idea who the members of the British Royal Family are. When posed with the question, "Who is Prince William's parents?" I got the following responses:

1) I don't know.
2) The Queen of England.
3) Is Prince William the guy getting married this week?

People, this is atrocious. Not because I'm a huge fan of royalty or follow them or anything. Everything I know about British royalty I learned in history class or watching the news (which I rarely watch). The reason this is atrocious is because I believe its a symptom of many Americans not having any idea of what's going on outside of the world.

So to help everyone out, here is your crash course. Everything I know about British royalty in Timeline Form:

Ok, so I have no idea why its adding a billion spaces between my words and the table. I can't find an error in my html. So just scroll down.

1066The Battle of Hastings. William the Conqueror came from Normandy (France) and basically conquered England. So he's the first king of England. William I if you will.
The Magna Carta. So Richard the Lionheart is king, goes out during the Crusades and leaves Prince John in charge. Because he wasn't the head honcho, he got pressured by nobles to hand them over more power via Magna Carta.
The War of the Roses. I'm really not sure what this is all about. There were different factions represented by different colors and they were fighting over the throne and killing each other and a lot of chaos happened.
early 1500s
Henry VIII. He really wanted a son, but his wife Catherine of Aragon only gave him a daughter (Mary). So he wanted to divorce her but she was like cousins with the pope so the pope was like "No way, Jose." So he broke away from the Catholic Church and created the Anglican Church, divorced her, and married Anne Boleyn. But she didn't give him a son either. All in all he went through six wives. Can't remember what happened to them? Just remember "Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived."
mid 1500s
Bloody Mary. After Henry VIII died his only son Edward ruled for a little while, but he was a sickly child. When he died the daughter of Catherine of Aragon was brought in to rule. But she had been raised by her mother in Spain, so she was Catholic and thought all the Anglicans were heretics. So she killed a whole lot of them off. Hence Mary I became known as Bloody Mary.
late 1500s to early 1600s
Elizabeth I. After Mary, her sister Elizabeth I was brought in. Her rule was basically considered a golden age. Shakespeare was around during her rule.
1588The Spanish Armada. Spain thought they could overtake Britain while Elizabeth was queen, but they were sorely mistaken. The British defeated them with their lighter, quicker ships. This marks the end of Spanish as a big power in Europe.
post Elizabeth, pre-1688
The Cromwell Sandwich. Elizabeth had no kids, so when she died James I became king, James was the King of Scotland the son of Mary Queen of the Scots (not to be confused with Mary I). This brought Scotland in under British rule, so now Britain is made up of England, Ireland, and Scotland. After he died, his son Charles I took over. He had some problems as ruler and was beheaded by his people. Thus Oliver Cromwell (not a royal) came into control of England. He was basically dictator of England. But in the end, Charles II was called back to England to be king. When he died, James II was brought in to be king. Thus completing the "Cromwell Sandwich": James, Charles, Cromwell, Charles, James.
The Glorious Revolution. So James II was Catholic, which caused all sorts of problems. But Parliament didn't want another Cromwell-esque fiasco. But James II had a daughter, Mary, who had married a guy named William of Orange. So Parliament sort of politely invited him to invade England. James II fled and William was made joint king with Mary as joint Queen: William III and Mary II. As far as I know this is the only case of a joint King/Queen situation in England. Despite common thought, marrying a king does not make you queen (or vice versa). It just makes you their spouse.
early 1700s
First Prime Minister. William and Mary died around 1700 and Anne became Queen. But she also died without a successor. And somehow the only viable member of the royal family left was a German. So George of Hanover (George I) was made king. Now, this could be all wrong, but my AP Euro teacher way back in the day gave me the impression that George I didn't speak English very well. So Robert Walpole, a powerful statesman, ended up with a lot of power. And he is generally recognized as the first Prime Minister of Great Britain.
Queen Victoria. I really have no idea what happened between Robert Walpole and Queen Victoria but I think Disraeli and Gladstone were involved (rivals in the British Parliament). And all I know about Queen Victoria was that she married a guy named Albert and not only had a lot of children but married them off extremely well. Which is why all the rulers involved in WWI were actually first cousins. They were all grandchildren of Queen Victoria.
I actually have no idea who was monarch. But I know a lot about the three different movements that almost destroyed Britain before WWI was declared (the suffragettes, the Irish Home Rule, and the workers unions). And about Churchill and WWII. Just not who was King/Queen.
Queen Elizabeth II ascends the throne. She is the current Queen of England.

So now that we're all caught up to the current monarch, let me give a brief family tree.

Queen Elizabeth's heir is Prince Charles. Prince Charles married Princess Diana and they had two kids, William and Harry. William is second in line to the throne. Prince Charles and Princess Diana got divorced and then in 1997 Princess Diana was killed in a car crash.

Prince William is marrying Kate Middleton on Friday.

Are we all caught up? My friends, you no longer have an excuse about not knowing this stuff.

And I now feel an urge to look up who was monarch during WWI and WWII as well about all that Disraeli/Gladstone business.