The first Celtic tribes are believed to have come to the British Isles between 800 and 700 BC from France and Belgium. Two centuries later they were followed by the Brythons or ancient Britons after whom the country was called Britain. The Breton spoken Celts settled in England, but Gaelic spoken Celts settled in Ireland.
The first Roman invasion was led by Julius Caesar in 55 BC. But Britain was not conquered until some 90 years later, under Emperor Claudius, in 43 AD. Although the Roman occupation of Britain lasted nearly 400 years, its effects were few. The people did not adopt the Latin language and so Latin did not displace Celtic.
In the middle of the 5th century, three Germanic tribes - The Angles, Saxons and Jute's invaded Britain from the continent. In 597 St. Augustin came from Rome to converse Anglo-Saxons into Christianity.
From the 8th century the Anglo-Saxons had to face Scandinavian invaders - the Danes and the Norsemen sometimes refereed to as Vikings - who occupied parts of Britain and made some permanent settlements. The Scandinavian invasions continued till the 11th century.
Alfred the Great was King of Wessex from 871 to 899. The country was named England. Alfred successfully defended his kingdom against the Viking attempt at conquest, and by the time of his death had become the dominant ruler in England. He is the only English monarch to be accorded the epithet "the Great". Alfred was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself "King of the Anglo-Saxons".
Alfred had a reputation as a learned and merciful man of a gracious and level-headed nature who encouraged education and improved his kingdom's legal system, military structure and his people's quality of life.
Cnut the Great was a king of Denmark, England, Norway, and parts of Sweden from 1016 till 1035, together often referred to as the Anglo-Scandinavian or North Sea Empire. After his death, the deaths of his heirs within a decade, and the Norman conquest of England in 1066, his legacy was largely lost to history.
The Battle of Hastings was fought on 14 October 1066 between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy and an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King Harold II, beginning the Norman conquest of England. It took place approximately 7 miles (11 kilometres) northwest of Hastings, close to the present-day town of Battle, East Sussex, and was a decisive Norman victory.
The background to the battle was the death of the childless King Edward the Confessor in January 1066, which set up a succession struggle between several claimants to his throne. Harold was crowned king shortly after Edward's death, but faced invasions by William, his own brother Tostig and the Norwegian King Harald Hardrada (Harold III of Norway).
William I, usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard, was the first Norman King of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087. The descendant of Viking raiders, he had been Duke of Normandy since 1035 under the style William II. After a long struggle to establish his power, by 1060 his hold on Normandy was secure, and he launched the Norman conquest of England in 1066. The rest of his life was marked by struggles to consolidate his hold over England and his continental lands and by difficulties with his eldest son.
William was the son of the unmarried Robert I, Duke of Normandy, by Robert's mistress Herleva.
In 1086 William ordered the compilation of the Domesday Book, a survey listing all the landholders in England along with their holdings.
William died in September 1087 while leading a campaign in northern France, and was buried in Caen.
The period of feudalism started around 1066 and lasted to the 15th century. In this period the modern English nation and language came into being. It was a period of struggle for power between kings and between powerful nobles, a period of frequent wars. But it was also a period in which the development of the wool trade and the early decline of feudalism prepared the way for England's rise as a world power.
Richard I was King of England from 6 July 1189 until his death. He also ruled as Duke of Normandy (as Richard IV), Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Poitiers, Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Count of Nantes, and Overlord of Brittany at various times during the same period. He was the third of five sons of King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. He was known as Richard Cœur de Lion or Richard the Lionheart because of his reputation as a great military leader and warrior. He was also known in Occitan as Oc e No (Yes and No), because of his reputation for terseness.
By the age of 16, Richard had taken command of his own army, putting down rebellions in Poitou against his father. Richard was a central Christian commander during the Third Crusade, leading the campaign after the departure of Philip II of France and scoring considerable victories against his Muslim counterpart, Saladin, although he did not reconquer Jerusalem from Saladin
The Wars of the Roses were a series of dynastic wars for the throne of England. They were fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet, the houses of Lancaster and York. They were fought in several sporadic episodes between 1455 and 1487, although there was related fighting before and after this period. The conflict resulted from social and financial troubles that followed the Hundred Years' War, combined with the mental infirmity and weak rule of Henry VI, which revived interest in the alternative claim to the throne of Richard, Duke of York.
The final victory went to a Lancastrian claimant, Henry Tudor, who defeated the last Yorkist king, Richard III, at the Battle of Bosworth Field. After assuming the throne as Henry VII, Henry Tudor married Elizabeth of York, the daughter of Edward IV, thereby uniting the two houses. In an era leading to what is sometimes referred to as the "Golden Age" of Elizabeth, the House of Tudor ruled England and Wales until 1603.
The name Wars of the Roses refers to the Heraldic badges associated with the two royal houses, the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster.
The period between 1485 and 1603 is known as the Tudor Period. It was a turning point in English history. England became one of the leading powers.
Henry VII (Welsh: Harri Tudur; 28 January 1457 – 21 April 1509) was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor.
Henry won the throne when his forces defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of England to win his throne on the field of battle. Henry cemented his claim by marrying Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and niece of Richard III. Henry was successful in restoring the power and stability of the English monarchy after the political upheavals of the civil wars known as the Wars of the Roses. He founded the Tudor dynasty and, after a reign of nearly 24 years, was peacefully succeeded by his son, Henry VIII.
Henry VIII (28 June 1491 – 28 January 1547) was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later assumed the Kingship, of Ireland, and continued the nominal claim by English monarchs to the Kingdom of France. Henry was the second monarch of the Tudor dynasty, succeeding his father, Henry VII.
Besides his six marriages, Henry VIII is known for his role in the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. His disagreements with the Pope led to his separation of the Church of England from papal authority, with himself, as King, as the Supreme Head of the Church of England, and to the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Because his principal dispute was with papal authority, rather than with doctrinal matters, he remained a believer in core Catholic theological teachings, despite his excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church. Henry oversaw the legal union of England and Wales with the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542. He is also well known for a long personal rivalry with both Francis I of France and the Habsburg monarch Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire (King Charles I of Spain), his contemporaries with whom he frequently warred.
Domestically, he is known for his radical changes to the English Constitution, ushering in the theory of the divine right of kings to England. Besides asserting the sovereign's supremacy over the Church of England, thus initiating the English Reformation, he greatly expanded royal power. Charges of treason and heresy were commonly used to quash dissent, and those accused were often executed without a formal trial, by means of bills of attainder. He achieved many of his political aims through the work of his chief ministers, some of whom were banished or executed when they fell out of his favour. Figures such as Thomas Wolsey, Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell, Richard Rich, and Thomas Cranmer figured prominently in Henry's administration. An extravagant spender, he used the proceeds from the Dissolution of the Monasteries and acts of the Reformation Parliament to convert to royal revenue money formerly paid to Rome. Despite the influx of money from these sources, Henry was continually on the verge of financial ruin, due to his personal extravagance, as well as his numerous costly continental wars.
His contemporaries considered Henry in his prime to be an attractive, educated and accomplished king, and he has been described as "one of the most charismatic rulers to sit on the English throne". Besides ruling with considerable power, he was also an author and composer. His desire to provide England with a male heir – which stemmed partly from personal vanity and partly from his belief that a daughter would be unable to consolidate Tudor power and maintain the fragile peace that existed following the Wars of the Roses – led to the two things for which Henry is most remembered: his six marriages and his break with the Pope (who would not allow an annulment of Henry's first marriage) and the Roman Catholic Church, leading to the English Reformation. Henry became severely obese and his health suffered, contributing to his death in 1547. He is frequently characterised in his later life as a lustful, egotistical, harsh, and insecure king. He was succeeded by his son Edward VI.
Edward VI (12 October 1537 – 6 July 1553) was King of England and Ireland from 28 January 1547 until his death. He was crowned on 20 February at the age of nine.The son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, Edward was the third monarch of the Tudor dynasty and England's first monarch raised as a Protestant. During Edward's reign, the realm was governed by a Regency Council because he never reached his majority. The Council was first led by his uncle Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, (1547–1549), and then by John Dudley, 1st Earl of Warwick, from 1551 Duke of Northumberland.
Mary I (18 February 1516 – 17 November 1558) was the Queen of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death. Her executions of Protestants caused her opponents to give her the sobriquet "Bloody Mary".
She was the only child of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon who survived to adulthood. Her younger half-brother Edward VI (son of Henry and Jane Seymour) succeeded their father in 1547. When Edward became mortally ill in 1553, he attempted to remove Mary from the line of succession because of religious differences. On his death their first cousin once removed, Lady Jane Grey, was initially proclaimed queen. Mary assembled a force in East Anglia and successfully deposed Jane, who was ultimately beheaded. Mary was—excluding the disputed reigns of Jane and the Empress Matilda—the first queen regnant of England. In 1554, Mary married Philip of Spain, becoming queen consort of Habsburg Spain on his accession in 1556.
As the fourth crowned monarch of the Tudor dynasty, Mary is remembered for her restoration of Roman Catholicism after the short-lived Protestant reign of her half-brother. During her five-year reign, she had over 280 religious dissenters burned at the stake in the Marian persecutions. Her re-establishment of Roman Catholicism was reversed after her death in 1558 by her younger half-sister and successor Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry and Anne Boleyn.
Elizabeth I (7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, the childless Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty.
Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII by second wife, Anne Boleyn, who was executed two and a half years after Elizabeth's birth. Anne's marriage to Henry VIII was annulled, and Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. Her half-brother, Edward VI, ruled until his death in 1553, bequeathing the crown to Lady Jane Grey and ignoring the claims of his two half-sisters, Elizabeth and the Roman Catholic Mary, in spite of statute law to the contrary. Edward's will was set aside and Mary became queen, deposing Lady Jane Grey. During Mary's reign, Elizabeth was imprisoned for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels.
In 1558, Elizabeth succeeded her half-sister to the throne and set out to rule by good counsel. She depended heavily on a group of trusted advisers, led by William Cecil, Baron Burghley. One of her first actions as queen was the establishment of an English Protestant church, of which she became the Supreme Governor. This Elizabethan Religious Settlement was to evolve into the Church of England. It was expected that Elizabeth would marry and produce an heir to continue the Tudor line. She never did, despite numerous courtships. As she grew older, Elizabeth became famous for her virginity. A cult grew around her which was celebrated in the portraits, pageants, and literature of the day.
In government, Elizabeth was more moderate than her father and half-siblings had been. One of her mottoes was "video et taceo" ("I see, and say nothing"). In religion she was relatively tolerant and avoided systematic persecution. After 1570, when the pope declared her illegitimate and released her subjects from obedience to her, several conspiracies threatened her life, all of which were defeated with the help of her ministers' secret service. Elizabeth was cautious in foreign affairs, manoeuvring between the major powers of France and Spain. She only half-heartedly supported a number of ineffective, poorly resourced military campaigns in the Netherlands, France, and Ireland. By the mid-1580s, England could no longer avoid war with Spain. England's defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 associated Elizabeth with one of the greatest military victories in English history.
Elizabeth's reign is known as the Elizabethan era. The period is famous for the flourishing of English drama, led by playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, and for the seafaring prowess of English adventurers such as Francis Drake. Some historians depict Elizabeth as a short-tempered, sometimes indecisive ruler, who enjoyed more than her share of luck. Towards the end of her reign, a series of economic and military problems weakened her popularity. Elizabeth is acknowledged as a charismatic performer and a dogged survivor in an era when government was ramshackle and limited, and when monarchs in neighbouring countries faced internal problems that jeopardised their thrones. Such was the case with Elizabeth's rival, Mary, Queen of Scots, whom she imprisoned in 1568 and had executed in 1587. After the short reigns of Elizabeth's half-siblings, her 44 years on the throne provided welcome stability for the kingdom and helped forge a sense of national identity.
James VI and I (19 June 1566 – 27 March 1625) was King of Scotland as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the Scottish and English crowns on 24 March 1603 until his death. The kingdoms of Scotland and England were individual sovereign states, with their own parliaments, judiciary, and laws, though both were ruled by James in personal union.
James was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and a great-great-grandson of Henry VII, King of England and Lord of Ireland (through both his parents), uniquely positioning him to eventually accede to all three thrones. James succeeded to the Scottish throne at the age of thirteen months, after his mother Mary was compelled toabdicate 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 and Ireland, Elizabeth I, who died without issue. He continued to reign in all three kingdoms for 22 years, a period known as the Jacobean era after him, until his death in 1625 at the age of 58. After the Union of the Crowns, he based himself in England (the largest of the three realms) from 1603, only returning to Scotland once in 1617, and styled himself "King of Great Britain and Ireland". He was a major advocate of a single parliament for both England and Scotland. In his reign, the Plantation of Ulster and British colonisation of the Americas began.
At 57 years and 246 days, James's reign in Scotland was longer than those of any of his predecessors. He achieved most of his aims in Scotland but faced great difficulties in England, including the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 and repeated conflicts with the English Parliament. Under James, the "Golden Age" of Elizabethan literature and drama continued, with writers such as William Shakespeare, John Donne, Ben Jonson, and Sir Francis Bacon contributing to a flourishing literary culture. James himself was a talented scholar, the author of works such as Daemonologie (1597), True Law of Free Monarchies (1598), and Basilikon Doron (1599). He sponsored the translation of the Bible that was named after him: the Authorised 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 and treat him as a serious and thoughtful monarch.