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List of British monarchs

This is a list of British monarchs, that is, the monarchs on the thrones of the various kingdoms that have existed on, or incorporated, the island of Great Britain, namely

Table of contents

Complications over Title and Style

Royal titles are also complicated because in some cases, names of kingdoms are used that did not officially come into existence until later, or came into existence earlier without immediate adoption of the royal title.

  • For example, in October 1604, one year after James VI of Scotland had become king of England, he decreed that the Royal Title would use the term 'Great Britain' to refer to the "one Imperiall Crowne" made up of England and Scotland. However using that title is problematical because the 'state' of Great Britain was only created in the 1707 Act of Union. Nor was the united crown generally referred to as 'imperial'. Furthermore, monarchs continued to use ordinals attached to the two previous kingdoms, for instance James VII/II. To avoid confusion, historians in general thus refer to all monarchs up to 1707 as monarchs of 'England' and 'Scotland' (so explaining their two ordinals where they existed), with the monarch's title at all times accurately following the 'official' name or names of the state or states they reigned over, where it differed from the official royal title. (Hence though many English and British monarchs claimed 'France' as part of their official title, as that had no reality in substance it isn't used.)

  • In different documents, the terms 'Kingdom of Great Britain' and 'United Kingdom of Great Britain' feature, even documents as official as the 1707 Act of Union. Most historians presume the 'United' was meant to be descriptive (indicating a union as a form of unity by marriage rather than coercion). For clarity and because the 'United' is far more strongly associated with the later name United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland produced in the 1801 Act of Union, the 1707 kingdom is generally referred to as the Kingdom of Great Britain.

  • Similarly, though the Irish Free State ceased to be part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1922, neither the full name of the United Kingdom nor the royal title was changed until the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act[?], 1927. In this instance historians generally retrospectively date the coming into being of the modern United Kingdom to December 1922, even though in this case the formal change did not occur for another five years.

The list of monarchs below cannot be exhaustive. For succession to the many thrones often did not pass smoothly from parent to child; lack of heirs, civil wars, murders and invasions affected the inheritance in ways that a simple list does not show. The relationships that formed the basis for claims to throne are noted where we know them, and the dates of reign indicated.

Scottish monarchs Prior to the formation of Scotland, Dalriada, Strathclyde, Bernicia and the seven kingdoms of the Picts occupied the northern third of Britain.

The kingdom of Scotland is taken to have begun when Kenneth mac Alpin became king of the Picts and the Dalriadan Scots. However the kingdoms of Strathclyde and Bernicia were still independent of it. Strathclyde became part of Scotland in the reign of Duncan I.

The House of Dunkeld[?]

The Wars of Scottish Independence

When Margaret died, there was no clear heir, and King Edward I of England took over, installing a puppet.

John Balliol rebelled, and Scotland was plunged into war. In the end, independence was secured under a new dynasty.

The House of Bruce[?]

The House of Balliol[?]

The House of Stewart[?] (Stuart)

The House of Orange

  • his daughter, Mary II (1689-1694) and her husband (and cousin) William II (William III of England) (1689-1702), reigned together during Mary's life as "William and Mary"
  • William was succeeded by James VII's younger daughter Anne (1702-1707)

In 1707, with the Act of Union, the thrones of England and Scotland were formally united as the United Kingdom of Great Britain, keeping the numbering system of England. See GB and UK monarchs below.

Rulers of Wales

Prior to 1282, Wales was independent of England, consisting of a number of separate principalities. See List of rulers of Wales for full details.

English monarchs After the departure of the Romans and prior to the formation of England, various British, Viking and Anglo-Saxon kingdoms existed in the southern two-thirds of Britain. Between 400 and 1000 the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms gradually conquered the others, amalgamating to form England.

The Bretwalda

The Bretwalda were chosen from among the rulers of the various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England. There was not always a Bretwalda.

The Saxon kings

By this time, the kings of Wessex had become established as kings of England.

The Danelaw

For a period of time, both Danish and Saxon kings claimed the throne of England.

The Saxon restoration

The Norman kings

After the Norman Conquest in 1066, numbering of kings began anew; this affected only the Edwards.

The Angevins or Plantagenets

The House of Lancaster

The Houses of Lancaster and York fought the Wars of the Roses over the English crown.

The House of York

The House of Tudor

The House of Stuart

The Commonwealth and Protectorate

There was no king between Charles I's execution in 1649 and the restoration in 1660, but there were two Lords Protector during the Protectorate.

The Stuart restoration

The House of Orange

Monarchs of Great Britain

In 1707, with the Act of Union, the thrones of England and Scotland were formally united as the throne of the Kingdom of Great Britain.

The House of Stuart

  • The daughter of James (II of England; VII of Scotland), Anne (1707-1714)

The House of Hanover

Monarchs of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Ireland

In 1801, the Kingdom of Great Britain and Kingdom of Ireland merged to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (George III's reigns spanned both the separate kingdoms and their merged entity. For clarity and ease of use, Wikipedia has placed George III as 'George III of the United Kingdom')

In 1877, Victoria became also Empress of India

The House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

The House of Windsor

The name of the Royal house of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was changed to Windsor in 1917 due to anti-German feelings aroused by World War I.

Monarchs of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The Irish Free State left the United Kingdom in 1922. The name of the UK was changed to reflect that change, becoming the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland' in 1927. Note also: from 1927, each dominion in the Commonwealth became a separate kingdom, with George V as native king in each. Hence, in 1927, he became 'King of Ireland', 'King of Australia,' 'King of Canada', 'King of New Zealand', and 'King of South Africa'

In 1947, India and Pakistan were granted independence, and George VI ceased to Emperor of India, but became King of India and King of Pakistan. (and, in 1948, King of Sri Lanka, also granted independence.) In 1949, Ireland became a Republic, and George ceased to be King of Ireland. India did the same in 1950

Besides being Queen of the United Kingdom, at her accession she was also Queen of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa (to 1961), Pakistan (to 1956), and Sri Lanka (to 1972). In the course of her reign, she has also been:

From 1965 to 1970 she was also proclaimed Queen of Rhodesia by the White apartheid government there, although she never accepted this office.


See also Wikipedia's other lists of incumbents.



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