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England’s 10 Greatest Medieval Queens

England’s 10 Greatest Medieval Queens


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Although the first Queen of England is widely considered to be Mary Tudor, throughout the medieval period there were many women who ruled as Queen Regent, Queen Consort, Queen Dowager, or even in their own right.

Here are ten of the most important.

1. Bertha of Kent

Bertha, a Frankish princess, was born in the early 560s to Charibert I, King of Paris, and a woman named Ingoberga. She was married off to King Æthelberht of Kent, an Anglo-Saxon pagan. In 597, St Augustine arrived in England to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity.

Bertha is depicted in a stained glass window of the Chapter House, Canterbury Cathedral. Image source: Mattana / CC BY-SA 3.0.

It is widely believed that Bertha was instrumental in persuading her husband to embrace the new religion, as all accounts of St Augustine’s work named her as a prominent figure. Pope Gregory wrote to Bertha in 601, praising what

‘great succour and what charity you have bestowed upon Augustine’

She was compared to Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, who persuaded her son to convert to Christianity.

2. Æthelflæd

The eldest daughter of Alfred the Great, Æthelflæd was born in 870, a time when Viking invasions were at their height. By 878, East Anglia and Northumbria were conquered, meaning most of England was under Danish Viking rule.

Æthelflæd in the 13th century Genealogical Chronicle of the English Kings.

Æthelflæd’s father, Alfred, married her to Æthelred to cement a strategic alliance between the surviving English kingdoms. After Æthelred’s death in 911, Æthelflæd ruled Mercia as Lady of the Mercians, where she would transform the balance of power.

She embarked on a defensive rebuilding programme in towns such as Tamworth, Warwick and Bridgnorth, recaptured Derby and was offered loyalty by the Viking leaders of York.

Laurence Brockliss talks to us about the Norman Conquest and how the events of 1066 impacted on Britain's EU referendum. Discussing Hereward the Wake and his resistance to the Normans, what can we learn about the flow of modern politics from the actions of this rogue?

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3. Matilda of Flanders

According to legend, when the Norman Duke William the Bastard sent his representative to ask Matilda’s hand in marriage, she retorted she was too high-born to marry a bastard. Furious at this snub, William rode to find Matilda, dragged her off her horse by her long braids and threw her down in the street.

A statue of Matilda of Flanders in the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris. Image source: Jastrow / CC BY 3.0.

Whether such rumours are true or not, the marriage to William – who became William the Conqueror – seemed to be successful. Their 9 children were known for being remarkably well educated, and their daughters were educated at Sainte-Trinité in Caen.

4. Matilda of Scotland

Matilda was the daughter of the English princess Saint Margaret and the Scottish king Malcom III. After a messy succession crisis in Scotland, Matilda married the English king, Henry I, and steadied relations between the two nations.

Matilda of Scotland was the mother of William Adelin and Empress Matilda.

In England, she led a literary and musical court, embarked on building projects for the church and ruled in her husband’s name during his absence.

5. Empress Matilda

Matilda of Scotland’s daughter, also named Matilda, was married to the future Holy Roman Emperor, Henry V. When her brother, William Adelin, died in the White Ship disaster of 1120, Matilda returned to England to be nominated heir.

Empress Matilda in ‘History of England’ by St. Albans monks of the 15th century.

She was an unpopular choice in the Anglo-Norman court. When her father died the throne was taken by Matilda’s cousin, Stephen of Blois, who was backed by the English church. Civil war broke out, and the disorder which prevailed gave this period the name of ‘The Anarchy‘.

On one occasion, Matilda was trapped in Oxford Castle, and escaped across the frozen River Isis in a white sheet to avoid capture. Although never officially crowned Queen of England, Matilda was titled Lady of the English, and her son succeeded the throne as Henry II.

Arundel Castle is one West Sussex’s greatest attractions with a history spanning nearly a thousand years. It has its roots in Norman times, originally built at the end of the 11th century by the then Earl of Arundel, Roger de Montgomery. The keep Montgomery created was initially made out of wood, but was later replaced by stone.

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6. Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor was born into the House of Poitiers, a powerful dynasty in southwestern France. As a Duchess of Aquitaine, she was the most eligible bride in Europe. Her marriage to Louis VII of France produced two daughters, but was soon annulled on account of consanguinity.

A 14th century depiction of Eleanor marrying her first husband, Louis. On the right, Louis sets sail for the Second Crusade.

Just eight weeks later, she was engaged to the Duke of Normandy. He became Henry II of England in 1154, beaconing a period of stability after civil war had raged.

The children of Eleanor and Henry.

Eleanor and Henry had eight children, three of whom became kings. Their marriage broke down when Henry imprisoned Eleanor in 1173 for supporting their son’s revolt against him. After her husband’s death, she acted as regent while Richard the Lionheart went on the Third Crusade.

The two Dans are back. And this time, they're talking all things crusades. Dan Jones provides his namesake host a thrilling background to the series of holy wars that have come to define Medieval Europe.

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7. Queen Philippa of Hainault

Married to Edward III for 40 years, Phillipa acted as regent for her husband in 1346, and accompanied his expeditions to Scotland, France and Flanders. The eldest of their thirteen children was Edward, the Black Prince.

An image of Queen Philippa interceding for the Burghers of Calais.

Her compassion and kindness made her a popular figure, especially in 1347 when she persuaded her husband to spare the lives of the Burghers of Calais. The Queen’s College in Oxford was founded in her honour.

8. Isabella of Valois

Miniature detailing Richard II of England receiving his six-year-old bride Isabel of Valois from her father Charles VI of France.

Isabella was the daughter of Charles VI of France and Isabeau of Bavaria. At the age of six, she was married to Richard II, who was then 29.

Despite the union acting as a political exercise to improve French and English relations, Richard and Isabella developed a respectful relationship. He regularly visited her in Windsor and entertained her and her ladies-in-waiting.

Richard’s death cut the marriage short, leaving Isabella widowed at the age of 9. She went on to marry Charles, Duke of Orléans and died in childbirth at the age of 19.

Her sister, Catherine, would briefly marry Henry V and give birth to the future Henry VI. Through her second marriage to Owen Tudor, Catherine became the grandmother of the future Henry VII.

9. Anne Neville

As a daughter of Richard Neville, who was known as ‘Warwick the Kingmaker’, Anne was used as an important bargaining chip in the Wars of the Roses. She was originally betrothed to Edward, Prince of Wales, who was the son of Edward IV.


A contemporary illumination of Richard III, his queen Anne Neville, and their son Edward, the Prince of Wales.

After the death of Prince Edward, she married the Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III. Anne bore a son, Edward of Middleham, who predeceased his parents. Anne also died of tuberculosis in 1485, and later that year Richard was slain at the Battle of Bosworth.

Relive another famous Hundred Years’ War clash with a print of the Battle of Crecy in 1346! This print, painted in an early 15th century manuscript style, depicts English Longbow Archers combatting Genouese Crossbow men on the battlefield in Northern France. Each Print is hand signed by the artist, Mathew Ryan.

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10. Margaret of Anjou

Margaret married King Henry VI, and ruled as Queen of England and France in accordance with the agreements made by Henry V at the Treaty of Troyes. After her husband suffered from bouts of insanity, Margaret ruled in his place.

The marriage of Henry VI and Margaret would break down when Henry suffered bouts of insanity.

Her provocative actions and position as leader of the Lancastrian cause made her a key player in the Wars of the Roses, although she would never enjoy much success. In her final years, she lived in France as a poor relation of the king, and died there aged 52.


The Most Beautiful Princesses And Queens In History

Beauty is, of course, an eternally subjective concept. But there is an enduring archetype of fairytale beauty — like something out of the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen. And sometimes, the glamour of the quintessential fairytale princess equates to the glamour of real-life royalty.

In this day and age, people like Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton are certainly perpetuating the elegant sophistication that figures like the late Princess Diana brought to British royalty. But the world has always had its share of princesses and queens who were so stunning they could have (and, indeed, sometimes did) come straight out of a Hollywood (or Disney) film.

Some of these women are well known and others have been largely lost to the obscurity of pop culture, if not history. But all of these women are definitely as dazzling as anything out of a storybook, in their own ways.


10 Beautiful Queens, Princesses and Empresses in History

History is evident about the beautiful queens, princesses, and empresses who have a prominent role in today’s cultural references. When we think of the royal world, especially the royal women, we get a picture of beauty in our minds. It is always eye-catching to check the royal beauties. It can be really difficult to choose the best among the large list of historical beauties from the past. We have selected ten beautiful queens, princesses, and empresses from history who are gorgeous, stylish, and beautiful and influenced the world. Princess Diana is known for her large numbers of photography, while Princess Margaret Rose attended many high-profile parties, clubs, and pubs.

The list of 10 beautiful historical queens, princesses, and empresses in the world are:

10. Isabella of Portugal (24 October 1503 – 1 May 1539)

Isabella of Portugal was Infanta of Portugal by birth. After her marriage with Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, she went on to become a Holy Roman Empress, Queen of Germany, Italy, Spain, Naples and Sicily, and Duchess of Burgundy. She was noted for her intelligence and beauty.

The beauty is known to have served as a regent of Spain for a long period of time during the absence of her spouse. Her sixth pregnancy resulted in stillbirth and she died as a result. During this time, her husband was away and when he heard the news of the beautiful empress’s death, he was saddened and shocked. The emperor never married again and became a Catholic saint.

9. Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel (28 August 1691 – 21 December 1750)

Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel was the Princess of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel, Holy Roman Empress, German Queen, Queen of Bohemia and Hungary and Archduchess of Austria after her marriage to Emperor Charles VI. She was known for her delicate beauty. She was also renowned for being the mother of Empress Maria Theresa. She was the longest-serving Holy Roman Empress in history.

At the age of 13, she was engaged to the future Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor. She opposed the marriage as the marriage involved her switching to Roman Catholicism. She was forced to undergo a medical examination by a doctor and the Jesuit confessor of Charles to prove her fertility prior to the marriage. The Empress who served a period of 29 years died on 21 December 1750 at the age of 58 in Vienna, Austria.

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8. Maria Luisa of Spain (24 November 1745 – 15 May 1792)

Maria Luisa of Spain was a Holy Roman Empress, German Queen, Queen of Hungary, and Bohemia, Grand Duchess of Tuscany as the spouse of Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor. The 18th-century empress was described as a blue-eyed beauty with a vivid charm, and unpretentious. She was charming, simple, kind, and generous.

During the famine of 1765, she helped the poor and needy by giving food and medicine. She was referred to as a “model of female virtue”. The Roman beauty died on 15 May 1792 at a very young age.

7. Elisabeth of France (22 November 1602 – 6 October 1644)

Elisabeth of France, the Queen consort of Spain and Portugal was renowned for her beauty, intelligence, and noble personality, which made her very popular among the Spanish people. She was the first wife of King Philip IV of Spain. She was the eldest daughter of Henry IV of France. Additionally, she was regent of Spain during the Catalan Revolt.

She was beautifully portrayed as a painting by Diego Velázquez in c. 1625. Her marriage was considered to be a point of military and political interest between France and Spain. It was a need to cement the peace between the two countries. On 6 October 1644, the beautiful lady died in Madrid.

6. Princess Margaret Rose (21 August 1930 – 9 February 2002)

Princess Margaret Rose was the Countess of Snowdon and was the younger daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and the only sibling of Queen Elizabeth II. As a beautiful young woman during her 20s, she enjoyed socializing at high-profile parties, visits to clubs and pubs. She was known for her 18-inch waist and “vivid blue eyes”.

Her official engagements increased by a tour of Italy, Switzerland, and France, and she joined a growing number of charitable organizations. She is known for experimenting with unique fashion styles during the 1960s. She was rich, gorgeous, and stylish during her time.

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5. Berengaria of Portugal (1190s – 27 March 1221)

Berengaria of Portugal was a popular woman in Denmark for her beauty and perfect body. Berengaria of Portugal was a Portuguese Infanta and later as Queen consort of Denmark. Berengaria was described as a dark-eyed, raven-haired beauty. In 1221, Queen Berengaria after giving birth to three future kings died and was buried in St. Bendt’s Church in Ringsted, Denmark.

According to Danish ballads and myths – the second wife of King Vladimir is often described as beautiful and a haughty woman. In 1885, Berengaria’s grave was opened and they found her thick plait of hair, her finely formed skull, and finely built body bones, proving the legends about her reported beauty. A portrait also was drawn later to describe her physical appearance.

4. Eleanor of Provence (c. 1223 – 24/25 June 1291)

Eleanor of Provence was renowned for her enchanting eyes and beauty like her grandmother, mother, and sister. Eleanor of Provence was a beautiful dark-haired brunette with fine eyes. Eleanor of Provence was the Queen consort of England as the wife of King Henry III of England during the 13th century. Many Londoners hatred her as she brought many relatives with her who were given influential positions in the government. She was witty, skilled at writing poetry, and a leader of fashion during that period of the world.

3. Fawzia Fuad of Egypt (5 November 1921 – 2 July 2013)

Fawzia Fuad of Egypt was compared with film stars like Hedy Lamarr and Vivien Leigh for her beauty. Fawzia Fuad of Egypt was an Egyptian princess and later became the Queen of Iran. She was the first wife of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. She was from the Muhammad Ali Dynasty.

Queen Fawzia appeared on the cover of the 21 September 1942, issue of Life magazine. She was photographed by Cecil Beaton who described her as an “Asian Venus” with “a perfect heart-shaped face and strangely pale but piercing blue eyes.” A town in Iran, Fawziabad is named after her and a street in Egypt was named Amira Fawzia Street in 1950 but was again renamed in 1956.

2. Princess Diana (1 July 1961 – 31 August 1997)

In 2004, People magazine cited Princess Diana as one of the all-time most beautiful women in the world. Diana, Princess of Wales was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales. The beauty’s death was considered a big tragedy to the royal world and to the United Kingdom. She was an important person in the 20th century and was a fashion icon.

Her fashion was often emulated by many women around the world. She was charming and generous by donating to charities. She was often described as “the world’s most photographed woman”. She is one of the most popular style icons and a well-dressed royal woman in England.

1. Faustina the Elder (born on February 16 around 100 CE – died October or November of 140 CE)

Faustina was known for her intelligence, wisdom, and beauty. She was the most respected empress during the Antonine Dynasty. Even after her death, she played a prominent symbolic role in Antoninus Pius’ régime. The beautiful Roman Empress married the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius. She actively participated in the upliftment of the poor girls by providing education.

Faustina also helped the poor through charities. She was known for her personal styles and fashion. Her prominent hairstyle – braids pulled back in a bun behind or on top of her head, was imitated for two or three generations in the Roman world. She has been a popular cultural icon in the Roman era and has been one of the most influential in the Roman world.


NEW BLUE PLAQUES FOR WOMEN

The cystallographer and peace campaigner, Kathleen Lonsdale received the first blue plaque of 2021 on the 50th anniversary of her death. This year, half of all new blue plaques will be dedicated to women. Figures commemorated will include Diana, Princess of Wales, designer Jean Muir and anti-slavery campaigner Ellen Craft.

Our ongoing &lsquoplaques for women&rsquo campaign has seen a dramatic rise in the number of public nominations for women since it launched in 2016. Learn more about the women who are being celebrated this year.


British Monarchs

THE STUARTS

JAMES I and VI of Scotland 1603 -1625
James was the son of Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley. He was the first king to rule over Scotland and England. James was more of a scholar than a man of action. In 1605 the Gunpowder Plot was hatched: Guy Fawkes and his Catholic friends tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament, but were captured before they could do so. James’s reign saw the publication of the Authorised Version of the Bible, though this caused problems with the Puritans and their attitude towards the established church. In 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers sailed for America in their ship The Mayflower.

CHARLES 1 1625 – 1649 English Civil War
The son of James I and Anne of Denmark, Charles believed that he ruled by Divine Right. He encountered difficulties with Parliament from the beginning, and this led to the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642. The war lasted four years and following the defeat of Charles’s Royalist forces by the New Model Army, led by Oliver Cromwell, Charles was captured and imprisoned. The House of Commons tried Charles for treason against England and when found guilty he was condemned to death. His death warrant states that he was beheaded on 30th January 1649. Following this the British monarchy was abolished and a republic called the Commonwealth of England was declared.

THE COMMONWEALTH

OLIVER CROMWELL, Lord Protector 1653 – 1658
Cromwell was born at Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire in 1599, the son of a small landowner. He entered Parliament in 1629 and became active in events leading to the Civil War. A leading Puritan figure, he raised cavalry forces and organised the New Model Army, which he led to victory over the Royalists at the Battle of Naseby in 1645. Failing to gain agreement on constitutional change in government with Charles I, Cromwell was a member of a ‘Special Commission’ that tried and condemned the king to death in 1649. Cromwell declared Britain a republic ‘The Commonwealth’ and he went on to become its Lord Protector.

Cromwell went on to crush the Irish clans and the Scots loyal to Charles II between 1649 and 1651. In 1653 he finally expelled the corrupt English parliament and with the agreement of army leaders became Lord Protector (King in all but name)

RICHARD CROMWELL, Lord Protector 1658 – 1659
Richard was the third son of Oliver Cromwell, he was appointed the second ruling Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland, serving for just nine months. Unlike his father, Richard lacked military experience and as such failed to gain respect or support from his New Model Army. Richard was eventually ‘persuaded’ to resign from his position as Lord Protector and exiled himself to France until 1680, when he returned to England.

THE RESTORATION

CHARLES II 1660 – 1685
Son of Charles I, also known as the Merry Monarch. After the collapse of the Protectorate following the death of Oliver Cromwell and the flight of Richard Cromwell to France, the Army and Parliament asked Charles to take the throne. Although very popular he was a weak king and his foreign policy was inept. He had 13 known mistresses, one of whom was Nell Gwyn. He fathered numerous illegitimate children but no heir to the throne. The Great Plague in 1665 and the Great Fire of London in 1666 took place during his reign. Many new buildings were built at this time. St. Paul’s Cathedral was built by Sir Christopher Wren and also many churches still to be seen today.

JAMES II and VII of Scotland 1685 – 1688
The second surviving son of Charles I and younger brother of Charles II. James had been exiled following the Civil War and served in both the French and Spanish Army. Although James converted to Catholicism in 1670, his two daughters were raised as Protestants. James became very unpopular because of his persecution of the Protestant clergy and was generally hated by the people. Following the Monmouth uprising (Monmouth was an illegitimate son of Charles II and a Protestant) and the Bloody Assizes of Judge Jeffries, Parliament asked the Dutch prince, William of Orange to take the throne.

William was married to Mary, James II’s Protestant daughter. William landed in England and James fled to France where he died in exile in 1701.

WILLIAM III 1689 – 1702 and MARY II 1689 – 1694
On the 5 November 1688, William of Orange sailed his fleet of over 450 ships, unopposed by the Royal Navy, into Torbay harbour and landed his troops in Devon. Gathering local support, he marched his army, now 20,000 strong, on to London in The Glorious Revolution. Many of James II’s army had defected to support William, as well as James’s other daughter Anne. William and Mary were to reign jointly, and William was to have the Crown for life after Mary died in 1694. James plotted to regain the throne and in 1689 landed in Ireland. William defeated James at the Battle of the Boyne and James fled again to France, as guest of Louis XIV.

ANNE 1702 – 1714
Anne was the second daughter of James II. She had 17 pregnancies but only one child survived – William, who died of smallpox aged just 11. A staunch, high church Protestant, Anne was 37 years old when she succeeded to the throne. Anne was a close friend of Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough. Sarah’s husband the Duke of Marlborough commanded the English Army in the War of Spanish Succession, winning a series of major battles with the French and gaining the country an influence never before attained in Europe. It was during Anne’s reign that the United Kingdom of Great Britain was created by the Union of England and Scotland.

After Anne’s death the succession went to the nearest Protestant relative of the Stuart line. This was Sophia, daughter of Elizabeth of Bohemia, James I ‘s only daughter, but she died a few weeks before Anne and so the throne succeeded to her son George.

THE HANOVERIANS

GEORGE I 1714 -1727
Son of Sophia and the Elector of Hanover, great-grandson of James I. The 54 year old George arrived in England able to speak only a few words of English with his 18 cooks and 2 mistresses in tow. George never learned English, so the conduct of national policy was left to the government of the time with Sir Robert Walpole becoming Britain’s first Prime Minister. In 1715 the Jacobites (followers of James Stuart, son of James II) attempted to supplant George, but the attempt failed. George spent little time in England – he preferred his beloved Hanover, although he was implicated in the South Sea Bubble financial scandal of 1720.

GEORGE II 1727 – 1760
Only son of George I. He was more English than his father, but still relied on Sir Robert Walpole to run the country. George was the last English king to lead his army into battle at Dettingen in 1743. In 1745 the Jacobites tried once again to restore a Stuart to the throne. Prince Charles Edward Stuart, ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’. landed in Scotland. He was routed at Culloden Moor by the army under the Duke of Cumberland, known as ‘Butcher’ Cumberland. Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped to France with the help of Flora MacDonald, and finally died a drunkard’s death in Rome.

GEORGE III 1760 – 1820
He was a grandson of George II and the first English-born and English-speaking monarch since Queen Anne. His reign was one of elegance and the age of some of the greatest names in English literature – Jane Austen, Byron, Shelley, Keats and Wordsworth. It was also the time of great statesmen like Pitt and Fox and great military men like Wellington and Nelson. in 1773 the ‘Boston Tea Party’ was the first sign of the troubles that were to come in America. The American Colonies proclaimed their independence on July 4th 1776. George was well meaning but suffered from a mental illness due to intermittent porphyria and eventually became blind and insane. His son ruled as Prince Regent after 1811 until George’s death.

GEORGE IV 1820 – 1830
Known as the ‘First Gentleman of Europe’. He had a love of art and architecture but his private life was a mess, to put it mildly! He married twice, once in 1785 to Mrs. Fitzherbert, secretly as she was a Catholic, and then in 1795 to Caroline of Brunswick. Mrs. Fitzherbert remained the love of his life. Caroline and George had one daughter, Charlotte in 1796 but she died in 1817. George was considered a great wit, but was also a buffoon and his death was hailed with relief!

WILLIAM IV 1830 – 1837
Known as the ‘Sailor King’ (for 10 years the young Prince William, brother of George IV, served in the Royal Navy), he was the third son of George III. Before his accession he lived with a Mrs. Jordan, an actress, by whom he had ten children. When Princess Charlotte died, he had to marry in order to secure the succession. He married Adelaide of Saxe-Coburg in 1818. He had two daughters but they did not live. He hated pomp and wanted to dispense with the Coronation. The people loved him because of his lack of pretension. During his reign Britain abolished slavery in the colonies in 1833. The Reform Act was passed in 1832, this extended the franchise to the middle-classes on a basis of property qualifications.

VICTORIA 1837 – 1901
Victoria was the only child of Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg and Edward Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III. The throne Victoria inherited was weak and unpopular. Her Hanoverian uncles had been treated with irreverence. In 1840 she married her cousin Albert of Saxe-Coburg. Albert exerted tremendous influence over the Queen and until his death was virtual ruler of the country. He was a pillar of respectability and left two legacies to the UK, the Christmas Tree and the Great Exhibition of 1851. With the money from the Exhibition several institutions were developed, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum, Imperial College and the Royal Albert Hall. The Queen withdrew from public life after the death of Albert in 1861 until her Golden Jubilee in 1887. Her reign saw the British Empire double in size and in 1876 the Queen became Empress of India, the ‘Jewel in the Crown’. When Victoria died in 1901, the British Empire and British world power had reached their highest point. She had nine children, 40 grand-children and 37 great-grandchildren, scattered all over Europe.

HOUSE OF SAXE-COBURG AND GOTHA

EDWARD VII 1901 – 1910
A much loved king, the opposite of his dour father. He loved horse-racing, gambling and women! This Edwardian Age was one of elegance. Edward had all the social graces and many sporting interests, yachting and horse-racing – his horse Minoru won the Derby in 1909. Edward married the beautiful Alexandra of Denmark in 1863 and they had six children. The eldest, Edward Duke of Clarence, died in 1892 just before he was to marry Princess Mary of Teck. When Edward died in 1910 it is said that Queen Alexandra brought his current mistress Mrs. Keppel to his bedside to take her farewell. His best known mistress was Lillie Langtry, the ‘Jersey Lily’.

HOUSE OF WINDSOR

GEORGE V 1910 – 1936
George had not expected to be king, but when his elder brother died he became the heir-apparent. He had joined the Navy as a cadet in 1877 and loved the sea. He was a bluff, hearty man with a ‘quarter-deck’ manner. In 1893 he married Princess Mary of Teck, his dead brother’s fiancee. His years on the throne were difficult the First World War in 1914 – 1918 and the troubles in Ireland which lead to the creation of the Irish Free State were considerable problems. In 1932 he began the royal broadcasts on Christmas Day and in 1935 he celebrated his Silver Jubilee. His latter years were overshadowed by his concern about the Prince of Wales and his infatuation with Mrs. Simpson.

EDWARD VIII June 1936 – abdicated December 1936
Edward was the most popular Prince of Wales Britain has ever had. Consequently when he renounced the throne to marry Mrs. Wallis Simpson the country found it almost impossible to believe. The people as a whole knew nothing about Mrs. Simpson until early in December 1936. Mrs. Simpson was an American, a divorcee and had two husbands still living. This was unacceptable to the Church, as Edward had stated that he wanted her to be crowned with him at the Coronation which was to take place the following May. Edward abdicated in favour of his brother and took the title, Duke of Windsor. He went to live abroad.

GEORGE VI 1936 – 1952
George was a shy and nervous man with a very bad stutter, the exact opposite of his brother the Duke of Windsor, but he had inherited the steady virtues of his father George V. He was very popular and well loved by the British people. The prestige of the throne was low when he became king, but his wife Elizabeth and his mother Queen Mary were outstanding in their support of him.
The Second World War started in 1939 and throughout the King and Queen set an example of courage and fortitude. They remained at Buckingham Palace for the duration of the war in spite of the bombing. The Palace was bombed more than once. The two Princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, spent the war years at Windsor Castle. George was in close touch with the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill throughout the war and both had to be dissuaded from landing with the troops in Normandy on D-Day! The post-war years of his reign were ones of great social change and saw the start of the National Health Service. The whole country flocked to the Festival of Britain held in London in 1951, 100 years after the Great Exhibition during Victoria’s reign.

ELIZABETH II 1952 –
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, or ‘Lilibet’ to close family, was born in London on 21 April 1926. Like her parents, Elizabeth was heavily involved in the war effort during the Second World War, serving in the women’s branch of the British Army known as the Auxiliary Territorial Service, training as a driver and mechanic. Elizabeth and her sister Margaret anonymously joined the crowded streets of London on VE Day to celebrate the end of the war. She married her cousin Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and they had four children: Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward. When her father George VI died, Elizabeth became Queen of seven Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka). Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953 was the first to be televised, serving to increase popularity in the medium and doubling television licence numbers in the UK. The huge popularity of the royal wedding in 2011 between the Queen’s grandson, Prince William and the commoner Kate Middleton, now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, reflected the high profile of the British Monarchy at home and abroad. 2012 was also an important year for the royal family, as the nation celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, her 60th year as Queen.

On 9th September 2015, Elizabeth became Britain’s longest serving monarch, ruling longer than her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria who reigned for 63 years and 216 days. Congratulations Ma’am God Save the Queen!


Catherine the Great (ruled Russia from 1762 -1796)

Heritage Images/Getty Images

Jets' quarterback history could have been very different

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This formerly penniless Prussian princess used her wits and cunning to usurp the throne from her hapless husband Tsar Peter. During her reign, she expanded Russia’s borders, and, according to Smithsonian Magazine: “spearheaded judicial and administrative reforms, dabbled in vaccination, curated a vast art collection that formed the foundation of one of the world’s greatest museums, penned operas and children’s fairy tales, founded the country’s first state-funded school for women, drafted her own legal code, and promoted a national system of education.”


Pre-Conquest Queens

It is sometimes claimed that the Anglo-Saxons did not have queens and most studies of English queenship begin in 1067, with the arrival in England of Matilda of Flanders, the wife of William the Conqueror. This is a great over-simplification, however, and it was during the Anglo-Saxon period that the office of queen was actively developing. The pre-conquest period also saw some of medieval England&rsquos most colourful and notorious queens and, as the kings&rsquo wives sought to extend their political status and create their own role as queen, they met with active opposition from their male-dominated society. This also brought them to the detailed interest of the chroniclers for the first time. During the medieval period the vast majority of chroniclers were male churchmen, cut off from women in general and conditioned to be suspicious of their motives. The interest of the chroniclers serves to highlight in detail the lives of women for the first time but these men were also writing for a reason &ndash usually to hold their female subjects up as a notorious example of how a woman should not behave.

The claim that the pre-conquest period was without queens can be explained by the fact that many of the early kings&rsquo wives were deliberately not accorded the title of queen. This is attributed to the actions of Eadburh, a particularly notorious queen, who allegedly murdered her husband before disgracing herself on the continent. The truth of this claim is now impossible to verify but she is certainly not the most plausible candidate for her husband&rsquos murderer, if indeed he was murdered at all. It is certain, however, that there was a deliberate policy during and after the ninth century of de-emphasising the role of queen, a role that could lead to such great female power. 1 By vilifying Eadburh, the chroniclers and the male elite were able to argue that it was the women themselves who had forfeited their right to a political role and that women were fundamentally unfit to be public figures. Throughout the Anglo-Saxon period queens tended to only attract the attention of chroniclers and other contemporaries when they were alleged to have acted notoriously. Although many were denied the actual title of queen, kings&rsquo wives can still be identified as queens and the title &lsquolady&rsquo, which was commonly used to describe a king&rsquos wife, became an important status term in its own right. 2 The popular wife of Alfred the Great is the first queen to be certainly associated with the title &lsquolady&rsquo and it was to be an acceptable title even to powerful queens like Emma of Normandy. Clearly, therefore, the Anglo-Saxons had queens, even if some went by another, less controversial title.

Although Anglo-Saxon queens existed, they are often shadowy figures in contemporary or later sources and many exist only as a name on a page or as the mother of a particular son. The identity of the first wife of Aethelred II the Unready, for example, is an enigma and, although she was apparently called Aelfgifu, whether she was the daughter of Ealdorman Ordmaer or Ealdorman Thored of York is a mystery. 3 It is even possible that this confusion hides the fact that this king was married twice before he took his more famous last wife and, in any event, this early wife (or wives) appears to have done little to merit any remark by contemporaries. Other early queens also survive only as a name. The wife of Aethelred I, for example, was probably the &lsquoWulfthryth Regina&rsquo who witnessed a charter of this king during his reign. 4 Nothing else is known of this woman, however, bar the fact that she apparently bore her husband two sons. The simple fact behind this obscurity was that most women did conform to recognised female spheres of influence and so escaped the attention of the male writers who were uninterested in such feminine pursuits.

Anglo-Saxon queens therefore have been frequently forgotten and, where stories of their lives survive at all, they generally highlight some conspicuous act of goodness or wickedness. The first wife of King Aethelwulf, Osburh, for example, is remembered for her piety and goodness. 5 She was, apparently, a major influence on the education of her son, Alfred the Great, offering him a fine book of English poetry if he could learn to read it for himself. 6 This was an acceptable face of queenship and one that was promoted by medieval chroniclers. In reality, however, it is Alfred who is the centre of this story and his mother&rsquos behaviour merely helps to highlight his brilliance. Asser, the chronicler who first recorded this story and later writers were not interested in promoting the queen. She was merely present in the story to act as a vehicle for her son&rsquos cleverness and ingenuity.

This is a similar position to the stories surrounding the Anglo-Saxon period&rsquos two saintly queens. Edmund I&rsquos first wife, St Aelfgifu was, according to William of Malmesbury &lsquoa woman always intent on good works. She was so pious and loving that she would even secretly release criminals who had been openly condemned by the gloomy verdict of a jury&rsquo. 7 St Aelfgifu would apparently give her fine clothes away to poor women and, following her death, her grave was the scene of a number of miracles, testifying to her sanctity. 8 The second wife of St Aelfgifu&rsquos son, Edgar, was also venerated as a saint and according to William of Malmesbury, this Wulfthryth &lsquodid not develop a taste for repetitions of sexual pleasure, but rather shunned them in disgust, so truly is she named and celebrated as a saint&rsquo. 9 These two women survive as examples of what a male-dominated society and male chroniclers thought an Anglo-Saxon queen should be: saintly, passive and essentially an extension of her male kinsmen, her goodness reflecting favourably upon them. This was the ideal in both the Anglo-Saxon and later medieval period and, even by the ninth century, society had very clear ideas of how a queen should behave if she was to be judged a good queen by the Church and her peers.

The examples of Osburh, St Aelfgifu and St Wulfthryth show that Anglo-Saxon queens were expected to be pious to the point of saintliness. However, there were also other qualities expected of queens and all of the pre-conquest queens would have been aware of this. Queens were expected to be of noble birth and the importance of their birth family could have important consequences for their sons. Osburh, for example, is described in a contemporary source as &lsquonoble in character and noble by birth&rsquo and it was clearly important for her son&rsquos biographer to stress this fact. 10 Alfred the Great&rsquos wife, Eahlswith was also described by Florence of Worcester as being of noble descent, as was her daughter-in-law, Ecwyna, the first wife of Edward the Elder. 11 Clearly, therefore, queens were expected to be of a good family and provide a good lineage for their sons. This also featured highly in a description of an ideal pre-conquest queen, provided by Emma of Normandy of the eleventh century. According to Emma, an ideal queen could be described as &lsquoa lady of the greatest nobility and wealth, but yet the most distinguished of the women of her time for delightful beauty and wisdom, inasmuch as she was a famous queen&rsquo. 12 Clearly, therefore, Anglo-Saxon queens had a lot to live up to.

Queens were not just supposed to be of noble birth, however. They were also expected to fulfil a defined role at court. Their first duty was, of course, to bear sons. However, they were also expected to actively protect the Church. For example, the tenth-century queen, Aelfthryth, was appointed to be the head of the nunneries in England by her husband. 13 Her husband&rsquos grandmother, Eadgifu, also played a major role in the Church and was instrumental in persuading her son, King Eadred, to retain the services of the important churchman, St Aethelwold, in England. 14 As well as religion, queens also played an important role in the way in which the king was presented to the world. Edith Godwine, for example, apparently personally selected the clothes that her husband, Edward the Confessor wore. 15 According to an account commissioned by her, Edward &lsquowould not have cared at all if it had been provided at far less cost. He was, however, grateful of the queen&rsquos solicitude in these matters, and with a certain kindness of feeling used to remark on her zeal most appreciatively to his intimates&rsquo. 16 This account makes it clear that, without the queen, the king would not have been displayed at his best and his majesty would, therefore, have been diminished.

Anglo-Saxon queens needed to ensure that they filled the role of queen successfully as these women were in a uniquely vulnerable position. Divorces were easy to obtain in pre-conquest England and many of the Anglo-Saxon kings enjoyed a succession of wives, simply repudiating them when they had tired of them. At least one king did not even bother to repudiate his first wife when he married his second, simply maintaining both as his queens in different areas of his empire. 17 Queens were often pitted against each other and regularly had to fight for survival. The tenth-century kings Edward the Elder and Edgar, for example, each had three wives in quick succession and following the death of a king the actions of these rival wives and their sons often caused chaos in England. Since the position of wife was so precarious, queens often strove to gain power through their sons and, in the pre-conquest period, the position of queen mother was much more powerful than that of king&rsquos wife. This was often a role for which women fought and some queens resorted to murder in order to achieve it.

Pre-conquest queens therefore had a defined role that they were expected to fulfil and failure to do so could be costly. However, in spite of the general insignificance of Anglo-Saxon queens, there were some who came to prominence for negative reasons. Rivalry between queens was common on occasion both political murder and adultery were used in order to secure a political role at court. Some women were also remembered for indulging in incest in order to secure their position at court. The Anglo-Saxon period ended 1,000 years ago in 1066 and it is difficult to know if there is truth in these allegations. Some of the charges were undoubtedly trumped up as a useful way of neutralising a political woman. On the other hand, some of the allegations are likely to have been true and there is no doubt that some Anglo-Saxon queens did commit, or were at least complicit in, political murders and political rivalry. What is forgotten in the lurid stories surrounding them however is that kings also indulged in political murder and the history of the Anglo-Saxon monarchy is littered with suspiciously early deaths and succession disputes. The real difference is that these actions do not damn the kings as they damn the queens. A king can be called a murderer and still be considered a great king. Such was King Aethelstan who was responsible for the murder of his brother Edwin. All the Anglo-Saxon queens associated with murder are considered to have been nefarious queens and their reputations were damned by association. The difference is, of course, that queens are women and kings are men. Society was patriarchal and men were supposed to lead political and sometimes morally dubious lives. Women on the other hand were not. With the exception of the accounts commissioned for Emma of Normandy and Edith Godwine all the sources from the period were written by men who were conditioned to view political women with suspicion anyway. Their accounts destroyed the reputations of the queens.

The Anglo-Saxon period saw over twenty women who could claim the position of king&rsquos wife and thus queen. It is the notorious queens, such as Judith of France, Aelfgifu of the House of Wessex, Eadburh, Edith Godwine, Aelfthryth, Emma of Normandy and Aelfgifu of Northampton who are truly remembered and details of their lives were used as cautionary tales for later queens for many centuries to come. Each of these women is remembered for some act, or acts, of wickedness and each made a conscious choice to abandon the traditional ideal of queenship in favour of something more powerful and lasting, to varying success. It is therefore these women who can be described as the pre-conquest &lsquoShe-Wolves&rsquo, the notorious queens of England.


England’s 10 Greatest Medieval Queens - History

The Middle Ages was a time of kings, princes, castles, knights, and lords. Although women weren't officially allowed by the church to be leaders or monarchs, many women still held power. A few even became monarchs and led their countries. Here are a few of the most famous queens from medieval times.

Good Queen Maude (1080 - 1118)

Good Queen Maude was also known as Matilda I of Scotland. She was the queen consort of King Henry I of England. Queen Maude was known for her charity work with the poor and the sick. In many cases she personally helped to care for the sick. She also established two hospitals for lepers.

Empress Matilda (1102 - 1167)

Matilda was married to Henry V the Holy Roman Emperor. She was both the Holy Roman Empress and Queen of Germany. She was also the daughter of King Henry I of England. When her father died, she became the first female monarch of England in 1141.

Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122 - 1204)

Eleanor of Aquitaine became queen of France when she married King Louis VII. She was a powerful and involved queen. She took part as a military leader during the Second Crusade traveling to Constantinople and Jerusalem. In 1152, Eleanor had her marriage with King Louis VII annulled and then married Henry II, the duke of Normandy. Two years later, in 1154, Henry II became king of England and Eleanor was now queen of England. Eleanor was a devious queen and worked with her sons in a plot to overthrow her husband. She was imprisoned until her husband died and her son Richard I became king.

Isabella of France (1295 - 1358)

Isabella of France was the daughter of King Philip IV of France. She became queen of England when she married King Edward II of England. Isabella was beautiful and smart. She began to grow tired of Edward II. She gathered a small army from France and removed Edward II from the throne. Then she put her son, Edward III, on the throne and ruled the country as regent.

Margaret I of Denmark (1353 - 1412)

Margaret I of Denmark was Queen of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. She was the founder of the Kalmar Union which united the three countries under a single rule. Under Margaret's rule, the region experienced a time of peace and prosperity. She reformed the currency of Denmark and contributed to charity to help the poor.

Margaret of Anjou (1430 - 1482)

Margaret of Anjou became queen of England through her marriage to King Henry VI. She was a leader of the House of Lancaster during the Wars of the Roses. When King Henry VI went insane, Margaret took over as leader of England and led the fight against Henry's enemies. She even led the king's army in some battles against the House of York.

Isabella I of Castile (Spain) (1451 - 1504)

Perhaps the most influential and powerful of all the women of the Middle Ages was Isabella of Castile. Together with her husband, Ferdinand II of Aragon, she united all of Spain under one rule. She also completed the Reconquista, ousting the Moors from Spain. Isabella ruled Spain for over 50 years and is famous for funding Christopher Columbus' voyage to the Americas.

Elizabeth of York (1466 - 1503)

Elizabeth of York is famous for her many relations to the English crown. She was queen of England through her marriage to King Henry VII. She also was the daughter, sister, niece, and mother of English kings. Elizabeth was famous for her beauty. Her picture is thought to be the one used as the Queen in a deck of playing cards.


Boudicca (died 60/61AD)

First comes Boudicca, warrior queen of the ancient Iceni tribe, who led a rebellion that nearly ended Roman rule in Britain. When the Romans plundered the tribe’s lands in modern-day Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, flogged Boudicca and raped her two daughters, the Iceni rose up. With other tribes, they wiped out the Romans’ Ninth Legion and sacked their strongholds at Colchester, London and St Albans, taking no prisoners (according to Roman historians) and massacring at least 70,000. But it is Boudicca alone, standing tall and Titian-haired in her chariot, who is remembered among the freedom fighters, and honoured with a dramatic statue, arms raised, by Thomas Thornycroft, near London’s Westminster Pier.

Elizabeth I and Lord Robert Dudley were seen flirting © VisitBritain / Britain on View

Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603)

If Boudicca is the feistiest figure from Ancient Britain, Elizabeth I is surely the most famous in more recent history. She is also the first of three queens not born to rule but nonetheless outstanding monarchs. She escaped the disgrace of her mother, Queen Anne Boleyn (executed by Elizabeth’s father, King Henry VIII), then survived the politically dangerous reigns of her brother, King Edward VI, and her sister Queen Mary. Eventually inheriting the throne herself, she emerged a powerful ruler, adept at boosting her popularity by ‘progressing’ around the country and playing up her image as “the Virgin Queen” – ¨though her closeness to her “sweet Robin”, Lord Leicester, might suggest otherwise. While many see in her a charismatic queen addressing her troops as they awaited the Spanish Armada, to others she is the evil executioner of Mary Queen of Scots, the woman who should have ruled England, rather than Elizabeth, merely the daughter of the king’s former mistress.

Nell Gwyn (1650-1687)

Of all royal mistresses down the ages, none has graced the job more joyously than “pretty witty Nell”, as Samuel Pepys called her. From an orange girl selling fruit to London theatregoers, Eleanor Gwyn rose to be an actress who caught the eye of the merry monarch, King Charles II, and ended up with a royal pension and a splendid house in Pall Mall. When Nell first made her mark on the stage, London was reveling in the return of the king and court life (in 1660, after the Commonwealth period of Puritan rule), and the spirit of Restoration London is epitomised in her ample-bosomed portrait. High spirits, low birth and earthy humour naturally made her enemies at court, especially among the king’s other mistresses. But, with Charles, she remained a favourite and tradition says that, on his deathbed, he urged his brother to take care of her just as Lord Nelson begged others to look after his concubine Lady Emma Hamilton.

Jane Austen (1775-1817)

Few lives could be more different from Nell and Emma’s than the morally upright spinsterhood of Jane Austen, our most celebrated woman novelist. The story of her life in rural Chawton and fashionable Bath has been told times over and her subject, as every reader knows, was the “truth, universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”. But while Regency London’s high society might be led by libertines, Jane’s demure heroines know full well that even a runaway romance which ended in marriage, like Lydia Bennet’s, brought shame and destroyed her sisters’ hopes of finding husbands. From Pride and Prejudice and Emma to Persuasion, Jane’s final story, it is Jane’s genius to observe, and sometimes satirise, their attention to status, manners and reputation.

Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845)

Mrs Fry may be the least familiar of our famous ladies, but her pioneering work as a prison reformer has long been recognised and still earns her a place here. Born into the Gurney family, her marriage to Joseph Fry united two old and wealthy Quaker families, equally noted for piety and philanthropy, and Elizabeth became deeply involved in charitable work and the Quaker ministry. It was a visit to Newgate jail that opened her eyes to the appallingly squalid conditions women prisoners suffered, crowded together with their children. Thereafter she became a familiar figure, in her Quaker dress and bonnet, prison visiting and reading the Bible. Her campaigning and religious convictions succeeded in reforming prisoners and their conditions, by introducing education, paid employment, female warders, and recognition that all inmates must be treated humanely.

Queen Victoria (1819-1901)

Victoria is the second queen who came to the throne by default, when her royal uncles, King George IV and King William IV, failed to produce a surviving legitimate heir. Crowned in 1838, her initial limited grasp of constitutional matters was soon supplemented by her husband, Prince Albert (whose death in 1861 left her in mourning for the rest of her life) and her favourite prime ministers, Lord Melbourne and Disraeli. With their help, and the colonising power of British forces and trading companies, she became the most powerful woman in the world. At home, her scandal-free private life made royalty respectable, after the racy behaviour of her uncles. If the rigid formality of her Court now seems absurdly stiff, it’s worth remembering that her Court composer was Sir Arthur Sullivan, co-creator of the comic Gilbert and Sullivan light operas.

Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)

The first woman to hold the Order of Merit and appear on a UK banknote, Miss Nightingale was a national treasure before she was 40. Her pioneering work tending British troops in the Crimean War earned her the thanks of a grateful nation. The money raised in appreciation funded her nurses’ training school at London’s St Thomas’s Hospital, and from there her influence and principles spread worldwide. Despite her own ill health she devoted the rest of her long life to improving sanitation and health care, not without a reputation for bossiness. Yet her popular image remains that of a “ministering angel”, as The Times’ war correspondent put it, paying night time visits to the wounded soldiers. Every year, her birthday in May is marked at Westminster Abbey and East Wellow church, in Hampshire, where she was buried and this year there are special services for the centenary of her death, as well as new exhibitions at St Thomas’s Hospital museum, redeveloped for the anniversary, and at Claydon House in Buckinghamshire, where she often stayed with her sister.

Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928)

Historians may disagree on the help or harm that Emmeline gave to the women’s suffrage movement, but few doubt she was one of its most inspirational figureheads. After years working for votes for women, but with little success, Emmeline, helped by her daughter Christabel, established the Women’s Social and Political Union as a militant wing of the women’s movement. Their campaign of window-smashing, arson and violent demonstrations led to regular arrests, hunger strikes and brutal force feeding, which inevitably drew mixed public reaction. On the outbreak of war in 1914, Emmeline suspended the campaign, encouraging women to put their efforts into war work instead. After peace was signed, women over 30 were granted the vote, and shortly before Emmeline’s death the age was reduced to 21, to match men’s votes.

Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013)

As Britain’s first female prime minister (1979), Mrs Thatcher’s place in history is guaranteed. Yet it is her 11 consecutive years as PM, unmatched in the 20th century, and her role as the first woman leader of a major Western democracy, that make her one of the most dominant figures in modern politics. As leader of the Conservative Party, her pro-privatisation policy and public-spending cuts naturally brought her into open conflict with trade unions and socialists, earning her the nickname the Iron Lady. With victory in the Falklands War and her narrow escape from an IRA bomb in Brighton, her popularity soared and, in 1987, she won a then unprecedented third general election. But her Euro-sceptic and Poll Tax policies had caused division in her cabinet and, in 1990, she was forced to resign as party leader. Two years later, she went to the House of Lords as Baroness Thatcher.

Queen Elizabeth II (1926- )

Like Elizabeth I and Victoria, the Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was not expected to become queen. But the abdication of her uncle, King Edward VIII, propelled her father to the throne, as George VI, and when he died tragically young, in 1952, Elizabeth found herself ruler of the UK and Commonwealth as Queen Elizabeth II. Since then she has witnessed greater changes in her realms – in society, science, technology, medicine and world affairs – than any of her predecessors can have imagined. They would have been astonished, possibly appalled, at the millions of miles she has travelled, hands she has shaken, and public engagements she has fulfilled. But they would have admired the unwavering sense of duty that has given Britain a head of state for nearly 70 years whose personal standards of service to her country must be the envy of many countries. And doubtless they would have applauded the courage and humour in her Annus Horribilis speech in 1992, only hours after her much-loved Windsor Castle was devastated by fire.

The list of the 10 greatest women in British history was selected by Sally Varlow, author of The Lady Penelope: The Lost Tale of Love and Politics in the Court of Elizabeth I


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