Monday, July 01, 2013

What is the greatest number of English monarchs to be alive at once?

I was thinking about the Wars of the Roses the other night (partly as a result of the BBC series The White Queen, based on the Philippa Gregory novels. There are 5 English monarchs who feature in the series, and they all were alive during 1470-71:

  • Henry VI (1421-1471), Lancastrian claimant to the throne
  • Edward IV (1442-1483), Yorkist claimant to the throne
  • Edward V (1470-1483), Edward IV's son and successor
  • Richard III (1452-1485), Edward IV's brother and probable killer of Edward V
  • Henry VII Tudor (1457-1509), eventual victor of the Wars of the Roses

This set me to wondering what the greatest number of English monarchs to be alive at once is (excluding consorts like Elizabeth Woodville and so on).

I could think of a few other possible times where there were plenty alive at once. Just before Victoria's death, for example, her successors Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII and George VI were all alive, which gives us another 5. They could conceivably have all appeared in the same photograph as well!

But I suspect the winning period is from 1683-1685, where the following monarchs were all alive:

  • Charles II, king of England until his death in 1685
  • James II (1633-1701), his brother, deposed in 1688
  • Mary II (1662-1694), James' daughter
  • William III of Orange (1650-1702), Mary's husband but co-regent and continued to reign after her death
  • Anne (1665-1714), Mary's sister, who died without surviving children
  • George I of Hanover (1660-1727) was Anne's closest living Protestant relative at her death - the first 50 or so were all Catholics!
  • George II (1683-1760), George's son

That makes 7, due to one person being deposed by Parliament, a co-regency, several people dying childless and the throne passing to an older distant relative! I can't find any other points in history with even 5 or more, so I suspect 1683-5 is the winner... Any comparative results for other countries?


Daniel Hill said...

My friend Richard Sturch, former winner of Mastermind, agrees with your answer, Custard, but points out that there is also a sixer from the 1020s & 30s: (Canute, Harold I, Hardicanute, Edward the Confessor, Harold II, and William I).

John said...

Ed Dickinson points out that Richard Cromwell (1626-1712), who was Lord Protector of England 1658-9, was also alive in 1683-5. He was never king though...

John said...

There's also a 6 in the 1540s.

Henry VIII, Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey, Mary I, Philip of Spain (who was co-regent with Mary), Elizabeth I.

For the topic "Kings of England", Philip of Spain is my first choice pointless answer...