Julius Caesar invaded Britain in the first century and made it a part of the Roman Empire. The Empire continued to rule over Britain as a distant province for the next few centuries.
In the 4th century, Roman rule over Britain waned and this allowed Germanic Anglo-Saxons to invade the Isles. In time, the Anglo-Saxons established several kingdoms across Britain. When faced with a perennial Viking threat, these Anglo-Saxon kingdoms gradually came together, laying the foundations of a more unified kingdom. This is when England effectively became a kingdom with a single king ruling most of Britain.
Who was the First King of England?
Some historians consider King Alfred *Alfred theGreat to be the first true king of England.
However, most historians believe that it was Æthelstan or Athelstan 894 – 939 – ‘Grandson of Alfred the Great’ from the House of Wessex, an Anglo-Saxon royal family, who was the first true king of England as he was able to unify most of the country!
Æthelstan or Athelstan 894 – 939 *First King of England
Anglo-Saxon rulers were briefly displaced by Danish kings, only to return to rule once again and then displaced for the final time by the Normans.
Each dynasty left a mark on English history and each played an important role.
Anglo-Saxons *466 – 1016
Danish Kings *Danelaw *1016 – 1040
Normans *1066 – 1154
Plantagenets *1154 – 1485
Tudors *1485 – 1603 *Post Medieval Period
Dynasties of England
Anglo-Saxons *466 – 1016
The Anglo-Saxons were Germanic people who came at the request of a local king to present-day England. They ruled England from 466 to 1016. Their reign saw a lot of wars, with native Celtic Britons as well as outside invaders like Vikings.
The important Anglo-Saxon monarchs were Alfred, Athelstan, Edmund I, Edred, Edgar the Peaceful, and Ethelred the Unready.
The language of Anglo-Saxons is called Old English, from which the modern English language is derived. The Anglo-Saxon helmets, buildings, art, manuscripts, traditions, and culture have a special place in English history.
Famous Anglo Saxons Sutton Hoo Helmet
Their reign ended with the Norman Conquest in 1066. The French, Norman, Breton, and Flemish soldiers under William the Conqueror defeated the Anglo-Saxons in 1066 and effectively replaced them as rulers of England.
Danish Kings * Danelaw *1016 – 1040
Danish Kings ruled England for a short period from 1016 to 1040. Danes had been among the Vikings who had begun raiding England as early as the 8th century. In time, Danish Vikings mustered larger armies and established a permanent settlement in England, known as the Danelaw.
In time, the Danes took advantage of the unrest in the Anglo-Saxon areas and conquered their territories. There are only two Danish Kings that ruled England, namely Cnut the Great and Harold Harefoot.
Cnut the Great
Cnut the Great ruled the North Sea Empire from 1016 to 1035. The North Sea Empire included Norway, Denmark, and England. His legacy was lost when his heirs died within a decade. Harold Harefoot ruled from 1035 to 1040. There is a controversy as to whether or not he was the son of the Cnut. He couldn’t control his kingdom due to many threats.
Harold Harefoot *Early Medieval KIng
Normans *1066 – 1154
The Normans ended the rule of Anglo-Saxons in 1066 with the famous Norman Conquest. William the Conqueror defeated Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson in the famous Battle of Hastings.
They launched an invasion of England under the Norman Duke of Normandy, William, along with help from allies like Bretons from Brittany.
At the Battle of Hastings, William and his forces defeated the Anglo-Saxons and killed the last Anglo-Saxon king to end centuries-long Anglo-Saxon rule in England.
Normans ruled England from 1066 to 1154 in England.
The first Norman king of England was William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy. The other Norman Kings include William II, Henry I, and Stephen.
William the Conqueror changed the course of English history and introduced Feudalism, the Domesday Book, and many reforms such as a sophisticated taxation system.
Stephen was the last Norman king who had to fight a civil war to protect his throne. The civil war ended with the Treaty of Wallingford.
Plantagenets *1154 – 1485
The Plantagenets ruled England and parts of France From 1154 to 1485.
Henry II (1154–1189) Plantagenet king of England
Famous rulers of the *Plantagenet Angevins Dynasty
Ricard I the Lionheart
John Edward I, II, and III
Of these, Richard the Lionheart is most famously known for his role in the Third Crusade and battles with Saladin.
Richard The Lionheart
The Plantagenets were one of the richest and most influential families in the whole of Europe during the Middle Ages. They ruled France and England from 1154 to 1485.
House of Lancaster *1399 – 1461
Famous rulers of the House of Lancaster
Battle of Agincourt *100 years of war
The financial conditions during the House of Lancaster rule were precarious. There were a lot of raids in England and the kingdom had to constantly fund ongoing warfare to tackle this situation.
The famous Hundred Years’ Wars started during the reign of Henry V. This was a long series of raids and military expeditions against France which England ultimately lost.
The Lancaster rule ended with Henry VI when the Yorkists defeated him.
House of York *1461 – 1485
The Yorkists ruled England from 1461 – to 1485, as a dynasty, they ruled England for the shortest period. Their main kings were Edward IV, Edward V, and Richard III. Edward V was the son of Edward IV.
After the sudden death of Edward IV, Edward V went to London to claim his right to the throne. His uncle, Richard III, had been appointed as the protector.
Richard sent the young king Edward V and his brother Richard to the Tower of London, and the two were never seen again. This gave birth to the myth of the Princes in the Tower.
Medieval King Edward V Princess in the Tower of London
Later, Richard III ruled England from 1483 to 1485. He was finally killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, ending the reign of the Yorkists.
Medieval King Richard in the mix of things in the battle of Bosworth
Historians point to the Battle of Bosworth 1485 as an event that signaled the end of the medieval period
The Tudors *Post Medieval Period
The Tudor rule started in 1485 just as the medieval period was ending and lasted until 1603.
The Tudors traced their origins to Wales, their reign began with the defeat of Richard III at the hands of Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth.
The Royal Badge of the Tudor Dynasty
The main changes during Tudors’ rule were in the religious outlook of England. The Tudor era was marked by an increasingly greater inclination of the country towards the Protestant faith.
Medieval Coat of Arms of King Henry VIII
Henry VIII, the second Tudor monarch, initiated this by officially breaking away from Catholic Church. Mary I, his daughter, tried to revert England to the Catholic faith when she sat on the throne.
To this end, she ordered the persecution of the Protestants. However, her unpopular rule ended quickly and eventually gave way to the long and glorious reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
Elizabeth I never married so she had no heir who would continue the Tudor dynasty. Upon her death, the crown passed to James I, the first King of England from the Stuart dynasty.
Stuart Dynasty*Post Medieval Period
James I was the first king of the Stuart Dynasty. He came from a line of kings that had been the rulers of Scotland. Stuarts ruled over England from 1603 to 1702.
During the rule of the Stuarts, a Union of the Crowns took place, uniting the crowns of England and Scotland. The Stuarts would then rule jointly over both kingdoms.
During the reign of Charles I, a civil war broke out which lasted from 1642 to 1652. Charles I was subsequently executed in 1649. Oliver Cromwell became the Lord Protector, and England became a Commonwealth.
This was not supported by the army, and in 1660, the exiled King Charles II was invited back to England to start the monarchy again in England. Queen Anne was the last monarch of the House of Stuart who ruled over England from 1702 to 1714. She died without an heir so the crown was then passed over to the House of Hanover.
England became a unified kingdom first under King Alfred the Great, an Anglo-Saxon ruler, in the last 9th century.
Danish kings ruled over England from 1016 to 1040 – Dynasties of England.
Important Danish kings of England include Cnut the Great and Harold Harefoot.
In 1066, Normans under William the Conqueror invaded England – Dynasties of England.
The Normans replaced the Anglo-Saxon rulers of England for good, ushering in a new era.
Plantagenets ruled over England from 1154 to 1399.
The Plantagenet dynasty produced some of the most powerful and popular kings of England including Richard the Lionheart and Henry II.
Lancaster kings ruled over England from 1399 to 1470. Notable kings included Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI.
Yorkists replaced the Lancaster rulers in 1470. Their reign came to an end in 1485.
In 1485, the reign of the Tudor dynasty. It marked a reign of major changes in English outlook and the beginning of the English Renaissance.
Tudor’s rule ended in 1603.
The Stuart dynasty began to rule England in 1603 after the medieval period. Their rule continued until 1702 – Dynasties of England.