British Monarchy and its influence upon governmental institutions

The United kingdom of Great Britain and Nothern Ireland. Kings and Queens of England. The Queens role. Queen and Commonwealth. Members of the Royal Family. The Royal Collection. The Queens Gallery, Buckingham Palace. Kensington Palace.

30.06.2003
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The Institute of Ecology, Linguistics and Low

Degree work

BRITISH MONARCHY

AND ITS INFLUENCE

UPON GOVERNMENTAL INSTITUTIONS

Dunaeva Nina

Moscow, 2003

Contents

Part One

INTRODUCTION

  • The United kingdom of Great Britain and Nothern Ireland 4
  • Direct meaning of the word monarchy 6
  • The British constitutional monarchy 7
  • Part Two
  • HISTORY OF THE MONARCHY
  • Kings and Queens of England 9
  • The Anglo-Saxon Kings 9
  • The Normans 23
  • The Angevins 30
  • The Plantagenets 33
  • The Lancastrians 42
  • The Yorkists 46
  • The Tudors 48
  • The Stuarts 58
  • The Commonwealth Interregnum 63
  • The Hanoverians 75
  • Saxe-Coburg-Gotha 85
  • The House of Windsor 87

Part Three

THE MONARCHY TODAY

  • The Queen's role 91
  • Queen's role in the modern State 91
  • Queen and Commonwealth 91
  • Royal visits 92
  • The Queen's working day 92
  • Ceremonies and pageantry 92
  • The Queen's ceremonial duties 93
  • Royal pageantry and traditions 93
  • Royal succession 93
  • The Royal Household 93
  • Royal Household departments 94
  • Recruitment 94
  • Anniversaries 95
  • Royal finances 95
  • Head of State expenditure 2000-01 95
  • Sources of funding 96
  • Financial arrangements of The Prince of Wales 96
  • Finances of the other members of the Royal Family 96
  • Taxation 97
  • Royal assets 97
  • Symbols 98
  • National anthem 98
  • Royal Warrants 99
  • Bank notes and coinage 100
  • Stamps 102
  • Coats of Arms 103
  • Great Seal 104
  • Flags 105
  • Crowns and jewels 105
  • Transport 105
  • Cars 106
  • Carriages 107
  • The Royal Train 108
  • Royal air travel 109

Part Four

THE ROYAL FAMILY

  • Members of the Royal Family 111
  • HM The Queen 111
  • HRH The Duke of Edinburgh 111
  • HRH The Prince of Wales and family 112
  • HRH The Duke of York 112
  • TRH The Earl and Countess of Wessex 112
  • HRH Princess Royal 112
  • HRH Princess Alice 113
  • TRH The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester 113
  • TRH The Duke and Duchess of Kent 113
  • TRH Prince and Princess Michael of Kent 114
  • HRH Princess Alexandra 114
  • Memorial Plaque
  • HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother 115
  • HRH The Princess Margaret 115
  • Diana, Princess of Wales 115

Part Five

ART AND RESIDENCES

  • The Royal Collection 116
  • About the Royal Collection 116
  • The Royal Collection Trust 117
  • Royal Collection Enterprises 117
  • Publishing 118
  • Royal Residences 118
  • Royal Collection Galleries 118
  • Loans 119
  • The Royal Residences 119
  • About the Royal Residences 119
  • Buckingham Palace 120
  • The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace 120
  • The Royal Mews 121
  • Windsor Castle 121
  • Frogmore 122
  • The Palace of Holyroodhouse 122
  • Balmoral Castle 123
  • Sandringham House 123
  • St James's Palace 124
  • Kensington Palace 124
  • Historic residences 124
  • Bibliography 126

UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND

Sovereign: Queen Elizabeth II (1952)

Government: The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, with a queen and a Parliament that has two houses: the House of Lords, with 574 life peers, 92 hereditary peers, 26 bishops, and the House of Commons, which has 651 popularly elected members. Supreme legislative power is vested in Parliament, which sits for five years unless sooner dissolved. The House of Lords was stripped of most of its power in 1911, and now its main function is to revise legislation. In Nov. 1999 hundreds of hereditary peers were expelled in an effort to make the body more democratic. The executive power of the Crown is exercised by the cabinet, headed by the prime minister.

Prime Minister: Tony Blair (1997)

Area: 94,525 sq mi (244,820 sq km)

Population (2003 est.): 60,094,648 (growth rate: 0.1%); birth rate: 11.0/1000; infant mortality rate: 5.3/1000; density per sq mi: 636

Capital and largest city (2000 est.): London, 11,800,000 (metro. area)

Other large cities: Birmingham, 1,009,100; Leeds, 721,800; Glasgow, 681,470; Liverpool, 479,000; Bradford, 477,500; Edinburgh, 441,620; Manchester, 434,600; Bristol, 396,600

Monetary unit: Pound sterling ()

Languages: English, Welsh, Scots Gaelic

Ethnicity/race: English 81.5%; Scottish 9.6%; Irish 2.4%; Welsh 1.9%; Ulster 1.8%; West Indian, Indian, Pakistani, and other 2.8%

Religions: Church of England (established church), Church of Wales (disestablished), Church of Scotland (established church--Presbyterian), Church of Ireland (disestablished), Roman Catholic, Methodist, Congregational, Baptist, Jewish

Literacy rate: 99% (1978)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2000 est.): $1.36 trillion; per capita $22,800. Real growth rate: 3%. Inflation: 2.4%. Unemployment: 5.5%. Arable land: 25%. Agriculture: cereals, oilseed, potatoes, vegetables; cattle, sheep, poultry; fish. Labor force: 29.2 million (1999); agriculture 1%, industry 19%, services 80% (1996 est.). Industries: machine tools, electric power equipment, automation equipment, railroad equipment, shipbuilding, aircraft, motor vehicles and parts, electronics and communications equipment, metals, chemicals, coal, petroleum, paper and paper products, food processing, textiles, clothing, and other consumer goods. Natural resources: coal, petroleum, natural gas, tin, limestone, iron ore, salt, clay, chalk, gypsum, lead, silica, arable land. Exports: $282 billion (f.o.b., 2000): manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals; food, beverages, tobacco. Imports: $324 billion (f.o.b., 2000): manufactured goods, machinery, fuels; foodstuffs. Major trading partners: EU, U.S., Japan.

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 34.878 million (1997); mobile cellular: 13 million (yearend 1998). Radio broadcast stations: AM 219, FM 431, shortwave 3 (1998). Radios: 84.5 million (1997). Television broadcast stations: 228 (plus 3,523 repeaters) (1995). Televisions: 30.5 million (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 245 (2000). Internet users: 19.47 million (2000).

Transportation: Railways: total: 16,878 km (1996). Highways: total: 371,603 km; paved: 371,603 km (including 3,303 km of expressways); unpaved: 0 km (1998 est.). Waterways: 3,200 km. Ports and harbors: Aberdeen, Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Dover, Falmouth, Felixstowe, Glasgow, Grangemouth, Hull, Leith, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Peterhead, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Scapa Flow, Southampton, Sullom Voe, Tees, Tyne. Airports: 489 (2000 est.).

International disputes: Northern Ireland issue with Ireland (historic peace agreement signed 10 April 1998); Gibraltar issue with Spain; Argentina claims Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas); Argentina claims South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; Mauritius and the Seychelles claim Chagos Archipelago (UK-administered British Indian Ocean Territory); Rockall continental shelf dispute involving Denmark and Iceland; territorial claim in Antarctica (British Antarctic Territory) overlaps Argentine claim and partially overlaps Chilean claim; disputes with Iceland, Denmark, and Ireland over the Faroe Islands continental shelf boundary outside 200 NM.

DIRECT MEANING OF THE WORD MONARCHY

Monarchy, form of government in which sovereignty is vested in a single person whose right to rule is generally hereditary and who is empowered to remain in office for life. The power of this sovereign may vary from the absolute to that strongly limited by custom or constitution. Monarchy has existed since the earliest history of humankind and was often established during periods of external threat or internal crisis because it provided a more efficient focus of power than aristocracy or democracy, which tended to diffuse power. Most monarchies appear to have been elective originally, but dynasties early became customary. In primitive times, divine descent of the monarch was often claimed. Deification was general in ancient Egypt, the Middle East, and Asia, and it was also practiced during certain periods in ancient Greece and Rome. A more moderate belief arose in Christian Europe in the Middle Ages; it stated that the monarch was the appointed agent of divine will. This was symbolized by the coronation of the king by a bishop or the pope, as in the Holy Roman Empire. Although theoretically at the apex of feudal power, the medieval monarchs were in fact weak and dependent upon the nobility for much of their power. During the Renaissance and after, there emerged new monarchs who broke the power of the nobility and centralized the state under their own rigid rule. Notable examples are Henry VII and Henry VIII of England and Louis XIV of France. The 16th and 17th cent. mark the height of absolute monarchy, which found its theoretical justification in the doctrine of divine right. However, even the powerful monarchs of the 17th cent. were somewhat limited by custom and constitution as well as by the delegation of powers to strong bureaucracies. Such limitations were also felt by the benevolent despots of the 18th cent. Changes in intellectual climate, in the demands made upon government in a secular and commercially expanding society, and in the social structure, as the bourgeoisie became increasingly powerful, eventually weakened the institution of monarchy in Europe. The Glorious Revolution in England (1688) and the French Revolution (1789) were important landmarks in the decline and limitation of monarchical power. Throughout the 19th cent. Royal power was increasingly reduced by constitutional provisions and parliamentary incursions. In the 20th cent., monarchs have generally become symbols of national unity, while real power has been transferred to constitutional assemblies. Over the past 200 years democratic self-government has been established and extended to such an extent that a true functioning monarchy is a rare occurrence in both East and West. Among the few remaining are Brunei, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia. Notable constitutional monarchies include Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Thailand.

Constitutional monarchy: System of government in which a monarch has agreed to share power with a constitutionally organized government. The monarch may remain the de facto head of state or may be a purely ceremonial head. The constitution allocates the rest of the government's power to the legislature and judiciary. Britain became a constitutional monarchy under the Whigs; other constitutional monarchies include Belgium, Cambodia, Jordan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Thailand.

THE BRITISH CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY

"The British Constitutional Monarchy was the consequence of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and was enshrined in the Bill of Rights of 1689. Whereby William and Mary in accepting the throne, had to consent to govern 'according to the statutes in parliament on."

 A monarch does not have to curry favour for votes from any section of the community.

A monarch is almost invariably more popular than an Executive President, who can be elected by less than 50% of the electorate and may therefore represent less than half the people. In the 1995 French presidential election the future President Chirac was not the nation's choice in the first round of voting. In Britain, governments are formed on the basis of parliamentary seats won. In the 1992 General Election the Conservative Prime Minister took the office with only 43% of votes cast in England, Scotland and Wales. The Queen however, as hereditary Head of State, remains the representative of the whole nation.

Elected presidents are concerned more with their own political futures and power, and as we have seen (in Brazil for example), may use their temporary tenure to enrich themselves. Monarchs are not subject to the influences which corrupt short-term presidents. A monarch looks back on centuries of history and forward to the well being of the entire nation under his/her heir. Elected presidents in their nature devote much energy to undoing the achievements of their forebears in order to strengthen the position of their successors.

A long reigning monarch can put enormous experience at the disposal of transient political leaders. Since succeeding her father in 1952 Queen Elizabeth has had a number of Prime Ministers, the latest of whom were not even in Parliament at the time of her accession. An experienced monarch can act as a brake on over ambitious or misguided politicians, and encorage others who are less confident. The reality is often the converse of the theory: the monarch is frequently the Prime Minister's best adviser.

Monarchs, particularly those in Europe are part of an extended Royal Family, facilitating links between their nations. As Burke observed, nations touch at their summits. A recent example of this was the attendance of so many members of Royal Families at the 50th birthday celebrations for Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustav. Swedish newspapers reported that this this was a much better indication of their closeness to the rest of Europe than any number of treaties, protocols or directives from the European Union.

A monarch is trained from Birth for the position of Head of State and even where, as after the abdication of Edward VIII, a younger brother succeeds, he too has enormous experience of his country, its people and its government. The people know who will succeed, and this certainly gives a nation invaluable continuity and stability. This also explains why it is rare for an unsuitable person to become King. There are no expensive elections as in the US where, as one pro-Monarchist American says, "we have to elect a new ' Royal Family' every four years." In the French system the President may be a member of one party, while the Prime Minister is from another, which only leads to confused governement. In a monarchy there is no such confusion, for the monarch does not rule in conflict with government but reigns over the whole nation.

In ceremonial presidencies the Head of State is often a former politician tainted by, and still in thrall to, his former political life and loyalties, or an academic or retired diplomat who can never have the same prestige as a monarch, and who is frequently little known inside the country, and almost totally unknown outside it. For example, ask a German why is Britain's Head of State and a high proportion will know it is Queen Elizabeth II. Ask a Briton, or any Non- German, who is Head of State of Germany? , and very few will be able to answer correctly.

Aided by his immediate family, a monarch can carry out a range of duties and public engagements - ceremonial, charitable, environmental etc. which an Executive President would never have time to do, and to which a ceremonial President would not add lustre.

A monarch and members of a Royal Family can become involved in a wide range of issues which are forbidden to politicians. All parties have vested interests which they cannot ignore. Vernon Bogdanor says in ' The Monarchy and the Constitution' - A politician must inevitably be a spokesperson for only part of the nation, not the whole. A politician's motives will always be suspected. Members of the Royal Family, by contrast, because of their symbolic position, are able to speak to a much wider constituency than can be commanded by even the most popular political leader." In a Republic, then, who is there to speak out on issues where the 'here today, gone tomorrow' government is constrained from criticising its backers, even though such criticism is in the national interest.

All nations are made up of families, and it's natural that a family should be at a nation's head.

While the question of Divine Right is now obsolescent, the fact that "there's such divinity doth hedge a King" remains true, and it is interesting to note that even today Kings are able to play a role in the spiritual life of a nation which presidents seem unable to fulfil.

It has been demonstrated that, even ignoring the enormous cost of presidential elections, a monarch as head of state is no more expensive than a president. In Britain many costs, such as the upkeep of the Royal residencies, are erroneosly thought to be uniquely attributable to the monarchy, even though the preservation of our heritage would still be undertaken if the county were a republic! The US government has criticised the cost to the Brazilian people of maintaining their president.

Even Royal Families which are not reigning are dedicated to the service of their people, and continue to be regarded as the symbol of the nation's continuity. Prominent examples are H.R.H. the Duke of Braganza in Portugal and H.R.H. the County of Paris in France. Royal Families forced to live in exile, such as the Yugoslav and Romanian, are often promoters of charities formed to help their countries.

KINGS AND QUEENS OF ENGLAND

The history of the English Crown up to the Union of the Crowns in 1603 is long and varied. The concept of a single ruler unifying different tribes based in England developed in the eighth and ninth centuries in figures such as Offa and Alfred the Great, who began to create centralised systems of government. Following the Norman Conquest, the machinery of government developed further, producing long-lived national institutions including Parliament.

The Middle Ages saw several fierce contests for the Crown, culminating in the Wars of the Roses, which lasted for nearly a century. The conflict was finally ended with the advent of the Tudors, the dynasty which produced some of England's most successful rulers and a flourishing cultural Renaissance. The end of the Tudor line with the death of the 'Virgin Queen' in 1603 brought about the Union of the Crowns with Scotland.

THE ANGLO-SAXON KINGS

In the Dark Ages during the fifth and sixth centuries, communities of peoples in Britain inhabited homelands with ill-defined borders. Such communities were organised and led by chieftains or kings. Following the final withdrawal of the Roman legions from the provinces of Britannia in around 408 AD these small kingdoms were left to preserve their own order and to deal with invaders and waves of migrant peoples such as the Picts from beyond Hadrian's Wall, the Scots from Ireland and Germanic tribes from the continent. (King Arthur, a larger-than-life figure, has often been cited as a leader of one or more of these kingdoms during this period, although his name now tends to be used as a symbol of British resistance against invasion.)

The invading communities overwhelmed or adapted existing kingdoms and created new ones - for example, the Angles in Mercia and Northumbria. Some British kingdoms initially survived the onslaught, such as Strathclyde, which was wedged in the north between Pictland and the new Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria.

By 650 AD, the British Isles were a patchwork of many kingdoms founded from native or immigrant communities and led by powerful chieftains or kings. In their personal feuds and struggles between communities for control and supremacy, a small number of kingdoms became dominant: Bernicia and Deira (which merged to form Northumbria in 651 AD), Lindsey, East Anglia, Mercia, Wessex and Kent. Until the late seventh century, a series of warrior-kings in turn established their own personal authority over other kings, usually won by force or through alliances and often cemented by dynastic marriages.

According to the later chronicler Bede, the most famous of these kings was Ethelberht, king of Kent (reigned c.560-616), who married Bertha, the Christian daughter of the king of Paris, and who became the first English king to be converted to Christianity (St Augustine's mission from the Pope to Britain in 597 during Ethelberht's reign prompted thousands of such conversions). Ethelberht's law code was the first to be written in any Germanic language and included 90 laws. His influence extended both north and south of the river Humber: his nephew became king of the East Saxons and his daughter married king Edwin of Northumbria (died 633).

In the eighth century, smaller kingdoms in the British Isles continued to fall to more powerful kingdoms, which claimed rights over whole areas and established temporary primacies: Dalriada in Scotland, Munster and Ulster in Ireland. In England, Mercia and later Wessex came to dominate, giving rise to the start of the monarchy.

Throughout the Anglo-Saxon period the succession was frequently contested, by both the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy and leaders of the settling Scandinavian communities. The Scandinavian influence was to prove strong in the early years. It was the threat of invading Vikings which galvanised English leaders into unifying their forces, and, centuries later, the Normans who successfully invaded in 1066 were themselves the descendants of Scandinavian 'Northmen'.

HOUSE OF WESSEX AND ENGLAND

802 - 1066

EGBERT = Redburga

(802-839)

ETHELWULF = Osburga dau. of Oslac of Isle of Wight

(839-855)

ETHELBERHT ALFRED the Great = Ealhswith

ETHELBALD (860-866) ETHELRED (871-899)

(855-860) (866-871)

Ecgwyn = EDWARD THE ELDER= Edgiva

(899-924)

ATHELSTAN

(924-939)

Elgiva = EDMUND I EDRED (939-946) (946-955)

EDWY Ethelfleda = EDGAR = Elfrida, dau. of Ordgar, Ealdorman of East Anglia

(955-959) dau. of (959-975)

Ealdorman

Ordmaer

EDWARD THE MARTYR

(975-979)

Elfgifu = ETHELRED II THE UNREADY = Emma

(979-1016) (later

(deposed 1013/14) married

CANUTE)

EDMUND II IRONSIDE

(Apr.-Nov.1016)

Godwin = Gytha

EDWARD THE = Eadgyth HAROLD II

CONFESSOR (Edith) (Jan.-Oct.1066)

(1042-1066)

EGBERT (802-39 AD)

Known as the first King of All England, he was forced into exile at the court of Charlemagne, by the powerful Offa, King of Mercia. Egbert returned to England in 802 and was recognized as king of Wessex. He defeated the rival Mercians at the battle of Ellendun in 825. In 829, the Northumbrians accepted his overlordship and he was proclaimed "Bretwalda" or sole ruler of Britain.

THELWULF (839-55 AD)

thelwulf was the son of Egbert and a sub-king of Kent. He assumed the throne of Wessex upon his father's death in 839. His reign is characterized by the usual Viking invasions and repulsions common to all English rulers of the time, but the making of war was not his chief claim to fame. thelwulf is remembered, however dimly, as a highly religious man who cared about the establishment and preservation of the church. He was also a wealthy man and controlled vast resources. Out of these resources, he gave generously, to Rome and to religious houses that were in need.

He was an only child, but had fathered five sons, by his first wife, Osburga. He recognized that there could be difficulties with contention over the succession. He devised a scheme which would guarantee (insofar as it was possible to do so) that each child would have his turn on the throne without having to worry about rival claims from his siblings. thelwulf provided that the oldest living child would succeed to the throne and would control all the resources of the crown, without having them divided among the others, so that he would have adequate resources to rule. That he was able to provide for the continuation of his dynasty is a matter of record, but he was not able to guarantee familial harmony with his plan. This is proved by what we know of the foul plottings of his son, thelbald, while thelwulf was on pilgrimage to Rome in 855.

thelwulf was a wise and capable ruler, whose vision made possible the beneficial reign of his youngest son, Alfred the Great.

THELBALD (855-8 (subking), 858-60)

While his father, thelwulf, was on pilgrimage to Rome in 855, thelbald plotted with the Bishop of Sherbourne and the ealdorman of Somerset against him. The specific details of the plot are unknown, but upon his return from Rome, thelwulf found his direct authority limited to the sub-kingdom of Kent, while thelbald controlled Wessex.

thelwulf died in 858, and full control passed to thelbald. Perhaps thelbald's premature power grab was occasioned by impatience, or greed, or lack of confidence in his father's succession plans. Whatever the case, he did not live long to enjoy it. He died in 860, passing the throne to his brother, thelbert, just as thelwulf had planned.

THELBERT (860-66 AD)

Very little is known about thelbert, who took his rightful place in the line of succession to the throne of Wessex at around 30 years of age. Like all other rulers of his day, he had to contend with Viking raids on his territories and even had to battle them in his capital city of Winchester. Apparently, his military leadership was adequate, since, on this occasion, the Vikings were cut off on their retreat to the coast and were slaughtered, according to a contemporary source, in a "bloody battle."

THELRED I (866-71 AD)

Anglo-Saxon king of Wessex, and son of King thelwulf, who ruled England during a time of great pressure from the invading Danes. He was an affable man, a devoutly religious man and the older brother of Alfred the Great, his second-in-command in the resistance against the invaders. Together, they defeated the Danish kings Bagseg and Halfdan at the battle of Ashdown in 870.

ALFRED THE GREAT (871-899)

Born at Wantage, Berkshire, in 849, Alfred was the fifth son of Aethelwulf, king of the West Saxons. At their father's behest and by mutual agreement, Alfred's elder brothers succeeded to the kingship in turn, rather than endanger the kingdom by passing it to under-age children at a time when the country was threatened by worsening Viking raids from Denmark.

Since the 790s, the Vikings had been using fast mobile armies, numbering thousands of men embarked in shallow-draught longships, to raid the coasts and inland waters of England for plunder. Such raids were evolving into permanent Danish settlements; in 867, the Vikings seized York and established their own kingdom in the southern part of Northumbria. The Vikings overcame two other major Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, East Anglia and Mercia, and their kings were either tortured to death or fled. Finally, in 870 the Danes attacked the only remaining independent Anglo-Saxon kingdom, Wessex, whose forces were commanded by King Aethelred and his younger brother Alfred. At the battle of Ashdown in 871, Alfred routed the Viking army in a fiercely fought uphill assault. However, further defeats followed for Wessex and Alfred's brother died.

As king of Wessex at the age of 21, Alfred (reigned 871-99) was a strongminded but highly strung battle veteran at the head of remaining resistance to the Vikings in southern England. In early 878, the Danes led by King Guthrum seized Chippenham in Wiltshire in a lightning strike and used it as a secure base from which to devastate Wessex. Local people either surrendered or escaped (Hampshire people fled to the Isle of Wight), and the West Saxons were reduced to hit and run attacks seizing provisions when they could. With only his royal bodyguard, a small army of thegns (the king's followers) and Aethelnoth ealdorman of Somerset as his ally, Alfred withdrew to the Somerset tidal marshes in which he had probably hunted as a youth. (It was during this time that Alfred, in his preoccupation with the defence of his kingdom, allegedly burned some cakes which he had been asked to look after; the incident was a legend dating from early twelfth century chroniclers.)

A resourceful fighter, Alfred reassessed his strategy and adopted the Danes' tactics by building a fortified base at Athelney in the Somerset marshes and summoning a mobile army of men from Wiltshire, Somerset and part of Hampshire to pursue guerrilla warfare against the Danes. In May 878, Alfred's army defeated the Danes at the battle of Edington. According to his contemporary biographer Bishop Asser, 'Alfred attacked the whole pagan army fighting ferociously in dense order, and by divine will eventually won the victory, made great slaughter among them, and pursued them to their fortress (Chippenham) ... After fourteen days the pagans were brought to the extreme depths of despair by hunger, cold and fear, and they sought peace'. This unexpected victory proved to be the turning point in Wessex's battle for survival.

Realising that he could not drive the Danes out of the rest of England, Alfred concluded peace with them in the treaty of Wedmore. King Guthrum was converted to Christianity with Alfred as godfather and many of the Danes returned to East Anglia where they settled as farmers. In 886, Alfred negotiated a partition treaty with the Danes, in which a frontier was demarcated along the Roman Watling Street and northern and eastern England came under the jurisdiction of the Danes - an area known as 'Danelaw'. Alfred therefore gained control of areas of West Mercia and Kent which had been beyond the boundaries of Wessex. To consolidate alliances against the Danes, Alfred married one of his daughters, Aethelflaed, to the ealdorman of Mercia -Alfred himself had married Eahlswith, a Mercian noblewoman - and another daughter, Aelfthryth, to the count of Flanders, a strong naval power at a time when the Vikings were settling in eastern England.

The Danish threat remained, and Alfred reorganised the Wessex defences in recognition that efficient defence and economic prosperity were interdependent. First, he organised his army (the thegns, and the existing militia known as the fyrd) on a rota basis, so he could raise a 'rapid reaction force' to deal with raiders whilst still enabling his thegns and peasants to tend their farms.

Second, Alfred started a building programme of well-defended settlements across southern England. These were fortified market places ('borough' comes from the Old English burh, meaning fortress); by deliberate royal planning, settlers received plots and in return manned the defences in times of war. (Such plots in London under Alfred's rule in the 880s shaped the streetplan which still exists today between Cheapside and the Thames.) This obligation required careful recording in what became known as 'the Burghal Hidage', which gave details of the building and manning of Wessex and Mercian burhs according to their size, the length of their ramparts and the number of men needed to garrison them. Centred round Alfred's royal palace in Winchester, this network of burhs with strongpoints on the main river routes was such that no part of Wessex was more than 20 miles from the refuge of one of these settlements. Together with a navy of new fast ships built on Alfred's orders, southern England now had a defence in depth against Danish raiders.

Alfred's concept of kingship extended beyond the administration of the tribal kingdom of Wessex into a broader context. A religiously devout and pragmatic man who learnt Latin in his late thirties, he recognised that the general deterioration in learning and religion caused by the Vikings' destruction of monasteries (the centres of the rudimentary education network) had serious implications for rulership. For example, the poor standards in Latin had led to a decline in the use of the charter as an instrument of royal government to disseminate the king's instructions and legislation. In one of his prefaces, Alfred wrote 'so general was its [Latin] decay in England that there were very few on this side of the Humber who could understand their rituals in English or translate a letter from Latin into English ... so few that I cannot remember a single one south of the Thames when I came to the throne.'

To improve literacy, Alfred arranged, and took part in, the translation (by scholars from Mercia) from Latin into Anglo-Saxon of a handful of books he thought it 'most needful for men to know, and to bring it to pass ... if we have the peace, that all the youth now in England ... may be devoted to learning'. These books covered history, philosophy and Gregory the Great's 'Pastoral Care' (a handbook for bishops), and copies of these books were sent to all the bishops of the kingdom. Alfred was patron of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (which was copied and supplemented up to 1154), a patriotic history of the English from the Wessex viewpoint designed to inspire its readers and celebrate Alfred and his monarchy.

Like other West Saxon kings, Alfred established a legal code; he assembled the laws of Offa and other predecessors, and of the kingdoms of Mercia and Kent, adding his own administrative regulations to form a definitive body of Anglo-Saxon law. 'I ... collected these together and ordered to be written many of them which our forefathers observed, those which I liked; and many of those which I did not like I rejected with the advice of my councillors ... For I dared not presume to set in writing at all many of my own, because it was unknown to me what would please those who should come after us ... Then I ... showed those to all my councillors, and they then said that they were all pleased to observe them' (Laws of Alfred, c.885-99).

By the 890s, Alfred's charters and coinage (which he had also reformed, extending its minting to the burhs he had founded) referred to him as 'king of the English', and Welsh kings sought alliances with him. Alfred died in 899, aged 50, and was buried in Winchester, the burial place of the West Saxon royal family.

By stopping the Viking advance and consolidating his territorial gains, Alfred had started the process by which his successors eventually extended their power over the other Anglo-Saxon kings; the ultimate unification of Anglo-Saxon England was to be led by Wessex. It is for his valiant defence of his kingdom against a stronger enemy, for securing peace with the Vikings and for his farsighted reforms in the reconstruction of Wessex and beyond, that Alfred - alone of all the English kings and queens - is known as 'the Great'.

EDWARD THE ELDER (899-924)

Well-trained by Alfred, his son Edward 'the Elder' (reigned 899-924) was a bold soldier who defeated the Danes in Northumbria at Tettenhall in 910 and was acknowledged by the Viking kingdom of York. The kings of Strathclyde and the Scots submitted to Edward in 921. By military success and patient planning, Edward spread English influence and control. Much of this was due to his alliance with his formidable sister Aethelflaed, who was married to the ruler of Mercia and seems to have governed that kingdom after her husband's death.

Edward was able to establish an administration for the kingdom of England, whilst obtaining the allegiance of Danes, Scots and Britons. Edward died in 924, and he was buried in the New Minster which he had had completed at Winchester. Edward was twice married, but it is possible that his eldest son Athelstan was the son of a mistress.

ATHELSTAN (924-939)

Edward's heir Athelstan (reigned 925-39) was also a distinguished and audacious soldier who pushed the boundaries of the kingdom to their furthest extent yet. In 927-8, Athelstan took York from the Danes; he forced the submission of king Constantine of Scotland and of the northern kings; all five Welsh kings agreed to pay a huge annual tribute (reportedly including 25,000 oxen), and Athelstan eliminated opposition in Cornwall.

The battle of Brunanburh in 937, in which Athelstan led a force drawn from Britain and defeated an invasion by the king of Scotland in alliance with the Welsh and Danes from Dublin, earned him recognition by lesser kings in Britain.

Athelstan's law codes strengthened royal control over his large kingdom; currency was regulated to control silver's weight and to penalise fraudsters. Buying and selling was mostly confined to the burghs, encouraging town life; areas of settlement in the midlands and Danish towns were consolidated into shires. Overseas, Athelstan built alliances by marrying four of his half-sisters to various rulers in Western Europe.

He also had extensive cultural and religious contacts; as an enthusiastic and discriminating collector of works of art and religious relics, he gave away much of his collection to his followers and to churches and bishops in order to retain their support.

Athelstan died at the height of his power and was buried at Malmesbury; a church charter of 934 described him as 'King of the English, elevated by the right hand of the Almighty ... to the Throne of the whole Kingdom of Britain'. Athelstan died childless.

EDMUND I (939-46)

Son of Edward the Elder, succeeded his half-brother, thelstan, with whom he had fought at Brunanburh. Combated the Norse Vikings in Northumbria and subdued them in Cumbria and Strathclyde. He entrusted these lands to an ally, Malcolm I of Scotland. Edmund met his death when he was killed at Pucklechurch, in Gloucestershire, by a robber.

EADRED (946-55)

King of Wessex and acknowledged as overlord of Mercia, the Danelaw and Northumbria. A challenge to Eadred, which serves to illustrate one of his chief qualities, developed in the north, in the early 950's. Eric Bloodaxe, an aptly named, ferocious, Norse Viking who had been deposed by his own people, established himself as king of Northumbria at York, apparently with the fearful acquiescence of the Northumbrians. Eadred responded by marching north with a considerable force to meet the threat. He proceeded to ravage the Norse-held territories, then moved back to the south. He was attacked on the way home by Eric's forces. Eadred was so enraged that he threatened to go back to Northumbria and ravage the entire land.

This prospect frightened the already frightened Northumbrians into abandoning Eric Bloodaxe. It must be that they viewed Eadred as more formidable than a bloodthirsty Viking, who had been thrown out of a society known for its bloodthirstiness, because he was too bloodthirsty and tyrannical for them. In any case, according to the "AngloSaxon Chronicle", "the Northumbrians expelled Eric."

As to his personal side, William of Malmesbury provides some illumination. He says that Eadred was afflicted with some lingering physical malady, since he was, "constantly oppressed by sickness, and of so weak a digestion as to be unable to swallow more than the juices of the food he had masticated, to the great annoyance of his guests." Regarding his spiritual side, apparently the pillaging, ravaging and laying waste that he did, had no deleterious effects on him. As Malmesbury states, he devoted his life to God, "endured with patience his frequent bodily pains, prolonged his prayers and made his palace altogether the school of virtue." He died while still a young man, as had so many of the kings of Wessex, "accompanied with the utmost grief of men but joy of angels."

EADWIG (EDWY) (955-59 AD)

On the death of Eadred, who had no children, Eadwig was chosen to be king since he was the oldest of the children in the natural line of the House of Wessex. He became king at 16 and displayed some of the tendencies one could expect in one so young, royalty or not. Historians have not treated Eadwig especially well, and it is unfortunate for him that he ran afoul of the influential Bishop Dunstan (friend and advisor to the recently deceased king, Eadred, future Archbishop of Canterbury and future saint), early in his reign. An incident, which occurred on the day of Eadwig's consecration as king, purportedly, illustrates the character of the young king. According to the report of the reliable William of Malmesbury, all the dignitaries and officials of the kingdom were meeting to discuss state business, when the absence of the new king was noticed. Dunstan was dispatched, along with another bishop, to find the missing youth. He was found with his mind on matters other than those of state, in the company of the daughter of a noble woman of the kingdom. Malmesbury writes, Dunstan, " regardless of the royal indignation, dragged the lascivious boy from the chamber and...compelling him to repudiate the strumpet made him his enemy forever." The record of this incident was picked up by future monastic chroniclers and made to be the definitive word on the character of Eadwig, mainly because of St. Dunstan's role in it.

Dunstan was, after that incident, never exactly a favorite of Eadwig's, and it may be fair to say that Eadwig even hated Dunstan, for he apparently exiled him soon after this. Eadwig went on to marry lgifu, the girl with whom he was keeping company at the time of Dunstan's intrusion. For her part, "the strumpet" was eventually referred to as among "the most illustrious of women", and Eadwig, in his short reign, was generous in making grants to the church and other religious institutions. He died, possibly of the Wessex family ailment, when he was only 20.

EDGAR (959-975)

Edgar, king in Mercia and the Danelaw from 957, succeeded his brother as king of the English on Edwy's death in 959 - a death which probably prevented civil war breaking out between the two brothers. Edgar was a firm and capable ruler whose power was acknowledged by other rulers in Britain, as well as by Welsh and Scottish kings. Edgar's late coronation in 973 at Bath was the first to be recorded in some detail; his queen Aelfthryth was the first consort to be crowned queen of England.

Edgar was the patron of a great monastic revival which owed much to his association with Archbishop Dunstan. New bishoprics were created, Benedictine monasteries were reformed and old monastic sites were re-endowed with royal grants, some of which were of land recovered from the Vikings.

In the 970s and in the absence of Viking attacks, Edgar - a stern judge - issued laws which for the first time dealt with Northumbria (parts of which were in the Danelaw) as well as Wessex and Mercia. Edgar's coinage was uniform throughout the kingdom. A more united kingdom based on royal justice and order was emerging; the Monastic Agreement (c.970) praised Edgar as 'the glorious, by the grace of Christ illustrious king of the English and of the other peoples dwelling within the bounds of the island of Britain'. After his death on 8 July 975, Edgar was buried at Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset.

EDWARD II THE MARTYR (975-979)

The sudden death of Edgar at the age of 33 led to a succession dispute between rival factions supporting his sons Edward and Ethelred. The elder son Edward was murdered in 978 at Corfe Castle, Dorset, by his seven-year-old half-brother's supporters.

ETHELRED II THE UNREADY (979-1013 AND 1014-1016)

Ethelred, the younger son of Edgar, became king at the age of seven following the murder of his half-brother Edward II in 978 at Corfe Castle, Dorset, by Edward's own supporters.

For the rest of Ethelred's rule (reigned 978-1016), his brother became a posthumous rallying point for political unrest; a hostile Church transformed Edward into a royal martyr. Known as the Un-raed or 'Unready' (meaning 'no counsel', or that he was unwise), Ethelred failed to win or retain the allegiance of many of his subjects. In 1002, he ordered the massacre of all Danes in England to eliminate potential treachery.

Not being an able soldier, Ethelred defended the country against increasingly rapacious Viking raids from the 980s onwards by diplomatic alliance with the duke of Normandy in 991 (he later married the duke's daughter Emma) and by buying off renewed attacks by the Danes with money levied through a tax called the Danegeld. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1006 was dismissive: 'in spite of it all, the Danish army went about as it pleased'. By 1012, 48,000 pounds of silver was being paid in Danegeld to Danes camped in London.

In 1013, Ethelred fled to Normandy when the powerful Viking Sweyn of Denmark dispossessed him. Ethelred returned to rule after Sweyn's death in 1014, but died himself in 1016.

SWEYN (1013-1014)

The son of a Danish king, Sweyn 'Forkbeard' began conquering territory in England in 1003, effectively devastating much of southern and midland England. The English nobility became so disillusioned with their existing king, Ethelred 'The Unready', that they acknowledged Sweyn as king in 1013. Sweyn's reign was short, as he died in 1014, but his son Canute the Great soon returned and reclaimed control of England.

EDMUND II, IRONSIDE (1016)

Edmund was King of England for only a few months. After the death of his father, thelred II, in April 1016, Edmund led the defense of the city of London against the invading Knut Sveinsson (Canute), and was proclaimed king by the Londoners. Meanwhile, the Witan (Council), meeting at Southampton, chose Canute as King. After a series of inconclusive military engagements, in which Edmund performed brilliantly and earned the nickname "Ironside", he defeated the Danish forces at Oxford, Kent, but was routed by Canute's forces at Ashingdon, Essex. A subsequent peace agreement was made, with Edmund controlling Wessex and Canute controlling Mercia and Northumbria. It was also agreed that whoever survived the other would take control of the whole realm. Unfortunately for Edmund, he died in November, 1016, transferring the Kingship of All England completely to Canute.

CANUTE THE GREAT (1016-1035)

Son of Sweyn, Canute became undisputed King of England in 1016, and his rivals (Ethelred's surviving sons and Edmund's son) fled abroad. In 1018, the last Danegeld of 82,500 pounds was paid to Canute. Ruthless but capable, Canute consolidated his position by marrying Ethelred's widow Emma (Canute's first English partner - the Church did not recognise her as his wife - was set aside, later appointed regent of Norway). During his reign, Canute also became King of Denmark and Norway; his inheritance and formidable personality combined to make him overlord of a huge northern empire. 
During his inevitable absences in Scandinavia, Canute used powerful English and Danish earls to assist in England's government - English law and methods of government remained unchanged.

A second-generation Christian for reasons of politics as well as faith, Canute went on pilgrimage to Rome in 1027-8. (It was allegedly Christian humility which made him reject his courtiers' flattery by demonstrating that even he could not stop the waves; later hostile chroniclers were to claim it showed madness.)


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