James I and James VI (1603-1625)
The Tudor dynasty ended with the death of the childless Elizabeth I in 1603. She was succeeded by another of Henry VII’s descendants, James VI of Scotland. James had reigned in Scotland for 36 years, and would rule both kingdoms for a further 22 years until his death in 1625. James firmly believed in the religious dimension of monarchy, though he had to temper his divine right views by ruling through parliament.
James VI and I (19 June 1566 – 27 March 1625) was King of Scotland as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of Englandand Ireland as James I from the union of the Scottish and English crowns on 24 March 1603 until his death. The kingdoms of Scotland and England were individual sovereign states, with their own parliaments, judiciary, and laws, though both were ruled by James in personal union.
James was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and a great-great-grandson of Henry VII, King of England and Lord of Ireland (through both his parents), uniquely positioning him to eventually accede to all three thrones. James succeeded to the Scottish throne at the age of thirteen months, after his mother Mary was compelled to abdicate in his favour. Four different regents governed during his minority, which ended officially in 1578, though he did not gain full control of his government until 1583. In 1603, he succeeded the last Tudormonarch of England and Ireland, Elizabeth I, who died without issue.
Charles I (1625-1649)
Charles was the second son of King James VI of Scotland, but after his father inherited the English throne in 1603, he moved to England, where he spent much of the rest of his life. He became heir apparent to the English, Irish and Scottish thrones on the death of his elder brother, Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, in 1612. An unsuccessful and unpopular attempt to marry him to a Spanish Habsburgprincess culminated in an eight-month visit to Spain in 1623 that demonstrated the futility of the marriage negotiations. Two years later he married the Bourbon princess Henrietta Maria of France instead.
After his succession, Charles quarrelled with the Parliament of England, which sought to curb his royal prerogative. Charles believed in the divine right of kings and thought he could govern according to his own conscience. Many of his subjects opposed his policies, in particular the levying of taxes without parliamentary consent, and perceived his actions as those of a tyrannical absolute monarch. His religious policies, coupled with his marriage to a Roman Catholic, generated the antipathy and mistrust of reformedgroups such as the Puritans and Calvinists, who thought his views too Catholic. He supported high church ecclesiastics, such as Richard Montagu and William Laud, and failed to successfully aid Protestant forces during the Thirty Years' War. His attempts to force the Church of Scotland to adopt high Anglican practices led to the Bishops' Wars, strengthened the position of the English and Scottish parliaments and helped precipitate his own downfall.
Oliver Cromwell (1653-1658)
Born into the middle gentry, albeit to a family descended from the sister of Henry VIII's minister Thomas Cromwell, Cromwell was relatively obscure for the first 40 years of his life. After undergoing a religious conversion in the 1630s, he became an independent puritan, taking a generally tolerant view towards the many Protestant sects of his period. An intensely religious man—a self-styled Puritan Moses—he fervently believed that God was guiding his victories. He was elected Member of Parliament for Huntingdon in 1628 and for Cambridge in the Short (1640) and Long (1640–49) Parliaments. He entered the English Civil War on the side of the "Roundheads" or Parliamentarians. Nicknamed "Old Ironsides", he was quickly promoted from leading a single cavalry troop to become one of the principal commanders of the New Model Army, playing an important role in the defeat of the royalist forces.
Richard Cromwell (1658-1659)
Richard Cromwell (4 October 1626 – 12 July 1712) was Lord Protector, thereby becoming one of only two non-royals to be the English head of state. His father, Oliver Cromwell, had risen from unknown member of Parliament in his 40s to being commander of the New Model Army, which emerged victorious from the English Civil War. When he returned from a final campaign in Ireland, Oliver Cromwell became disillusioned at inconclusive debates in the Rump Parliamentbetween Presbyterians and other schools of thought within Protestantism. Parliamentarian suspicion of anything smacking of Catholicism, which was strongly associated with the Royalist side in the war, led to enforcement of religious precepts that left moderate Anglicans barely tolerated. A Puritan regime strictly enforced the Sabbath, and banned almost all form of public celebration, even at Christmas. Cromwell attempted to reform the government through an army-nominated assembly known as Barebone's Parliament, but the proposals were so unworkably radical that he was forced to end the experiment after a few months. Thereafter, a written constitution created the position of Lord Protector for Cromwell and from 1653 until his death in 1658, he ruled with all the powers of a monarch, while Richard took on the role of heir.
Charles II (1660-1685)
Charles II's father, Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War. Although the Parliament of Scotland proclaimed Charles II King on 5 February 1649, England entered the period known as the English Interregnum or the English Commonwealth, and the country was a de facto republic, led by Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell defeated Charles II at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651, and Charles fled to mainland Europe. Cromwell became virtual dictator of England, Scotland and Ireland, and Charles spent the next nine years in exile in France, the Dutch Republic, and the Spanish Netherlands.
A political crisis that followed the death of Cromwell in 1658 resulted in the restoration of the monarchy, and Charles was invited to return to Britain. On 29 May 1660, his 30th birthday, he was received in London to public acclaim. After 1660, all legal documents were dated as if he had succeeded his father as king in 1649.
James II (1685-1688)
James II and VII (14 October 1633 – 16 September 1701) was King of England and Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685 until he was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. He was the last Roman Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland.
The second surviving son of Charles I, he ascended the throne upon the death of his brother, Charles II. Members of Britain's political and religious elite increasingly suspected him of being pro-French and pro-Catholic and of having designs on becoming an absolute monarch. When he produced a Catholic heir, the tension exploded, and leading nobles called on his Protestant son-in-law and nephew, William of Orange, to land an invasion army from the Netherlands, which he did. James fled England (and thus was held to have abdicated) in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. He was replaced by his Protestant elder daughter, Mary II, and her husband, William III. James made one serious attempt to recover his crowns from William and Mary, when he landed in Ireland in 1689 but, after the defeat of the Jacobite forces by the Williamite forcesat the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690, James returned to France. He lived out the rest of his life as a pretender at a court sponsored by his cousin and ally, King Louis XIV.
James is best known for struggles with the English Parliamentand his attempts to create religious liberty for English Roman Catholics and Protestant nonconformists against the wishes of the Anglican establishment. However, he also continued the persecution of the Presbyterian Covenanters in Scotland. Parliament, opposed to the growth of absolutism that was occurring in other European countries, as well as to the loss of legal supremacy for the Church of England, saw their opposition as a way to preserve what they regarded as traditional English liberties. This tension made James's four-year reign a struggle for supremacy between the English Parliament and the Crown, resulting in his deposition, the passage of the Bill of Rights, and the Hanoverian succession.
Mary II (1689-1694)
Mary II (30 April 1662 – 28 December 1694) was joint Sovereign of England, Scotland, and Ireland with her husband (who was also her first cousin), William III and II, from 1689 until her death. William and Mary, both Protestants, became king and queen regnant, respectively, following the Glorious Revolution, which resulted in the deposition of her Roman Catholic father, James II and VII and recognition of a constitutionalized English Bill of Rights. William became sole ruler upon her death in 1694. Popular histories usually refer to their joint reign as that of "William and Mary".
Mary wielded less power than William when he was in England, ceding most of her authority to him, though he heavily relied on her. She did, however, act alone when William was engaged in military campaigns abroad, proving herself to be a powerful, firm, and effective ruler.
William III (William of Orange)(1689–1702)
William III (4 November 1689 – 8 March 1702) was sovereign Prince of Orange from birth, Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland, and Overijssel in the Dutch Republic from 1672, and King of England, Ireland, and Scotland from 1689 until his death. It is a coincidence that his regnal number (III) was the same for both Orange and England. As King of Scotland, he is known as William II. He is informally known by sections of the population in Northern Ireland and Scotland as "King Billy".
William inherited the principality of Orange from his father, William II, who died a week before William's birth. His mother Mary, Princess Royal, was the daughter of King Charles I of England. In 1677, he married his mother's niece and his first cousin, Mary, the daughter of his maternal uncle James, Duke of York.
A Protestant, William participated in several wars against the powerful Catholic king of France, Louis XIV, in coalition with Protestant and Catholic powers in Europe. Many Protestants heralded him as a champion of their faith. In 1685, his Catholic father-in-law, James, became king of England, Ireland and Scotland, but his reign was unpopular with the Protestant majority in Britain. William was invited to invade England by a group of influential political and religious leaders and, in what became known as the "Glorious Revolution", on 5 November 1688, William landed at the southern English port of Brixham. James was deposed and William and Marybecame joint sovereigns in James's place. They reigned together until her death on 28 December 1694 after which William ruled as sole monarch.
William's reputation as a strong Protestant enabled him to take the British crowns when many were fearful of a revival of Catholicism under James. William's final victory at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 is still commemorated by the Orange Order. His reign in Britain marked the beginning of the transition from the personal rule of the Stuarts to the more Parliament-centred rule of the House of Hanover.