Government and Politics

Rulers of Great Britain

What are England’s royal “houses”?

England’s royal houses are simply families, including ancestors, descendants, and kin. Since 1066 England’s rulers have come from a series of 10 royal houses: Normandy (ruled 1066–1135), Blois (1135–54), Plantagenet (1154–1399), Lancaster (1399–1471), York (1471–85), Tudor (1485–1603), Stuart (1603–49, restored 1660–1714), Hanover (1714–1901), Saxe-Coborg (1901–10), and Windsor (1910 to present).

Prior to the establishment of the House of Normandy, England had been ruled by Saxons and Danes since 802. The first king of the House of Normandy was William I (also known as William the Conqueror [c. 1028–1087]), who was the son of the French Duke of Normandy. William invaded England in 1066 on the death of Edward the Confessor and the ascension of Harold II (c. 1022–1066). Ousting Harold, William was coronated at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day. William’s grandson, Stephen, was all that consisted of the short-lived reign of the House of Blois (named such since Stephen was the Count of Blois and Chartres, though he was raised in the court of his uncle, King Henry I, whom he succeeded).

The House of Plantagenet, also called the House of Anjou, included the 10-year reign (1189–99) of Richard I, or Richard the Lionhearted (1157–1099), who fought his father, Henry II (1068–1135), and his brothers for control of the throne. Richard’s military prowess made him the hero of romantic legends. Thereafter, two contending branches of the House of Plantagenet—the houses of Lancaster and York—vied for the crown in the infamous War of the Roses (1455–85). The struggle finally ended when Henry VII (a Lancaster) ascended the throne and married into the House of York, reuniting the two sides of the family under the newly minted House of Tudor.

The Tudors were a famous lot, remembered for the reigns of Henry VIII (1509–47) and his daughters, Mary I (1553 to 1558) and Elizabeth I (1558–1603). The Tudors were followed by the Stuarts, whose reign was interrupted by the establishment of the Commonwealth and Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658). The house was restored to power, giving history the eight-year period known as the Restoration, in 1660. It was King William III (1650–1702), a Stuart, and Queen Mary II (1662–1694), who began in 1689 to rule England in a more modern fashion—through Parliament.

A Stuart descendant, George I (1660–1727), established the House of Hanover, which originated in Germany. Queen Victoria (1819–1901), who presided over the Victorian Age (1837–1901), was of the House of Hanover. She was succeeded by her son, Edward VII (1841–1910), who established the House of Saxe-Coburg. Technically, this is the royal house still at the helm today—the name was changed to Windsor during World War I (1914–18).


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