Read more about Tudor History
We may think short reigns of governing the nation relate to British Prime ministers going by the musical chairs of the past few years. But royal monarchs have also been subject to short stays on the throne, mainly because of political manoeuvring, wars, murder and unexpected deaths.
The following are a few of Britain’s royal rulers, some of whom never got to realise their full potential.
King Edward V - Reigned 77 days (April 1483 – 25 June 1483)
12-year-old Edward, Prince of Wales became king when his father, Edward IV, died on 9th April 1483. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, Edward’s IV brother, was named Protector of the new monarch and placed him and the heir apparent, Richard, in the Tower of London on 16th June.
Both boys were seen at times in the grounds of the Tower until the autumn of 1483 when they disappeared from public view. The young princes’ disappearance and their possible fates have been the subject of contention for the past 600 years.
Edward VI - Reigned six years (January 1547 – July 1553)
Edward championed the new Protestant reformation revolution known as the ‘Henrician Reformation’ and was at violent odds with his older half-sister, Mary, who was an ardent Catholic. Frail from birth, his health failed him and he died of tuberculosis aged 15.
Lady Jane Grey - Reigned nine days (July 1553)
The tragic Jane Grey was an unwilling pawn in a political game of power by her father-in-law, the Duke of Northumberland, who had persuaded Edward VI to will the crown to Jane after his death. A Protestant, Jane was the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister, Mary, and was married to Northumberland’s son, Percy. The 19-year-old Jane was proclaimed queen in October 1537.
Northumberland’s scheme to become ruler of England by proxy failed when neither the Lords nor the Commons would accept her. Instead, they declared for the rightful heir Princess Mary, daughter of Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon. After a failed coup plot by Northumberland, Jane and her husband Percy were imprisoned in the Tower and executed on the same day.
Mary Queen of Scots: Reigned six years (December 1561 – July 1567)
Famously pitted against her English cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Mary was executed at the age of 44. Mary’s reign as Queen of Scotland began on 14th December 1561 shortly after her arrival on Scottish soil from France and ended with her forced abdication on 24th July 1567.
During six tumultuous years, Mary became embroiled in scandal. She was accused of adultery and of being involved in a murder plot of her violent husband Lord Darnley. After fleeing to England, Mary was imprisoned for 25 years and eventually executed in February 1587, after having been found guilty of an assassination plot against Queen Elizabeth.
Edward VIII: Reigned 11 months (January 1936 – December 1936)
Also known as ‘David’, the eldest son of George V and Mary of Teck appeared to be the ideal heir to take over the throne. But Edward’s carefree attitude, love of fashionable society and predilection for older women put an end to his future as King of England. On ascending to the throne on 20th January 1936, his plan to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson provoked a constitutional crisis.
Edward VIII found his private life under scrutiny and faced pressure to cut ties with Mrs Simpson. Rather than lose the woman he loved, he chose to abdicate and made a now famous radio speech to the nation on 11th December 1936. Edward left Britain with his wife for the Bahamas where he served as Governor during WWII. Edward also became controversially linked by association to Hitler and the Nazi regime before Germany declared war on Britain.