History of the English line of succession

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An artist's impression of the negotiation for the throne of England between Stephen of Blois and Henry of Anjou during the Anarchy which was resolved by the Treaty of Wallingford in 1153.

In its 600-year history since William I claimed the English throne, succession has been determined by bequest, battle, primogeniture, and parliament.

William I[edit]

On his deathbed, William the Conqueror accorded the Duchy of Normandy to his eldest son Robert Curthose, the Kingdom of England to his son William Rufus, and money for his youngest son Henry Beauclerc for him to buy land. Thus, with William I's death on 9 September 1087, the heir to the throne was:

  1. William Rufus (b. 1056), son of William I

He became William II.

William II[edit]

William II had no children. On his death, on 2 August 1100, his elder brother Robert was away on crusade. Their younger brother, Henry Beauclerc, became king as Henry I.

Henry I[edit]

The succession to Henry I was altered by the death of his son, William Adelin. Left without male heirs, Henry took the unprecedented step of making his barons swear to accept his daughter Empress Matilda, widow of Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor, as his heir. However, the throne was usurped by Henry's nephew Stephen of Blois (the third son of Adela of Normandy). He became King Stephen.

Stephen[edit]

The succession to Stephen was altered by the death of his son Eustace, whom he wished to have crowned king during his own lifetime (in imitation of the Capetian monarchy). Though Stephen still had a son, William, the boy was still young and unprepared to challenge Henry of Anjou, the son of his cousin Matilda, for the throne.

By the Treaty of Wallingford, Stephen agreed to make Henry his successor. Thus, on the day of Stephen's death, 25 October 1154, Henry became King Henry II.

Henry II[edit]

The succession to Henry II was altered by the death of his son, Henry the Young King, who was crowned king while his father still lived.

On the day of Henry II's death, 6 July 1189, the throne passed smoothly to his eldest living son: Richard I.

Richard I[edit]

Richard had no legitimate children. On the day of his death, 6 April 1199, if the line of succession to the English throne had followed primogeniture, he would have been succeeded by his nephew Arthur I, Duke of Brittany (b. 1187), son of Richard I's brother Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany. However, since Arthur had sided with Philip II of France, Richard's enemy, Richard named his younger brother John as his heir, and he became king.

John[edit]

John died, on 19 October 1216, in the midst of conflict against his barons; most of them had already recognized Prince Louis of France as king. However, with John's death, his barons saw his young son as a safer option. John's eldest son became Henry III, and the French were driven away from the country.

Henry III[edit]

On Henry's death, on 16 November 1272, the throne passed smoothly to his eldest son, Edward I.

Edward I[edit]

On Edward I's death, on 7 July 1307, the throne passed smoothly to his eldest son, Edward II.

Edward II[edit]

On the day of Edward II's abdication, 24 January 1327, the throne passed to his eldest son, Edward III.

Edward III[edit]

The succession to Edward III was governed according to his entail to the crown in 1376.[1] On his death, on 21 June 1377, the line of succession to the English throne was:

  1. Richard of Bordeaux (b. 1367), son of Edward III's son Edward, the Black Prince (b. 1330)
  2. John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster (b. 1340), son of Edward III
  3. Henry Bolingbroke (b. 1366), son of John
  4. Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York (b. 1341), son of Edward III
  5. Edward of Norwich (b. 1373), son of Edmund
  6. Richard of Conisburgh (b. 1375), son of Edmund
  7. Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester (b. 1355), son of Edward III

The throne passed smoothly to the first person in line, who became Richard II.

Richard II[edit]

On the day of Richard II's abdication, 29 September 1399, the line of succession to the English throne was as follows (following primogeniture, according to Richard II's entail in 1399):

  1. Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March (b. 1391), son of Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March and great-great-grandson of Edward III through Philippa, 5th Countess of Ulster
  2. Roger Mortimer (b. 1395), son of Roger
    • Anne de Mortimer (b. 1388), daughter of Roger
    • Eleanor de Mortimer (b. 1395), daughter of Roger
  3. Edmund Mortimer (b. 1376), brother of Roger and great-grandson of Edward III
    • Elizabeth Mortimer (b. 1371), sister of Roger and great-granddaughter of Edward III
  4. Henry Percy, 2nd Earl of Northumberland (b. 1392/1393), son of Elizabeth
    • Elizabeth Percy (b. circa 1393), daughter of Elizabeth
    • Philippa Mortimer (b. 1375), sister of Roger and great-granddaughter of Edward III
  5. Henry Bolingbroke (b. 1366), son of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster and grandson of Edward III

However, upon Richard's abdication the throne was taken by Henry Bolingbroke as Henry IV.

Henry IV[edit]

Henry had justified his usurpation by emphasizing his descent in the male line. Thus, the Lancastrian line of succession is agnatic, similar to the French succession.

On the day of Henry IV's death, 20 March 1413, the line of succession to the English throne following agnatic primogeniture was:

  1. Henry of Monmouth, Prince of Wales (b. 1387), son of Henry IV
  2. Thomas, Duke of Clarence (b. 1388), son of Henry IV
  3. John, Duke of Bedford (b. 1389), son of Henry IV
  4. Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (b. 1390), son of Henry IV
  5. Edward, Duke of York (b.1373), son of Edmund, 1st Duke of York
  6. Richard, Earl of Cambridge (b. 1375), son of Edmund, 1st Duke of York
  7. Richard Plantagenet (b. 1411), son of Richard, Earl of Cambridge

Upon his death, the throne passed smoothly to the first person in line, who became Henry V.

Henry V[edit]

On the day of Henry V's death, 31 August 1422, the line of succession following agnatic primogeniture was:

  1. Henry, Duke of Cornwall (b. 1421), son of Henry V
  2. John, Duke of Bedford (b. 1389), brother of Henry V
  3. Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (b. 1390), brother of Henry V
  4. Richard, Duke of York (b. 1411), son of Richard, Earl of Cambridge

Upon his death, the throne passed smoothly to the first person in line, who became Henry VI.

Henry VI (first instance)[edit]

On the day of Henry VI's first deposition, 4 March 1461, the line of succession following agnatic primogeniture was;

  1. Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales (b. 1453), son of Henry VI
  2. Edward, Earl of March (b. 1442), son of Richard, 3rd Duke of York
  3. George Plantagenet (b. 1449), son of Richard, 3rd Duke of York
  4. Richard Plantagenet (b. 1452), son of Richard, 3rd Duke of York

However, during the Wars of the Roses, Henry VI was forcibly deposed by his third cousin twice removed, Edward, Earl of March, who became Edward IV.

Edward IV (first instance)[edit]

Edward IV was deposed on 3 October 1470, and the throne was restored to Henry VI, the previous monarch, during the period known as the Readeption of Henry VI.

Henry VI (second instance)[edit]

On the day of Henry VI's second deposition, 11 April 1471, the line of succession following agnatic primogeniture was:

  1. Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales (b. 1453), son of Henry VI
    Edward IV and his descendants were removed from the Lancastrian succession either due to an attainder or his alleged illegitimacy
  2. George, Duke of Clarence (b. 1449), son of Richard, 3rd Duke of York
  3. Richard, Duke of Gloucester (b. 1452), son of Richard, 3rd Duke of York

However, the English nobility again became frustrated with Henry's inability to rule competently, and reinstalled Edward IV as king after less than a year.

Edward IV (second instance)[edit]

On the day of Edward IV's death, 9 April 1483, he was succeeded by his son Edward, Prince of Wales, who became Edward V.

Edward V[edit]

Edward V was deposed, on 25 June 1483, and the throne was usurped by his uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who claimed that Edward V (and all his siblings) were illegitimate and therefore could not ascend the throne. Gloucester became Richard III.

Richard III[edit]

Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485. He was succeeded by the victor of the battle, Henry Tudor, 2nd Earl of Richmond, a descendant in a legitimated line of John of Gaunt. He became Henry VII.

Henry VII[edit]

On the day of Henry VII's death, 21 April 1509, the throne passed smoothly to his oldest living son, Henry VIII.

Henry VIII[edit]

On the day of Henry VIII's death, 28 January 1547, the line of succession was governed by the Third Succession Act:

  1. Prince Edward (b. 1537), only legitimate son of Henry VIII
  2. Lady Mary (b. 1516), elder daughter of Henry VIII
  3. Lady Elizabeth (b. 1533), younger daughter of Henry VIII
    Descendants of Henry's elder sister Margaret, Queen of Scots were excluded by Henry's will:
    Frances Grey, daughter of Mary Tudor, was excluded by Henry's will, but her heirs of the body were included.
  4. Lady Jane Grey (b. 1536/7), Frances Grey's eldest daughter (later briefly queen regnant)
  5. Lady Catherine Grey (b. 1540), Frances Grey's second daughter
  6. Lady Mary Grey (b. 1545), Frances Grey's third daughter
    Eleanor Clifford, Countess of Cumberland (b. 1519), Frances Grey's sister was also excluded by Henry's will:
  7. Lady Margaret Clifford (b. 1540), Eleanor Clifford's daughter

Upon his death, the throne passed smoothly to the first person in line, who became Edward VI.

Edward VI[edit]

On the day of Edward VI's death, 6 July 1553, the line of succession to the English throne was as follows (according to the will of Henry VIII, which excluded the descendants of his elder sister, Margaret, Queen of Scotland:

  1. Lady Mary (b. 1516), first daughter of Henry VIII
  2. Lady Elizabeth (b. 1533), second daughter of Henry VIII
  3. Lady Jane Dudley (b. 1536/7), Frances Brandon's eldest daughter
  4. Lady Catherine Grey (b. 1540), Frances Brandon's second daughter
  5. Lady Mary Grey (b. 1545), Frances Brandon's third daughter
  6. Lady Margaret Clifford (b. 1540), daughter of Frances Brandon's sister, Eleanor, Countess of Cumberland

Edward VI left a Device for the Succession, in an attempt to remove the peculiarity of his sisters' illegitimacy and rights of succession. The validity of the device was challenged after his death. In Edward's Device,

Henry VIII's two illegitimate (by the Third Succession Act) daughters were excluded:
Descendants of Henry's elder sister Margaret, Queen of Scots were excluded by Henry's will:
Following his father's will, Edward left out his cousins, Frances Grey and Eleanor Clifford
  1. Lady Jane Dudley (b. 1536/7), Frances Brandon's eldest daughter
  2. Lady Catherine Grey (b. 1540), Frances Brandon's second daughter
  3. Lady Mary Grey (b. 1545), Frances Brandon's third daughter
  4. Lady Margaret Clifford (b. 1540), daughter of Frances Brandon's sister, Eleanor Clifford, Countess of Cumberland

Upon his death, the first person in line per Edward's Device was proclaimed Queen Jane. Within days, Lady Mary claimed the throne as Mary I.

Elizabeth I[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Succession to Elizabeth I of England.

On the day of Elizabeth I's death, 24 March 1603, Elizabeth's potential heirs were from the lines of her father's two sisters:

Descendants of Henry VIII's elder sister, Margaret, Queen of Scots, were excluded by Henry's Will:
Descendants of Henry VIII's younger sister, Mary, Duchess of Suffolk, were junior in terms of primogeniture, but were placed as heirs after Henry VIII's own descendants. Descendants through Lady Catherine Grey, Mary's granddaughter, and were not considered legitimate at the time:
  • Edward Seymour, Lord Beauchamp (b. 1561), great-grandson of Mary Tudor
  • The Hon Edward Seymour (b. 1586), Lord Beauchamp's first son
  • The Hon William Seymour (b. 1588), Lord Beauchamp's second son
  • The Hon Francis Seymour (b. c. 1590), Lord Beauchamp's third son
  • The Hon Honora Seymour (b. b. 1594), Lord Beauchamp's first daughter
  • The Hon Anne Seymour, Lord Beauchamp's second daughter
  • The Hon Mary Seymour, Lord Beauchamp's third daughter
  • The Hon Thomas Seymour (b. 1563), Lord Beauchamp's younger brother
  1. Lady Anne Stanley (b. 1580), great-great-granddaughter of Mary Tudor
  2. Lady Frances Egerton (b. 1583), Lady Anne's sister
  3. Lady Elizabeth Hastings (b. 1587), Lady Anne's sister
  4. William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby (b. 1561), Lady Anne's uncle

Upon her death, the throne passed to the King James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England.

James I[edit]

On the day of James I's death, 27 March 1625, the line of succession to the English throne was:

  1. Charles, Prince of Wales (b. 1600) James I's son
  2. Elizabeth of Bohemia (b. 1596) James I's daughter
  3. Prince Frederick Henry von der Pfalz (b. 1614) Elizabeth's first son
  4. Prince Charles Louis von der Pfalz (b. 1617) Elizabeth's second son
  5. Prince Rupert von der Pfalz (b. 1619) Elizabeth's third son
  6. Prince Maurice von der Pfalz (b. 1620) Elizabeth's fourth son
  7. Princess Elisabeth von der Pfalz (b. 1618) Elizabeth's first daughter
  8. Princess Louise von der Pfalz (b. 1622) Elizabeth's second daughter
  9. William Seymour, Lord Beauchamp (b. 1588) James I's third cousin, twice removed via James' great-great-grandfather Henry VII
  10. William Seymour (b. 1621) William's eldest son

Upon his death, the throne passed smoothly to the first person in line, who became Charles I.

Charles I[edit]

When Charles I was beheaded on 30 January 1649 the line of succession to the English and Scottish thrones was:

  1. Charles, Prince of Wales (b. 1630) Charles I's 1st son
  2. Prince James, Duke of York (b. 1633) Charles I's 2nd son
  3. Prince Henry (b. 1639) Charles I's 3rd son
  4. Mary, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange (b. 1631) Charles I's 1st daughter
  5. Princess Elizabeth of England (b. 1635) Charles I's 2nd daughter
  6. Princess Henrietta Anne of England (b. 1644) Charles I's 3rd daughter
  7. Elizabeth of Bohemia (b. 1596) Charles I's sister
  8. Charles I Louis, Elector Palatine (b. 1617) Elizabeth of Bohemia's 2nd son
  9. Prince Rupert of the Rhine (b. 1619) Elizabeth of Bohemia's 3rd son
  10. Prince Maurice von Simmern (b. 1620) Elizabeth of Bohemia's 4th son

However, the monarchy in England was abolished and Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector. After Cromwell's death, the monarchy was restored under Charles I's eldest son, Charles II.

Charles II[edit]

On the day of Charles II death, 6 February 1685, the line of succession to the English and Scottish thrones was:

  1. Prince James, Duke of York, (b. 1633) Charles II's brother
  2. Princess Mary of Orange, (b. 1662) Prince James's 1st daughter
  3. Princess Anne of Denmark and Norway, (b. 1665) Prince James's 2nd daughter
  4. Prince William of Orange, (b. 1650) Charles II's nephew via Mary, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange
  5. Maria Luisa of Orléans, Queen of Spain (b. 1662) Charles II's niece via Henrietta Anne Stuart
  6. Anne Marie of Orléans, Duchess of Savoy (b. 1669) Maria Luisa's sister
  7. Charles II, Elector Palatine (b. 1651) Charles II's cousin once removed via aunt Elizabeth of Bohemia
  8. Elisabeth Charlotte, Duchess of Orleans (b. 1652) sister of Charles II Elector Palatine
  9. Philippe, Duke of Chartres (b. 1674) Elisabeth Charlotte's son
  10. Princess Elisabeth Charlotte of Orleans (b. 1676) Elisabeth Charlotte's daughter

On his death, the throne passed smoothly to the first in line, who became James II.

James II[edit]

On the day that James II fled the country, 11 December 1688, the line of succession to the English and Scottish thrones was:

  1. James, Prince of Wales (b. 1688) James II's son
  2. Mary, Princess of Orange (b. 1662) James II's 1st daughter
  3. Princess Anne of Denmark and Norway (b. 1665) James II's 2nd daughter
  4. William III, Prince of Orange (b. 1650) James II's nephew via sister Mary, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange
  5. Maria Luisa, Queen of Spain (b. 1662) James II's niece via sister Henrietta Anne Stuart
  6. Anne Marie, Duchess of Savoy (b. 1669) Maria Luisa's sister
  7. Princess Marie-Adélaïde of Savoy (b. 1685) Anne Marie's 1st daughter
  8. Princess Marie Anne of Orléans (b. 1687) Anne Marie's 2nd daughter
  9. Maria Luisa of Savoy (b. 1688) Anne Marie's 3rd daughter
  10. Elisabeth Charlotte, Duchess of Orleans (b. 1652), James II's 1st cousin once removed via aunt Elizabeth of Bohemia

Parliament offered the throne jointly to James II's elder daughter, who became Mary II, and her husband and first cousin, William III.

William III & Mary II[edit]

The Bill of Rights 1689 established that, whichever of the joint monarchs, William III and Mary II, died first, the other would reign alone. As Mary II died first, on 28 December 1694, William III became sole remaining monarch. On the day of Mary's death, the line of succession to the English and Scottish thrones was:

  1. Princess Anne of Denmark (b. 1665) Mary II's sister
  2. Prince William of Denmark and Norway, Duke of Gloucester (b. 1689) Anne's only surviving child

William III[edit]

On the day of William III's death, 8 March 1702, the line of succession to the English throne was determined by the Act of Settlement 1701:

  1. Princess Anne of Denmark (b. 1665), sister of the king's late wife and daughter of James II
  2. Sophia, Electress of Hanover (b. 1630), Anne's first cousin once removed
  3. George Louis, Elector of Hanover (b. 1660), first son of Electress Sophia
  4. George Augustus, Electoral Prince of Hanover (b. 1683), son of the Elector of Hanover
  5. Princess Sophia Dorothea of Hanover (b. 1687), daughter of the Elector
  6. Prince Maximilian Wilhelm of Hanover (b. 1666), second son of Electress Sophia
  7. Prince Christian Henry of Hanover (b. 1671), third surviving son of Electress Sophia
  8. Prince Ernest Augustus of Hanover (b. 1674), fourth surviving son of Electress Sophia
  9. Sophia, Queen in Prussia (b. 1668), daughter of Electress Sophia
  10. Frederick William, Crown Prince of Prussia (b. 1688), son of Queen Sophia Charlotte

The line of succession to the Scottish throne was governed by the Claim of Right Act 1689:

  1. Princess Anne of Denmark (b. 1665), sister of the king's late wife

Upon his death, the throne passed smoothly to the first person in line, who became Queen Anne.

The succession continued with the monarchs of Great Britain.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Given-Wilson, Chris (2004). Alfonso Antón, Isabel, ed. Building Legitimacy: Political Discourses and Forms of Legitimacy in Medieval Societies. Boston, MA: Brill. pp.  90. ISBN 90-04-13305-4. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Iola Price Ahl (1970), Opposing Theories of Succession to the English Throne, 1681-1714 
  • Howard Nenner (1995), The Right to be King: the succession to the Crown of England, 1603-1714, University of North Carolina Press, ISBN 9780807822470 
  • Jason L. Craig (1998), A Historiographical Look at the Succession to the English Throne 
  • George Garnett (2007), Conquered England: Kingship, Succession, and Tenure 1066-1166, Oxford University Press, ISBN 019820793X