Tuesday, 14 October 2014

A day of destiny for Britain's royals

October 14th is a day that has changed Britain's royal history several times over. It is the date that crops up regularly in the telling of the country's regal past.  From William the Conqueror to a girl who was almost queen, this is the day that has been responsible for the passage the crown will take over centuries.  A day of destiny for Britain's royals.

The Conqueror cometh - October 14th 1066 ended with William I claiming the throne of England

On this day in 1066 the battle that had been brewing between Harold Godwineson, King of England, and William, Duke of Normandy for months if not years finally came to pass at Senlac Hill on the south coast of England.  Their fight to the death is better known by the name of the larger settlement nearby and the Battle of Hastings is one of the most seismic moments in the country's history.  On October 14th 1066, William conquered England and claimed its crown as his own.  The House of Norman had begun.

William's great victory and the changing of the royal guard in England was detailed in the famous Bayeux Tapestry

But not only had a new royal dynasty been born, an old - even ancient - kingdom had died.  Harold Godwineson, Earl of Wessex had become King of England in January 1066 when Edward the Confessor died childless and named the most powerful lord in his land as his successor.  William of Normandy claimed the throne had been promised to him and in the battle to take what he said was his, Harold was killed.  The story of his death has been told many times - the arrow in the eye and the sad and long walk of his lover, Edith, to the battlefield after the fighting had ended to identify his body.  William imposed his rule on England over many years and shaped his new kingdom to his own pattern of administration but the change happened in those few hours on October 14th 1066.  On that day, the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of England died too.

King Harold of England died after an arrow was shot into his eye - one of the most famous royal deaths in history is shown in the Bayeux Tapestry

Centuries later, the very same date would loom large in England's royal history again.  On October 14th 1322, Robert the Bruce defeated Edward II at the Battle of Byland. It is not as famous as the Battle of Bannockburn of 1314 but it did have a big impact on relations between Scotland and England.  It was a humiliating defeat for Edward who by now was rapidly losing support across his kingdom. After the battle, the Scottish king held the upper hand over his English rival.  And the Scottish defeats that Edward suffered contributed to his unpopularity at his court and among his people.  Without them, he may not have ended up so weak that his wife was able to depose him in favour of their son.  October 14th 1322 contributed to another changing of the royal guard too.

Isabella, Queen of England deposed her husband five years after he suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Robert Bruce on October 14th 1322

The friction between the royal houses of England and Scotland came to a head again on October 14th 1586 when a middle aged woman went on trial at Fotheringay Castle.  Mary, Queen of Scots had been taken there weeks earlier after being implicated in the Babington Plot - a plan to assassinate Elizabeth I and place Mary on the throne.  The Queen of Scotland was tried before 36 peers who would convict her at the end of the month.  Elizabeth I didn't sign the warrant for Mary's execution until February 1587 but the death of her cousin then played a large part in her conviction that on her own death, her crown should pass to Mary's son.  James VI of Scotland became James I of England in 1603 on Elizabeth's death but in some ways, the path to the changeover between the House of Tudor and the House of Stuart began as his mother went on trial for her life on this day in 1586.

Mary, Queen of Scots went on trial for her life on October 14th 1586

And the end of the Stuart dynasty can also be traced to October 14th.  On that date, in 1633, Queen Henrietta Maria - wife of Charles I - gave birth to a son called James.  He would grow up to be a controversial prince.  When his older brother became Charles II on the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, James became heir to the throne.  Charles and his wife, Catherine of Braganza, had no children and so by the 1680s it was clear that James would become king.  But by then he was a practising Roman Catholic and the Protestant elite in England feared a Catholic king.  James succeeded in 1685 but the birth of his own son, another James, in 1688 increased fears.  Besides, James was not a popular ruler.  He was deposed by his daughter, Mary, and her husband, William, at the end of 1688.

James II was born on October 14th 1630

But October 14th hadn't finished with the Stuarts yet. James' daughter, now Mary II, had no children and the crown eventually passed to his other daughter by his first wife.  But Queen Anne lost all her children and by the time she took the throne, the hunt was on for a Protestant successor.  The person chosen was Sophia, Electress of Hanover - a granddaughter of James I.  Sophia died just two months before Anne but her son became George I in 1714.  Sophia's descendants still rule Britain today and can trace their line all the way back to this German princess who was born in 1633 - on October 14th.

No comments:

Post a Comment