Will Charles keep his head?
- September 23, 2022
- Posted by: Madrigal Admin
- Category: Word of the Week Blog
Australia’s new king is King Charles III. The new monarch, like his mother, has decided to keep his name as sovereign after ascending to the throne. The English monarchs and their advisors have a strong sense of history so we really need to ask: is Charles the best name for English kings and what are his choices?
English kings called Charles
King Charles I of England was tried, convicted, and executed in 1649 for high treason. After coming to power in 1625, he faced political challenges and refused to accept the role of constitutional monarch. Shortly after his execution, the Commonwealth of England was established as a republic.
The monarchy was restored by Charles’s son, Charles II. Born in 1630, Charles II ascended to the throne in 1660. After his father’s execution he was proclaimed king. However the republic was still led by Oliver Cromwell and the monarchy was not restored until after his death.
Early kings of England
Before the Norman invasion there were many kings that were constantly fighting over what were smaller kingdoms in England. The most successful was Alfred the Great. The Anglo-Saxons and their rivals tended to favour names starting with E or AE—Aethelstan, Aethelred, Edmund, Eadred, Eadwig, Edgar, Edward. The Scandinavian kings who held power included Canute, Harold and Harthacnut. There was then Harold Godwinson, who valiantly tried to defend England on two fronts but lost England in 1066.
No not Arthur
After the gaffe in the Victorian state parliament it is worth noting that King Arthur is not one of the English kings. Now while many have visited his castles all over England he is more likely to be a European that has been mythologised into English history.
English kings called William
William the Conquerer who won in England from Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 was the first William. The Normans were essentially invaders. William of Orange or William III, and his wife Mary, were given the throne in what some suggest was a bloodless coup. They had replaced James II. The last King William was William IV who predated Queen Victoria (she was descended from George III). He was a down-to-earth man who shunned pomp.
The first Henry was William the Conqueror’s son. After him came quite a few Henrys. Henry V was a great martial king who beat the French at Agincourt in 1415) in one of English history’s great victories (there was a young yeoman at the battle called Bertine Entwisle who my family claims as an ancestor). But the Henry name became tarnished with the infamous Tudor king Henry VIII.
Henry VIII apart from dumping Catholicism so that he could divorce his first wife (of six) he went on to execute a staggering 57,000 people over his 36 year rule. Many were accused of treason, including several of his wives, and he managed to purge anyone who had a rival claim to the throne.
The Tudors had managed to wrest power from the Plantagenets at the Battle of Bosworth (1485). King RIchard III was killed in the battle and became the victim of Tudor propaganda which had him portrayed in history as an evil hunchback who killed his nephews in the tower. Even Shakespeare was complicit.
There was a King John in 1199. He lost a lot of English holdings in France and was vastly unpopular. He is perhaps best known as the king that allowed Robin Hood to be persecuted under the Sheriff of Nottingham and for being forced to sign the Magna Carta restricting the absolute powers of the monarch.
Kings called Edward came back into fashion in medieval England (the early Anglo-Saxon kings weren’t included in the numbering). Edward I was a strong martial leader. The last was Edward VIII who abdicated in 1936 because he wanted to marry Wallis Simpson (and was a Nazi sympathiser).
Queen Elizabeth’s father was George VI. He was a much beloved king for his and his wife’s leadership during WWII. He did bring some credibility to the name after the feckless Hanoverians (imported kings from Germany, including mad King George III who is most famous for losing the American colonies).
English kings called James
Britain has had a couple of James. They were Scottish kings that combined the Scottish and English monarchies together. The first James was the son of Mary Queen of Scots. He was unsuccessfully assassinated by Guy Fawkes. The second converted to Catholicism and was overthrown by William of Orange and Mary (Protestants).
The best name for English kings
The English seem to have a limited pool of names to call upon for English kings. Wherever they go to they seem to have some major reason to avoid the name for a new king. Williams have been foreign invader (from Germany or France), Henry would draw attention to multiple wives and a psychopathic nature, George to feckless inattention, Edward to self-centredness and nazi sympathies, John’s support of the aristocracy over the people, Richard as arch-villian and nephew-killer, and Charles as a poor ruler who gave England over to a republic. You can’t help thinking another Elizabeth might be a better option.