Our royal history is filled with major moments and those attached to the monarchs and consorts whose names are all too familiar take on a significance all of their own. Each month, at Royal Central, we’re taking a look at the monarchical milestones that pepper the past and as the year winds on, here is a Calendar of Kings for February.
To Crown a King
February is rather light on kingly birthdays but new beginnings of a different kind do feature. A hat trick of monarchs have been crowned in the second month of the year, starting with Edward II whose coronation took place on February 25th 1308 at Westminster Abbey. Edward, then 25, was crowned alongside his new consort, 12 year old Isabella of France, but this would be far from a harmonious partnership.
For the next February coronation came about after Isabella toppled her husband from power after his repeated betrayals and a descent towards tyranny. The queen forced her husband to abdicate in early 1327 and on February 1st that year, their eldest son was crowned as Edward III at Westminster Abbey. The new monarch, fourteen at the time his mother placed him on the throne, soon decided he wanted to rule without help and Isabella’s influence came to an end in 1330.
Another ill fated king was crowned in February. Charles I’s coronation took place on February 2nd 1626 at Westminster Abbey. While the nation celebrated the arrival of a new, young king, his reign would soon become turbulent.
In fact, the last chapter of Charles I’s sad royal story took place in February for in that month in 1649, the king was buried, ten days after his execution. Charles had been beheaded for treason outside Whitehall Palace in London on January 30th. He was laid to rest quietly at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor on February 9th 1649.
He was buried in the same vault as Henry VIII who was also buried on a cold, February day. The much married monarch was laid to rest on February 16th 1547, almost three weeks after his death and alongside his third wife, Jane Seymour, who had given him the son he so longed for and who had inherited his throne as King Edward VI.
The Chapel of St. George’s was also the setting for the funeral of King George III who was buried there on February 16th 1820. The king, who had been deemed unable to rule because of mental health problems during the last ten years of his life, had passed away at Windsor on January 29th.
February has brought a number of kingly deaths, too. Richard II, the young king whose tyrannical rule led to overthrow by his cousin Henry Bolingbroke, died in somewhat mysterious circumstances around February 14th 1400. Richard had abdicated in September 1399 and had been held at Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire where he most probably starved to death – whether he stopped eating or was purposely killed is unclear. His body was soon put on display to dispel any myths he might actually still be alive and he was buried at Kings Langley weeks later.
A much more popular monarch also passed away on a February day. King Charles II, who had restored the Crown following the rule of Oliver Cromwell, passed away on February 6th 1685 at Whitehall Palace in London, the same building where his father, Charles I, had been beheaded. He was buried at Westminster Abbey on February 14th that year.
King George VI, father of the Queen, died on February 6th 1952 at Sandringham, Norfolk. The king had been poorly for some time and when his valet went to wake him that morning, he found the monarch had passed away in his sleep. His funeral took place at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor on February 15th 1952.
The start of a new reign
The passing of one monarch means the beginning of another’s rule and one of Britain’s least successful kings began his turbulent time at the top on February 6th 1685. That was the day that James II took the throne on the death of his older brother, Charles II. While Charles’ good humour and determination had turned him into the hugely popular Merry Monarch, his little brother soon squandered that good will and was driven from power in 1688.
His throne went to his daughter, Mary, and her husband, William of Orange. They were declared joint monarchs by parliament on February 13th 1689, months after toppling James from power in what became known as the Glorious Revolution.
However, they weren’t crowned straight away – that story comes in another month, as we continue our Calendar of Kings and Queens.