April brings spring, brighter weather, a flurry of flowers and an array of anniversaries. The fourth month of the year has been the backdrop for some milestone events involving England’s queens, both regnant and consort. Here’s our Calendar of Queens for April.
April is a month for queens regnant. Queen Mary II, who shared power with her husband William III, made her debut on April 30th 1662 at St. James’ Palace, London. She was born the daughter of James II (then Duke of York) and his first wife, Anne Hyde. Years later she would take the arrival of a half brother as the opportunity to launch a grab for her father’s throne which ended in his deposition and her own accession.
The longest reigning Monarch in British history was also born in April. Elizabeth II made her debut on April 21st 1926, born by caesarean section at 17 Bruton Street, Mayfair, the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York, later to become George VI and his queen, Elizabeth.
April brings us three queenly brides. The first is Margaret of Anjou who wed Henry VI on April 23rd 1445 at Titchfield Abbey. He had already been king for 23 years at the time and was already showing signs of mental health problems. His new queen would end up wielding considerable political and military power when her husband’s throne came under threat in the Wars of the Roses.
It was far from a happy ever after for Caroline of Brunswick, too, following her April wedding. The young princess married the future George IV on April 8th 1795 at St. James Palace, London. He was still heir to the throne at the time and the couple took an instant disliking to each other. They lived separate lives after the birth of their only child, Charlotte, and when Caroline tried to be crowned as queen on her husband’s accession, he had the doors of Westminster Abbey shut in her face.
However, April has provided one royal fairytale wedding. Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon had turned down Albert, Duke of York twice before she finally agreed to become his wife. They wed on April 26th 1923 at Westminster Abbey. Their happy marriage became the bedrock of the Monarchy when Albert unexpectedly found himself as King George VI following the Abdication of his brother, Edward VIII, in 1936. His April bride was a driving force in his success.
An often forgotten consort is among those whose story came to an end in April. Adeliza of Louvain had married Henry II in 1121, soon after the death of his only legitimate male heir. Despite spending almost every day with her much older husband, Adeliza never had a child with him although following his death in 1135, she did have a family with her second husband. Adeliza, Queen of England, died in April 1151, most probably in Afflighem.
One of England’s most famous queens also died in April. Eleanor of Aquitaine had been one of the most powerful and influential people in Europe for decades when she died on April 1 1204 at Fontevraud Abbey.
Mary of Modena, consort to James II, was crowned alongside her husband on April 23rd 1685. The couple chose the date to follow the example set by James’ PR savvy brother, Charles II.
Mary’s stepdaughter, the conquering queen, Mary II, wasn’t just an April baby. She also chose the month for the crowning start to her reign. Mary was crowned alongside the husband she made a king on April 11th 1689 at Westminster Abbey.
Mary and William’s throne eventually passed to her younger sister, Queen Anne, who carried on the Stuart tradition and chose St. George’s Day for her own coronation. Anne was crowned on April 23rd 1702 at Westminster Abbey.
A final farewell was said to Elizabeth I on April 28th 1603 when her funeral took place at Westminster Abbey. She had died on March that year at Richmond Palace. Elizabeth was buried next to her half sister, Mary I, at Westminster.
The Abbey was also the setting for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. It took place on April 9th 2002, nine days after her death on March 31st. Following the ceremony, the Queen Mother was buried at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, next to her husband, George VI.