Nine royal houses have ruled England since the Norman Conquest in 1066 and all of them have made their mark. But eight have seen their power pass elsewhere and this summer Royal Central is looking at what happened to those that have now faded into history. Today we look at a dynasty that had held one kingdom for several centuries before taking power in England and ask, what happened to the House of Stuart?
The House of Stuart
The House of Stuart had held power in Scotland since 1371 and the accession of Robert II. In 1603, on the death of Elizabeth I, the Tudor’s throne passed to it as well and James VI of Scotland became the first king of that name in England.
He faced immediate challenges in his new realm, the most famous being the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. His authoritarianism was challenged while his persecution of Catholics saw a continuation of the religious strife which had afflicted England for decades.
His son, Charles I, quickly came into conflict with parliament following his own accession in 1625 and by 1642, England had fallen into a civil war which would lead to the execution of its king and the rule of Oliver Cromwell.
The monarchy was restored in England in 1660 under Charles II who gained a reputation as a ‘merry monarch’ while establishing a new stability and wealth in his kingdom. However, a lack of legitimate heirs and ongoing religious division led to further trouble. Charles was succeeded by his brother, the Catholic James II, whose inept rule did little to win over his critics. In 1688, he was deposed by his daughter, Mary, and her husband, William of Orange.
The ‘Glorious Revolution’ as it was termed saw a further growth of parliamentary power, a process which continued in the joint rule of Mary II and William III. By 1702, politicians held sway as William was succeeded by his sister in law, Queen Anne.
The Last Monarch
Anne had been born the second daughter of a Catholic younger brother with little hope of succeeding but her decision to back her sister and brother in law in the toppling of James II turned her into heir to the throne.
Her reign saw the formal unification of England and Scotland while historians have argued over whether she was a pliant puppet of powerful politicians around her or a decisive and influential ruler trying to smooth the path of parliamentary rule.
The last years of her reign were dominated by illness.
The Last Consort
George of Denmark had married Anne in 1683 and the two quickly became devoted to one another. He took little part in the political intrigues that swirled during the reign of his father in law, James II, but on his wife’s accession, he was made Lord High Admiral and commander of all England’s military forces. It proved to be more a titular role and George continued as a steadfast support to his wife. His death, in 1708, left her devastated.
Queen Anne was pregnant seventeen times but none of her children survived to adulthood. Her so, William, lived until the age of eleven but by the time she became monarch, in 1702, he, too, was dead.
Anne knew as she ascended the throne that her crown would most likely pass to another dynasty. Even before she took power, Parliament had ensured the continuation of Protestant rule with the Act of Settlement of 1701. That named her cousin, Sophia, Electress of Hanover as heir to the throne should Anne, who was already suffering bad health, not have any further children.
In 1714, Sophia died and the claim passed to her son, George. Anne’s own death, on August 1st 1714, brought to an end Stuart rule and placed the House of Hanover on the British throne.