October is truly the king of all the autumn months as the leaves turn to gold and regal red and the fading sun adds a gentle sparkle to all it touches. And it’s marked the beginning of five royal roads that ended with a crown – although all five monarchs had very different royal careers. Here are the men who became the October kings.
Henry III was the first king of England to have an October birthday. He arrived on October 1st 1207 in Winchester and was born, that autumn morning, to be king. His father was one of England’s most controversial monarchs, John, who had taken the throne in 1199 and who needed a son to secure the succession. His mother was John’s second wife, Isabella of Angouleme, who was around 19 at the time of her son’s birth.
Henry became king at the age of nine on October 19th 1216 on the death of his father and was crowned that same year on October 28th meaning Henry really was an October king.
Richard III, on the other hand, was certainly not born to be king. His birth took place on October 2nd 1453 at Fotheringay Castle in Northamptonshire. He was the twelfth child of Richard, Duke of York who had just become Protector of England after another period of serious mental health problems left the king, Henry VI, unable to rule. But while his dad was a powerful magnate with a claim to the throne, baby Richard entered the world as another noble rather than a king in waiting.
As Richard grew up his dad did lay claim to the crown and the battles that became known as the Wars of the Roses took hold of England. The friction and factions caused by those wars would lead Richard to be king but on the autumn day he made his entry into the world, a throne was a world away.
That was definitely not the case for the next king of England to be born in October. Edward VI arrived on October 12th 1537 and fulfilled the dreams of his father, Henry VIII, for a male heir. This most awaited of royal births took place at Hampton Court Palace and followed three days of labour for Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour, who died soon afterwards of childbed fever.
Edward VI, like Henry III, became monarch at the age of nine when his father died but unlike the first October king his reign proved short and he died in 1553 just before his sixteenth birthday.
James II was another younger son without much hope of a crown when he made his debut on October 14th 1633 at St James’ Palace in London. His father, Charles I, had been king for eight years and already had a son and heir while his mother, Henrietta Maria of France, was still struggling to win popular support despite her love of culture and her ability to fill a royal nursery with sons.
James’ early life was spent in the turmoil of the English Civil War and when he was fifteen his father was executed. His return to England on the Restoration of the Monarchy led to a controversial spell as heir to the throne and although he did eventually succeed his brother, Charles II, he lost his crown just three years later to his daughter and son-in-law, Mary II and William III.
George II also arrived on an autumn day without much hope of becoming a king. When Sophia Dorothea of Celle gave birth to her first child, a boy, in Hanover on October 30th 1683 the tot was heir to a dukedom. But seventeen and a bit years later his dad was transformed into heir to the British throne when the House of Stuart ran out of Protestant successors and by 1706 George was Duke of Cambridge as the Hanoverians prepared to take on a kingdom.
George arrived in England in 1714 and became king in 1727, the start of a reign that would last 33 years. And for now he is the last monarch to have a birthday in this autumnal month – the last of the October kings.