What's the story behind the monarchy

Great Britain: From Small Kingdom to Empire

Status: 04/09/2021 2:44 p.m.

Queen Elizabeth II is known all over the world. When she takes office, she is the representative of a world empire. Her predecessor Elizabeth I was "only" Queen of England.

by Matthias Stelte

When Elizabeth I ascended the throne in 1558, difficult tasks lay ahead of her. England is in debt, and the staunch Protestant has to assert herself against the Catholics - especially against her cousin Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, who also lays claim to the English throne. An uprising forces the Scottish queen to flee to England.

Elizabeth I leaves behind an empire in debt

But Elizabeth does not protect her cousin, instead she has the adversary arrested and finally executed in 1587 after 19 years in prison. Elizabeth I never marries and therefore goes down in history as the "virgin queen". When she dies in 1603, she leaves her successor with an empire that is still in debt. With the death of Elizabeth I, the House of Tudor goes under, the crown is inherited by Mary's son, James I, and with it the House of Stuart. With James I, who is already King of Scotland, the kingdoms of England and Scotland are united.

Republic under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell

For a short time, Oliver Cromwell, founder of the Republic of England, directs the affairs of state.

Great Britain was marked by religious power struggles during this period. They end in 1649 with the overthrow and execution of Charles I, who has been on the throne as successor to James I since 1625. What follows is a ten-year republic led by Oliver Cromwell. After his death in 1660 the monarchy is restored, with Charles II the Stuarts come back to power. However, they no longer rule absolutely, a constitutional monarchy is introduced, in which parliament has a decisive say. Attempts by the Stuarts to regain the old power finally fail with the "Glorious Revolution" in 1688. Parliament finally deposed King James II and appoints his daughter Mary, who with Wilhelm III. of Orange is married to the new ruler of the United Kingdom.

Kings of Hanover rule successfully

The third monarch from the House of Hanover, George III, ruled England for more than 40 years.

The Stuarts line died out in 1714, and the throne was now followed by a German royal family that is still closely related to the British royal family today: the Hanover family. George I is actually only 52nd in line to the throne, but the "Act of Settlement", which stipulates that only Protestants may inherit the throne, gives the House of Hanover royal dignity: George I is the next Protestant in line to the throne. The kings of the House of Hanover rule Great Britain until 1837. This time is characterized by political stability and the expansion of the British world empire. Great Britain loses under George III. Although its colonies in North America, it can gain many areas in Africa and Asia - a third of the world is under the rule of the British Crown in 1837.

Family tree: Close connection to the German nobility

At the age of just 18, Victoria ascends the English throne.

Victoria, the niece of King William IV, ascended the British throne in 1837 as the first female regent from the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. With her, the close relationship with Germany remains. Up to the age of three, Victoria only speaks German, her mother is a German princess from the Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld family. Queen Victoria married a maternal cousin in 1840. Her eldest daughter, who is also called Victoria, is the future German Empress and mother of the last German Emperor Wilhelm II. Queen Victoria ruled for 63 years.

Saxe-Coburg-Gotha becomes Windsor

Edward VIII renounces the throne out of love for the American Wallis Simpson.

During the First World War, when Great Britain was fighting against Germany, King George V changed his family name: The name Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha was replaced by Windsor, based on the castle of the same name. George V dies in 1936, his son Edward VIII succeeds him and causes the greatest scandal in the history of their monarchy for the British to date: Just a few months after his accession to the throne, it becomes known that he is having a relationship with the twice divorced American bourgeois Wallis Simpson Has. A marriage of the two is excluded. The king decides to love and abdicates so that he can marry. The king and his wife bear the title of Dukes of Windsor until their deaths.

By renouncing the throne, his brother George VI. the next king of the British Empire. His reign is overshadowed by World War II. Many European monarchs lived in exile in London in the 1940s as their home countries were occupied by Nazi Germany - the British capital became the center of European resistance. The royal family sees it as their duty to remain in London despite the bombing and to provide moral support to the people.

Elizabeth II takes the throne in 1952

George VI. dies in 1952 while his daughter, now Queen Elizabeth II, is on a state visit to Kenya. After her accession to the throne on February 6, 1952, she was crowned Queen on June 2, 1953 in Westminster Abbey - the ceremony - with the exception of the anointing and communion - was broadcast on television for the first time. An ambivalent relationship with the media begins, which from now on has a permanent focus on royal family life. Whether it's a family scandal or a national crisis: Her husband Prince Philip, whom she met at the age of 13, is always at the Queen's side.

After 69 years on the throne of Great Britain, the Queen will turn 95 on April 21. Less than two weeks earlier, on April 9, 2021, her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, died.

This topic in the program:

The first | Royalty | December 25, 2016 | 7:10 p.m.