The Timeline: Shock successions



1483: The princes in the tower


When his brother Edward IV died in 1483, Richard, Duke of Gloucester was named Lord Protector of the realm.

Edward's son, the 12-year-old King Edward V, would assume full power on reaching maturity. Shortly afterwards, however, Edward's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was declared invalid, thereby excluding his son from the throne. Richard III became King, and Edward, housed with his brother in the Tower of London, was not seen in public again. Whether or not Richard had the boys executed remains a mystery, though his reign was controversial enough to reignite the old animosity between the houses of Lancaster and York. In the penultimate battle of the Wars of The Roses, Richard was killed at Bosworth.

1660: Monarchy restored

With the Commonwealth in crisis after Oliver Cromwell's death in 1658, Charles II – son of the executed Charles I – returned to an adoring public in Britain on 29 May 1660, his 30th birthday. The so-called "Merrie Monarch", Charles was famously hedonistic. Though he had no heir by his wife, Catherine of Braganza, he acknowledged some 12 illegitimate children. On his death, he was succeeded by his brother James.

1689: Glorious Revolution

When James II & VII produced a Catholic heir, popular animosity culminated in an engineered invasion by the protestant William III of Orange. James fled and was replaced by William in what became the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

1788: The Regency is born

During 1788, the health of "Mad" King George III deteriorated to the extent that, when Parliament was due to open, he was unable to deliver his customary Speech. The government was paralysed; legally, they could not begin until the speech was done. And so it was that Parliament appealed to the Prince of Wales to act as Regent. After a period of constitutional wrangling, it was decided that he would assume his father's role, with limited powers. Though the King recovered briefly, putting the Regency on hold, the Prince of Wales became Prince Regent on 5 February.

1936: The abdication scandal

The second son of King George V, George VI was not due to inherit the throne. After theirfather's death in 1936, his elder brother Edward VIII ascended the throne – though his relationship with the American socialite Wallis Simpson became a point of national controversy. Intending to marry Simpson, Edward abdicated, handing the throne to his younger brother.

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