British Monarchy in the 20th Century
Queen Victoria ascended to the throne of Great Britain in 1837 at the age of 18 and remained queen through the beginning of the 20th century. From a young age, she loved to draw, paint and write personal journals. Her reign is associated with the British industrial age and the expansion of the British Empire. During the Victorian Era, the role of the monarchy became increasingly symbolic as the power and roles of democratically elected officials increased.
1 King Edward VII
Edward was the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Because of his mother's long reign, he was heir apparent to the British throne for 60 years -- longer than any prince in British history. Edward's social life and philandering were the source of much scandal before he became king in 1901. King Edward VII spoke German and French fluently and was actively involved in foreign affairs. His diplomatic work is credited with helping forge a lasting alliance with France. Edward VII was also influential in the modernization of the British military.
2 King George V
King George V succeeded to the British throne upon the death of his father, Edward VII, in 1910. In 1911, he visited India, the only British Emperor to do so. A veteran of the Royal Navy, he dedicated much of his time during the First World War -- 1914 to 1918 -- to visiting troops in the field and in hospitals. In 1917, owing to anti-German sentiment in Britain, the king changed his family name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor, named in honor of the royal residence Windsor Castle. In politics, George V often served as a conciliatory mediator. He began the lasting tradition of presenting a royal radio address to the British at Christmas.
3 King Edward VIII
Edward VIII became King of Great Britain in January, 1936 on the death of his father and abdicated the throne in December of the same year to marry American Wallis Simpson. He is the only British monarch to willingly abdicate. Although given the title Duke of Windsor in 1937, he lived abroad for most of the remainder of his life.
4 King George VI
George VI became King of Britain upon the abdication of his brother Edward VIII in December, 1936. He was known for his devout religious faith, for working closely with Prime Minister Winston Churchill through World War II and for his role in helping transform the British Empire into the more loosely associated Commonwealth of Nations in the post-war years. A veteran of the British Navy and Royal Air Force, he made regular visits to the troops on several battlefronts, including France and North Africa. Recognizing the heavy toll war took on civilians, George VI regularly visited bombed portions of London and established the George Cross and George Medal to honor civilians who had displayed bravery during war time.
5 Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II became Queen of England upon her father's death in February, 1952. Prior to becoming queen, she served as a truck driver in the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II. Her 1953 coronation ceremony was the first to be televised and broadcast throughout the British Commonwealth and the world. The reign of Queen Elizabeth II continued through the turn of the century to the present. During her reign, she oversaw significant changes to the monarchy, including opening the royal residences to the public, offering to pay income and capital gains taxes in 1992 and supporting changes to policy on male primogeniture and the ban on British royals marrying Roman Catholics. She is known for instituting the "walkabout," in which she informally meets and greets large numbers of British citizens in public.
- 1 The Official Website of the British Monarchy: The House of Windsor
- 2 The Official Website of the British Monarchy: Victoria (r. 1837-1901)
- 3 The Official Website of the British Monarchy: Edward VII (r.1901-1910)
- 4 BBC History: Edward VII (1841 - 1910)
- 5 The Official Website of the British Monarchy: George V (r. 1910-1936)
- 6 History: Britain's King George V Changes Royal Surname
- 7 The Official Website of the British Monarchy: Edward VIII (Jan-Dec 1936)
- 8 BBC History: Edward VIII (1894 - 1972)
- 9 The Official Website of the British Monarchy: George VI (r.1936-1952)
- 10 BBC History: King George VI