May 26, 1135: King Alfonso VII of Léon, Castile and Galicia is crowned Emperor of Spain


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Alfonso VII (March 1, 1105 – August 21, 1157), called the Emperor (el Emperador), became the King of Galicia in 1111 and King of León and Castile in 1126. Alfonso, born Alfonso Raimúndez, first used the title Emperor of All Spain, alongside his mother Urraca, once she vested him with the direct rule of Toledo in 1116. Alfonso later held another investiture in 1135 in a grand ceremony reasserting his claims to the imperial title. He was the son of Urraca of León and Raymond of Burgundy, the first of the House of Ivrea to rule in the Iberian peninsula.

Alfonso was a dignified and somewhat enigmatic figure. His rule was characterised by the renewed supremacy of the western kingdoms of Christian Iberia over the eastern (Navarre and Aragón) after the reign of Alfonso the Battler. Though he sought to make the imperial title meaningful in practice to both Christian and Muslim populations, his hegemonic intentions never saw fruition. During his tenure, Portugal became de facto independent, in 1128, and was recognized as de jure independent, in 1143. He was a patron of poets, including, probably, the troubadour Marcabru.

Succession to three kingdoms

In 1111, Diego Gelmírez, Bishop of Compostela and the count of Traba, crowned and anointed Alfonso King of Galicia in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. He was a child, but his mother had (1109) succeeded to the united throne of León-Castile-Galicia and wished to retain the sole rulership of the kingdom.

By 1125 he had inherited the formerly Muslim Kingdom of Toledo. On March 10, 1126, after the death of his mother, he was crowned in León and immediately began the recovery of the Kingdom of Castile, which was then under the domination of Alfonso the Battler.

By the Peace of Támara of 1127, the Battler recognised Alfonso VII of Castile. The territory in the far east of his dominion, however, had gained much independence during the rule of his mother and experienced many rebellions. After his recognition in Castile, Alfonso fought to curb the autonomy of the local barons.

On May 26, 1135, Alfonso VII was crowned “Emperor of Spain” in the Cathedral of León. By this, he probably wished to assert his authority over the entire peninsula and his absolute leadership of the Reconquista. He appears to have striven for the formation of a national unity which Spain had never possessed since the fall of the Visigothic kingdom.

The elements he had to deal with could not be welded together. The weakness of Aragon enabled him to make his superiority effective. After Afonso Henriques recognised him as liege in 1137, Alfonso VII lost the Battle of Valdevez in 1141 thereby affirming Portugal’s independence in the Treaty of Zamora (1143). In 1143, he himself recognised this status quo and consented to the marriage of Petronila of Aragon with Ramon Berenguer IV, a union which combined Aragon and Catalonia into the Crown of Aragon.

A vague tradition had always assigned the title of emperor to the sovereign who held León. Sancho the Great considered the city the imperiale culmen and minted coins with the inscription Imperator totius Hispaniae after being crowned in it. Such a sovereign was considered the most direct representative of the Visigothic kings, who had been themselves the representatives of the Roman Empire. But though appearing in charters, and claimed by Alfonso VI of León and Alfonso the Battler, the title had been little more than a flourish of rhetoric.

In November 1128, he married Berenguela, daughter of Ramon Berenguer III, Count of Barcelona. She died in 1149. She was the daughter of Ramon Berenguer III, Count of Barcelona, and Douce I, Countess of Provence.

In 1152, Alfonso married Richeza of Poland, the daughter of Ladislaus II the Exile. Richeza was the third child and only daughter of Władysław II the Exile, the High Duke of Poland and ruler of Silesia, by his wife Agnes of Babenberg, daughter of Margrave Leopold III of Austria and half-sister of Conrad III, King of the Romans.

May 26, 961 King Otto I elects his six-year-old son Otto II as heir apparent and co-ruler of the East Frankish Kingdom.


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May 26, 961 King Otto I elects his six-year-old son Otto II as heir apparent and co-ruler of the East Frankish Kingdom. He is crowned at Aachen, and placed under the tutelage of his grandmother Matilda of Ringelheim.

Otto II (955 – December 7, 983), called the Red, was Holy Roman Emperor from 973 until his death in 983. A member of the Ottonian dynasty, Otto II was the youngest and sole surviving son of Otto I the Great and Adelaide of Italy (Burgundy) daughter of King Rudolf II of Burgundy, a member of the Elder House of Welf, and Bertha of Swabia.

Otto II was made joint-ruler of the Kingdom of East Francia ion May 26, 961 at an early age, and his father named him co-Emperor in 967 to secure his succession to the throne. His father also arranged for Otto II to marry the Byzantine Princess Theophanu, who would be his wife until his death.

Otto II had only one known wife. On April 14, 972, Otto II married Theophanu, a Byzantine Princess of the Phokas family who was the cousin of reigning Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimiskes.

According to the marriage certificate issued on April 14, 972 Theophanu is identified as the neptis (niece or granddaughter) of Emperor John I Tzimiskes (925–976, reigned 969–976) who was of Armenian and Byzantine Greek descent. She was of distinguished noble heritage: the Vita Mahthildis identifies her as augusti de palatio and the Annales Magdeburgenses describe her as Grecam illustrem imperatoriae stirpi proximam, ingenio facundam.

Recent research tends to concur that she was most probably the daughter of Tzimiskes’ brother-in-law (from his first marriage) Constantine Skleros (c. 920–989) and cousin Sophia Phokas, the daughter of Kouropalatēs Leo Phokas, brother of Emperor Nikephoros II (c. 912–969).

When Otto the Great died, the smooth succession to the imperial throne of Otto II had long been guaranteed. Otto II had been king of East Francia for twelve years and Emperor for five at the time of Otto the Great’s death. Unlike his father, Otto II did not have any brothers to contest his claims to the throne.

On May 8, the nobles of the Empire assembled before Otto II and, according to the Saxon Chronicler Widukind of Corvey, “elected” Otto II as his father’s successor. One of Otto II’s first acts was to confirm the rights and possessions of the Archbishop of Magdeburg. Although Otto II had succeeded peacefully to the throne, internal divisions of power still remained unaddressed. During his first seven years as Emperor, he was constantly occupied with maintaining Imperial power against internal rivals and external enemies.

Otto II spent his reign continuing his father’s policy of strengthening Imperial rule in East Francia and extending the borders of the Empire deeper into Southern Italy. Otto II also continued the work of Otto I in subordinating the Catholic Church to Imperial control.

Otto II was a member of the Ottonian dynasty, which ruled the Kingdom of East Francia (and later the Holy Roman Empire) from 919 to 1024. In relation to the other members of his dynasty, Otto II was the grandson of Heinrich I, son of Otto I, father of Otto III, and a first-cousin once removed to Heinrich II.

May 26, 946: Death of King Edmund I of the English


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Edmund I or Ædmund I (920/921 – May 26, 946) was King of the English from 27 October 939 until his death. He was the elder son of King Edward the Elder and his third wife, Queen Eadgifu, and a grandson of King Alfred the Great. After Edward died in 924, he was succeeded by his eldest son, Edmund’s half-brother, Æthelstan. Edmund was crowned after Æthelstan died childless in 939.

Marriages and children

Edmund probably married his first wife Ælfgifu around the time of his accession to the throne, as their second son was born in 943. Their sons Eadwig and Edgar both became kings of the English. Ælfgifu’s father is not known, but her mother is identified by a charter of Edgar which confirms a grant by his grandmother Wynflæd of land to Shaftesbury Abbey.

Ælfgifu was also a benefactor of Shaftesbury Abbey; when she died in 944 she was buried there and venerated as a saint. Edmund had no known children by his second wife, Æthelflæd, who died after 991. Her father Ælfgar became ealdorman of Essex in 946.

Edmund presented him with a sword lavishly decorated with gold and silver, which Ælfgar later presented to King Ædred. Æthelflæd’s second husband was Æthelstan Rota, a south-east Mercian ealdorman, and her will survives

Æthelstan had succeeded as the King of the English south of the Humber and he became the first king of all England when he conquered Viking-ruled York in 927, but after his death Anlaf Guthfrithson was accepted as king of York and extended Viking rule to the Five Boroughs of north-east Mercia.

King Æthelstan died at Gloucester on October 27, 939 and was succeeded by his half-brother who became King Edmund I of the English.

After Æthelstan’s death, the men of York immediately chose the Viking king of Dublin, Olaf Guthfrithson as their king, and Anglo-Saxon control of the north, seemingly made safe by the victory of Brunanburh, collapsed. The reigns of Æthelstan’s half-brothers Edmund (939–946) and Eadred (946–955) were largely devoted to regaining control.

Edmund was initially forced to accept the reverse, the first major setback for the West Saxon dynasty since Alfred’s reign, but he was able to recover his position following Anlaf’s death in 941.

In 942 Edmund took back control of the Five Boroughs and in 944 he regained control over the whole of England when he expelled the Viking kings of York. Eadred had to deal with further revolts when he became king, and York was not finally conquered until 954. Æthelstan had achieved a dominant position over other British kings and Edmund maintained this, perhaps apart from Scotland.

The north Welsh king Idwal Foel may have allied with the Vikings as he was killed by the English in 942. The British kingdom of Strathclyde may also have sided with the Vikings as Edmund ravaged it in 945 and then ceded it to Malcolm I of Scotland. Edmund also continued his brother’s friendly relations with Continental rulers, several of whom were married to his half-sisters.

Edmund inherited strong Continental contacts from Æthelstan’s cosmopolitan court, and these were enhanced by their sisters’ marriages to foreign kings and princes. Edmund carried on his brother’s Continental policies and maintained his alliances, especially with his nephew King Louis IV of West Francia and Otto I, King of East Francia and Emperor whose empire evolved into the Holy Roman Empire.

Louis IV was both nephew and brother-in-law of Otto, while Otto and Edmund were brothers-in-law. There were almost certainly extensive diplomatic contacts between Edmund and Continental rulers which have not been recorded, but it is known that Otto sent delegations to Edmund’s court. In the early 940s some Norman lords sought the help of the Danish prince Harald against Louis, and in 945 Harald captured Louis and handed him to Hugh the Great, Duke of the Franks, who kept him prisoner. Edmund and Otto both protested and demanded his immediate release, but this only took place in exchange for the surrender of the town of Laon to Hugh.

Death and succession

On May 26, 946 Edmund was killed in a brawl at Pucklechurch in Gloucestershire. According to the post-Conquest chronicler, John of Worcester:

While the glorious Edmund, king of the English, was at the royal township called Pucklechurch in English, in seeking to rescue his steward from Leofa, a most wicked thief, lest he be killed, was himself killed by the same man on the feast of St Augustine, teacher of the English, on Tuesday, 26 May, in the fourth indiction, having completed five years and seven months of his reign. He was borne to Glastonbury, and buried by the abbot, St Dunstan.”

The historians Clare Downham and Kevin Halloran dismiss John of Worcester’s account and suggest that the king was the victim of a political assassination, but this view has not been accepted by other historians.

Like his son Edgar thirty years later, Edmund was buried at Glastonbury Abbey. The location may have reflected its spiritual prestige and royal endorsement of the monastic reform movement, but as his death was unexpected it is more likely that Dunstan was successful in claiming the body. His sons were still young children, so he was succeeded as king by his brother Eadred, who was in turn succeeded by Edmund’s elder son Eadwig in 955.

May 25, 1659 & 1660: Lord Protector Richard Cromwell & King Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland


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May 25, 1659 – Richard Cromwell resigns as Lord Protector of England following the restoration of the Long Parliament, beginning a second brief period of the republican government called the Commonwealth of England.

Richard Cromwell was born in Huntingdon on October 4, 1626, the third son of Oliver Cromwell and his wife Elizabeth. Little is known of his childhood. He and his three brothers were educated at Felsted School in Essex close to their mother’s family home. There is no record of his attending university. In May 1647, he became a member of Lincoln’s Inn; however he was not called to the bar subsequently. Instead, in 1647 Richard Cromwell joined the New Model Army as a captain in Viscount Lisle’s lifeguard, and later that year was appointed captain in Thomas Fairfax’s lifeguard.

In 1649, Richard Cromwell married Dorothy Maijor, daughter of Richard Maijor, a member of the Hampshire gentry. He and his wife then moved to Maijor’s estate at Hursley in Hampshire. During the 1650s they had nine children, five of whom survived to adulthood.

Richard Cromwell was named a Justice of the Peace for Hampshire and sat on various county committees. During this period Richard seems to have been a source of concern for his father, who wrote to Richard Maijor saying, “I would have him mind and understand business, read a little history, study the mathematics and cosmography: these are good, with subordination to the things of God. Better than idleness, or mere outward worldly contents. These fit for public services, for which a man is born”.

Political background

Oliver Cromwell had risen from being an unknown member of Parliament in his forties to being a commander of the New Model Army, which emerged victorious from the English Civil War. When he returned from a final campaign in Ireland, Oliver Cromwell became disillusioned at inconclusive debates in the Rump Parliament between Presbyterians and other schools of thought within Protestantism. Parliamentarian suspicion of anything smacking of Catholicism, which was strongly associated with the Royalist side in the war, led to enforcement of religious precepts that left moderate Anglicans barely tolerated.

Oliver Cromwell attempted to reform the government through an army-nominated assembly known as Barebone’s Parliament, but the proposals were so unworkably radical that he was forced to end the experiment after a few months. Thereafter, a written constitution created the position of Lord Protector for Cromwell and from 1653 until his death in 1658, he ruled with all the powers of a monarch, while Richard took on the role of heir.

Move into political life

In 1653, Richard Cromwell was passed over as a member of Barebone’s Parliament, although his younger brother Henry was a member of it. Neither was he given any public role when his father was made Lord Protector in the same year; however, he was elected to the First Protectorate Parliament as M.P. for Huntingdon and the Second Protectorate Parliament as M.P. for Cambridge University.

Under the Protectorate’s constitution, Oliver Cromwell was required to nominate a successor, and from 1657 he involved Richard much more heavily in the politics of the regime. He was present at the second installation of his father as Lord Protector in June, having played no part in the first installation. In July he was appointed chancellor of Oxford University, and in December was made a member of the Council of State.

Lord Protector (1658–59)

Oliver Cromwell died on September 3, 1658, and Richard was informed on the same day that he was to succeed him. Some controversy surrounds the succession. A letter by John Thurloe suggests that Cromwell nominated his son orally on August 30, but other theories claim either that he nominated no successor, or that he put forward Charles Fleetwood, his son-in-law.

Richard was faced by two immediate problems. The first was the army, which questioned his position as commander given his lack of military experience. The second was the financial position of the regime, with a debt estimated at £2 million.

At the same time, the officers of the New Model Army became increasingly wary about the government’s commitment to the military cause. The fact that Richard Cromwell lacked military credentials grated with men who had fought on the battlefields of the English Civil War to secure their nation’s liberties.

Moreover, the new Parliament seemed to show a lack of respect for the army which many military men found alarming. In particular, there were fears that Parliament would make military cuts to reduce costs, and by April 1659 the army’s general council of officers had met to demand higher taxation to fund the regime’s costs.

Their grievances were expressed in a petition to Richard Cromwell on April 6, 1659 which he forwarded to the Parliament two days later. Yet Parliament did not act on the army’s suggestions; instead they shelved this petition and increased the suspicion of the military by bringing articles of impeachment on April 12, 1659 against William Boteler, who was alleged to have mistreated a royalist prisoner while acting as a major-general under Oliver Cromwell in 1655.

This was followed by two resolutions in the Commons on April 19, 1659 which stated that no more meetings of army officers should take place without the express permission of both the Lord Protector and Parliament, and that all officers should swear an oath that they would not subvert the sitting of Parliament by force.

These direct affronts to military prestige were too much for the army grandees to bear and set in motion the final split between the civilian-dominated Parliament and the army, which would culminate in the dissolution of Parliament and Richard Cromwell’s ultimate fall from power. When Cromwell refused a demand by the army to dissolve Parliament, troops were assembled at St. James’s Palace. Cromwell eventually gave in to their demands and on April 22, Parliament was dissolved and the Rump Parliament recalled on May 7, 1659.

In the subsequent month, Richard Cromwell did not resist and refused an offer of armed assistance from the French ambassador, although it is possible he was being kept under house arrest by the army. On May 25, after the Rump agreed to pay his debts and provide a pension, Cromwell delivered a formal letter resigning the position of Lord Protector. “Richard was never formally deposed or arrested, but allowed to fade away. The Protectorate was treated as having been from the first a mere usurpation.”

Richard continued to live in the Palace of Whitehall until July, when he was forced by the Rump to return to Hursley. Royalists rejoiced at Cromwell’s fall,


May 25, 1660 – Charles II lands at Dover at the invitation of the Convention Parliament, which marks the end of the Cromwell-proclaimed Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland and begins the Restoration of the British monarchy.

After the death of Cromwell in 1658, Charles’s initial chances of regaining the Crown seemed slim; Cromwell was succeeded as Lord Protector by his son, Richard. However, the new Lord Protector had little experience of either military or civil administration. In 1659, the Rump Parliament was recalled and Richard resigned.

During the civil and military unrest that followed, George Monck, the Governor of Scotland, was concerned that the nation would descend into anarchy. Monck and his army marched into the City of London, and forced the Rump Parliament to re-admit members of the Long Parliament who had been excluded in December 1648, during Pride’s Purge. Parliament dissolved itself, and there was a general election for the first time in almost 20 years. The outgoing Parliament defined the electoral qualifications intending to bring about the return of a Presbyterian majority.

The restrictions against royalist candidates and voters were widely ignored, and the elections resulted in a House of Commons that was fairly evenly divided on political grounds between Royalists and Parliamentarians and on religious grounds between Anglicans and Presbyterians. The new so-called Convention Parliament assembled on April 25, 1660, and soon afterwards welcomed the Declaration of Breda, in which Charles promised lenience and tolerance.

There would be liberty of conscience, and Anglican church policy would not be harsh. He would not exile past enemies nor confiscate their wealth. There would be pardons for nearly all his opponents except the regicides. Above all, Charles promised to rule in cooperation with Parliament. The English Parliament resolved to proclaim Charles king and invite him to return, a message that reached Charles at Breda on May 8, 1660. In Ireland, a convention had been called earlier in the year and had already declared for Charles. On May 14, Charles was proclaimed king in Dublin.

King Charles II set out for England from Scheveningen, arrived in Dover on May 25, 1660 and reached London on May 20, his 30th birthday. Although King Charles II and Parliament granted amnesty to nearly all of Cromwell’s supporters in the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion, 50 people were specifically excluded. In the end nine of the regicides were executed: they were hanged, drawn and quartered, whereas others were given life imprisonment or simply excluded from office for life. The bodies of Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton and John Bradshaw were subjected to the indignity of posthumous decapitations.

May 24, 1276: Coronation of King Magnus III of Sweden


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Magnus III (c. 1240 – December 18, 1290), also called Magnus Ladulås, was King of Sweden from 1275 until his death in 1290.


He was the first Magnus to rule Sweden for any length of time, not generally regarded as a usurper or a pretender (but the third Magnus to have been proclaimed Sweden’s king and ruled there). Later historians ascribe his epithet “Ladulås” – Barnlock – to the Ordinance of Alsnö freeing the yeomanry from the duty to provide sustenance for travelling nobles and bishops (“Peasants! Lock your barns!”); another theory is that it’s a corruption of Ladislaus, which could possibly have been his second name, considering his Slavic heritage. (Magnus’s maternal great-grandmother was Sophia of Minsk, a Rurikid princess.) This king has also been referred to as Magnus I, but that is not recognized by any Swedish historians today.

In Finnish, Magnus is similarly known as Mauno Ladonlukko (“barnlock”) or Mauno Birgerinpoika (Birgersson”).

Early life

Magnus, whose birth year has never been confirmed in modern times, was probably the second son of Birger Jarl (1200–66) and Princess Ingeborg, herself the sister of the childless King Eric XI and daughter of King Eric X. Thus, Valdemar Birgersson (1239–1302) was the eldest son and ruled as Valdemar, King of Sweden from 1250–1275, succeeding King Eric, their maternal uncle who ruled until 1250. Birger Jarl had designated Magnus as Jarl, henceforth titled Duke of Sweden, and as Valdemar’s successor. Even after Valdemar’s coming of age in 1257, Birger Jarl kept his grip over the country. After Birger’s death in 1266 Valdemar came into conflict with Magnus who wanted the throne for himself.

Accession and marriage

In 1275 Duke Magnus started a rebellion against his brother with Danish help, and ousted him from the throne. Valdemar was deposed by Magnus after the Battle of Hova in the forest of Tiveden on June 14, 1275. Magnus was elected king at the Stones of Mora (Mora stenar). In 1276, Magnus allegedly married a second wife Helwig, daughter of Gerard I of Holstein.

Through her mother, Elizabeth of Mecklenburg, Helwig was a descendant of Christina, the putative daughter of King Sverker II. A papal annulment of Magnus’ alleged first marriage and a dispensation for the second (necessary because of consanguinity) were issued ten years later, in 1286. Haelwig later acted as regent, probably 1290–1302 and 1320–1327.


The deposed King Valdemar managed, with Danish help in turn, to regain provinces in Gothenland in the southern part of the kingdom, and Magnus had to recognize that in 1277. However, Magnus regained them about 1278 and assumed the additional title rex Gothorum, King of the Goths, starting the tradition of “King of the Swedes and the Goths”.

King Magnus’s youngest brother, Benedict (1254–1291), then archdeacon, acted as his Lord High Chancellor of Sweden, and in 1284 Magnus rewarded him with the Duchy of Finland.

Magnus died when his sons were yet underage. Magnus ordered his kinsman Torkel Knutsson, the Lord High Constable of Sweden as the guardian of his heir, the future King Birger, who was about ten years old at father’s death.

May 24, 1819: Birth of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Empress of India


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Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; May 24, 1819 – January 22, 1901) was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from June 20, 1837 until her death in 1901. Her reign of 63 years and 216 days is known as the Victorian Era and was longer than any of her predecessors. She is the second longest reigning British Monarch. It was a period of industrial, political, scientific, and military change within the United Kingdom, and was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire. In 1876, the British Parliament voted to grant her the additional title of Empress of India.

Victoria’s father was Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, the fourth son of King George III of the United Kingdom and Charlotte of see Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Until 1817, King George’s only legitimate grandchild was Edward’s niece Princess Charlotte of Wales, the daughter of George, Prince Regent (who would become George IV).

Charlotte’s death in 1817 precipitated a succession crisis that brought pressure on the Duke of Kent and his unmarried brothers to marry and have children. In 1818, the Duke of Kent married Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, a widowed German princess with two children—Carl (1804–1856) and Feodora (1807–1872)—by her first marriage to Emich Carl, 2nd Prince of Leiningen. Her brother Leopold was Princess Charlotte’s widower and later the first King of Belgium. The Duke and Duchess of Kent’s only child, Victoria, was born at 4:15 a.m. on May 24, 1819 at Kensington Palace in London.

Victoria was christened privately by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Manners-Sutton, on June 24, 1819 in the Cupola Room at Kensington Palace. She was baptised Alexandrina after one of her godparents, Emperor Alexander I of Russia, and Victoria, after her mother. Additional names proposed by her parents—Georgina (or Georgiana), Charlotte, and Augusta—were dropped on the instructions of Kent’s eldest brother, the Prince Regent.

At birth, Victoria was fifth in the line of succession after the four eldest sons of George III: George, Prince Regent (later George IV); Frederick, Duke of York; William, Duke of Clarence (later William IV); and Victoria’s father, Edward, Duke of Kent. Prince George had no surviving children, and Prince Frederick had no children; further, both were estranged from their wives, who were both past child-bearing age, so the two eldest brothers were unlikely to have any further legitimate children.

William and Edward married on the same day in 1818, but both of William’s legitimate daughters died as infants. The first of these was Princess Charlotte, who was born and died on March 27, 1819, two months before Victoria was born. Victoria’s father died in January 1820, when Victoria was less than a year old. A week later her grandfather, King George III, died and was succeeded by his eldest son as George IV. Victoria was then third in line to the throne after Frederick and William. She was fourth in line while William’s second daughter, Princess Elizabeth, lived, from December 10, 1820 to March 4, 1821.

After the deaths of her father and grandfather in 1820, she was raised under close supervision by her mother and her comptroller, John Conroy. She inherited the throne aged 18 after her father’s three elder brothers died without surviving legitimate issue. Victoria, a constitutional monarch, attempted privately to influence government policy and ministerial appointments; publicly, she became a national icon who was identified with strict standards of personal morality.

Victoria married her first cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840. Their children married into royal and noble families across the continent, earning Victoria the sobriquet “the grandmother of Europe” and spreading haemophilia in European royalty. After Albert’s death in 1861, Victoria plunged into deep mourning and avoided public appearances. As a result of her seclusion, British republicanism temporarily gained strength, but in the latter half of her reign, her popularity recovered. Her Golden and Diamond jubilees were times of public celebration. Victoria died in 1901 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, at the age of 81. The last British monarch of the House of Hanover, she was succeeded by her son King Edward VII of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

May 24, 919: Heinrich I the Fowler, Duke of Saxony is elected King of East Francia


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Heinrich I the Fowler (c. 876 – 2 July 936) was the Duke of Saxony from 912 and the King of East Francia from 919 until his death in 936. As the first non-Frankish king of East Francia, he established the Ottonian dynasty of kings and emperors, and he is generally considered to be the founder of the medieval German state, known until then as East Francia. An avid hunter, he obtained the epithet “the Fowler” because he was allegedly fixing his birding nets when messengers arrived to inform him that he was to be king.

Heinrich was born into the Liudolfing line of Saxon dukes in Memleben, what is now Saxony-Anhalt, Heinrich was the son of Otto the Illustrious, Duke of Saxony, and his wife Hedwiga, who was probably the daughter of Heinrich of Franconia.

In 906 he married Hatheburg of Merseburg, daughter of the Saxon count Erwin. She had previously been a nun. The marriage was annulled in 909 because her vows as a nun were deemed by the church to remain valid. She had already given birth to Heinrich’s son Thankmar. The annulment placed a question mark over Thankmar’s legitimacy.

Later that year he married Matilda, daughter of Dietrich of Ringelheim, Count in Westphalia. Matilda bore him three sons and two daughters, Hedwige and Gerberga, and founded many religious institutions, including the Quedlinburg Abbey where Heinrich and Matilda are buried. She was later canonized.

His father Duke Otto I of Saxony died in 912 and was succeeded by Heinrich. The new duke launched a rebellion against the King of East Francia, Duke Conrad I of Franconia, over the rights to lands in the Duchy of Thuringia. They reconciled in 915 and on his deathbed in 918, Conrad recommended Heinrich as the next king, considering the duke the only one who could hold the kingdom together in the face of internal revolts and external Magyar raids.

On May 24, 919 the nobles of Franconia and Saxony elect Heinrich I the Fowler at the Imperial Diet in Fritzlar as King of the East Francia. He went on to defeat the rebellious dukes of Bavaria and Swabia, consolidating his rule. Through successful warfare and a dynastic marriage, Heinrich acquired Lotharingia as a vassal in 925. Unlike his Carolingian predecessors, Heinrich did not seek to create a centralized monarchy, ruling through federated autonomous stem duchies instead.

Heinrich built an extensive system of fortifications and mobile heavy cavalry across the Kingdom of East Francia to neutralize the Magyar threat and in 933 routed them at the Battle of Riade, ending Magyar attacks for the next 21 years and giving rise to a sense of German nationhood.

Heinrich greatly expanded German hegemony in Europe with his defeat of the Slavs in 929 at the Battle of Lenzen along the Elbe river, by compelling the submission of Duke Wenceslaus I of Bohemia through an invasion of the Duchy of Bohemia the same year and by conquering Danish realms in Schleswig in 934.

Heinrich’s hegemonic status north of the Alps was acknowledged by King Rudolph of West Francia and King Rudolph II of Upper Burgundy, who both accepted a place of subordination as allies in 935. Heinrich planned an expedition to Rome to be crowned Emperor by Pope Leo VII but the design was thwarted by his death. Heinrich prevented a collapse of royal power, as had happened in West Francia, and left a much stronger kingdom to his successor Otto I. He was buried at Quedlinburg Abbey, established by his wife Matilda in his honour.

His son Otto I, traditionally known as Otto the Great, continued his father’s work of unifying all German tribes into a single kingdom and greatly expanded the king’s powers. He installed members of his family in the kingdom’s most important duchies, subjected the clergy to his personal control, defeated the Magyars and conquered the Kingdom of Italy and was crowned Emperor by Pope John XII in 962.

King Heinrich’s daughter, Hedwige of Saxony (c. 910 – after 958), was Duchess consort of the Franks by her marriage to the Robertian Duke Hugh the Great of the Franks. Upon her husband’s death in 956, she acted as a regent during the minority of their son Hugh Capét, the founder of the senior line of the House of Capét who became King of West Francia and a forerunner of the Kingdom of France.

May 23, 1533: The Marriage of King Henry VIII and Infanta Catherine of Aragon is declared annulled


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During his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII conducted an affair with Mary Boleyn, Catherine’s lady-in-waiting. There has been speculation that Mary’s two children, Henry Carey and Catherine Carey, were fathered by Henry, but this has never been proved, and the king never acknowledged them as he did in the case of Henry FitzRoy. In 1525, as Henry grew more impatient with Catherine’s inability to produce the male heir he desired, he became enamoured of Mary Boleyn’s sister, Anne Boleyn, then a charismatic young woman of 25 in the queen’s entourage. Anne, however, resisted his attempts to seduce her, and refused to become his mistress as her sister had.

It was in this context that Henry considered his three options for finding a dynastic successor and hence resolving what came to be described at court as the king’s “great matter”. These options were legitimising Henry FitzRoy, which would need the involvement of the Pope Clement VII and would be open to challenge; marrying off Mary, his daughter with Catherine, as soon as possible and hoping for a grandson to inherit directly, but Mary was considered unlikely to conceive before Henry’s death, or somehow rejecting Catherine and marrying someone else of child-bearing age. Probably seeing the possibility of marrying Anne, the third was ultimately the most attractive possibility to the 34-year-old Henry, and it soon became the king’s absorbing desire to annul his marriage to the now 40-year-old Catherine.

Henry’s precise motivations and intentions over the coming years are not widely agreed on. Henry himself, at least in the early part of his reign, was a devout and well-informed Catholic to the extent that his 1521 publication Assertio Septem Sacramentorum (“Defence of the Seven Sacraments”) earned him the title of Fidei Defensor (Defender of the Faith) from Pope Leo X. The work represented a staunch defence of papal supremacy, albeit one couched in somewhat contingent terms.

It is not clear exactly when Henry changed his mind on the issue as he grew more intent on a second marriage. Certainly, by 1527, he had convinced himself that Catherine had produced no male heir because their union was “blighted in the eyes of God”. Indeed, in marrying Catherine, his brother’s wife, he had acted contrary to Leviticus 20:21, a justification Thomas Cranmer used to declare the marriage null. Martin Luther, on the other hand, had initially argued against the annulment, stating that Henry VIII could take a second wife in accordance with his teaching that the Bible allowed for polygamy but not divorce.

Henry now believed the Pope had lacked the authority to grant a dispensation from this impediment. It was this argument Henry took to Pope Clement VII in 1527 in the hope of having his marriage to Catherine annulled, forgoing at least one less openly defiant line of attack. In going public, all hope of tempting Catherine to retire to a nunnery or otherwise stay quiet was lost. Henry sent his secretary, William Knight, to appeal directly to the Holy See by way of a deceptively worded draft papal bull. Knight was unsuccessful; the Pope could not be misled so easily.

Other missions concentrated on arranging an ecclesiastical court to meet in England, with a representative from Clement VII. Although Clement agreed to the creation of such a court, he never had any intention of empowering his legate, Lorenzo Campeggio, to decide in Henry’s favour. This bias was perhaps the result of pressure from Emperor Charles V, Catherine’s nephew, but it is not clear how far this influenced either Campeggio or the Pope.

After less than two months of hearing evidence, Clement called the case back to Rome in July 1529, from which it was clear that it would never re-emerge. With the chance for an annulment lost, Cardinal Wolsey bore the blame. He was charged with praemunire in October 1529, and his fall from grace was “sudden and total”. Briefly reconciled with Henry (and officially pardoned) in the first half of 1530, he was charged once more in November 1530, this time for treason, but died while awaiting trial.

After a short period in which Henry took government upon his own shoulders, Sir Thomas More took on the role of Lord Chancellor and chief minister. Intelligent and able, but a devout Catholic and opponent of the annulment, More initially cooperated with the king’s new policy, denouncing Wolsey in Parliament.

A year later, Catherine was banished from court, and her rooms were given to Anne Boleyn. Anne was an unusually educated and intellectual woman for her time and was keenly absorbed and engaged with the ideas of the Protestant Reformers, but the extent to which she herself was a committed Protestant is much debated. When Archbishop of Canterbury William Warham died, Anne’s influence and the need to find a trustworthy supporter of the annulment had Thomas Cranmer appointed to the vacant position. This was approved by the Pope, unaware of the king’s nascent plans for the Church.

In the winter of 1532, Henry met with King François I of France at Calais and enlisted the support of the French king for his new marriage. Immediately upon returning to Dover in England, Henry, now 41, and Anne went through a secret wedding service. She soon became pregnant, and there was a second wedding service in London on January 25, 1533. On May 23, 1533, Cranmer, sitting in judgment at a special court convened at Dunstable Priory to rule on the validity of the king’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, declared the marriage of Henry and Catherine null and void.

Five days later, on May 28, 1533, Cranmer declared the marriage of Henry and Anne to be valid. Catherine was formally stripped of her title as queen, becoming instead “princess dowager” as the widow of Arthur. In her place, Anne was crowned queen on June 1, 1533. The queen gave birth to a daughter slightly prematurely on September 7, 1533. The child was christened Elizabeth, in honour of Henry’s mother, Elizabeth of York.

Life of King Philippe I of the Franks


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Philippe I (c. 1052 – 29 July 1108), called the Amorous, was King of the Franks from 1060 to 1108. His reign, like that of most of the early Capetians, was extraordinarily long for the time. The monarchy began a modest recovery from the low it reached in the reign of his father and he added to the royal demesne the Vexin and Bourges.

Philippe was born c. 1052 at Champagne-et-Fontaine, the son of King Henri I and his wife Anne of Kiev Anne was a daughter of Yaroslav the Wise, Grand Prince of Kiev and Prince of Novgorod, and his second wife Ingegerd Olofsdotter of Sweden, daughter of King Olof Skötkonung of Sweden and Estrid of the Obotrites

Unusual for the time in Western Europe, his name was of Greek origin, being bestowed upon him by his mother. Although he was crowned king at the age of seven, until age fourteen (1066) his mother acted as regent, the first Queen of the Franks ever to do so. Baudouin V of Flanders also acted as co-regent.

Personal rule

King Henri I died on August 4, 1060 in Vitry-en-Brie, France, and was interred in the Basilica of St Denis. He was succeeded by his son, as King Philippe I of the Franks and his mother, Queen Anne of Kiev ruled as regent. At the time of his death, King Henri I was besieging Thimert, which had been occupied by the Normans since 1058.

Following the death of Baudouin VI of Flanders, Robért the Frisian seized Flanders. Baudouin’s widow, Richilda, requested aid from Philippe, who was defeated by Robért at the battle of Cassel in 1071.

Philippe first married Bertha of Holland in 1072. Bertha was the daughter of Count Floris I of Holland and Gertrude of Saxony the daughter of Bernard II, Duke of Saxony and Eilika of Schweinfurt.

Although the marriage with Bertha produced the necessary heir, Louis, King Philippe fell in love with Bertrade de Montfort, the wife of Fulk IV, Count of Anjou. Bertrade was the daughter of Simon I de Montfort and Agnes of Evreux.

King Philippe repudiated Bertha (claiming she was too fat) and married Bertrade on May 15, 1092. In 1094 following the synod of Autun, he was excommunicated by the papal representative, Hugh of Die, for the first time; after a long silence, Pope Urban II repeated the excommunication at the Council of Clermont in November 1095.

Several times the ban was lifted as Philippe promised to part with Bertrade, but he always returned to her; in 1104 Philippe made a public penance and must have kept his involvement with Bertrade discreet. In France, the king was opposed by Bishop Ivo of Chartres, a famous jurist.

Philippe appointed Alberic first Constable of France in 1060. A great part of his reign, like his father’s, was spent putting down revolts by his power-hungry vassals. In 1077, he made peace with William the Conqueror, who gave up attempting the conquest of Brittany. In 1082, Philippe I expanded his demesne with the annexation of the Vexin, in reprisal against Robert Curthose’s attack on William’s heir, William Rufus. Then in 1100, he took control of Bourges. Philippe expanded the royal demesne by incorporating the monasteries of Saint-Denis and Corbie.

It was at the aforementioned Council of Clermont that the First Crusade was launched. Philippe at first did not personally support it because of his conflict with Urban II. Philippe’s brother Hugh of Vermandois, however, was a major participant.


Philippe died in the castle of Melun and was buried per his request at the monastery of Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire – and not in St Denis among his forefathers. He was succeeded by his son as King Louis VI of the Franks.

Philippe’s children with Bertha were:

Constance (1078 – 1126)
Louis VI of the Franks (1081 – 1137)
Henri (1083 – died young).

Philippe’s children with Bertrade were:

Philippe, Count of Mantes (1093 – fl. 1123)
Fleury, Seigneur of Nangis (1095 – 1119)
Cecile (1097 – 1145)

May 22, 1246: Heinrich Raspe, Landgrave of Thuringia is elected King of the Romans (Germany) in opposition to Conrad IV, King of the Romans


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Heinrich Raspe (c. 1204 – February 26, 1247) was the Landgrave of Thuringia from 1231 until 1239 and again from 1241 until his death. In 1246, with the support of the Papacy, he was elected King of Germany (King of the Romans) in opposition to the elected Conrad IV King of Germany (King of the Romans) but his contested reign lasted a mere nine months.


Heinrich Raspe was born c. 1204 to Hermann I, Landgrave of Thuringia and Sophia of Wittelsbach. In 1226, Heinrich’s brother Ludwig IV, Landgrave of Thuringia, died en route to the Sixth Crusade, and Heinrich Raspe became regent for his under-age nephew Hermann II, Landgrave of Thuringia. He managed to expel his nephew and the boy’s young mother, St. Elisabeth of Hungary, from the line of succession and ca. 1231 formally succeeded his brother as landgrave.

In 1242 Heinrich Raspe, together with King Wenceslaus I of Bohemia, he was selected by Emperor Friedrich II to be administrator of Germany for Friedrich’s under-age son Conrad.

After Pope Innocent IV imposed a ban on Friedrich in 1245, Heinrich Raspe changed sides, and on May 22, 1246 he was elected anti-king in opposition to Conrad. The strong papal prodding that led to his election earned Heinrich Raspe the derogatory moniker of “Pfaffenkönig” (priests’ king). The papal legate in Germany was Filippo da Pistoia. In August 1246 Heinrich Raspe defeated Conrad in the Battle of Nidda in southern Hesse, and laid siege to Ulm and Reutlingen. He suffered a mortal wound, and died February 16, 1247 in Wartburg Castle near Eisenach in Thuringia.

Personal life

In 1228, Heinrich Raspe married Elisabeth of Brandenburg (1206-1231), the daughter of Albrecht II, Margrave of Brandenburg and his wife Matilda of Groitzsch, the daughter of Landgrave Conrad II of Lusatia from the House of Wettin (Saxony).

After her death, he married Gertrude of Babenburg (c. 1210/1215 – 1241), the daughter of Leopold VI, Duke of Austria and Theodora Angelina Vatatzes the daughter of Isaac Komnenos Vatatzes, the grandson of the Byzantine general Theodore Vatatzes and the purple-born princess Eudokia Komnene, daughter of Emperor John II Komnenos (r. 1118–1143), and of Anna Komnene Angelina, the second daughter of Emperor Alexios III Angelos).

After Gertrude of Babenburg’s death, he married Beatrice of Brabant (1225-1288), the daughter of Heinrich II, Duke of Brabant and Marie of Hohenstaufen who was herself daughter of Philipp of Swabia, King of the Romans. Béatrice had five siblings, including Duke Heinrich III, and Marie who was executed for infidelity by her husband, Ludwig II, Duke of Bavaria

All three of his marriages were childless. After his death, the Emperor enfeoffed Thuringia to Heinrich III, Margrave of Meissen, the son of his sister Jutta.