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England's Queens

Updated on June 22, 2015

How Did England’s Female Queens Ascend to the Throne?

With the way the British Royal Family’s line of succession was conducted until recent times, how did we get to have any British Queens? With a ‘my boy trumps your girl mentality’ let’s look at how our Queens managed it.....but first please take the poll and then read on to see if you're correct!

I'd love to know which Queen(s) you missed if any so be sure to tell me in the comments below.

How Many Queens (in their own right, not consorts) Has England Had?

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Mary I
Mary I | Source

Queen Mary I

Despite having had six wives Henry VIII only left 3 children when he died, one son and two daughters.

His son Edward VI was always a very sickly child and ruled for only a few years before dying unmarried and with no children.

After Edward VI died there was an attempted coup to the English throne, but the next coronation was the one of Edward’s eldest half-sister Mary I.

Queen Elizabeth I Print
Queen Elizabeth I Print | Source

Queen Elizabeth I

Mary I married her cousin Philip of Spain and believed she was pregnant, but it appeared she wasn’t, some historians believe that she may have had stomach cancer instead.

With Mary unable to have a child when she died the throne passed to her half-sister Elizabeth the only surviving child of their father Henry VIII.

Elizabeth would also die childless and the Tudor dynasty would end.

Mary II - William and Mary

Mary II, born in 1662, was the daughter of James II and Anne Hyde. She was married to William of Orange as a matter of Charles II's (her uncle) foreign policy. William was the son of William, Prince of Orange and Mary Stuart (daughter of Charles I) which meant that William and Mary were first cousins. James agreed to his eldest daughter’s marriage, little did he realize that this move would lead to his forced abdication of the English throne..

William of Orange was a strong proponent of Protestantism and undertook the challenge to decrease the Catholic influence of France and Spain. Mary’s father James II converted to Catholicism, but his brother (who was then king) ordered than Mary and her sister Anne were raised as Protestants.

When James II was on the throne he had problems working with Parliament and he also made a number of Catholic appointments which made leading Protestants fearful. The situation came to a climax when James II established an alliance with Catholic France and arrested Archbishop Sancroft (among others) for failing to proclaim the Catholic faith. Religion was again causing problems for England.

In 1688 something was to happen which caused protestant nobles to reach out to William of Orange and ask him to invade. James II’s second wife (the Catholic Mary of Modena) gave birth to a son which could have led to a Catholic dynasty being formed. William of Orange agreed and James II soon realized that his army was no match for William’s army and so he fled to France.

The English Parliament took James II’s flee to France as his abdication and sought to put his eldest daughter Mary on the throne. Mary, however, insisted on ruling jointly with her husband. Parliament allowed this unusual situation, including allowing William to remain as King if Mary should die first (which she did) as it was a way of insuring that the English crown remained Protestant.


Anne was Mary’s younger sister and when Mary and William both died with no children she came to the throne.   Unlike her sister Anne chose to reign as Queen in her own name alone.   None of her children survived her however, but the Act of Settlement which was passed in 1702 ensured that the English throne would remain in protestant hands.   This meant that Anne’s German cousin George became George I of England.

Queen Victoria Print
Queen Victoria Print | Source


Victoria came to the throne because of the piousness of her grandfather George III.   George III passed legislation that basically meant all of the descendants of George II needed approval of the monarch in order to marry.   After his eldest son George married and had children the rest of his children saw no reason to marry and instead chose to live in sin and have illegitimate children.   When George III’s second in line for the throne granddaughter Princess Charlotte died during childbirth (the baby also died) the King was left with no legitimate grandchildren and the race was on to marry and provide heirs for the throne!

George IV was next on the throne, but Charlotte had been his only child so upon his death the throne passed to his brother William IV who had 10 illegitimate children, but no legitimate ones!   The next brother in line did however manage to have a legitimate child and he died before William which meant that upon William’s death the throne passed to that child – William’s niece Victoria.

Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II | Source

Elizabeth II

When Elizabeth was born to her parents the Duke and Duchess of York there were no parades held because no one realized that she would one day be Queen.   She was born 3rd in line for the throne, but it was widely believed that her uncle David would marry and have children.   Her uncle David would become known as Edward VIII and he chose to abdicate before his coronation in order to marry the woman he loved – a twice divorced American called Wallis Simpson.

Elizabeth’s father Albert became King, because of the need to keep a feeling of unity with the throne after his brother’s shock decision he decided to take on the name George after his father and so he became George VI and Elizabeth was heir to the throne.

Upon the death of George VI Elizabeth II became Queen and she is still Queen today.

How Can Britain Have Another Queen?

It will be much easier for Britain to have another Queen in the future as the rules of succession have changed which means that the eldest child will succeed to the throne regardless of sex. Having said that I can't see it happening for quite some time as the next three in line for the throne are all male!


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    • lou16 profile image

      lou16 6 years ago

      I won't hold my breath - I remember them talking about passing legislation back in the 80s (before William was born) and nothing changed!

    • Jenafran profile image

      Jenafran 6 years ago from Tampa Bay Florida

      Need to update if the UK and Commonwealth pass the legislation they are starting to talk about. :)