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The Ultimate British History Quiz

Updated on November 21, 2012

Test your knowledge of British History

Britain has such a fascinating and exciting history, with monarchs, battles, famous events and famous people. Some of the most prominent historical figures have been British, from William Shakespeare to Charles Dickens to Henry VIII and Winston Churchill. Now you can test your knowledge and see how much you really know about Britain in this ultimate British history quiz!

There are 5 history quizzes in all, each covering a different aspect of British history. Some questions are easy, others are a little bit more tricky. Then you can read about some of the famous historical events from Britain's past. Plus there's some amazing Horrible History music videos too for you to enjoy!

Happy quizzing!

The wars of the roses: the red rose of Lancaster vs. the white rose of Yorkshire. The Tudor rose combined both flowers.
The wars of the roses: the red rose of Lancaster vs. the white rose of Yorkshire. The Tudor rose combined both flowers.

The British monarchy

To quote from Captain Darling in Blackadder Goes Forth: "I'm as British as Queen Victoria!" Blackadder's response: "So your father's half German, you're part German and you married a German?" British monarchs have a rich and diverse history behind them, coming from many different countries and cultures. Here are just a few details of their fascinating history:

Catherine Parr was wife number 6 of Henry VIII. She married him in 1543, making Henry her third husband. Catherine was a zealous Protestant reformer and was particularly enthusiastic about meditation on the scriptures. In her lifetime she wrote two books related to religious matters. The first, 'Prayers or Meditations' was the first book ever published by an English Queen under her own name. Catherine later wrote a second book called 'The Lamentations of a Sinner', published shortly before Henry died in 1547. In the rhyme about Henry VIII's wives, Catherine is the one who 'survived', outliving him by one year.

George VI replaced his elder brother Edward VIII, when Edward abdicated in 1936. Edward abdicated because he wanted to marry a divorced woman, the American Wallace Simpson, which was against Church law at the time. George was a naval officer who had little, if any, desire to be king. A stammerer, George was a nervous public speaker for many years, up until the outbreak of World War Two in 1939. George died in 1952 and was succeeded by his daughter, Elizabeth II.

Lady Jane Grey had the shortest reign of any English monarch. She ruled for only 9 days! Her cousin, the boy king Edward VI, was arguably manipulated into naming Jane his successor and disinheriting his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth from inheriting the throne by the Duke of Northumberland, who wanted his niece in power for his own ends. Mary Tudor led an uprising against the rule of Queen Jane and was successful - Mary's popularity stemmed from the fact that she, unlike Jane, was Henry VIII's daughter. Although Jane was convicted of high treason and in the Tower of London, Mary I was reluctant to execute her. Jane was eventually executed in 1554 due to the Wyatt rebellion, which threatened to depose Mary and put Jane back on the throne. Jane was aged just 16 or 17 when she died. Her status as monarch is much disputed as she was never officially crowned.

Queen Anne reigned from 1702-1714, and was the last Stuart monarch of England. Although Anne was pregnant 17 times, she died without any surviving children. The throne then passed to her second cousin who became King George I, beginning the era of the House of Hanover.

Mary II was the daughter of James II, and was married to William III . They are the only two joint monarchs in British history. After James was deposed in 1688, William insisted on becoming joint ruler with Mary, rather than becoming a Prince consort. Mary died in 1694, leaving William to rule as sole monarch until his death in 1702.

Edward the Black Prince was the eldest son of Edward III and became father to the future Richard II. Extremely popular due to his military victories over the French at the battles of Crecy and Poitiers, Edward died one year before his father, making him the first English Prince of Wales to not become King of England. Edward is buried in Canterbury Cathedral, near to the shrine of St Thomas Becket. The title of the Black Prince did not develop until after his death - no one is quite sure why this title was accorded to him, but it may refer to the black armour he wore in battle.

Harold II was the reigning monarch at the time of the Battle of Hastings. He was defeated in battle by William the Conqueror's army. The Bayeux tapestry depicts Harold being killed through an arrow in the eye.

Charles I was beheaded in 1649 during the English civil war. It was argued by Parliamentarian supporters that Charles was a tyrant who had no interest in reforming the English political system or accepting any restraints on his power. After his execution, England briefly became a republic, with Oliver Cromwell sworn in as Lord Protector. After Cromwell's death in 1659, the republican cause lacked any clear direction, and the English monarchy was restored in 1660.

Edward V was the son of King Edward IV, becoming king aged just 12. Due to his young age, Edward's uncle Richard, duke of Gloucester, was nominated as his Lord Protector. 2 months after Edward came to the throne, Richard deposed him and took the throne for himself. Edward and his younger brother Richard were taken to the Tower of London supposedly for their own safety. Their mysterious disappearance from the Tower was widely attributed to Richard, although this has never been proven. The two brothers became known as the Princes in the Tower.

Henry VI reigned from 1422-1461, then again from 1470-1471. He became King aged only 9 months old after the death of his father Henry V - meaning he was the youngest person ever to ascend the English throne. Until 1437, due to his age, his realm was governed by regents. In 1453, Henry slipped into a mental breakdown after hearing about the loss of Bordeaux to the French. This caused the House of York to begin to claim their right to the English throne. After a violent struggle between the houses of York and Lancaster, Henry was deposed in 1461 and his cousin, Edward of York, became Edward IV. Although Edward was temporarily forced into exile and Henry VI restored to the throne in 1470, this lasted less than 6 months. Henry's reign began the troubles of the Wars of the Roses, one of the most violent episodes in British history.

History on Youtube - A little ditty to help you remember the Kings and Queens of England...

Horrible Histories was originally a series of children's books written by the amazing Terry Deary. It has recently become a huge phenomenon due to the popular Horrible Histories TV Series. My boys love the books and the TV series, particularly these fun music videos that explain a lot of things in British history. After each quiz there's a video from this series related to the previous round. Enjoy!

Did you know?

Jane Austen was an English novelist who wrote 6 books in her lifetime in the early nineteenth century. She did not write the novel 'Agnes Grey' - that was written by Anne Bronte. Austen's most famous work is the novel Pride and Prejudice.

Robert Walpole , leader of the Whigs (Liberals) is acknowledged as the first British Prime Minister. Although the position of Prime Minister had no real official use or recognition in law at the time, Walpole was de facto head of office due to his influence within the Cabinet. Dates of his tenure are conflicting, with some stating he became Prime Minister in 1721, others saying 1730. Walpole governed until 1742 when he resigned over the Battle of Cartagena. His is the longest consecutive administration in British history.

The first sub-4 minute mile was run by Sir Roger Bannister . A keen runner all his life, Bannister was a contender for the 1952 Olympics, however he did not win any medals whilst participating. The sub-4 minute mile took place on 6th May 1954 at the Iffley Road running track in Oxford. Bannister completed the mile in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds, making history.

Alexander Graham Bell was born in Edinburgh in 1847. Bell’s mother and wife were both deaf, which led to his interest in hearing devices, culminating in the invention of the telephone in 1876. However, Bell refused to ever have a telephone in his study.

T.E. Lawrence was born in Tremadog, Wales, 1888. Lawrence was a British Army officer, who became renowned for his role during the 1916-18 Arab revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule. His travels and activities, and willingness to write them down for audiences, earned him the famous title Lawrence of Arabia .

Christopher Marlowe wrote the play 'Edward the II', or, to give it its full title, 'The troublesome reign and lamentable death of Edward the Second, King of England, with the tragicall fall of proud Mortimer'. One of the earliest English history plays written, it examines Edward's disastrous last days as king and his close relationship with commoner Piers Gaveston. Marlowe's most famous play is the memorable Dr Faustus.

Vivien Leigh was an English actress, most renowned for her performance as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind. She won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Scarlett, going on to win another Best Actress Academy Award for her role of Blanche Dubois in 'A Streetcar named Desire'.

Captain James Cook was born in the village of Marton, North Yorkshire, now a suburb of Middlesbrough, in 1728. He was an explorer, cartographer and navigator, who made three voyages to the Pacific Ocean during his lifetime. Cook is famed for achieving first contact with the east coast of Australia, the Hawaiian islands and for the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand. Cook's skills as a cartographer meant that many Pacific islands previously unheard of were displayed on European maps for the first time. Cook was killed in Hawaii during a fight with the native Hawaiians in 1779.

Sir Walter Scott was the author of Ivanhoe. Born in 1771, Scott's writings focused largely on Jacobite Scotland, particularly the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. The main exception to this was Ivanhoe, which is set in 12th century England.

Sir Francis Drake owned many ships during his lifetime, but the most famous one was the Golden Hinde. Born in 1540 and active in the court of Elizabeth I, Drake was awarded a knighthood in 1581, after he carried out the second circumnavigation of the globe from 1577-1580. He was regarded as a hero to the English, but a pirate to the Spanish, due to his frequent plundering of their colonial ships. Drake was vice admiral of the English fleet when the Spanish Armada occurred in 1588, whose tactics arguably led the English to victory.

Francis Drake and the Spanish Armada

Halley's comet, spotted in the sky shortly before the Battle of Hastings. It was seen as an omen concerning the Norman Conquest
Halley's comet, spotted in the sky shortly before the Battle of Hastings. It was seen as an omen concerning the Norman Conquest

1066 and all that

The Battle of Bannockburn 1314 was a resounding victory for Scotland against England. The battle was part of English attempts to annexe Scotland, attempts which began under Edward I. Such attempts failed, however, and full Scottish independence was recognised by England ten years later.

The Battle of the Boyne was fought in Ireland in 1690, between James II and William of Orange. After James was deposed by William, James fled to Ireland where the fight back for his throne began. The two armies met at the Boyne river - William's troops won, after which James fled to France.

Richard III fought Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 , the battle which brought the Wars of the Roses to a close. Richard fought on the Yorkist side (the white rose), Henry Tudor fought for the Lancastrians (the red rose). Henry was victorious and was crowned King Henry VII, marking the beginning of the Tudor dynasty.

Henry V led the English to victory against the French at the battle of Agincourt , immortalised in William Shakespeare's play 'Henry V'. The battle occurred in 1415, when Henry led his troops into battle and actively participated in combat. Despite having many more troops, the French were soundly defeated by the English at Agincourt, part of the Hundred Years' War.

The Bayeux Tapestry commemorates the events of the Norman Conquest of England and the 1066 Battle of Hastings. It begins with the sighting of Halley's comet, thought to be an omen of the events to come in England, and depicts Harold II's death by an arrow through the eye. The tapestry is almost 230 ft long and consists of 50 separate scenes with Latin captions.

The Norman Conquest

British history on Amazon

Divorced, Beheaded, Died: The History of Britain's Kings and Queens in Bite-sized Chunks
Divorced, Beheaded, Died: The History of Britain's Kings and Queens in Bite-sized Chunks

Perfect for those of you wanting to learn more about the British monarchy in a fun way.

The ruins of Whutby Abbey, where the Synod of Whitby took place
The ruins of Whutby Abbey, where the Synod of Whitby took place

Our island story....

The Great Exhibition was opened by Prince Albert, husband and consort to Queen Victoria, in 1851. Its full name was 'The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations' and it was a celebration of modern industrial technology and design. Exhibits were on display from Britain and from its colonies around the world, including the Koh-i-Noor diamond from India, at the time the world's biggest diamond. The exhibition was on display in Hyde Park, London, from 1st May - 15th October 1851.

England last won the football world cup in 1966 . It is also the only time that England has ever won the World Cup!

England and Scotland joined together to become the United Kingdom in 1707 by the Act of Union , under the reign of Queen Anne. The idea of making the two separate countries into one united kingdom had been around since the early 1600s. James VI of Scotland became James I of England in 1603 upon the death of Elizabeth I, and was the first monarch to rule over the two nations.

The Great Fire of London occurred in 1666. It destroyed over 13,000 houses, 87 churches and St Paul's Cathedral. However, only 6 deaths were recorded. The fire began at a bakery on Pudding Lane and rapidly spread through the city, helped by the large amount of wooden and thatch buildings.

Boudicca was an Iceni tribe leader who led her people in a revolt against the Romans in approximately AD 60 . Boudicca's husband had left his kingdom jointly to his wife and daughters and the Romans in his will - however, this was ignored by the Roman army who proceeded to annexe Britain further. Boudicca led the uprising and the rebels destroyed the town of Colchester. The Roman army eventually regained control of Britain. It is unclear whether Boudicca killed herself after the battle, or fell ill and died.

The Field of the Cloth of Gold was a peace conference that took place in France in 1520. It was a meeting place for Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France, arranged to increase the two country's friendships after years of war. The tents and clothes were so bright and so much gold thread and fabric was used that the meeting and field were named after this. Although the meeting made a great impression, politically it achieved little. Later that year, England was at war with France again.

William of Orange led an armed force into England in 1688, in what later became known as the Glorious Revolution . It was presented as 'glorious' for two reasons: the revolution freed England from the supposed 'tyranny' of James II, and the revolution happened without any bloodshed. In reality, however, the revolution was far more complicated, and has been debated hotly by academics ever since.

The Pilgrimage of Grace was a peaceful uprising against Henry VIII in 1536. The dissolution of the monasteries caused widespread unpopularity in most of the northern counties of England, particularly Yorkshire and Lincolnshire where the rebellion against Henry's authority began. Those who were involved in the uprising called themselves pilgrims rather than rebels, and carried banners that depicted the five wounds of Christ.

The first public steam railway in the world was the Stockton and Darlington Railway . It was opened in 1825 and designed by George Stephenson. It was planned to carry both goods and passengers, and connected up the many coal mines in the region to the ports. The Stockton and Darlington Railway set a precedent for rail travel worldwide.

The Synod of Whitby took place at Whitby Abbey in 664AD. The Synod was extremely important for the development of early Christianity, as it ruled that the kingdom of Northumbria would follow the customs of Rome, rather than native and Irish customs that had developed.

Boudicca and the uprising against the Romans

History and myth

I hope that you enjoyed taking this quiz! How did you do? All comments appreciated :-)

Guestbook Comments

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    • suepogson profile image


      4 years ago

      I'm clearly a true brit - only two wrong! Great quiz

    • LouiseKirkpatrick profile image


      5 years ago from Berkshire, United Kingdom

      Awesome quiz! I did them all without looking at the answers underneath and did much better than I thought I would! Blessed by a Brit Squid Angel :)

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 

      5 years ago from London

      That was fun..I'm pretty good at British History, But came across a few I didn't know here.

    • profile image

      funbee lm 

      5 years ago

      I'll bookmark this page so I can take the quizzes when I have more time. Great page!

    • Rangoon House profile image


      5 years ago from Australia

      One might call this a rollercoaster result! I did enjoy your quiz though and learnt a lot on the way. Blessings.

    • grahamcox lm profile image

      grahamcox lm 

      5 years ago

      great lens, a lot of fun!

    • Carashops profile image


      5 years ago

      Guess I paid more attention at school than I thought!!!

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      6 years ago from UK

      Fantastic! Just the kind of quizzes I enjoy with plenty of history and some real challenges, but not impossible. Very interesting answer sections too. I did pretty well but I learnt quite a bit from the ones I didn't know. Angel blessed. :)

    • melissiaoliver profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @SheilaMilne: Glad you enjoyed them!

    • SheilaMilne profile image


      6 years ago from Kent, UK

      Great quizzes! My history has always needed brushing up. :)

    • melissiaoliver profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @Bellezza-Decor: Haha, fair enough! Hope you enjoyed the lens nonetheless :-)

    • melissiaoliver profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @Steve Dizmon: Nevermind, I'm glad you still found it fun!

    • melissiaoliver profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @t2000q: Glad you enjoyed it!

    • Steve Dizmon profile image

      Steve Dizmon 

      6 years ago from Nashville, TN

      Fun Lens. I did not do that well however.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great fun and informative lens! Thumbs UP!

    • Bellezza-Decor profile image


      6 years ago from Canada

      Looks like I don't like care for Monarchs based on the quiz and it's right!

    • melissiaoliver profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @Stacy Birch: Thanks for taking the quiz! I love Jane Austen too, although I have yet to read Persuasion - must do that one of these days!

    • Stacy Birch profile image

      Stacy Birch 

      6 years ago

      I like how you gave then proper history after the quiz, I must admit I only did well on famous people and got all the writer's correct. I'm a huge Jane Austen fan.

    • melissiaoliver profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @FionaCarroll: Aw, thank you! Glad you enjoyed it :-)

    • FionaCarroll profile image

      Fiona Carroll 

      6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Another fun and informative lens! I love it. Posted on FB for all my trivia fiend friends!


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