The second play-off group is open for voting! Doing battle in Group B are Cnut, Henry II, Richard the Lionheart, Edward I, Elizabeth I and William III. Read on for a quick introduction to the six contenders and details on how you can vote to decide the outcome.
The play-offs operate under a three college electoral system – Graham is one college, Ali is another college and you, the rest of the world, are the third college. All you have to do is click on the link below and pick the THREE monarchs that you want to go through to the next round. If you’re not sure who to vote for, listen to our Group B podcast episode where we discuss them in detail or have a quick read of the summaries below.
Cnut is almost exclusively remembered for failing to hold back the tide but this does him a huge disservice. As if being a Viking isn’t impressive enough, Cnut conquered England in 1016 and established a North Sea Empire (Denmark, Norway and parts of Sweden), making him arguably the most successful Viking. Unlike the Norman conquest 50 years later, Cnut sought to rule like a Saxon, upholding the same laws, patronising the church and even marrying Aethelraed the Unready’s second queen (Emma of Normandy). What’s more, he never meant to hold back the tides but rather to prove that as powerful as he was, he owed his crown to God.
Henry II was the top-scoring monarch in Rex Factor, and it’s easy to see why. He restored order to England following the Anarchy of Stephen’s reign, presided over an Angevin empire (England and much of West & Central France) and revolutionised the English legal system with the beginnings of English Common Law. As if this wasn’t enough to keep him busy, his tempestuous relationship with his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, led to rebellions from his sons (not least Richard the Lionheart) while the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, threatened to destabilise the reign.
A legend in his own time as well as today, Richard the Lionheart was perhaps England’s ultimate warrior king. On the Third Crusade, he captured Sicily &Cyprus and came within 12 miles of retaking Jerusalem from Saladin. After being imprisoned in Europe, he emerged to find the French king had captured much of the Angevin Empire and so spent the next five years taking it all back again. Richard has been much criticised for being an absent king (6 months in England during his 10 year reign), but the country was largely stable and well governed in this period and Richard was the epitome of what contemporaries believed a king should be.
Edward I made a huge impact both in England and across Britain. He not only conquered Wales through some of the best organised military campaigns an English army had ever undertaken but built a series of magnificent and innovative castles. He also began centuries of formal conflict with Scotland, defeating William Wallace and even ordering that his bones be taken on campaign so he could witness the final defeat of the Scots! Edward was not just an angry military man, however, with his reign also seeing a wide range of new statutes and a major development in the role of Parliament.
After the chaotic reigns of her predecessors, Elizabeth brought stability to England. Her religious settlement was far more moderate than that of her siblings while her court rewarded loyalty and long service rather plotting and treachery. She oversaw a golden age (not least William Shakespeare and exploring the New World) and had the popular touch, but the presence of her excommunication made her a target for Catholic plots. After the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, the Spanish Armada sought to depose Elizabeth but its defeat, and Elizabeth’s Tilbury speech, assured her legendary status in English history.
William III was technically the last man to successfully invade England (albeit invited by Parliament). The Glorious Revolution saw James II deposed in favour of his daughter, Mary II, and Dutch son-in-law, William III. William was driven by his opposition to the all-powerful French absolutist, Louis XIV, seeing off an attempted invasion of the Netherlands in 1672 and later leading a European coalition against Louis, halting his expansion. This was also a major period for domestic reform, with the 1689 Bill of Rights asserting the independent authority of Parliament and the Bank of England making London the financial capital of the world.