The third and final first round tie of the play-offs is now live. Doing battle in Group C are William the Conqueror, Edward III, Henry V, William IV, Victoria and George V. 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 C podcast episode where we discuss them in detail or have a quick read of the summaries below. Voting ends on 31 March so be sure to vote before it’s too late!
William the Conqueror ended Saxon rule with his victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, probably the most famous battle and date in English history. A hard and unforgiving man, when William’s initial effort to rule with the Saxons proved fruitless he soon turned to more violent means of persuasion, putting down myriad rebellions all across the country with brutal efficiency. This wasn’t a great time to be a subject, with the harrying of the north, a loss of liberties and the English language replaced by French and Latin at government levels, but William’s achievement in making the Conquest stick was very impressive a major turning point in English history.
Edward III modelled himself and his court on Arthur and Camelot and brought to England an appropriate degree of triumph and tragedy. Uniting the nobles in a court based on chivalry, tournaments and warfare, Edward gave England spectacular military glories in the Hundred Years War with famous battles such as Crecy and Poitiers. Sadly, as the old generation died off and Edward’s health failed, the French gains were lost and the Black Death had a devastating impact on the English populace, but the military adventures of Edward and his knights are hard to match.
Henry V is probably the only English king who could match Edward III, and their reigns have much crossover. Henry reunited a divided court and re-started the Hundred Years War. In last than ten years, with the legendary victory at Agincourt and a highly effective campaign in Normandy, Henry was recognised as the heir to the King of France (and had also married his daughter). Tragically, however, this seemingly unstoppable reign was brought to a close by ill health and Henry died at the height of his powers, just weeks away from becoming King of France.
Not much was expected of William IV, one of the many sons of George III with a reputation for buffoonery and debauchery, but William was a much more effective king than his predecessor, George IV. William worked hard as king and oversaw the transition into a constitutional monarchy. This didn’t stop him playing an active role, however, and his support (however reluctant) was crucial in passing the Great Reform Act in 1832. Having been desperate to survive long enough to become king, his final battle was to survive long enough for his niece, Victoria, to come to the throne without requiring a dreaded regency.
Victoria ruled for longer than any other monarch and was at the heart of the British Empire at its zenith. Her effectively joint ruling with her beloved husband, Prince Albert, saw the royals as the model family for the nation and Albert spearheaded reform and initiatives such as the Great Exhibition. When Albert died in 1861, however, Victoria went into grieving for the rest of her life and largely withdrew from public affairs. For a time, republican sentiments were being voiced, but from the 1880s Victoria was back and enjoyed overwhelming popularity, plus a major figure on the world stage both as an Empress and the grandmother of Europe.
George V is by some distance the least showy of all Rex Factor winners, but his straight-forward, no-nonsense approach was exactly what was required at the time. George’s reign was one long series of crises, with the First World War, global depressions, industrial strikes, war in Ireland and 3 hung parliaments (including the first ever Labour government). Thankfully, George had a very strong sense of his duty to his people and the (unwritten) constitution, carefully managing conflicts in Parliament (in which he often had to intervene), visiting troops and workers during and after the war, and establishing the Windsor dynasty as we know it today.