These are the people who never became ruler of England for a variety of reasons, despite the throne being their birthright
William Adelin 5/8/1103 to 25/11/1120
The only son of Henry 1. Henry of Huntingdon, a chronicler of the time, refers to the prince as ‘pampered’ & seemed to be ’destined to be food for the fire’ which would imply that his chances of successfully surviving the rigours of a medieval court remote. He possibly lacked the skills needed to subdue his barons to his will. William died in the White Ship disaster crossing the channel from Barfleur. The party were all drunk & the helmsman took the ship onto the rocks. William died in an attempt to rescue his half-sister. William’s death eventually led to the period in English history when ‘Christ & his saints slept’ – the war between William’s sister Maud (also known as Matilda) & his cousin Stephen, when even a self-indulgent king would have been preferable to the mayhem that swept across the country.
Henry the Young King (as he was known to his contemporaries). 28/2/1155 to 11/6/1183
Henry was the second son of Henry II & Eleanor of Aquitaine (his elder brother died in infancy). Although technically crowned king while his father was still alive, to assure a non-contested inheritance, Henry never ruled alone as he died before his father, with whom he was in conflict. The Young King was not very interested in the day to day details of government (possibly because his workaholic father kept the majority of power in his own hands). According to WL Warren Henry showed ‘’no evidence of political sagacity, military skill, or even ordinary intelligence...’’ Henry was popular as he was heavily involved in partaking of the tournaments across Europe. But this was not a necessary skill for a king. The Young King joined with a number of his French subjects in a rebellion against the older king’s rule in 1173. Henry died of dysentery contracted during a further campaign against his father.
Edward of Woodstock – known to history as the Black Prince 15/6/1330 to 8/6/1376
The eldest son of Edward III, Prince Edward was popular with the people. He was a strong warrior; his victories in the Hundred Years War include Crècy, the Siege of Calais & Poitiers. He also acted as Regent during his father’s absences in France & was expected to attend council meetings. He & his wife Joan (commonly known as the Fair Maid of Kent) held court in Aquitaine as his father’s representative. After January 1371 Edward’s illness (possibly cancer or MS) meant that he was no longer able to campaign.
His contempt for the lower classes, evidenced by his rule in Aquitaine, would probably have been mirrored in England had he succeeded his father. There is no doubt that the sick prince would have been a sick king, potentially unable to control his nobles. But this might have been better for the country than the 10 year old Richard, who succeeded his grandfather & whose misrule resulted in deposition & murder.
Edward of Westminster also known as Edward of Lancaster 13/10/1453 to 4/5/1471
Only son of Henry VI, who struggled with bouts of insanity, Edward was in thrall to his strong mother - Margaret of Anjou. There were rumours that Edward was not Henry’s son, although acknowledged as his son by Henry. In 1460, after capture at the battle of Northampton by the Duke of York, Henry VI was forced by the Yorkists to disinherit his son by the Act of Accord in 1460. Margaret was not prepared to accept her son’s disinheritance & the War of the Roses spiralled on, Edward spending much of the next eleven years on the run or in exile in France.
Following an agreement with the Earl of Warwick, Edward & his mother returned to rebel against the man who had become Edward IV in his stead. Prince Edward died at the battle of Tewkesbury, three weeks before his father was murdered in the tower. It would appear unlikely that Edward would have been the strong king England needed at this time; to heal the schism between the two warring factions of Lancastrians & Yorkists. He also carried the taint of madness inherited from his French great grandfather & his father.
Edward V 2/11/1470 to 29/7/1483? (Exact date of death unknown)
Eldest son of Edward IV, Edward was brought up as a scholar & had a dignity beyond his years according to one of his last attendants in the Tower (where he had been sent, allegedly for his safety). It is impossible to say what kind of king Edward would have made. Had his uncle done as Edward IV intended and ruled as Regent, handing the throne over to his nephew, when he reached his majority, then the final campaign of the Wars of the Roses might have been avoided. Without a strong committed guardian &/or Regent then the weakness of yet another child king would have seen a resurgence of the war. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, making use of rumours that Edward’s mother, Elizabeth Woodville, was not married to Edward IV (there were only 3 witnesses to the marriage), had Edward & his brother Richard, Duke of York, declared bastards & thereupon took the throne himself. The cause of their deaths are not known, but popular belief is that they were murdered on the order of their uncle.
Prince Arthur 19-20/9/1486 to 2/4/1502
The elder son of Henry VII, Arthur was Prince of Wales & President of the Council of Wales & Marches. He was sent to live in Ludlow at the age of 6, where he began his training in kingship. Arthur was known to be studious, thoughtful & reserved. Married on the 4th November 1501 to the Infanta Catalina (known to history as Catherine of Aragon), within 6 months Arthur died at Ludlow of an unknown illness. He would probably have made a better king than his brother Henry, being less flamboyant & extravagant. Arthur appeared to be happy marrying Catherine, which would have left the country firmly in the bosom of the Catholic church. By 1509 he would have been 24, with 18 years of training in kingship behind him, ready to take on the role of ruling a kingdom.
Prince Henry Frederick 19/2/1594 to 6/11/1612
Elder son of James I - In 1598 James I had the Basilikon Doron printed for the instruction of his elder son Henry. The Basilikon sets out James’ views on kingship. On the king’s instructions Henry’s household was more akin to a college. In 1605 Henry was sent to study at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he took an interest in sports. A witty, outgoing & popular young man, Henry was also interested in naval & military matters, as well as national issues; about which he was unafraid to take issue with his father. Henry was also able to keep financial control of his money (unlike his father & brother). Henry died of Typhoid fever at the age of 18. It would have been difficult for Henry to have made more of a mess of his reign than his younger brother.
James Francis Edward Stuart – known as the Old Pretender 10/6/1688 to 1/1/1766
The son of James II – controversy surrounded even James’ birth, when Protestant supporters claimed he had been smuggled into the birthing chamber in a warming pan, rather than being the natural son of a Catholic king, who already had two Protestant daughters by his first wife. At a period when anti-Catholic feelings ran high, the thought that James would be succeeded by a Catholic son inflamed the populace.
At six months old James was taken abroad by his mother Mary of Modena, fearing for the safety of her son, just over a month after the successful invasion of England by William of Orange. James was brought up in France & was recognised by his father’s cousin, Louis XIV, as heir to the throne of England. In 1701, upon the death of James II, who was held by the English to have abdicated, James was declared King of England by the French & James’ Jacobite supporters. He headed an unsuccessful invasion in 1708 & in 1713 at the peace of Utrecht France was obliged to expel James & he moved to Rome, after a brief unsuccessful attempt to invade the country of his birth in 1715. Further attempts at a restoration of the Stuart dynasty were left to James’ son, Charles – the Young Pretender.
It is unlikely that James would have agreed to become a Protestant in order to placate his subjects fears of an enforced return to the church in Rome. His inflexibility in this matter does not indicate that he would have made a better king than his father, or his father’s successor – his brother-in-law William.
Prince Frederick 1/2/1707 to 20/3/1751
The elder son of George II, Prince Frederick was left in the care of his great-uncle from the age of seven & did not see his parents again until he was 21 years old, a young man, fond of drinking, gambling & women. When he finally arrived in England Frederick set up his own ‘court in opposition’.
Like several other Princes of Wales (including his grandson) Frederick ran up massive debts. George II refused to give Frederick an allowance that would cover his expenses & Frederick’s pecuniary difficulties were relieved by George Bubb Dodington, a rich politician. Eventually Frederick applied to Parliament for an increase in his allowance, which was granted but he was given less than he asked for.
Following an incident caused by Frederick’s removal of his heavily pregnant wife from Hampton Court, to give birth without the presence of the King & Queen (a serious breach of royal protocol & without much thought for his suffering wife)) Frederick was banished from court – ambassadors in London were told not to visit the prince & his family.
Frederick was detested by his parents & by Sir Robert Walpole, the Prime Minister for much of George II’s reign. Frederick’s sisters considered him one of the world’s greatest liars. But to his children Frederick was a good father, taking an interest in their education & encouraging them to share in his interests in art & science, gardening, astronomy, music (Frederick played the viola & cello) and amateur dramatics. Frederick enjoyed poetry & co-wrote a play that was taken off on its opening night & the entrance fee refunded to the audience.
In 1751 Frederick developed an abscess on the lung & subsequently a cold, which might have turned into pleurisy. The abscess burst & Frederick died. Popular with the masses as an alternative to the greatly disliked George II, Frederick had never been much thought of by his father’s supporters. His early ‘wild’ living settled down in middle age to a happy home life. It is not possible to say whether he would have been a good king, once upon the throne, but his son, immature at 22 faced a far more difficult reign than his father would have done aged 53.
Princess Charlotte Augusta 17/1/1796 to 6/11/1817Princess Charlotte was the only child of the Prince Regent & his hated wife Caroline of Brunswick. As a child Charlotte was caught up in the vicious fight between her parents. The princess had restricted contact with her mother & her father was little interested in his daughter. The child was used as a pawn in her parents’ battles, both sides appealing to the king & queen to back their entrenched positions.
Charlotte was much loved by her grandfather & her aunts & spent some happy times with them in Weymouth & at Windsor. George III doted on his granddaughter & arranged for her education. As a teenager Charlotte was considered undignified, but her father was proud of her ability as a horsewoman. She was fond of Haydn & Mozart and identified herself with Marianne from Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility. Charlotte was deeply saddened by her grandfather’s descent into madness & must have been hurt by her father’s habits of exposing her grandfather’s ravings to his cronies.
A supporter of the Whigs Charlotte was annoyed by her father’s refusal, once Prince Regent, to bring the Whigs into government. The Prince Regent pressurised his daughter into accepting the suit of the Prince of Orange. The breaking off of the engagement by Charlotte led to a battle of wills between her & her father. But in 1816 Charlotte was allowed to marry Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. Charlotte died in childbirth, after 18 months of happy married life.
Obviously a woman with a mind of her own, Charlotte would have been 34 when she became queen. Her husband Leopold became an adviser to Queen Victoria. There is no reason to suppose he would not have done the same for his wife, whose reign might have been as successful. She would certainly have been as popular as Victoria, as Charlotte was seen as an antidote to her extremely unpopular father.
Edward VIII – later Duke of Windsor 23/6/1894 to 28/5/1972
|The Duke & Duchess of Windsor meet Adolf Hitler|
In 1914 Edward joined the Grenadier Guards but was not allowed to serve, as the effect on morale of his capture by the enemy would have been crippling. However Edward visited the front line on a number of occasions, making himself popular with the troops.
As Prince of Wales, Edward undertook many foreign tours, representing his father. He became extremely popular & appeared in magazines & newspapers regularly. His numerous affairs & his failure to settle down worried the king & his advisers. The affair with twice married Wallis Simpson, who appeared to have the prince completely under her thumb, was even more disturbing. It has been alleged that Wallis was very ‘friendly’ with the Nazi German ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop & in Italy there were rumours that in the 1920s Wallis had an affair with Galleazzo Ciano, when he was posted in Singapore.
After the death of his father in January 1936 the politicians’ unease was increased by the new king’s apparent disinterest in the affairs of state. State papers were ignored & left about for his guests to peruse, if they so chose. Prime Minister Baldwin & his colleagues were concerned when the king spent much of August & September 1936 cruising in the Mediterranean with his mistress. Although it was not until November that the king informed Baldwin that he wished to wed a twice divorced woman.
On 10th December Edward signed the Instrument of Abdication, preferring to marry Wallis Simpson, to reigning as King of England. It is however believed that Edward offered to abdicate to get his own way over marrying Wallis. He was unable to believe that his offer would be accepted, forgetting that the rule of royals to produce ‘an heir & a spare’ meant that Edward’s brother Albert was available for the job. As it was Albert, who became George VI, rose to the occasion & was a source of inspiration to his subjects during the dark days of World War II.
Edward would have caused problems in British relations with Nazi Germany as his visit as Duke of Windsor in 1937 illustrates. One of Edward’s close associates, a Charles Bedaux, was in close contact with the Nazi hierarchy & had a home at Berchtesgarden along with Hitler, Goering & Bormann. Edward would possibly also have interfered in politics. His brother was a much better choice as monarch.
The Later Stuarts – George Clark, Oxford University Press 1985
Edward VIII – Frances Donaldson, Wiedenfeld & Nicholson 1978
James 1 – Antonia Fraser, Book Club Associates 1974
The Reign of King Henry VI - RA Griffiths, Sutton Publishing 1998
George III – Christopher Hibbert, Viking 1998
King George II & Queen Caroline – John van der Kiste, Sutton Publishing 1997
The Earlier Tudors – JD Mackie, Oxford University Press 1992
Edward III – WM Ormrod, Tempus Publishing 2005
Henry II - W. L. Warren, Yale University Press, 2000
The Princes in the Tower – Alison Weir, Pimlico 1997