People all over the world enjoy an enduring fascination with the royal families of England.
For centuries, people from all walks of life have been captivated by the kings and queens of England, along with their family lines of princes and princesses, as well as the courtiers, aristocrats and nobles that make up the royal circles.
The history books of the ages are filled with the tales of England’s royal families. From the legendary kings, lords and ladies of ancient times, to the modern-day dramas of the current monarchy, the life stories and lifestyles of this unique social group have long captured the imagination of their national subjects along with many others around the globe.
Here are two of the most famous royal families of England, along with their most famous – or most colourful – characters.
The Tudor Family
The great royal House of Tudor gave the world some of its most iconic kings and queens.
The royal emblem of the House of Windsor is the Tudor rose, a symbol of the unification of the previous War of The Roses, the feud between the Houses of Lancaster and York. As the red rose of Lancaster was united with the white rose of York, through the marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, a new royal family line was established – the House of Tudor.
This strategic union proved to be an enduring and successful one, as the House of Tudor became one of the most powerful and historic of England’s royal families.
Perhaps one of the most notorious members of the House of Tudor was the infamous Henry VIII. As the son of the founder of the Tudor royal family, Henry VIII was destined to play a leading role in the history books. Yet few would have imagined the part he would play in the reformation of religion around the world.
The story of Henry VIII is largely the story of his many wives. History lovers and school children around the world will be familiar with names such as Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard, along with the rhyme that describes their fate, which goes; Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.
The love life of this powerful king was also the origin of the great break with the Catholic Church that sent ripples around the world and changed the face of religion for centuries.
King Henry VIII was so set on his decision to marry the young and beautiful Anne Boleyn, that he famously broke with the Church in order to facilitate his scandalous divorce from his wife of almost a quarter of a century, the Spanish Princess, Catherine of Aragon.
These momentous romances set a new course for the history of England and its royal families, yet one positive outcome was the marriage that gave the nation one of its greatest queens.
The little girl born to Anne Boleyn, the new Queen of England after Henry VIII’s first divorce, was to grow up to become the iconic Queen Elizabeth I.
Famously cited as having the lion’s heart of her father, Good Queen Bess was also one of the legendary characters of the House of Tudor, famous for her defeat of the Spanish Armada and the restoration of peace within a nation torn apart by her father’s wilful politics and relentless pursuit of power.
The Windsor Family
From a great English Queen of centuries past to a world-famous monarch of modern times, Queen Elizabeth I’s namesake, Queen Elizabeth II has proven to be no less of an enduring and popular ruler.
While Elizabeth I was to be the final monarch of the House of Tudor – succeeded by James I and the House of Stuart – the 21st-century Queen Elizabeth is one of the early members of a new English Royal family – the House of Windsor.
Even though this new royal lineage is barely a century old, it has already seen a range of colorful characters make the name famous throughout the world.
One of its earliest monarchs was the famous King Edward VIII, perhaps better known by his later title of Duke of Windsor, after his scandalous abdication. In an echo of English kings before him, Edward VIII pursued his marital preference at the expense of his royal duties, choosing to marry the famous American divorcee, Mrs Simpson, even if it meant the loss of the throne.
Yet again, this shocking turn of events paved the way for another of England’s greatest queens, as the crown was passed to Edward VIII’s brother, George VI, father of the next great Elizabeth – Queen Elizabeth II.
This enduring monarch would reign for decades with a stoic and steady commitment to her royal duty, though her years as Queen of England have seen their own share of royal scandals, dramas and celebrities.
In the age-old theme of marital dramas, perhaps some of the most famous modern-day members of the House of Windsor have been the women who married into this historic royal family.
The whole world fell in love with the new Princess Diana when she married the heir to the English throne, Prince Charles, in 1981. The couple would play out their tumultuous marriage under the glare of public attention, only for it all to end tragically with the death of England’s young ‘Queen of Hearts’.
The couple’s children would also sustain the world’s fascination with the House of Windsor through their own marriages.
Prince William is cited to have revived the monarchy with his down-to-earth royalty, his beautiful wife and his characterful children. And his brother Prince Harry has also added a modern twist to the royal family line in his marriage to the Hollywood actress Meghan Markle, and their subsequent retreat from royal life.
The royal families of England are a fascinating collection of regal dynasties – both ancient and modern. The various kings and queens that have reigned over the English people for centuries have provided a colourful history of royal living and the unique role of monarch of one of the world’s most historic royal lines.
The families of these legendary rulers have also added their own unique stories to the rich and colourful tapestry of England’s royal history, with their very human dramas reminding the world that kings, queens, princes and princesses and the elite social classes are as flawed, imperfect and surprising as the rest of humanity.