For some reason, a madness came upon me to enumerate the rulers of England and eventually the United Kingdom. This got me into hours of web research because of the complexity of things during the Anglo-Saxon period. I hope this helps somebody.

Many thanks to Gritchka for several corrections, and ryano for valuable insight. Behind the links you will find a wealth of information by such lights a Segnbora-t, aneurin, and Noung.

We're not going to try to summarize Roman Britain here, except to say that the native Celts had become so Romanized since the time of Queen Boudicca that even after Emperor Honorius pulled the Roman army of Britain in 410 AD in an attempt to fend off the Visigoths, they tried to keep up appearances as a Roman culture. Unfortunately, without the Roman army, Britain was subject to incursion from Germanic tribes such as Angles, Saxons, and Jutes from the Continent. Vaguely remembered in the legend of Vortigern, some came to England as foederatii to fend off the others, but their influence grew until pagan 'Anglo-Saxons' ruled most of the land.


The Anglo-Saxon Period

Most of this stuff comes from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Several websites, notably Eric Hall's, had already summarized much of this.

The Angles, Saxons, and Jutes all invaded England in the 5th and 6th Centuries. Various tribes formed petty little kingdoms. The most important ones were:

Northumbria,
from about the Humber estuary northward. This was on several occasions two separate kingdoms, Deira and Bernicia.
Mercia,
approximately where the Midlands are today.
Wessex,
the area south and west of London (excluding Cornwall). Wessex was the state which eventually absorbed the other little kingdoms.
Kent
(the first place invaded)
Essex
Sussex
East Anglia,
where the Counties of Norfolk and Suffolk are now.

These seven are traditionally referred to as the 'Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy', although several others such as Surrey and Lindsey also existed. Kings of each of the small kingdoms, before 954, are listed under the nodes they link to. From time to time, the ruler of one of these kingdoms would be acknowledged as a 'bretwalda' or ('wide-ruler') over the rest, but this title was nominal for the most part.

Anglo-saxon Kings of all England

Vikings overran Northern England in the 9th century, smashing Northumbria, Mercia, Essex, and East Anglia. The strongest Anglo-Saxon realm remaining was Wessex, whose king Alfred accepted an arrangement with the Vikings forming the Danelaw in Northern England, and bundled the remains of Mercia into Wessex. Because he was the only Anglo-Saxon ruler of any part of England at the time, Alfred is traditionally named the first king of all the Anglo-Saxons, even though he ruled only half of England.

  • Alfred (871-899) "The Great"
  • Edward (I) The Elder (899-924)
  • Athelstan (924-939) conquered Jorvik and probably has a better claim to "first king of all England" than Alfred.
  • Edmund I (939-946)
  • Eadred (946-955)
  • Eadwig "The Fair" (955-959)'s puppeteers lost control of Mercia and Northumbria to his brother Edgar's puppeteers in 957.
  • Edgar "The Peacemaker" (959-975)
  • Edward (II) The Martyr (975-978)
  • Aethelred II (978-1013) "The Unready" saw his kingdom overrun by a Danish army led by King Sweyn Forkbeard and his son Canute.


Danish conquest

The last Anglo-Saxons
The Norman Conquest and beyond

In 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, defeated Harold II at the Battle of Hastings. This was the second-to-last conquest of England by an outside power. Because of this, and despite all the political complexities of various periods after it, we can list the rest of the monarchs of England in a linear fashion:

House of Normandy

House of Blois

  • Stephen (1135-1154). Stephen was Henry I's nephew, who used his populatiry in London to seize the throne when Henry died, usurping Henry's daughter Matilda. Stephen's political acumen led to unpopularity in the rest of England, and civil war erupted in 1139.

House of Normandy, redux

  • Matilda (1141-1142) took the throne after Robert, Duke of Gloucester, captured Stephen in 1141. But Matilda's pleasant way with Londoners made it necessary for her to flee the city. Civil war continued.
  • House of Blois, redux. In 1142, Robert was captured, and he was exchanged for

    • Stephen (1142-1154), although the war continued until 1148, when Matilda left for France. Even though the immediate political situation was resolved, the question of the succession was left open. Matilda's suporters favored her son Henry, and Stephen favored his own son Eustace. The question was settled when Eustace died in 1153.

      House of Plantagenet (Anjou) House of Lancaster During the Wars of the Roses, there were several dynastic switches.

      (L) will precede members of the House of Lancaster, and
      (Y) will precede members of the House of York.

      House of Tudor House of Stuart

      King James VI of Scotland inherited the throne of England in 1603.  Great Britain became a single entity, unofficially at least.

      The Commonwealth, The Protectorate, plus an interregnum

      Upon the beheading of Charles I, the governments of England and Scotland were replaced by "commonwealth"s, actually military juntas with the Rump Parliament as a rubber stamp.

      It has been suggested that the Cromwells do not belong in this list, but I disagree. Oliver Cromwell, absolute dictator of England, was essentially a monarch, even managing to get his son to succeed him.

      The generals controlling everything didn't like the cut of Richard Cromwell's jib and pushed him out of office. There followed a hiatus of about a year, with the generals and the Rump Parliament in control. Wall, actually, soldiers who had not been paid roamed the streets of London looting houses. In 1660 General George Monck wrested control of the Army and restored the Long Parliament, which promptly called for new elections. A Parliament dominated by Monck Royalists was elected, and Charles I's son (who had converted to Protestantism) was invited to come back.

      The Restoration begins England and Scotland's transition to a "constitutional monarchy", with Parliament having most legislative power. The monarch still approved laws, and had control of the military, similar to the arrangement in the United States today.

      House of Stuart, redux

      House of Orange and Stuart House of Stuart, re-redux


      House of Hanover House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha House of Windsor