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Putting things right

I am going to start with a statement that too many historians prefer to ignore: England existed before 14 October 1066 and existed as a single kingdom for some of that time.

So why do our monarchs’ regnal numbers ignore this? Edward the Confessor died at the beginning of that very year. Edward the Martyr earned his nickname at Corfe Castle under a century earlier. Edward the Elder succeeded Alfred under two centuries before the twilight of the Anglo-Saxon monarchy. All reigned as part of the House of Wessex which outlasted the other heptarchs yet, when that name resurfaced under the crown in 1272, its bearer bore the number one (I).

Is it time to correct this? Should Prince George of Cambridge have sons with Saxon names and they succeed in due course, should they take adjusted regnal numbers eg Edmund III, Egbert IV? Should new editions of all general history books adjust the numbers of the Edwards to date?

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11 thoughts on “Putting things right

  1. Jasmine on said:

    No, because it would be too complicated and would involve re-writing all the history books etc. Let us stick with what has been the method used since 1066.

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    • Well, technically, it hasn’t been used since 1066. For starters, there was no need, since there had been no kings called William (or Henry, or Stephen, or Richard, or John) before the Conquest. And I believe that the royal numbers weren’t even used at first, Edward I was known just as Edward Longshanks.

      I’m not sure when the royal numbers were first used, maybe someone else can supply the information?

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  2. Ann on said:

    1) Do we begin numbering at the point where someone is ruling all England, or, say, when an Alfred is ruling Wessex only?

    2) Technically, Edward (I) wasn’t “the first” in his lifetime; he became Edward I when there was an Edward II.

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    • 1) is interesting as it also applies (or does not apply?) to the United Kingdom and its rather confusing royal numbers (e.g. James was both VI of Scotland and I of England; if there were a king called James – or Charles* in the future, which number would they have, as kings of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which did not exist at the time of the Stuart monarchs?

      *Someone mentioned on this blog some time ago that Prince Charles, if he becomes king, will probably use the name George, since, for some reason, he likes George III. That would be very fortunate in terms of avoiding a lot of confusion regarding numbers…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. sighthound6 on said:

    I believe that technically the regal number is ‘since the Conquest’ or some such. It would be too much hassle to change the system, especially as it would merely be to satisfy a tiny minority of people who worry about such stuff. Personally, I think there should be quotation marks around every king and queen since 1399!

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  4. I believe it was decided when the current Queen came to the throne that the number used would be the higher of that in England or Scotland. This was because Scotland had never had an “Elizabeth I.” Otherwise, she would be “Elizabeth II & I” – rather confusing! The next three monarchs, should they use their own names, will not be affected as they fall in the normal sequence – coincidentally, Scotland has also had four previous “Williams.”

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  5. halfwit36 on said:

    Come on! Would you name a son Edgar or Athelstan or Ethelwulf? Why should we expect the royal family to? As for me, I think eight of anything is enough. I can’t keep the King Louis’s of Frances straight without a chart. Except maybe Louis XI, and only because he was called the Spider. Which Louis was the saint? Which one was the Sun King? I have to look it up.
    Let’s leave well enough alone.

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  6. 1. I’ve often wondered at the numbering myself.
    2. Better leave well enough alone; the renumbering would be too complex for the existing history books.

    A possible explanation is that the Norman Conquest brought a new “creation’ of the monarchy. In addressing the question of different families holding a similarly named peerage, the current usage is to refer to a “name”, numbered “peer” of the “numbered creation”. So, Staffords, first creation of the Dukedom of Buckingham, Villiers, second creation. (I may be getting the names wrong, I’m not knowledgeable on the Buckingham peerage”.)

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  7. Esther on said:

    Maybe, the regnal numbers are instead of the expanded names used for the pre-1066 rulers? It is easy to distinguish which King Edward is being discussed when expanded names are used (i.e., “Edward the Confessor”, etc) but many of the post conquest Edwards can’t be distinguished in that manner.

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