As we creep ever closer to the coronation, let’s take a look at the other unlikely monarchs across history. Charles III after all only came to his position because his uncle abdicated, but what other monarchs were supposed to be spares and ended up heirs?

Henry I

As the youngest of William the Conqueror’s sons no one suspected that Henry would ever be king. In fact, he didn’t even inherit anything after his father’s death. William I left the Duchy of Normandy to his oldest son Robert and England to his third son William, who became William II. None of William I’s sons were friends and Henry as the youngest was often on the end of his brothers’ wrath and spent time flitting between England and Normandy.

Henry would become King after the suspicious death of William II. The pair had gone out hunting together and William somehow ended up on the business end of an arrow. Rather than check on his brother, Henry made a speedy exist to secure the Royal treasury and make sure he was crowned in good time.  Sadly, for Henry, he didn’t get his choice when it came to the succession. He wanted his daughter Matilda to take over as his remaining legitimate child, but his nephew Stephen took the throne instead resulting in civil war.

Edward II

As the youngest of fourteen children, no one expected Edward II to be crowned. His father, Edward I and mother Eleanor of Castille had to suffer the deaths of several of their children in infancy, including the heir apparent, Alphonso who by the age of 10 was already betrothed and in training for the big job. He ended up falling ill and dying just a few months before Eleanor gave birth to her fourteenth child, Edward II. He was however, the first person to hold the title of the Prince of Wales and was in fact born there – Edward I had colonised it by then.

Edward II didn’t have a particularly great time as king, he was considered to be incompetent and was deposed by his wife, Isabella of France, who, alongside her lover, Roger Mortimer, amassed an army and forced Edward to hand the crown over to his son, another Edward, who was just 14 at the time. He spent the rest of his life locked in Berkeley Castle, where it is alleged he was murdered.

George V

Born during the reign of Queen Victoria, George V was third in line for the throne behind his father and his older brother. As he lived his entire life not believing he would ever be king, George spent much of his time in the armed forces, going straight from the Navy to preparing to wear the crown. In fact, he began his military service at just 12 and it was all he knew until the sudden death of his brother.

George’s reign was an eventful one, he was the king while WWI broke out and denied asylum to his cousin, Tsar Nicholas of Russia who was overthrown during the Russian revolution.

Henry VIII

Perhaps Britain’s most famous spare turned heir, Henry was actually Henry VII and Elizabeth of York’s third child and had very little to do with state affairs, being mostly kept out of the public eye in favour of his older brother Arthur, who was named for the mythical king. Arthur was primed and ready to take over from their father and was married to Catherine of Aragon at just 15 (a 10 year old Henry made his debut at their wedding and gave her away). Arthur was known to be smart and was predicted to have been a good king, however, not long after his wedding, while living at his new residence, Arthur came down with the sweating sickness and died. Henry VII was said to be devasted at the loss of his favourite son and openly cried at the news. Arthur’s death however paved the way for Henry VIII to take his place in the history books as one of the most studied kings ever.

George VI

And finally, we come to new king Charles’ grandfather, George VI. As the second son of George V he lived much of his life in the shadow of his older brother and served in the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, preferring a life out of the spotlight. When George V died in 1936, the crown passed to his eldest son, Edward. However, just months into his reign, Edward became involved in a scandal when he embarked on a relationship with a twice divorced American socialite. He was forced to choose between the monarchy or marriage, so he abdicated and married Wallis Simpson, becoming the shortest reigning monarch. This left George VI to take the throne and brought in our current monarchy, including Elizabeth II and the soon to be crowned Charles III.




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