Prior to the Romans, England was known as part of the island of Britain, which was then largely ruled by Celts. After the Romans left England, Celtic kings ruled in tribal areas and fought each other, although there were a few kings accepted by more Britons. These Celtic kings were largely displaced by the invading Angles and Saxons. Some of the earlier Celtic kings, were titled king of the Britons, or of Britain. Sadly, there are few sources and the list below is selectively-based on Geoffrey of Monmouth's highly suspect Historia Regum Britanniae, written in c1139. Additional sources include: Gildas, Nennius, Bede, Julius Caesar, archeological evidence, and uncovered coins.
The term 'Bretwalda' comes from the Anglo-Saxon Bretanwealda, "Lord of Britain" — referring to a Saxon king's claim to overlordship of the Britons and subordinate kings. Bretwaldas were kings in their own right and had authority over other kings. History records the Venerable Bede as using the term in a list, which he compiled of local kings who had overlordship of wide areas of England. Bede's list is below with the addition of two who ruled after he wrote.
Britain To England
Alfred used the title rex Anglorum Saxonum or rex Angul-Saxonum. The consensus appears to be that the Angles and Saxons, which were different tribes, or nations, coalesced c400-500. The Angli Saxones named their kings with descriptive epithets. The later Normans introduced the French style of numbering their kings, which had been copied from the Romans.
Wales was an independent nation until conquered by the Normans in 1282, by Edward I. King Offa had built a 240 km barrier-dyke to bound the kingdom (now a county), of Powys, which he had conquered. The Welsh persisted in fighting each other as often as the English and this impacted on their later status. Wales was regarded by the English as a mere principality and absorbed into England, unlike the later Scotland and Ireland. Wales was united with England in 1536 and continues to share a legal identity with England to a large degree as the joint entity of England and Wales.
Beginning with Edward III, several English kings claimed the French throne, however their claims were judged to be spurious, since they were based on a female line. The French bought off Edward III and later noted that French heredity claims were judged on Salic law, which stipulated exclusive male descent..
Although several English kings were only titled 'Lord' of Ireland, from John onwards English monarchs were also kings of Ireland. (The title was 'Lord of Ireland until Edward VI). James Stuart initiated the simutaneous status as kings of England and Scotland, and Anne regularised this with an Act of Union in 1707, which was passed by both parliaments. The new title was king of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1801, another Act of Union integrated Ireland and the term United Kingdom was created.
To Queen Victoria
My direct Canadian focus on English monarchs ceases in 1867 with the formal creation of the British North America Act, although I have followed the appointment of governors general of Canada elsewhere up to Vanier, the first native Canadian. Canada's continuing interest in British monarchs continues in the form of the Head of State of Canada. Queen Elizabeth II has no political authority or power in Canada and the incumbent governor general deputises as required. Canada's indirect relationship to the British monarch is continued via membership in the British Commonwealth, which serves as an international lobby forum for it's members.
Celtic and Roman Kings of the Britons
CASSIVELAUNUS, also king of the Catuvellauni
Angle and Saxon Bretwaldas
ÆLLE, also king of Sussex
802-839 EGBERT, of Wessex and Engla Land
1141 MATILDA, the Empress
1485-1509 HENRY VII, Tudor
Commonwealth 1642-1660 Civil War, Oliver Cromwell, Richard Cromwell
1660-1685 CHARLES II, also of Scotland and King of Ireland
1714-1727 GEORGE I, King of Great Britain and Ireland
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