Individual and Society: The Royal Family

Individual and Society: The Royal Family

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Individual and Society: The Royal Family

What was it like to be looked upon as the most noble group of people in a nation as important and vast as England? The most powerful positions of the royal family were the king and queen of course, depending on who had the crown at that time. When one became the king he would inherit all of the riches and powers that come along with being the king. If he were to marry a woman then she would become part of the royal family, but not really be a ruler with the king. If one were not part of the royal family they would never live the glamorous life they lived. The king and queen could show their power through public executions, making new laws, and their ability to do whatever they wanted to. The royal family changed the course of history by bringing about new religions, theories, the English Reformation, the changing of boundaries, taking part in the Enlightenment, and countless other things.

The royal family was brought about in the mid-1000’s when King Edward the Peaceful was crowned at Bath. Many Viking invasions and King Ethelred’s weakness to be a powerful king forced him out of the monarchy, and his son, Canute, took control of the nation. King Canute made England the heart of his Scandinavian Empire and was admired by all he ruled. When Canute died and his stepson, Edward, then took the throne blending many traditions since he was not originally from England. After Edward’s death and Harold of Norway was killed in battle, the first distinctively important king of the royal family took over, William I started the first major family in royalty, the Normans. After the Normans ended there were six more dynasties of families to rule England at one time or another. The next of these was the Angevin Empire which started the time period when the English monarchy "became the first European power to work out a concept of government, the "community of the realm," which significantly broadened participation in government and altered the relationships between king and subject" (Plumb 58). The other five families--the Plantagenets, the House of Lancaster, the House of York, the Tudors, and the Stuarts -- were significant during their time but all occurred before the time period being studied.

The first empire that deals with Western civilization after 1715 is The House of Hanover, which starts in 1714 with King George I.

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George I had to deal with many political problems because of the changing of the dynasties. He had to select a new Parliament that would better understand societal needs, had to put down a movement of the French trying to take over England, and most importantly get Robert Walpole’s, the treasury of Parliament, political system to succeed. During this time Walpole attempted to take control of the country by pushing his political system over that of the monarchies. George I and then George II stayed strong with pride in themselves as well as keeping the majority of the country on their side. Eventually there is the War of Austrian Succession, which is put down by King George II because he personally took command of the troops and brought the war to a cease until a later time. The Hanoverian Period then took part in the European phenomenon, the Enlightenment, which dealt with new philosophical ideas, an increase in prosperity, and mostly the new quest for knowledge. After the start of the Enlightenment period, the death of George II led to his grandson George III taking over.

In the history of the royal family, King George III lasted longer than anyone else as king, sixty years, from 1760-1820. This passing down of kingship caused a great change in English politics and introduced a period of turmoil that lasted for many years. George III had a lot of pressure on himself as well as his ministers because of his young age. He had to "contend with a situation where old parties were crumbling and new political alignments were emerging" (Plumb 224). The biggest problem that the British had to deal with was overseas in the Americas. The American Rebellion caused many problems for England because it was not prepared for the war and the war was overseas so there was not much hope for George III to win. In 1782 George III suffered a major political loss when Parliament got him to grant America independence. After the war the King became the symbol for national unity, but with this came much more responsibility. Because of the pressure King George III lost his sanity in 1811 and eventually died in 1820 giving way to his son George IV. In a way George III was the king that "restored the royal power to the British monarchy and set the direction for the figurehead monarchy of today" (Plumb 243). King George IV was not at all liked and was kicked off of the throne when the people decided to have an election in 1830 to vote in William IV. The new King had to put up with industrial expansion and hard times that had to deal with numerous reforms all over England. William IV died and the last ruler of the House of Hanover took her reign.

Queen Victoria, the niece of William IV, was the first woman ruler in over 100 years and society had a hard time adjusting to a new woman ruler. When Victoria first took the throne, Britain’s major interests were to stay strong overseas so that they could still control the foreign trade. She also had to deal with learning how to work with new ministers because the ones of William IV’s time died within 10 years of his death. In 1850, the society of Britain took on an idea of progress because there was political stability, economic growth, social harmony, and they were most of all pleased with their achievements. The next 25 years or so the British were very optimistic and Victoria had to start new things so the country would stay this way. With Victoria as Queen the country ran very smoothly until about 1873 when the "Great Depression" of Britain began because of a "decline in prices, profits, investments, and interest rates, with effects which varied from one industry to another mostly effecting agriculture" (Plumb 321). Since the ruler of England was a woman, many women across the country wanted new rights and freedoms, but Victoria opposed these rights for women. Queen Victoria died in 1901 ending the House of Hanover and her son, Edward VII, took over beginning the 10-year reign of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. King Edward VII was not very significant and died in 1910 when his son, George V, took over ending his father’s House and starting the current House of Windsor.

King George V and the society of Britain did not have any problems at home, but instead there were many international tensions that eventually helped to lead to World War I. George V had a lot of stress on himself because of the war and he needed to make quick and smart decisions so that the British would win the war. Because of World War I and the British fighting the Germans, the royal family changed their German name to Windsor. While being the king, George V did not have much to deal with except for the war and women getting more rights, until the early 1930’s when the depression occurs. The war caused society as well as the royal family to become more modern and American. George V died in 1936 and his son, Edward VIII, took over the throne but decided to surrender his crown because he wanted to marry an American woman whom he loved. Therefore, George VI became the next king. The new king had to deal with the start of World War II immediately and also had to choose a side. Because of the terrible living conditions during the war, the royal family had to please the people by "providing a public system of medical care, subsidies for families with children, and a high level of employment" (Plumb 376). George VI also had to deal with numerous economic and financial crises because of the money spent on the war efforts. To get the country closer together the king attempted to nationalize all industries to increase the capital for Britain. In 1951 George VI and the government organized a national celebration so that they could show the revival of the country from the destruction of World War II. George VI died in 1952 and the second Elizabethan age was started when Queen Elizabeth II took the crown.

At the beginning of her years as queen, Elizabeth II had to deal with people getting lazier making others work harder to keep society positive and also had to deal with increasing racial tensions. After the recovery from the war Elizabeth II continued to make Britain the world power it used to be. Elizabeth II is still the ruler of England and its people today because of the ways in which she brought Britain closer together after the war and solved the societal problems.

Without the royal family, England as well as the world wold not be the same as they are today. New religions, theories, the changing of territories, taking part in the Enlightenment, the outcome of the World Wars, and numerous other things would not have ended up the way they did if it were not for the royal family. The kings and queens have shown their power not through dominating, but through making smart and witty decisions that helped them as individuals and also helped society and the world as a whole. If there were never the concept of a royal family started in England, the world would not be what it is today.

Works Cited

- Fraser, Antonio. The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England. Berkeley and Los
Angeles, California: University of California Press, 1995.

- Plumb, J.H., IV, et al. The English Heritage. St. Louis, Missouri: Forum Press, 1978.

- Woodward, E.L. History of England. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1962.
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