9 Kings Who Lost Their Thrones

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Taken from the MHM34 feature, here are 9 deposed monarchs, some of whom were quite gruesomely dethroned. 


Harold-IIHarold II (1066)
The last of the Anglo-Saxon kings reigned for less than a year and spent it fighting to retain power against a co-ordinated double invasion by Vikings in the north and Normans in the south. Victorious at Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire, Harold was defeated and killed at the Battle of Hastings.



William-IIWilliam II (1087-1100)
Red-faced and hot-tempered, William ‘Rufus’ filled his court with undeserving favourites and spent too much time out hunting. This was to be his downfall: he was killed by a stray arrow in the New Forest. Some suspected foul play.



JohnJohn (1199-1216)
At loggerheads with the barons for much of his reign, John was a fugitive king at the time of his death. His attempt to renege on commitments made at the signing of Magna Carta in 1215 led to civil war and the occupation of London by a foreign usurper invited in by John’s rebellious subjects



Edward-IIEdward II (1307-1327)
A weak-willed playboy dominated by favourites, Edward was an ineffective and unpopular king. The English army crashed to defeat at Bannockburn in 1314. Estranged from his wife (the king preferred male lovers), he was overthrown in a conspiracy led by the queen herself. Edward was then murdered while imprisoned in Berkeley Castle by having a red-hot poker thrust by his backside.



Richard-IIRichard II (1377-1399)
Like Edward II, Richard was bored by government responsibility and addicted to pleasure and extravagance. Overthrown in a military revolt led by Henry Bolingbroke (who became Henry IV), he was deposed and then secretly murdered in Pontefract Castle.



Henry-VIHenry VI (1422-1461)
A religious obsessive dominated by his queen, Margaret of Anjou, Henry was unable to prevent England’s descent into the protracted internecine conflict now known as ‘the Wars of the Roses’. Overthrown in 1461, he remained in play until 1471, when, having been briefly restored to the throne in a Lancastrian coup, his army was defeated and he was captured and promptly murdered.



Richard-IIIRichard III (1483-1485)
Having murdered his brother’s two sons, Richard of York seized the throne for himself. This was more realpolitik than personal ambition, since a boy-king threatened Yorkist control of the throne and most of the dominant faction backed Richard. But the taint of usurpation and murder contributed to his downfall.



Charles-ICharles I (1625-1649)
Driven from London by revolution in 1642 and defeated in two successive civil wars (1642-1646 and 1648), Charles was put on trial by the radical leaders of the New Model Army and their supporters in a purged ‘Rump’ Parliament. He was beheaded in a public execution in Whitehall after condemnation as a traitor to the English people.



James-IIJames II (1685-1688)
Son of Charles I and brother of Charles II, James attempted to reverse the outcome of the English Revolution by establishing an absolute monarchy and restoring the Catholic religion. He was overthrown in a military coup (‘the Glorious Revolution’): senior army officers secretly invited William of Orange to invade and seize the throne, and then mutinied in his favour as he advanced on London.


The full article can be found in issue 34 of Military History Monthly.

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