Presentation on theme: "Elizabeth II, Williams grandmother, became Queen in 1952 (see photo), after the death of her father, King George VI. But her role is largely ceremonial."— Presentation transcript:
Elizabeth II, Williams grandmother, became Queen in 1952 (see photo), after the death of her father, King George VI. But her role is largely ceremonial. William and Kate will be married on April 29 in Westminster Abbey. The Abbey was first used for a royal wedding in 1100. Williams parents were married there in 1981. William is second in line to the throne, after his father, Prince Charles. If William becomes King, Kate will be the Queen Consort (the wife of a reigning King but not in line to the throne).
Today, the United Kingdom consists of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The government is led by Prime Minister David Cameron. The Parliament is the governments chief legislative body. The U.K. once had colonies on every continent except Antarctica. At its height, in the late 19th century, it covered so much of the globe that it inspired a saying: The sun never sets on the British Empire.
British monarchs once wielded great power around the globe. In the 1770s, for example, the tyranny of Britains King George III led colonists in America to fight a bloody revolution for independence. Still, Americanslike much of the worldremain fascinated with Britains Kings and Queens. Here, we introduce you to five of Britains most famous monarchs, starting with William the Conqueror (at right).
Originally from Normandy (in northern France), William overthrew Englands Saxon rulers in 1066. He reigned until 1087. During his reign, William centralized power in the monarchy. He also began to build stone castles across the landmost notably the Tower of London (at right)and transformed English political and cultural life. Now a popular tourist attraction, the Tower of London was once a symbol of oppressiona fortress and a prison. Many famous people were imprisoned within the castles thick walls; some were even beheaded.
Henry VIII (1509-1547) went through six wives, seeking unsuccessfully to produce a male heir. He had two of his wives beheaded in the Tower of London. When the Roman Catholic Church would not approve his first change of wives, Henry made the Church of England independent of Rome. This radical split eventually led to Englands becoming a Protestant kingdom.
Many people doubted that a woman could rule England. But Elizabeth I (1558-1603), Henry VIIIs daughter, was strong-willed and smart. While she was in power, England explored the Americas, became a great naval power, and experienced a golden age of art and literaturethe Elizabethan Erathat included the plays of William Shakespeare.
During his reign, George III (1760-1820) suffered from severe bouts of mental illness. In 1811, he had to cede power even though he remained King. Under George IIIs rule, several revolutionsin France, America, and elsewherechanged British life dramatically. History best remembers George as the British monarch who refused to give the 13 American colonies their independence, and lost them in the American Revolution.
Under Queen Victorias rule (1837-1901), the longest in British history, the British Empire reached the height of its expansion. But the Queen was forced to accept the transfer of political power to Parliament, making the British monarchy the largely ceremonial institution it is today. The Victorian Age was a time of increasing prosperity for the British people. The era also became associated with prudishness and social repression.