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Charlemagne c. 747 – c. 814
This Frankish king and Christian emperor of the West conquered immense territories and defined the character of Medieval Europe.
Alfred the Great 849-99 CE
The only English monarch known as ‘the Great,’ this Anglo-saxon king of Wessex successfully resisted Viking invasion.
Aethelstan c. 895-949
This Anglo-saxon warrior king ‘reconquered’ York from the Vikings, and proclaimed himself ‘king of all Britain’.
Brian Boru c. 940-1014
The High King united Ireland under his leadership, famously defeating the Vikings at Clontarf, and establishing the powerful O’brien dynasty.
Cnut the Great c. 995-1035
Though he couldn’t control the tide, this Viking king ruled over the North Sea Empire, covering Denmark, Norway and England.
David I c. 1080-1153
This Scottish king led a cultural revolution, introducing feudalism, founding monasteries and securing control of a large part of northern England.
Edward the Confessor c. 1003-66
Remembered for his religious piety, much of Edward’s reign was peaceful and prosperous. However, his death brought about the Norman conquest.
William the Conqueror c. 1028-1087
Also known as William I, this Norman noble seized the English crown after victory at Hastings in 1066, and transformed the country forever.
Owain Gwynedd 1100-70
This warrior king ruled much of Wales, AND successfully expanded his borders into England, later besting Henry II of England at the Battle of Crogen.
Eleanor of Aquitaine c. 1122-1204
One of the Middle Ages’ most powerful women, Eleanor helped run Henry of Anjou’s empire and ruled England as regent while Richard I was at war.
Richard I 1157-99
Remembered as ‘Lion Heart’, this warrior king fought Saladin during in the Third Crusade, but only spent six months of his ten-year reign in England.
Though he was forced to sign the Magna Carta, John was the first Norman king to speak English, and took an active interest in the country.
Edward I 1239-1307
Nicknamed ‘Long Shanks’ and ‘Hammer of the Scots’, the English king is best known for trying to subdue Wales and Scotland, notably defeating William Wallace.
Robert the Bruce 1274-1329
This rebel king secured Scotland’s independence from England, waging a highly successful guerrilla war before subsequently winning papal recognition as the rightful monarch.
Margaret I 1353-1412
The queen consort of Norway and Sweden and sovereign of Denmark, she peacefully united all three Scandinavians nations under her rule.
Henry V c. 1387-1422
Victorious against the French at the Battle of Agincourt during the Hundred Years’ War, he made England one of the strongest kingdoms in Europe.
Mehmed the Conqueror 1432-81
This emperor captured Constantinople, the Balkans and Anatolia, establishing the Ottoman Empire’s heartlands for the next 400 years.
Isabella I 1451-1504
This Castilian queen unified Spain through her marriage to Ferdinand II of Aragon, financed Christopher Columbus’ expeditions and established the Spanish Inquisition.
Richard III 1452-85
The last king of the Plantagenet dynasty may have murdered his way to the throne, but it is unlikely that he was the arch-villian that Shakespeare painted him as.
Henry VII 1457-1509
This English king ended the War of the Roses, founded the mighty Tudor dynasty and brought about stability after years of civil strife.
Matthias Corvinus 1443-90
The Hungarian king set about reconstructing the country after years of feudal anarchy, encouraged the ‘new learning’ of the Italian Renaissance in Hungary and conquered several neighbouring states.
Henry VIII 1491-1547
Best known for his six wives and breaking with Rome, England also flourished under this Tudor icon, who patronised the arts and amassed a mighty navy.
Francis I (France) 1494-1547
This French king was a Renaissance patron of the arts and scholarship, and a knightly king who waged successful campaigns in Italy, but was bested by Charles V.
Suleiman the Magnificent c. 1494-1566
This emperor expanded Ottoman presence in Europe, Africa and the Middle East while reforming the legal system and patronising the arts and architecture at home.
Charles V 1500-58
A king of Spain and its American colonies as well as Holy Roman Emperor, this Hapsburg boasted an empire ‘on which the sun never sits’ long before Britain.
Philip II 1527-98
This king commanded the Spanish Empire at the height of its powers, and successfully conquered Portugal and defeated the Ottomans in an epic naval battle at Lepanto.
Ivan the Terrible 1530-84
While Russia’s first tsar deserved the bloody reputation he garnered, he also forged a mighty nation state, instituting a central administration and building the iconic St Basil Cathedral.
Elizabeth I 1533-1603
The Virgin Queen presided over a golden age for England, having sent the first colonists to America and defeated the Spanish Armada, saving the country from invasion.
James VI and I 1566-1625
The ruler of Scotland and the first Stuart king of England, this peacemaker ended the long war with Spain, and his version of the Bible was the standard text for 250 years.
Gustavus Adolphus 1594-1632
The Swedish ‘Lion of the North’ fought wars with Polandlithuania, Russia and Denmark simultaneously, defended Lutheranism during the Counterreformation, and ultimately laid the foundations for the modern Swedish state.
John III Sobieski 1629-96
This elective king of the Polish-lithuanian Commonwealth successfully pushed back the Ottomans during the Siege of Vienna, and briefly restored his kingdom to greatness.
Charles II 1630-85
The king of England, Scotland and Ireland, Charles II advocated religious tolerance and power sharing, while presiding over colonisation and trade in India, West Indies and America.
Louis XIV 1638-1715
The Sun King was Europe’s longest-reigning monarch, and established France as the dominant power of the era while ruling supremely from the Palace of Versailles.
The last of the Stuart monarchs, Anne was also the first sovereign of Great Britain, presiding over the unification of England and Scotland. Peter the Great
Through successful wars, this Russian tsar expanded his empire while seeking to modernise the vast state by introducing European culture and industry, and founded the city of Saint Petersburg.
George II 1683-1760
Personally led his troops at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743, defeating the French and becoming the last British monarch to lead his troops into battle.
Empress Elizabeth 1709-62
After seizing power in a bloodless coup, the tsarina steered Russia through the Seven Years’ War, founded its first university and built the extravagant Winter Palace in St Petersburg.
Frederick the Great 1712-86
The original ‘enlightened despot’, this Prussian king helped popularise liberal ideals while establishing his state as the foremost military power in Europe.
Maria Theresa 1717-80
The only female ruler of the mighty House of Hapsburg held together her disparate empire through great strength of will and multiple challenges from Prussia and other foreign powers.
Catherine the Great 1729-96
The Empress of Russia for more than 30 years, she usurped the throne from her husband, advocated social reform and greatly expanded Russian territory.
Napoleon I 1769-1821
It took a million-man army to defeat the Emperor of France’s First Empire at Waterloo, while his much-lauded Napoleonic Code continues to influence European law.
Wilhelm I 1797-1888
The first emperor of a united Germany and king of Prussia, Wilhelm had the sense to appoint Otto von Bismarck to power while also keeping the Iron Chancellor in check.
Alexander II 1818-81
This Russian tsar emancipated the serfs, reduced the power of the landed aristocracy, loosened censorship, reformed education, the military and the courts among other things, but was still assassinated by socialist revolutionaries.
1819-1901 Until recently, Victoria was Britain’s longestreigning monarch, with the country becoming an industrial powerhouse and its empire spreading around the globe during her reign.
Victor Emmanuel II 1820-78
The first king of a united Italy, Victor Emmanuel II worked with revolutionary leaders like Garibaldi in order to free Italy from the control of the French and Prussians.
George V 1865-1936
The great moderniser of the British royal family, George V changed their name to Windsor, made the first radio broadcast, and won public respect by visiting the frontlines and factories.
Albert I 1875-1934
This Belgian king remained with his troops during World War One, and commanded the forces that recaptured Ostend and Bruges from the Germans in 1918.
The Netherlands’ longest-serving queen reigned through both World Wars, though she was exiled to London during Nazi occupation. From here she inspired the Dutch resistance through radio broadcasts.
George VI 1895-1952
Made king after the sudden abdication of his brother Edward VIII, he remained at Buckingham Palace during the London Blitz to show unity with the people.
Olav V 1903-91
This Norwegian king was nicknamed ‘a king for all the people’ for his egalitarianism, won a gold medal at the 1928 Olympics, and resisted the Nazis during World War II.