how did the British royalty become “ royal”. What started this 1000 years ago?
The British royalty in particular can *kind of* be traced back to the Norman conquest in 1066, which was the last time anyone successfully invaded the British Isles. The leader of the Normans, William (who, understandably, is known as “William the Conqueror”) became the kind of England as well, though England was considered just a part of his holdings, and not a very important one at that.
Several times in the intervening 1,000 years, England has crowned a monarch who was not a direct descendant of the previous one, so you can think of the bloodline back to William as having been warped or broken in several places, most recently when George I was brought over from Germany to take the throne after Anne bore no children. The current royal family descends from him.
British royalty goes back a lot longer than 1000 years. Okay, so here comes a very brief summary of the last 2000 years of British history.
So 2000 years ago, Britannia contained lots of isolated tribes, all operating independently. Then the Romans turned up, and most of what is now England and Wales became part of the Roman Empire.
In the 4th century, the Romans left, leaving the Brits to fend for themselves, but shortly thereafter, immigrants from Northern Europe (modern day Germany and the surrounding areas) turned up and settled here, these were the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, known nowadays collectively as the “Anglo-Saxons”, and yes, this is where the word England comes from.
Over time you get 4 major Anglo-Saxon kingdoms forming, those being Wessex, Mercia, Northumberland and East Anglia.
Around this time, the North East coast of Britain was attacked frequently by raiders from Scandanavia, known nowadays as Vikings. Because the coast tended to contain a lot of monastaries with lots of treasure, and only monks to guard it. Many vikings settled, and a lot of what is now North-Eastern England became known as the “Danelaw”, where the Vikings ruled.
Some time around the 8th or 9th centuries, the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms merged, and became the Kingdom of England. In 1066, the King of England, Edward the Confessor (not the same guy we now call King Edward I) died, and was succeeded by Harold Godwinson. However, two other people claimed the throne, those being King Harold Hardrada of Norway, and Duke William of Normandy. Both these men invaded, and while Harold defeated the Norwegians, he was killed by the Normans, and William (the Conquerer) became King William I of England. At this point, basically all of the English nobility were replaced with William’s supporters from France.
In the 13th century, England conquered what we now call Wales, and made it part of England. Worth mentioning that “Wales” is a fairly modern invention, only existing officially fairly recently. For most of history, it was officially just part of England. But the fact the Saxons never got Wales is why the Welsh language exists. Welsh is basically the native British language before the Saxons and Vikings brought their languages to corrupt it.
In 1603, Queen Elizabeth I of England died with no apparent heirs (she’s not called the Virgin Queen for nothing). So the throne went to a distant relative, King James VI of Scotland. He became King James I of England. At this point the two kingdoms were separate still, but with the same man as King. In 1649 King Charles I was executed, and we had 11 years of rule by a religious dictator before his son King Charles II was restored in 1660.
In 1689, James II was deposed and replaced by the Dutch William of Orange (who is a different William of Orange to the one famous in the Netherlands) and his wife Mary, who became joint rulers, King William III and Queen Mary II. This is the only time we’ve had 2 monarchs. Usually the King’s wife is “the Queen consort” (which is what Camilla is now) and the husband of the proper Queen (like Prince Philip was to Elizabeth II) is a prince. This was done, I believe, since her claim to the throne was stronger, but they didn’t want a woman in charge.
In 1707, the Kingdom of Great Britain was formed by Queen Anne, combining England (which included Wales) and Scotland into one nation.
In 1714, Queen Anne died, again with no obvious heirs. Desperate for a protestant King, they found George of Hanover, who became King George I of England. This is the main reason why people claim the British royal family are German to this day. George didn’t speak English, which meant he had to delegate a lot of power, leading to the first Prime Minister as we know them today.
In 1801 the United Kingdom was created, combining Great Britain with Ireland. This would remain until 1922, when (part of) Ireland gained independence, giving the UK its modern borders.
There are multiple different points you can say it started. I see a lot of people in this thread mention William the Conqueror but he was the rightful here to the title of the King of England though his grand aunt the Queen of England. The fact that he had to send a big army to England to kill everyone who were ahead of him in the line of succession is besides the point. The line of succession have taken several similar jumps like that through the family tree later on, although not with so much blood shed.
The fact is that people were given the title of King from God himself. Because God is not so good at conversations the Pope is the intermediary. There are certain evidence that God lacks conversational skills with the Pope as well but at least the Pope can interpret the often confusing signs from God. And the best sign God have of someone being appointed King is to allow them to control a great area of land, as long as he allows certain freedoms and taxes to the right church of course. So the Pope will declare the King and signify this by crowning him.
This did change a bit in the 1500s and 1600s though. First England got a parliament and a sort of constitution. This constitution was worded as a contract between the King and the parliament. You could interpret this as the parliament allowing the King to be royal as long as he followed the contracts and laws. This got reinforced when the church were reformed and the English church were no longer under the Catholic church so there were no Pope any longer. And then in the English civil war the parliament even executed the King for not following the laws. So from this era the King is a royal not because God say so but because the people let him.
If you invade a place, you get to make yourself ruler of it. The current royal family is descended from people that invaded England and proclaimed themselves rulers of it (namely William the Conqueror in 1066, but it’s a complicated ancestry compared to, say, Denmark, where it’s a straight line).
A Viking named Will living in northern France said that England was his, so he went and took it by force and everyone went along with it after a while.