I’m doing the A to Z Challenge in April, using the theme of the UK & Ireland. When we’re numbering kings and queens of the UK, we use Roman numerals. So, the fifth King Henry, was Henry V.
When I first thought of the idea of this post for V, I wanted to answer this question: How many British monarchs have a V after their name?
The first thing I learned is that these are called Regnal numbers — the numbers used to distinguish between monarchs (or popes or other important personages) of the same name.
Counting British monarchs, it turns out, is much more fraught with controversy than I thought. Start with this amusing article: How many King Edwards has England had? It turns out that numbering monarchs wasn’t a tradition until late in the Tudor era. Before that monarchs were distinguished with nicknames like Edward the Confessor and Edward the Martyr. By tradition, although it’s murky how it started, numbered monarchs of the UK begin with the Conquest of 1066.
I was aware that there is something weird about numbering monarchs for England and Scotland. The King James that the King James Bible is named after was James VI of Scotland and James I of England and Ireland. He’s generally referred to as James VI and I in the short-hand that British historians use.
I was not aware that remains a controversy for the current queen. She is Queen Elizabeth II and we now refer to the previous queen by that name as Elizabeth I. But Elizabeth I was decidedly not a queen of Scotland so why isn’t Elizabeth called Elizabeth I and II? Largely, the answer is because she didn’t want to be — aka, royal prerogative. There were exchanges of letters to the editor in the Herald Scotland as late as 2017 on this issue.
The only monarch in Scotland to have the regnal number of V was James V, 1513-1542, father of Mary, Queen of Scots, and grandfather of James VI and I.
In England, we have:
- Henry V, 1413-1422, King of England
- Edward V, for 78 days in 1483, King of England and Lord of Ireland
- George V, 1910-1936, King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India
My answer is three monarchs of England/UK and one of Scotland had the regnal number of V.
So many things to learn from exploring the simple letter V!