50 Images That Tell The History of The British Royal Family
The British Royal Family of King Charles III dates back to before the turn of the first millennia. Since the passing of the longest reigning monarch in British history, Queen Elizabeth II, we watch as history is made once again with a new reigning monarch.
How much do you know about the House of Windsor? Join us as we review images that tell the history of the British Royal Family. You might be surprised by what you discover.
Alfred the Great, 871-899
For the sake of time, we aren't going to go back to the very beginning of the reign of the ancestors of the House of Windsor. However, we will go back to before the 10th century to when Alfred the Great ruled over Great Britain from 871 CE to 899 CE.
King Alfred was the son of King Aldfrith of Northumbria and was known for being a heroic warrior who defended his land, nearly to his death. Because of his bravery, the British Royal Navy named multiple ships after this beloved monarch.
Queen Mary, 1553-1558
Let's jump ahead over 500 years to the death of King Edward VI. Even though he had two half-sisters who were the rightful heirs to the throne, he willed his throne to Lady Jane Grey. The king's will was set aside, making way for Queen Mary to rule over England from 1553 to 1558.
Queen Mary wasn't regarded for doing much in her short five years on the throne. However, one thing she will always be known for is imprisoning her younger sister Elizabeth for suspicion of helping Protestant “rebels” escape persecution.
Queen Elizabeth I, 1558-1603
While Queen Mary was known for being a harsh ruler over England, her sister, Elizabeth I, was beloved by her subjects. She reigned from 1558 CE to 1603 CE and who Queen Elizabeth II was named after.
Elizabeth I was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn - who was executed when she was only two years old. While Elizabeth's sister, Queen Mary, ruled over the kingdom, (as we previously mentioned) Elizabeth was imprisoned for supporting Protestant rebels, allowing them to escape those looking to kill them for practicing religious freedoms. Yet, despite all that, when her half-sister died, Queen Elizabeth I took the throne
Queen Victoria, 1837-1901
Queen Victoria ruled over Great Britain from 1837 to 1901, and her reign marks what historians call the Victorian Era. During this time, there was a lot of prosperity in England and throughout the world.
Before Queen Elizabeth II's reign, Queen Victoria, who was in power for over 63 years, was the longest reigning monarch in England's history. She was also one of the only who was unmarried for more than half of her reign.
The End of the Victorian Age, 1900s
At the end of Queen Victoria's life, she was often seen seated at her desk looking through albums of photographs of her beloved husband, Prince Albert. He passed away in 1861, and many feared the Queen would pass shortly after, by dying of a broken heart.
However, the Queen was far more resilient than people gave her credit for, and she reigned for another forty years as a widow. Yet, each night she would sit in her room sifting through the memories of her life and writing letters to her children (and sometimes her deceased husband).
King Edward VIII, with His Great-Grandmum, Victoria, 1900s
Queen Victoria was beloved by her people, but no one loved her as much as her dearest grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She was known for spoiling them. While most monarchs staunchly enforced the rules, with her youngest heirs, she was known for being exactly how you would expect a kindly grandmum to be.
Here we see King Edward VIII as a toddler tightly grasping his great-grandmum's hand. Later in life, when asked about his beloved queen grandmum, he reportedly admitted to fearing that, as a king, he would never have lived up to her expectations of him.
Edward VII Before Becoming King, 1900s
After Queen Victoria, the next in line for the throne was her oldest son, Albert Edward (King Edward VII). Here we see him with his young family sometime around the turn of the century.
His wife, Princess Alexandra, and three of their six children are with him, Princess Mary, Prince Albert Victor, and Prince George - the King who would be Queen Elizabeth II's father. Palace gossip was that before settling down with a family, and despite being a future king, Prince Edward VII was a bit of a partier.
Queen Mother, Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, 1902
At the turn of the 20th century, King Edward VII became king and as all monarchs do, he began preparing his children for their future roles as members of the Royal Family. Since everyone thought King Edward VIII would be the inevitable king, Prince George VI was free to pursue his own interests without the weight of the crown influencing his decisions.
One of those decisions was to marry his love, Elizabeth Bowes Lyon. Seen here at the age of two, the future Queen Mother never fathomed as a child that she would someday be married to the King of England, and mother-to-be to the longest reigning monarch in British history. (She sure is so cute as a toddler!)
George V, the Prince Harry of His Time, 1903
Much like his father, Prince George V - Queen Elizabeth II's grandfather - was also a bit of a partier. In fact, Edward and George are often compared to Prince Harry (or the other way around). Another thing these three have in common besides being rebellious was (and still is for Harry) the love they had (have) for their wives.
When Prince George V met the future Queen Mother Mary of Teck, it was rumored that he fell in love at first sight. Her dedication to the service of her country (her family was British nobility) and her cheerful countenance won him over.
George V, with his older brother, Albert Victor, Early 1900s
In this family picture, we see Prince Albert Victor - the next in line for the throne at birth - with his brother George V when they were young boys. A picture of happier times. Sadly, George V's older brother, Albert Victor (the “Prince William” of his time), passed away suddenly in 1892 from a severe, yet brief illness.
That was when it was clear that George would ascend to the throne, a burden he never wanted, according to letters he reportedly wrote to his future Queen.
George V’s kids, including two future kings, 1910
This happy family photo is of George V's four children, taken around the time their father became the King of England. They had a total of six children, Prince Edward VIII (one future king), Prince George VI (another future king), Princess Mary, Prince Henry (all pictured here), Prince George, Duke of Kent, and Prince John.
While the pressures of becoming the sitting monarch began to weigh heavily on Princess Edward VIII. Reportedly as a child, he struggled with anxiety as a result.
Coronation of George V, 1911
In this archived photo released by the Royal British Family, we can see the coronation of George V on January 23, 1911. At the time, it was the most attended coronation of any monarch in the House of Windsor's history.
King George V ruled from 1910 (respectfully) to 1936, when he passed away from a severe illness he had been living with since 1928. His attending physician had inadvertently fixed a lethal combination of drugs to treat the king, accidentally causing his death.
The British Royal Family, 1920
In another family photo, we get a chance to see the members of the Royal British Family circa 1920, when King George V was new to the throne. He is joined by his wife, Queen Mary, and their three eldest children.
We're not sure why there aren't more images of King Goerge V with his entire family, however, Edward, George, Henry, and Mary were more active in their duties to the throne. Perhaps that's why they were pictured more in family photos?
The Birth of Queen Elizabeth II, 1926
While her grandfather, King George V, reigned over England, the future Queen of England, then Princess Elizabeth II, was born on April 21, 1926. She was the firstborn of the would-be king, Prince George VI, however, at her birth, it was unknown that she would someday take the throne.
Her uncle, Prince Edward VIII, was next in line for the throne, and George VI thought he could raise his family free from the responsibilities of wearing the crown. In this precious photo of baby Elizabeth, we see the future Queen Mother with her newborn baby girl.
Baby Queen Elizabeth II with her parents, 1926
In another candid family photo, Prince George VI and his wife, Elizabeth, stand together, celebrating the birth of their firstborn child. While Prince George had spent his younger years carefree, once he began his family, it was clear that his children were his priority.
He made certain they respected Royal traditions, but he wanted them to pursue their own interests outside of their Royal obligations. Although, it wasn't always safe for the Royal Family to be in public, and that is why she spent much of her early life on the grounds of one of the family's palaces.
The Future Queen’s Toddler Years, 1929
In her younger years, growing up in the Royal Family seemingly only had perks. Sure, there are regal responsibilities expected of any member of the Royal Family, but when she was a toddler, Princess Elizabeth and her parents had no idea she would someday be the Queen of England.
In journals Queen Elizabeth reportedly wrote in as a child, she said she remembered growing up with her happy family. It wasn't until she turned ten that the direction of her life would change forever.
The Young Princess Elizabeth, 1935
This photo was taken when young Princess Elizabeth was nearly ten years old, the year before her grandfather passed away. It was the year before her uncle would abdicate the throne to her father, changing the course of her life as she knew it.
You see her here with her mother, Queen (Mother) Elizabeth, and her younger sister, Princess Margaret, in the yard of the little house where she grew up in Windsor Great Park.
King Edward Abdicates, 1936
In 1936, King George V passed away, and King Edward VIII took the throne early that year. He was not quiet about his lack of interest in becoming king and often spoke about his lack of desire to be the King of England. King George V had even expressed concerns about his successor.
Salvation came when Edward met the woman he would marry, American divorcée Wallis Simpson. In the mid-1930s, it was not acceptable for any member of the Royal Family to marry a divorcée, but the King of England was absolutely forbidden. So he gave up the throne to his brother George VI in December of the same year he took the throne and lived happily with the love of his life.
Wallis Simpson, the Future Duchess of Windsor, 1936
Wallis Simpson was once married to Naval Commander E. Winfield Spencer until they divorced prior to her marrying Prince Edward. The true scandal was that it was rumored that she had cheated on her husband in an affair involving Prince Edward.
It was a scandal the Parliament (and the rest of the Royal court) would not stand for, practically demanding his abdication. King Edward VIII was all too willing to hand down the throne to his brother, yet George VI wasn't happy about it either. Makes you wonder, why didn't any of them want to be king?
The Queen Mother Becomes the Duchess of York, 1937
This photo of King George VI’s wife, Queen Elizabeth, was taken on December 10, 1936, just after the announcement that Edward was abdicating the throne. It was then that everyone realized that Princess Elizabeth would someday become the Queen of England, a duty that seemingly weighed heavy on every male member of her family.
Although looking at this picture, it's difficult to know if Queen (Mother) Elizabeth felt like she was prepared to become the Queen Cohort - the wife of a reigning king. When Elizabeth Bowes Lyon married Prince George, she never dreamed she would someday become the Queen of a reigning King.
The Future Queen on Her Hobby Horse, 1938
While King George VI was beginning his reign, he and his wife tried to make the lives of the Royal children as unaffected as possible. The change in rank, if you will, did require moving into Buckingham Palace, however, not much else changed for Princess Elizabeth and her sister (at first).
Here we see the two young Princesses playing on Elizabeth's favorite hobby horse. One thing that never changed for King George VI's daughters was their sheltered life, away from the public as much as possible.
Princess Elizabeth on the Swim Team, 1938
While Princess Elizabeth (and Princess Margeret as well) lived a sheltered life, the girls were allowed to be involved in sports. Truthfully, they were probably required to be involved in some type of recreation, but Princess Elizabeth gladly joined the swim team.
In this photo from 1938, 11-year-old Princess Elizabeth (known as Lilibet by close friends and family) is wearing her uniform, posing for this photo shortly before a swim meet.
The Newly Crowned King Tours Canada, 1939
Here we see King George VI and Queen Elizabeth acknowledging the crowds at Toronto City Hall during a 1939 Royal Tour of Canada. It was the first time a reigning monarch took a tour of Canada and also visited the United States, spending time at the White House with President Roosevelt.
Reportedly Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said that Queen (Consort) Elizabeth was "perfect as a Queen, gracious, informed, saying the right things and kind but a little self-consciously regal." How sweet!
Princess Elizabeth Turns 18, 1944
Just as things for the future Queen of England began settling in, she turned 18 years old in 1944. In Royal tradition, turning 18 comes with more responsibilities than for average citizens.
It is expected that royals experience some form of servitude to their country before actually serving as reigning monarchs. That meant that the young Princess had some important decisions ahead regarding her early service to her country.
The Soldier Who Became Queen, 1945
In service to her country, young Princess Elizabeth joined the British military in Auxilliary Territorial Service in 1945. The war in Germany had ended, however, there was still a need for trained military personnel.
Her job in the military was to work on vehicle engines. It was a passion she had shared with her father when she was younger, and in the service, she was able to advance her skills.
Princess Elizabeth Marries Her Prince, 1947
The future Queen of England, Elizabeth, met her future husband, Prince Philip of Denmark and Greece, in 1934. As the two grew up, their bond grew with them, and Queen Elizabeth wrote in her journals that she was in love with Prince Philip the moment they met.
The couple was second cousins once removed, which is kind of weird by today's standards. However, it wasn't uncommon in the past. Here we see the loving couple on their wedding day on November 20, 1947.
Princess Elizabeth Begins Her Family, 1948
In this photo, we see Elizabeth holding Prince Charles in their first official family photo. In 1948, Princess Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, Prince Charles, the future King of England, born on November 14.
Just one month before, King George VI issued letters of patent allowing Elizabeth's children to hold the title of a royal prince or princess upon birth, something that was unprecedented in the past. Before King George issued the patent, children did not receive their royal titles until their parents no longer held the title of Prince or Princess (by becoming King or Queen or passing away).
The Future Queen with Today’s King, 1949
The first years of Prince Charles's life were much like those of his mother, although, upon birth, Prince Charles was the next rightful heir to the throne. For the few people born before Prince Charles, you got the joys of watching the young man grow up to be the leader we know today.
In her journals, Princess Elizabeth wrote about the joys of early motherhood and how she relished becoming a mum. In interviews throughout the years, King Charles III spoke highly of his mother and had a strong bond with her.
Princess Elizabeth as a Young Mum, 1951
Unbeknownst to Princess Elizabeth, she would only have a couple more years before she would be crowned Queen. On August 15, 1950, she gave birth to her second child, Princess Anne, and the young family seemingly had the world in the palm of their hands.
In the years before her father's death, Elizabeth wrote in her journal, reflecting on those times. After becoming Queen, she went on to write how precious those moments with her young family were to her before she had to take on the responsibilities of an entire monarchy.
Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation, 1953
From 1951 through 1952, King George VI's health began to decline rapidly, and rumors of his illness spread quickly throughout the kingdom. Princess Elizabeth wrote about these times in her journal, remembering how scared she was of not only losing her father but also of ascending to the throne.
Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip were traveling for a tour of Australia (as part of her royal service as Princess) in early 1952. That was when she got the news of her father's death, and on June 2, 1953, the Royal court held Queen Elizabeth II's coronation.
King Charles III Grows Up in the Public Scrutiny, 1960s and 1970s
Prince Charles was only 4 years old when his mum became Queen, meaning that King Charles has only ever known what it's like living in the British public eye. While the men before him never seemed to want to be the future King of England, as a prince, Charles never spoke down to his duty to the crown.
We see young Prince Charles around the age of 13 when he was on his way to boarding school at Gordonstoun, a prestigious British Academy. When asked in an interview about his childhood, Charles answered like most British people do, with little emotion, stating, "it was a good childhood."
Princess Diana and Prince Charles Get Married, 1981
The first few decades of Queen Elizabeth II's reign were relatively uneventful. The people of England were prosperous, and as the 1970s came to a close, the booming '80s meant only one thing for Prince Charles; it was time for the future King of England to find himself a bride.
While he was madly in love with someone from his childhood named Camilla, sadly, she was not "noble enough," and the Queen forbid Charles from marrying her. So in an arranged marriage, Prince Charles married Princess Diana on July 29, 1981.
Prince Charles Begins His Family, 1982
Whenever you saw the young couple together, it was clear that Prince Charles and Princess Diana were not in love, and it seemed they actually didn't really like each other. However, Diana knew her duty to her country meant putting aside her own happiness.
Yet none of that mattered to Princess Diana anymore in 1982 when she gave birth to her first child, Prince William, future King of England.
Princess Diana, Prince William, and Prince Harry, 1985
Two years after giving birth to their first child, Princess Diana gave birth to Prince Harry on September 15, 1984. In this photo from 1985, when the two young princes were toddlers, people around the world watched as Princess Diana raised her boys.
Diana spoke in interviews often about her children. In fact, it was the one topic she would always talk about openly and with elation. She told journalists that before she became a mother, she had no real purpose.
Princess Diana, Prince Harry, and Prince William, 1986
While it was no secret that Diana had issues with the Queen and several members of the Royal Family, it was also no secret that she was completely devoted to her children. It was rumored that she fought with the Queen about sending the boys away to boarding school.
Even though it was Royal tradition for the Royal heirs to attend the most prestigious schools, none were close to where the children grew up. Ultimately Diana lost the fight, and the boys did attend school abroad.
Princess Diana with William and Harry, 1993
Even though the boys were sent away for school, Diana would travel to see them or send for them to join her whenever they could take a break from school. Her favorite thing to do with them was to take them to museums and other places filled with art and culture.
However, just as often as the paparazzi would catch Di and the boys at the Louvre, there were just as many shots of the young family enjoying time at a festival or amusement park, as is seen in this photo from 1993.
Princes Diana Passes Away, 1997
Tragedy struck the young family early in the boys' life. First, in 1996, their parents got divorced. That wasn't something that happened often to the future King of England, and the Queen was reportedly very unhappy. The king would need a queen, after all.
Sadly, a worse tragedy struck the boys when a recently divorced Princess Diana was killed in a car accident. Rumors of a conspiracy to kill Diana began to fly, especially when Charles began a relationship with Camilla shortly after, now that he was free to do so because Di had passed away. You see, Charles was not free to remarry as long as Diana was still alive, according to Royal tradition. Seems a bit suspicious if you ask us!
Kate Middleton, Mid-1980s
Harry was only 11 when his mother died, but Prince William was 14 and expected to conduct himself accordingly. Prince Harry didn't seem to care much about Royal tradition after his mum died, but we'll cover more on that later.
In this photo, we see a young Kate Middleton, long before she knew she would be the future Queen (Consort) of England. While the two young princes were preparing for their Royal duties, Kate enjoyed her carefree childhood. It's quite a contrast to the Kate we know today.
Kate Middleton and Prince William Graduate St. Andrew's, 2005
In high school and college, Prince Harry went on to rebel against the throne while Prince William prepared for service to his country. While in college, Prince William met and began dating Kate Middleton, a British noble beloved by many of her classmates.
At first, Kate wasn't sure if getting involved with the future King of England was a good idea, and even broke up with him once. However, William knew he would need a queen, and Kate was his top choice, so he persisted until she agreed to get back together. (Flattering, right?)
Prince William Proposes, 2010
It was clear early in their relationship that Kate was not fully prepared for being the future Queen of England. She reportedly had issues with the Queen, who was always hard on Kate and her public appearances.
The public was equally hard on Kate. Although, it's clear most of that came from a place of jealousy since she was the reason the world's most eligible prince was no longer available thanks to her. When they announced their engagement in 2010, it was clear to the world Kate wasn't going anywhere.
Prince William and Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, 2011
If you ask any Baby Boomer what they were doing when Princess Diana married Charles, they can tell you exactly where they were when they viewed the royal nuptials.
The same can be said about Gen X and Millennials regarding Prince William and Kate getting married (I threw a "Royal Wedding Party" for the event). On April 29, 2011, the entire world watched as Prince William married Kate Middleton, his college sweetheart.
Prince William Begins His Family, 2013
Much like Princess Diana, Kate gave birth to her first child less than two years into their marriage. It's something that is expected of Royals, especially those ascending to the throne someday.
In this photo, we see Kate holding baby Prince Louis for his first ever public appearance. Now, one thing you may not know about Royal tradition is that it is customary for the baby reveal to happen in a certain way. So, if you see a picture of Kate holding a newborn, chances are, it looks similar to other royal baby reveals.
Margaret Thatcher Dies, 2013
While she was a member of Parliament and not directly related to the Queen of England, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was a noble and a beloved friend to the Queen.
On April 8, 2013, Margaret Thatcher, also known as Baroness Thatcher, passed away after suffering a stroke at the Ritz Hotel, London. She was 87. In this photo, we see the ceremonial funeral held on April 17, 2013, to honor this member of the Royal court.
Her Royal Highness Celebrates Her 90th Birthday, 2016
In 2016, the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, turned 90 years old, a party (actually several events) was held in honor of her birthday, and the turnout was record-breaking.
It began with a precession where Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip rode in one of the Royal vehicles through the streets of London, waving to the attendees. Festivities lasted for several days, and it was reported that the entire U.K. celebrated the anniversary of the birth of their beloved Queen.
Prince Harry Proposes, 2017
Let's get back to Prince Harry. While he didn't handle the death of his mother well and became a bit of a rebel in his younger years, by the time Prince Harry turned 30, he was ready to settle down.
He didn't begin dating right away but instead joined the service. However, in the mid-2010s, Prince Harry was set up on a blind date with American actress Meghan Markle. He fell in love immediately and proposed after dating for only a short while. He proposed in November 2017.
Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, 2018
Not long after announcing their engagement, Harry and Meghan began planning their wedding. Although the announcement of the nuptials did not go over well with citizens of the U.K. (and even some Americans).
Controversy swarmed the young couple, and after they married on May 19, 2018, Harry and his new bride faded from the limelight, only emerging when required. In fact, not long after the wedding, Harry denounced his position as a Royal British heir. That means he will never be king, even if Prince William abdicates the throne.
Prince Harry’s Family, 2019
While Prince Harry doesn't spend much time in the public eye, he did emerge to show off the birth of his firstborn son, Archie, in 2019. Even though Prince Harry and his new bride received (and continue to receive) a lot of hate for their relationship (I mean, the British paparazzi will not leave her alone), it is clear how happy he is with his young family.
Unlike other British Royals, Harry is quite open about his life and his reasons for not being very involved with his family. His wife and children are the most important thing to him, and it shows.
Prince Philip’s Funeral, 2021
Not long after Harry announced Archie's birth, the Royal family had a sad announcement to make, Prince Philip had passed away, succumbing to an illness he had battled for years. He was 99 when he died, leaving the Queen a widow as she buried the only man she had ever loved.
The world mourned as we watched a normally stoic Queen say her final goodbyes to her husband. Sadly, the world was in the middle of a pandemic and not many people were allowed to attend the funeral. That's why we see the Queen sitting here alone.
The Passing of Her Majesty, 2022
On September 8, 2022, the longest reigning monarch in British history passed away at the age of 96 years old. The entire world mourned as we said goodbye to, for some of us, the only English monarch we knew of in our lifetime.
On September 19, 2022, after several weeks of mourning, the Queen was laid to rest alongside her husband at the Westminster Abbey. Her funeral was another event that broke attendance records as the world said goodbye to their beloved Queen.