1 / 15
Athelstan passed a law to spare children under 15 from the death penalty. However, he may not have been so lenient to his own kin – apparently Athelstan drowned his brother at sea after he attempted to raise a rebellion.
2 / 15
Not many people know that Canute gave the first royal press releases. He issued proclamations in 1020 and 1027 to keep his subjects in the royal loop, although he presumably left out the fact that he was a bigamist.
3 / 15
William was completely faithful to his wife Matilda of Flanders, which was almost unheard of among medieval kings. However, their union was not considered innocent across the board – the pope condemned their pairing because they were so closely related.
4 / 15
Although he was best known for his tumultuous friendship with Thomas Becket, Henry seemed to make enemies of everyone, even his own family. His wife, bitter that Henry had taken up with another woman, encouraged her sons to rebel against their father four times. On the plus side, he did establish the jury system.
5 / 15
John was widely known for overindulgence (and his fatal dysentery was apparently the result of gluttony). He coveted jewels, luxury and other people's wives – he even demanded a night with the wife of one of his barons, although her honour was spared when a prostitute took her place during his nocturnal sojourn. No wonder he became the baddie in Robin Hood.
6 / 15
Richard had no heirs – his first wife did not produce
any children, and his second wife was just nine
years old when they married. However, he did
leave some great cultural legacies – he apparently invented handkerchiefs, and sponsored the work of Geoffrey Chaucer.
7 / 15
Although he was implicated in the murders of Henry VI, his own brother George (who allegedly drowned in a vat of wine after a stint at the Tower of London) and the princes in the tower, Richard was also credited with introducing the bail system in 1484 – perhaps to give himself a get out of jail free card if things got out of hand with Henry Tudor.
8 / 15
Although both of his daughters were rendered illegitimate when their mothers were disowned or decapitated, Henry was concerned with seeing all of his children well-educated. He also played with them when they were young – very unusual for a king of his time.
9 / 15
Mary suffered a number of phantom pregnancies and was unable to produce an heir. Her husband left, her health deteriorated and she was cruelly mocked by the European courts when her Protestant sister Elizabeth became queen upon her death.
10 / 15
Elizabeth could not marry Robert Dudley, a dashing courtier, because of political objections based on the suspicious death of Dudley's first wife. Mrs Dudley had handily taken a fatal tumble down stairs as a matrimonial match between Mr Dudley and Elizabeth was being discussed. Despite this, Robert remained the love of Elizabeth's life.
11 / 15
Women were allowed to appear on the stage for the first time during Charles's reign. He had affairs with many ex-prostitutes turned actresses, including Nell Gwyn, and fathered 17 children with his 14 known mistresses, but none with his wife.
12 / 15
Despite being incapacitated for much of his reign, George III gave start-up funds to many royal societies in Britain, such as the Royal Academy, and sponsored the work of astronomer Hershel, who originally named Uranus after George – it was known as Georgium Sidus (George's star) when it was discovered.
13 / 15
Victoria fell desperately in love with Albert and they married in 1840. Her obsessive gushing over Albert made quite a change from her first impression of him four years earlier, when she was annoyed by his tedious tendency to nod off during parties.
14 / 15
George started the Christmas message tradition, and the first broadcast, made in 1932, was scripted by his friend Rudyard Kipling. He also changed his surname from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor in response to the anti-German feeling in Britain during the first world war.
15 / 15
Elizabeth has loved horse riding ever since her grandfather, George V, gave her a Shetland pony named Peggy when she was just four years old.