No exploration of England would be complete without a little look at the incredible women who have wielded great power and influence over the British monarchy. From fashion icons to political masterminds these women have made a lasting impact on the world and continue to inspire, even if some of their reigns ended over five centuries ago. In fact, instead of asking yourself if you’re a Carrie or a Miranda, how about asking: are you an Elizabeth I, a Kate Middleton, or a Princess Di? Trust us, there’s no bad option.
Elizabeth I has cemented herself as the greatest monarch in English history. The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn reigned over England for a tumultuous 44 years, a time during which she defied all expectations. Even her ascent to the throne required great courage for young Elizabeth, who at the age of two had been declared illegitimate following the execution of her mother by her infamous father. Perhaps this family trauma inspired her stalwart choice to never marry. Throughout her reign she turned down suitor after suitor, remaining profoundly dedicated to her role as Queen. Known for both her political acumen and her sense of glamour, she now serves as an inspiration to strong powerful women worldwide. Modern culture continues to examine the Queen’s incredible life through films, television and theatrical explorations, each more fascinating than the last.
Mary Stuart was only six days old when she inherited the throne of Scotland. Alas, Scotland alone was not enough for ambitious young Mary, who set her sights on something bigger. As a senior living descendant of King Henry VIII, she saw only one thing standing in her way of the British Crown—her first cousin once-removed, Queen Elizabeth I. Over the years, Mary and her supporters took advantage of doubt around Elizabeth’s legitimacy and concocted several schemes to capture the throne. These shadowy attempts ended badly for Mary, who was eventually arrested by Elizabeth’s armies and held captive for eighteen years. While her reign was replete with scandal, divorce and even the suspected murder of one of her three husbands, she has since become an object of cultural fascination and an icon.
Crowned when she was only 18 years old, Queen Victoria is better known under her moniker “the Young Victoria.” However, despite her young age and short stature (she stood at only 4 feet 11 inches tall), Queen Victoria was a strong leader who redefined the role of monarchy in the lives of the British public. With the assistance of her beloved Prince Albert, she transitioned the UK into a constitutional monarchy, ushered in new royal traditions of visiting Parliament, and took an active role in European foreign relations and international politics. Despite her tremendous popularity, she was the target of at least six assassination attempts yet remained committed to transparency between the crown and the public. She was also famously patron to over 150 charities and artistic institutions, cementing the Court’s duty to support culture and serve the public.
The reigning HRH, Queen Elizabeth II has ruled longer than any other monarch in British history, and has come to be one of the world’s most respected and beloved figures. Interestingly, like the Elizabeth before her, she was not originally meant to become Queen. It was only after her Uncle Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry his mistress that she fell in line for the crown. With a reign that spans two centuries, Queen Elizabeth II has brought a deep sense of duty and devotion to times of tremendous change, and is known for having a very close political relationship with each of her Prime Ministers. This was dramatized famously in the Oscar-winning film The Queen and the Tony Award-winning play The Audience, where she was portrayed both times by superb English actress Helen Mirren.
Princess Diana is one of the twentieth century’s most iconic pop cultural
figures. Born into nobility as “the Honorable Diana Spencer,” she catapulted worldwide interest in the royal family to never-before-seen heights. Rising to prominence in the age of the 24-hour-news cycle, it seemed every moment of her fairy-tale ascent was captured on camera. In fact her wedding to Prince Charles at the famous St. Paul’s Cathedral in London attracted over 750 million viewers worldwide. Some would argue that the media’s obsession with Princess Di led directly to her death in a paparazzi-fueled car accident in Paris. It is Diana’s prolific charity work however, that continues to make an impact today. The Princess frequently worked the cameras by traveling to the places that needed love and attention most, such as Nepal and Angola, raising awareness for issues of global child poverty, disease and landmines.
Since her marriage to Prince William (son of Princess Di), Catherine aka Kate Middleton has captured major global attention as the fashion-forward face of the monarchy. She’s been named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, with a noted impact on fashion that’s been dubbed the “Kate Middleton effect.” So far, the Kate Middleton effect is said to have contributed nearly one billion pounds to the UK fashion industry, including sales of her now-iconic coral jeans and maternity wear. With potential Queendom in her future, the world continues to wait with baited breath for what the era of Kate will bring us next. After Queen Elizabeth, there are only two people in line for the crown (Prince Charles and Kate’s husband Prince William), so perhaps it’s only a matter of time before we start calling her Queen Kate.