First up is Edgar the Aethling. Grandson of Edmund Ironside (who was so named for his exploits in fighting the Danes) and son of Edward the Exile (who was called this because he was exiled after the death of his father). Naming was a simpler process in those days, and in some ways is easier to remember than numbering. An Aethling, by the way, denotes a royal prince who is in the line of succession, a bit like Prince of Wales.
He was passed over for kingship when the King’s Council selected Harold Godwinson as a better candidate for King in light of the turbulent times ahead. Edgar was only 15 at the time, so it did make sense. It was a different matter after Hastings, when they were all too keen for him to take the crown. They didn’t actually back him up in the end, and as his supporters deserted him the council pretended the election had never happened. That is why he was never crowned and is a King we never had.
The rest of his life was passed plotting against the Normans with the Scots, Danes and William the Conqueror’s son Robert Curthose. He may have been in the First Crusade and definitely made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. History can sometimes be disappointingly vague.
William Adelin (a Normanised version of Aethling) was the son of Henry I and, through his mother was related to Edmund Ironside and Edgar the Aethling. A pampered child, he was drowned with his brother when the White Ship sank. This brought about The Anarchy, an 18 year period of civil war to settle the succession. Thus, although he was never King, he did have quite an influence on British history.
Next we have a bit of a surprise, with a Frenchman on the throne, Louis the Lion, later numbered Louis VIII of France, or (in theory) Louis I of England. He was invited to take the throne by the rebellious Barons fighting King John. In 1216 he was proclaimed King, but not crowned, and ruled about half the country for just over a year. When John died and his young son, Henry III, came to the throne the rebel barons started to drift back to the English King. After a couple of defeats and a generous payment Louis went home, conceding he had never been legitimate King of England.
We came close to having a King Alphonso after Edward I. It isn’t a normal British royal name: he was named after his uncle, Alphonso X of Castille. Although he was the heir to the throne after the deaths of his two older brothers he died at the age of 11, leaving his four-month-old brother to become Edward II. And we all know how that turned out.
The son of Edward III was the well-known Black Prince. He didn’t live to be King but was celebrated as a military leader, with success at Crecy and Poitiers, and was a founding Knight of the Garter. He died after suffering 10 years of ill health after first falling ill on campaign in Spain.
Later, his name would be given to five Royal Navy ships (the most famous probably being the one that sank at Jutland with the loss of all hands) and an experimental tank in WW2. After his death his son Richard became the heir to the throne, and his unfortunate royal career has already been covered.
To be continued