Whenever I take out the two dogs for their morning walk my mind often wanders. Sometimes I think about the day ahead (emails, marking, lessons), other times I think of the research I want to engage with (yes, the pub history of the Blue Monkey, or family history), and then there are times when my mind thinks of ideas that are neither productive and have little value. This third stream often results in the very posts published on this blog (haha!), and for some reason I find it hard to shift them. This post is one of those ideas: it is not entirely productive and it has little value, but I think it could be entertaining nonetheless.

So, I present to you: the English Monarchs FA Cup. I’ve trawled through a list of English monarchs, from the present day (Liz II) right back to the kings of Wessex. The idea is to pull them out of a hat, akin to when the football FA Cup draws are made, to see who is pitted against whom: then, an analysis of each monarch to see who was “the best” would result in one of the two going through to the next round. And on, and on, until the big two monarchs meet in the final to battle it out for the winner of my own version of the FA Cup.

Hopefully, it will be of at least some entertainment, and at the very least it will help me brush up on all of these English kings and queens. Also, it could help provoke debate with others when I tell them that I have scientifically found out “the best” English monarch to have ever sat on the throne.


However, there are some problems with all of this. The first – and perhaps most obvious – is how do I exactly judge “the best” monarch? I considered having a scoring sheet, broken down into a few key categories. But then this provokes another question: what are the appropriate categories? The following, perhaps:

  • Length of reign: a more successful monarch would endure for longer.
  • Security: lack of attempted overthrows, or success in defeating rivals (such as that of Henry VII).
  • Military success: in wars and in battles (such as that of Henry V).
  • Financial stability: when the country was wealthy and not in debt.
  • Cultural achievements: English monarchs who established marking points in our history.

There are further hiccups to the plan: a competition needs an even number of teams. So, for example, 8 teams are needed for a quarter finals, semi finals, then a final. Obviously there have been more than 8 monarchs: there are dozens and dozens of them. Therefore I need to continue to double the number: 16 to 32 and then to 64. But there haven’t been 64 English monarchs, and actually judging who has had the English crown is tricky: some are disputed, some perhaps never actually reigned, and then there is the issue with when the crown converged with the Scottish to form a British crown. However, I’ve decided to deal with this a simple way: every monarch from Alfred the Great right up to Elizabeth II is in the pot, along with any disputed names (such as Louis who held half the kingdom at the end of John’s reign in the early 13th Century). All of this provided me with 62 names, and for a while I was considering whether or not to include protectors of England (such as the failed and foiled Duke of Somerset in the 1540s), but a much easier solution presented itself: I would include Oliver Cromwell and his son Richard Cromwell.

The one further change that I considered making was to avoid a continual random draw with every round, but instead to utilise a more American style “bracket”: the initial draw will place every monarch in a position in the table, which will then provide a clear route to the final with possible opponents. I enjoy this formula in the football World Cup, and the other positive was that I would not need to keep randomly drawing out pieces of paper with odd, Anglo-Saxon names scrawled on them. However, with this being an “FA” Cup, I have decided to stick with the random draws with every round. And plus, it means that I can mess around and pretend that I’m doing the actual FA Cup draw at my kitchen table (whilst my family watches me in bemusement).

English Monarchs FA Cup Pic

And so, onto the first draw for Round 1. 64 teams will be split to create 32 “games”. Each monarch was provided with a number which corresponded with the time when they ruled: Alfred the Great was number 1, whilst Elizabeth II was 64 (the two Cromwells were 63 and 64). Then the little sheets of paper were scrunched up and placed in a bowl where they were mixed and mixed for – what seemed – an inappropriate amount of time. Then, with baited breath, I was ready to do the draw…

Here are the 32 fixtures:

  1. Henry V v Richard Cromwell
  2. Edmund Ironside v Henry VI
  3. Richard I v Edward III
  4. Elizabeth I v Canute
  5. Victoria v Henry I
  6. Elizabeth II v George VI
  7. William IV v Louis
  8. Edward VI v James I
  9. Harold v Eadred
  10. Henry III v Edward IV
  11. Henry IV v Sweyn
  12. George III v George I
  13. Stephen v Mary I
  14. Matilda v Charles I
  15. Edward VIII v Edward the Elder
  16. Eadwig v Edgar the Peaceful
  17. Edmund I v Richard III
  18. John v Aethelstan
  19. Mary II v Harold Harefoot
  20. Aelfweard v William I
  21. Henry II v Aethelred the Unready
  22. William II v George II
  23. Oliver Cromwell v Edward V
  24. Edward II v Edward the Confessor
  25. William III v Jane
  26. Henry VII v Charles II
  27. James II v Richard II
  28. Edward the Martyr v George V
  29. Edward VII v Harthacnut
  30. Anne v George IV
  31. Henry VIII v Edgar Aetheling
  32. Alfred v Edward I
The draw: all 64 numbers

A few of the heavyweights were drawn against one another, such as the final one (Alfred the Great v Edward I), whilst a few “derbies” appeared (such as the “Hanoverian derby” between George I and George III). Whilst picking out the draws I immediately considered the connections between the different monarchs and their periods of history: both Henry VII and Charles II had to claim/reclaim a kingdom, Richard I and Edward III were kings of war, whilst both James II and Richard II faced rebellion and toppling.

Now, onto the final problem with all of this: time. An analysis of each of these ties would take, at my current rate of posting, years to complete. I will attempt to be a tad quicker, and future related posts may resolve a few of these ties before we can then move onto the second round in which only 32 monarchs will remain. In terms of the “bookies” favourites, my money is on the likes of William the Conqueror and the Elizabeths to do well; whilst the underdog outsider must go to the lesser celebrated monarchs of Aethelstan and the financially wise Henry VII. Only time shall tell.

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