After a year and a half, 10 different posts, and about 30,000 words, the first round of the English Monarchs FA Cup is now completed. 64 monarchs (including a couple of Cromwells) battled it out in the first round of fixtures, whittling down the pack to 32 names who remain in the hat for the draw for Round 2.

So, how did everybody get on?

Fallen Big Beasts

Firstly, let’s commiserate the big beasts who were defeated in this opening round. Obviously the beauty of the competition – like the real FA Cup – is in the random fixtures and in the odd clashes, but unfortunately this also means that heavyweight monarchs went head-to-head very early on. Out of the 32 defeated monarchs, the following are what I’d call significant ones who could have gone much further in the competition:

Under better circumstances it is probable that each of these monarchs would have enjoyed a better cup-run into the later stages. However, poor Cnut came up against Elizabeth I, and although Cnut’s North Sea Empire is, in many ways, very impressive, it did not compare with the contextual problems that Elizabeth faced: England’s first successful female monarch who kept the country from splitting into a religious civil war. Furthermore, I have always ranked Henry I high in the order of English monarchs due to building on William the Conqueror’s early success in winning the kingdom, however, he came a cropper when being matched with Queen Victoria! Whilst Edward I fought admirably against Alfred the Great: at one stage I placed Edward as the winner of that tie, before having a rethink. As such, these fallen beasts are a loss to the competition.

Wildcards?

In stark contrast to the fallen big beasts, there are a notable number of weak monarchs who managed to win their initial tie and slip through into the second round. Again, the luck of the draw has meant that they managed to go on a run with the potential of completing a giant-killing:

  • Edmund Ironside (r: 1016 – disputed)
  • Eadred (r: 945-955)
  • Matilda (r: 1141-48 – disputed)
  • Richard II (r: 1377-1399)
  • Mary I (r: 1553-1558)
  • Anne (r: 1702-1714)
  • William IV (r: 1130-1137)

None of these monarchs are in anyone’s Top 10 list and many of them will have been forgotten by the majority of people in the country, but they were pitted against an even poorer monarch in the first round. Edmund Ironside is a disputed king, however, he had the good fortune of being faced with the rather terrible Henry VI. Matilda is another monarch who was never crowned and who never formally ruled, however, she was able to do away with the foolish Charles I, the man who created the civil war of the 1640s (and lost his head in the process). Richard II isn’t anyone’s idea of a successful king, but yet he managed to overcome James II on account of having a longer reign! And then there are the stable monarchs who have managed to obtain passage to the next round due to not having failed as big as their rivals: Anne overcame George IV, and William IV overcame a disputed monarch in Louis.

Favourites for the Cup?

Having had a quick read through the results of the first round and the contestants progressing to the second round, it is clear that there a handful of monarchs who have become favourites to win the competition:

  • Alfred the Great (r: 871-899)
  • William the Conqueror (r: 1066-1087)
  • Edward III (r: 1327-1377)
  • Henry V (r: 1413-1422)
  • Henry VIII (r: 1509-1547)
  • Elizabeth I (r: 1588-1603)
  • William III (r: 1689-1702)
  • George III (r: 1760-1820)
  • Victoria (r: 1837-1901)
  • Elizabeth II (r: 1952-)

These are the remaining clear big-hitters, however, they are favourites for different reasons. Some are favourites due to their military achievements: William the Conqueror won at Hastings and earned a kingdom, Edward III obtained success in the early stages of the Hundred Years’ War, whereas Henry V scored great victories over the French, notably at Agincourt in 1415. Others are favourites due to their contextual achievements: Elizabeth established a religious settlement and overcome the odds to remain on the throne, whereas William III brought about the conditions for the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Others are favourites simply for their longevity: George III reigned for six decades (not all in a sane mind, it must be admitted); and others are favourites due to defining an age, notably Victoria in the 19th century.

However, their ultimate success in the English Monarchs FA Cup will be in avoiding one another until the later stages of the competition. Furthermore, when two contrasting monarchs are thrown against one another – for example, William the Conqueror against Victoria – a winner can only be decided based on all their achievements and failures weighed up. A warrior king cannot simply overwhelm a constitutional monarch: context is key in deciding the fate of the winner and the loser.

Strongest Dynasty?

Various dynasties – stretching from Alfred the Great’s Wessex house all the way to Elizabeth II’s House of Windsor – have contested in the cup. I thought it might be interesting to see which dynasty has fared the best in terms of progressing successfully to the second round.

Of course, some dynasties stretched through many generations, whereas as others (such as Stephen’s one of Blois) contain only one name. However, the numbers highlight which dynasties have been the most effective, as shown in the table below:

  RD1 RD2
WESSEX 13 8
DENMARK 4 1
GODWIN 1 0
NORMAN 4 2
BLOIS 1 0
ANJOU 3 1
PLANTAGENET 5 2
CAPET 1 0
LANCASTER 3 2
YORK 3 1
TUDOR 6 4
STUART 7 4
REPUBLIC 2 1
HANOVER 6 4
WINDSOR 5 2

The dynasty with the most entrants was that of Wessex, stretching from Alfred the Great to Edward the Confessor: they have been reduced from 13 to a still strong and healthy 8 for Round 2. This was the dynasty I had many knowledge gaps on, and throughout the past year it has been interesting to read up on these various alien names. Other successful dynasties include the Tudors (4 out of 6 remain), the Stuarts (4 out of 7 remain), and the Hanoverians (4 out of 6).

Perhaps my assorting has been unkind to the Plantagenets: by rights, they should also include the Lancastrian and Yorkist monarchs. This would make their overall score 11 in the first round, reduced to 5 in the second round. Furthermore, the table also looks odd with the inclusion of other headings: Republic refers to the time from Charles I’s execution (1649) to the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, and includes Oliver and Richard Cromwell. And, just for further reference, Capet refers to the disputed monarch of Louis in 1216.

Onto Round 2…

So, the first round is completed, and so I will – in 2021 – move onto the second round. I will place the remaining names in the hat and pull out the fixtures in random. All of this means that we will get going once again to whittle down the 32 names to the 16 who will transition to Round 3.


Round 1 Results:

  1. Henry V beat Richard Cromwell
  2. Edmund Ironside beat Henry VI
  3. Edward III beat Richard I
  4. Elizabeth beat Cnut
  5. Victoria beat Henry I
  6. Elizabeth II beat George VI
  7. William IV beat Louis
  8. James I beat Edward VI
  9. Eadred beat Harold
  10. Henry III beat Edward IV
  11. Henry IV beat Sweyn Forkbeard
  12. George III beat George I
  13. Mary I beat Stephen
  14. Matilda beat Charles I
  15. Edward the Elder beat Edward VIII
  16. Edgar the Peaceful beat Eadwig
  17. Edmund I beat Richard III
  18. Aethelstan beat John
  19. Mary II beat Harold Harefoot
  20. William the Conqueror beat Aelfweard
  21. Henry II beat Ethelred the Unready
  22. George II beat William “Rufus” II
  23. Oliver Cromwell beat Edward V
  24. Edward the Confessor beat Edward II
  25. William III beat Lady Jane Grey
  26. Henry VII beat Charles II
  27. Richard II beat James II
  28. George V beat Edward the Martyr
  29. Harthacnut beat Edward VII
  30. Anne beat George IV
  31. Henry VIII beat Edgar Aetheling
  32. Alfred the Great beat Edward I