The British Royal Family: Everything you need to know

Hello. I’m Gill at engVid, and today’s lesson
is all about the British Royal Family. Okay, so if you probably see items in the news about
our royal family, you’ll have seen the queen, Queen Elizabeth; maybe her husband, Prince
Philip; but they’re a big family, and also not all countries have a royal family so I’ve
just put this lesson together with a bit of information to tell you a little bit more
about them. Okay, right, so the British Royal Family are also known as the House of Windsor,
because Windsor is their name, which comes from Windsor. This place here, Windsor Castle is
one of their homes. So years ago they decided to use the name Windsor. So, some people like the royal family, admire
them. They think of them as kind of celebrities, just like film stars, and sports celebrities.
They’re reported in the newspapers in a similar way. You get gossip about them. In some newspapers
who like to write a lot of gossip, if they’ve heard something, it may not be accurate, but
they’ve heard a story about some member of the royal family, and they print the story.
They might have a photograph to go with it. So they’re always in the news, the royal family,
for one reason or another, either a good reason or a bad reason. Pretty much every day you
can hear something about the royal family or read something in the newspaper. So, some
people do like them, and even, you know, think of them as celebrities, and maybe give
too much time and thought to them. But then at the other extreme, some people
dislike them because they’re thinking of the fact that they spend a lot of money, they
have all these buildings which are expensive to look after, people say: “What work do they
do?” They don’t seem to do any work, so why should they live such rich lives if they don’t
do anything? But, of course, a lot of the royal family do things all the time. They’re
not working for money always, sometimes they do that as well, they have jobs some of them
with a salary, but some of them, they may not be working and being paid for it, but
they’re doing kind of diplomatic work, they’re meeting visitors from other countries, they’re
being kind of ambassadors, that sort of thing. So they keep busy, and they’re patrons of
charities and they go to events, and they give their support to things and so on. So, a
lot of the royal family do keep quite busy trying to live useful lives, and so I think
if they didn’t do that there would be a lot more sort of criticism of them. But because you
can’t see that they’re doing things, working hard, that stops a lot of people from criticizing
and saying we shouldn’t have a royal family. Some people are called Republicans, and they
say we should have a president instead of a queen or a king. We should have a president
and a prime minister instead of a queen and a prime minister. So there are Republicans
around and have been for more than a hundred years, people who wanted to get rid of the
royal family, but it hasn’t happened yet. Okay, so the kind of system we have in the
UK, it’s called a constitutional monarchy. The “monarchy” part is to do with the royal
family, with the queen. The monarch, so the word “monarch” means king or queen. The “constitutional”
part is to do with politics, and the government, and parliament. So what happens, really, is
the government, the MPs, the ministers in parliament, they make the decisions. The government
makes the decisions. And if they have a new piece of, an act of parliament, a new law,
for example, the queen just has to sign it. If it’s been democratically decided already
by the politicians that this will become law, the queen can’t just say: “No, I don’t like
that. I’m not going to sign it.” She just has to sign it because it’s gone through a democratic
process. So that’s why it’s a constitutional monarchy. It’s the monarch or king or queen
governed by the parliament, by the politicians. Okay. So, let’s have a look at some of the vocabulary
which is fairly simple most of it. So a king or queen is the monarch, the head of state
if you like. Usually any children they have will be prince or princess, so prince for male,
princess of female. There are some other titles used as well, which are sort of high
aristocratic titles. Duke for the male, duchess for the female. So some of the royal family
have these titles as well, as well as prince, but some of them might be prince and duke,
they just have extra titles because of their position. Okay, so the current queen, I’m sure you’ve
seen her in pictures and on television, in films is Queen Elizabeth II. We always use
these Roman numerals for the king or queen. So, not second, 2nd, like that, but we use
the Roman numerals. It’s just a convention, a tradition. And she was born in 1926. Okay?
And she married Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. That’s the title he was given when he
married her. So he was already called Philip, that was his name, but then because he married…
She was at the time Princess Elizabeth. She wasn’t already queen at that time. She was
Princess Elizabeth, so he became Prince Philip, and he was given this title in addition, the
Duke of Edinburgh. So Edinburgh has a connection with Scotland because the UK is a combination
of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, so some titles mention Scotland or
Wales usually. Okay. So she married Prince Philip 1947, a few years before she became queen.
Her father died in 1952, so she automatically became queen because he had two daughters and
she was the older daughter. So there were no sons, so she became queen
as soon as he died, 1952. And then the coronation, the special ceremony
when the crown is put on the person’s head was the following year, because coronations
are very complicated events, they take a long time to organize, so they couldn’t have a
coronation the same year. It’s often the following year. And that was also interesting because
it was the first time a coronation in this country had been on television. It was televised.
There were TV cameras there on the day and it was being broadcast live. And that gave
a big boost to the ownership of television sets because the television technology had just
started being developed around this period, and a lot of people hadn’t bought a television
yet. But when they knew that the coronation was going to be on television they either
bought their own television to watch it, or they would… They arranged to go to a neighbour’s
house or a friend’s house to watch it on their television. So, 1953 the sales of televisions
went up dramatically because of the coronation. Okay. So, and there is still film available
that you can see now in black and white of the coronation. Right, okay, so
she became queen and was crowned. And then just to mention the main buildings
that belong or… Well, do they belong to the royal family? Or they belong to the nation,
but the royal family live in them. Buckingham Palace in London, okay. Winsor Castle in Berkshire,
which is to the west of London. That’s a very old building, older than this one. There’s
a house, a big house in Sandringham, which is in Norfolk, which is sort of northeast
from London, about a hundred miles or so. And then, again, a Scottish connection, there’s
a Balmoral, a castle in Scotland. And usually the royal family go to the different buildings
at particular times of year. So in the summer, for example, in August traditionally the royal
family go up to Scotland in August and through into September. So there’s a very long tradition
of being in certain places at certain times. Okay, and then just to show you a little bit
of the history going back, the royal family and the person who is queen, as you… As I
mentioned, she was the elder of two daughters so she inherited the throne as it’s called,
inherit the throne. The throne is the big chair that the queen sits on, so she inherited
the throne. Inherited from her father, so it is hereditary. So that’s the other word,
hereditary. So it a family, and people inherit the next generation, inherit the throne so
it’s a continuous line and it’s designed, really, to avoid confusion. If one king or
queen dies, there may be people fighting to take their place, people competing in competition
for becoming king or queen, so they don’t want that to happen. So because there have
been times in history when that has happened and it’s caused a lot of people
killed in battles, and so on. So, this is just to show how the family has
gone back through time. So the queen’s father who died in 1952 was King George VI, so that’s
6th there. So, he was king from 1936 until 1952. This person here was actually his older
brother, but he wasn’t king for very long. King Edward VIII (8th) he was only king in
one year, 1936 because he decided not to be king, he abdicated. That’s the sort of royal
word for resigning. He resigned, or he… He quit. He said: “I quit.” Well, he didn’t
say: “I quit”, he said it in a different way, but… And it’s a very long story why he decided
he didn’t want to be king. I don’t have time for that in this lesson, but there’s lots of
information on the internet about it. Okay. So he was automatically king in 1936 because his
father, King George V (5th) died and because Edward was the eldest son, he automatically
became king. But then he abdicated and his next brother became king instead. That was a
bit unexpected, but that’s what happened. So, George V then, he was King George V from
1910 to 1936. His father was King Edward VII (7th) who was king from 1901 to 1910. He didn’t
have a very long reign because he was already quite old by the time he became king because
his mother, Queen Victoria, she was queen for a very long time, from 1837 through to
1901, so by the time she died he was already quite old, which it’s a bit similar to the
present queen and her son, very similar really. Okay. So, and then you may be wondering we
have Queen Elizabeth II, was there a Queen Elizabeth I? And there was, but it was quite a
long time ago in the 16th century and early 17th century. That was Elizabeth I, and she
was the daughter of King Henry VIII who you may know had six wives, not all at the same
time. One at a time he had six wives, so he is the king who is famous for marrying six
times. Okay. Right, so that’s the first half of the lesson, and I have just a bit more
information for you in the second part. Okay, so let’s have a look in a bit more detail
at the inheritance of the British throne, so the word “inheritance”, the person who
inherits the throne usually from their mother or father who was king or queen before. So,
inheritance of the throne, hereditary, and we talk about the person who is next in line
to the throne. You can say: “Who is next in line to the throne? Who inherits the throne
when the present monarch dies?” Okay. So, usually, as I’ve said, there are lots of
people and they all have a position. I’ve put some numbers here to show what number
they are in line to the throne. So, you can see that the first person in line to the throne
is Prince Charles, Prince of Wales who is the son, the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth.
So he’s first in line. And then there’s a rule of who inherits or who’s next after him,
and so on. But there are lots of them, so there’s no difficulty – if one person unexpectedly
dies, there’s always someone else, someone next down on the list. But back in the 18th
century, there was a time when there was a bit of difficulty finding who to take the
throne after one monarch had died. There was also a problem about different religions,
Protestant and Catholic religions. And I think the king who was possibly the next in line
for the throne was Catholic or had Catholic interests, and people didn’t want that. They
wanted to stay with the Protestant side of Christianity, so what did they do? They had
to find a more distant relative who happened to be Protestant, and that distant relative
was German and lived in Germany, and spoke German, and didn’t speak English. So, but he
was the best option because the most important thing at the time was to have a king or queen,
preferably king who was Protestant. And this guy, George agreed to come and become king,
so he came from Germany to become King George I, and he couldn’t speak English. I don’t
know if he learnt a bit of English, but I don’t think he tried very hard because they
didn’t have things like the internet and engVid in those days, so it must have been quite
difficult to learn English. So he became king. That was when the order of what’s called the
succession… Is another word, “succession”, meaning one person follows another person.
It was not very, you know… There weren’t enough people to fill the vacancy, if you
like. The job vacancy. So, it’s not like that nowadays because the present queen has had
four children, her eldest son has had two children, and his eldest son has had two children,
so there are lots and lots of people, others as well, the other three children of the queen
have had children, so all of them are at some position in line to the throne. So just to go through the names, here: Princes
Charles is also called Prince of Wales, that’s to make a connection with Wales as one of the
UK countries because UK is United Kingdom, so it’s four different countries united. Okay?
So, Prince Charles traditionally, going back many hundreds of years, the eldest son of
the king or queen is called the Prince of Wales. And you know from that title that that
person is heir to the throne. So, he’s the heir to the throne. So, that’s why first in
line here and he was born in 1948. Okay? Then her next child was a girl, Princess Anne who
also has the title Princess Royal born in 1950. She is actually 12th in line. You might
think: “Well, why…? Why isn’t she a bit further up?” but there was… The law at the
time was that the sons had more… A higher position than daughters, and that law has
changed more recently. I’ll tell you a little bit more about that towards the end of the
lesson. So that’s why she is only 12th in line to the throne, whereas her next younger
brother, Andrew, is 6th in line. So there was some sort of lack of equality between
sons and daughters in the past, which there isn’t anymore. But because it was the law
at the time they were born, it’s not being applied retrospectively; they have to stay
with that position now. Okay. So, Princess Anne. Next one, Prince Andrew, born 1960. And he
has this extra title, another Duke, Duke of York. And York is a city up in the north of
England. Okay. And then finally the fourth son was Prince Edward, and he also has a title.
Earl is another aristocratic title, a bit like Duke. He’s the Earl of Wessex, and Wessex
is an area in the west of England, okay, which covers more than one county. It’s like Devon,
and Cornwall, and so on. So, Earl of Wessex, born 1964, and he is 9th in
line to the throne. Okay. So, with Prince Charles having children they
then become… Are in line for the throne ahead of Charles’ other brothers and sisters.
So, Prince Charles, his eldest son is Prince William. His title is the Duke of Cambridge,
so another duke. Cambridge is a city just north of London, a university city. He was
born in 1982, and he’s second in line for the throne. Okay? And his younger brother
is Prince Harry whose title is also Prince Henry of Wales, so Wales comes into it again.
Harry and Henry, that’s the same name, really. People called Henry… The informal name for
Henry is Harry, and everybody thinks of him as Prince Harry, not Henry. Okay. He was born
in 1984 and he is 5th in line to the throne. Okay. So then Prince William who is already the
grandson of the present queen has had two children. Prince George of Cambridge, so he
has the Cambridge title because his father has the Cambridge title. Prince George of
Cambridge was born 2013, so that’s… He’s a little boy, but he’s third in line for the
throne. Okay? And then they had a daughter, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. Again, she
was born in 2015 and because of the change in the law this new law of equality was in
2013, so by the time Princess Charlotte was born in 2015, two years later, that then means
that she becomes 4th in line to the throne after her older brother under the new law
so she is the first person, a little girl, to be affected by this new law, which as a
very small baby she became 4th in line to the throne. Okay. So… And then, of course, you probably remember
Prince Charles was married to Diana who died in 1997 in a car crash in Paris, which was
a big shock. And Prince William is married to Catherine and she is called the
Duchess of Cambridge to match his title. Okay, so I hope that’s given you a bit of
an idea about the more detailed… A more detailed picture of the British royal family
and who they all are. There are lots of other relatives, too, but there isn’t time to go
into them. These are the main ones who you might see in newspapers, and magazines,
or on television, and so on. So I hope that’s been a bit of interesting
history and present day, what’s called current affairs. So if you’d like to go to the website,, there’s a quiz there to test your knowledge on this lesson, and I hope
to see you again soon. Okay. Bye for now.


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