Bishops of Durham & English Monarchs

If, as I often do, you feel an uncontrollable urge to make sense of random historical facts, putting them into some sort of context is often the best start. For me the first step is usually association with a particular monarch’s reign which, in my case, means English/British monarchs. If you’re of a certain age you may well have been taught a handy little ditty at school to help with your ‘kings and queens’, a ‘monarch mnemonic’ so to speak. This is how I remember it – from the first Norman king (rhyme is in bold italics): 

“Willie (I ‘The Conqueror’), Willie (II), Harry (Henry II), Ste(phen),

Harry (Henry II), Dick (Richard I), John, and Harry Three (Henry III).

One, Two, Three Neds (Edwards I, II & III), Richard Two (Richard II),

Harrys Four, Five and Six (Henry IV, V & VI). Then Who?

Edward (IV), Edward (V), Dick the Bad (Richard III),

Harrys Twain (Henry VII & VIII) and Ned the Lad (Edward VI).

Mary, Bessy (Elizabeth), James the Vain (James I/VI of Scotland),

Charlie, Charlie (II), James Again (James II).

William (III) and Mary (II), Anne – Gloria!

Four Georges, William (IV) and Victoria.

Edward VII next, and then

George V in 1910.

Edward VIII soon abdicated.

George the VI was coronated.

Finally there’s Elizabeth (II),

Who’ll be our Queen until her death”.

Introducing the Bishops of Durham

All well and good but sometimes I need a bit more. Being a Durham lad, it’s handy to extend the context to the tenure of the various Bishops of Durham. Hopefully, this isn’t as uptight as it sounds. Until 1836 Durham was a County Palatine where, at its height, the Prince Bishop had the powers of a sovereign (it’s an important point if you want to understand Durham’s history). In fact, it was a status that persisted only in Durham and Lancaster and was particularly meaningful during the warring middle ages. Bishops of the period were as handy with a sword as a sermon and many were distinctly less than holy if not plain criminal. It couldn’t last however – Henry VIII’s reformation and Oliver Cromwell’s puritan interregnum were both instrumental in the decline. The palatinate was finally abolished on the death of bishop of Durham, William van Mildert in 1836.

Monarchs & Durham Bishops (page 1 of 2) © The Durham Cow

Anyway, that means a lot of names, so to help figure it out I created what I call the Monarchs & Durham Bishops ‘ready reckoner’ The 2-page chart lists English/British monarchs with their respective bishops of Durham and, in turn, their priors or deans (heads of the monastery or cathedral at Durham). For example, the image at the top of the page shows Queen Anne (who reigned 1702-14), Nathanial Crewe (1674-1721), her Bishop of Durham and the longest serving, and Thomas Comber, one the four deans that served under Crewe. The chart is always pinned to the noticeboard behind me and has been a great help over the years so I thought I’d make it freely available in the shop.

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