William the Conqueror was the first Norman King of England who ruled from 1066 to 1087. William's conquest had a profound impact on England; his government merged elements of the Norman and English systems that laid the foundations of the medieval English kingdom. He is credited with building castles, mottes, and keeps, including the White Tower and Tower of London.
Henry II of England reigned as the king of England from 1154 to 1189. During his long rule, Henry introduced many changes that had severe long-term consequences. Some of his legal changes are believed to have laid the foundation for English Common Law. Henry is often portrayed in films and plays; he has been played by actors like Peter O'Toole.
Rollo of Normandy, also known as Rolf, is part of Scandinavian lore. A Viking, he was known for his exploits as a pirate on the seas of France, England, and other lands. When he attacked France with his Danish army, he was given Neustria, or Normandy, as part of a truce.
Isabella of France, also known as the She-Wolf of France, was the Queen of England as the wife of King Edward II. She was known for her diplomatic skills, intelligence, and beauty. Her marriage was a troubled one and she probably had an affair with Roger Mortimer. It is believed that Isabella then arranged the murder of Edward II.
Vercingetorix, king of the Arverni tribe, is remembered for uniting the Gauls for a rebellion against the Romans during Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars. He surrendered to Caesar in the end but was eventually executed, after being held as a prisoner for 5 years and paraded through the Roman streets.
Mansa Musa was the tenth Mansa, or emperor, of the Mali Empire in West Africa and ruled from c.1312 to c.1337. Nicknamed the Emir of Melle, he was one of the richest people of his time, due to Mali’s gold reserves. He also patronized science, arts, and literature.
Spanish princess Anne of Austria was also an archduchess of the House of Habsburg. She later became the queen of France, as King Louis XIII’s wife, and also ruled as the regent for her son, Louis XIV. She is one of main characters in The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas.
Françoise d'Aubigné was a French noblewoman. She was secretly married to King Louis XIV and was one of his closest advisers. She was never considered the queen of France and served as the royal children's governess. She was born in an impoverished family and was previously married to poet Paul Scarron. She married Louis years after Scarron’s death.
Henry IV of France reigned as the King of France from 2 August 1589 until his death on 14 May 1610. Remembered for his concern about the welfare of the people of France, Henry worked to eliminate corruption, promote agriculture, encourage education, and regularize state finance. The character of Ferdinand in Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost was loosely based on Henry.
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Louis XIV of France reigned as the King of France from 1643 to 1715. Louis XIV is the longest-reigning monarch of a sovereign country in the history of Europe. Under his rule, France often asserted its military prowess and emerged as the most dominant European monarchy. His life inspired several films, such as The Taking of Power by Louis XIV.
Richard II of England was King of England from 1377 to 1399. Also known as Richard of Bordeaux, he was a firm believer in the royal prerogative. He was not popular as a king and was deposed in 1399 and is believed to have been starved to death in captivity. Modern historians believe he may have had a personality disorder.
Philippe I, Duke of Orléans received the dukedoms of Chartres and Valois in 1661 as the younger son of Louis XIII of France. Unlike most royal persons of his generation, Philippe was open about his homosexuality and did not think twice before acting effeminately in public. However, he fathered several children and earned the nickname the grandfather of Europe.
Becoming the King of France at the age 10, Charles IX presided over a kingdom which was torn apart by the Wars of Religion between Protestants and Catholics. The infamous massacre of Huguenot leaders in Paris, instigated by his mother Catherine, left a traumatic effect on the mind of the ruler who succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 23.
Henry III of France was the King of France from 1574 to 1589. He also served as the Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland from 1573 to 1575. Henry was known for his alleged sexual relationships with men. Although certain reports have claimed that the allegations were false, he is sometimes depicted in popular culture as being effeminate.
Joan I of Navarre was the queen of Navarre from 1274 until her death in 1305, at the age of 32. She also became the queen consort of France in 1285 as she had married Philip IV of France who became King Philip IV on 5 October 1285. Joan is credited with founding the College of Navarre in 1305.
Madame de Montespan was the chief Royal mistress of King Louis XIV of France. Thanks to her strong influence over Louis XIV, Madame de Montespan was sometimes referred to as the true Queen of France during Louis' reign. One of the most celebrated chief Royal mistresses of all time, Madame de Montespan had seven children with Louis XIV of France.
Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, was the regent of the Kingdom of France from 1715 to 1723. He was the son of Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, and Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate. He was named the regent of France for Louis XV, who succeeded to the throne at the age of five. Philippe died months after Louis attained majority.
Philip IV, or Philip the Fair, was the king of France from 1285 to 1314. His marriage to Joan I of Navarre also made him the king of Navarre, as Philip I. He made France a centralized country. He clashed with English king Edward I, the Flemish, and the clergy.
Louis VII of France was the king of the Franks for over four decades from 1137 to 1180. The second son of Louis VI of France and Adelaide of Maurienne, he unexpectedly became the heir to the throne following his elder brother’s death. He had a long but difficult reign and was succeeded by his son Philip II.
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Francis I, son of Charles, Count of Angoulême, was the king of France from 1515 to 1547. He was an art connoisseur and invited Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci to his court. His contribution to the promotion of French language earned him the title Father and Restorer of Letters.
Louis XVI of France reigned as the last king of France from 1774 to 1792 before the French Revolution, which ended the monarchy in France. During his reign, Louis made attempts to remove land and labor tax, abolish serfdom, and improve tolerance toward non-Catholics. However, the proposed reforms were opposed by the French nobility.
Philip V reigned as the king of Spain from November 1700 to January 1724, and again from September 1724 to 1746. Philip introduced the centralization of monarchy and imposed the Nueva Planta decrees. Philip's accession initiated the 13-year War of the Spanish Succession. His final years were marred by depression.
Guy of Lusignan reigned as the king of Jerusalem, through his marriage to Sibylla of Jerusalem, but eventually lost the kingdom to Conrad of Montferrat. Guy later became the lord of Cyprus. He was later immortalized in fiction such as Italian Renaissance writer Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron.
Charles V of France reigned as the king of France from 1364 until his death in 1380. Charles V was highly successful during the Hundred Years' War as his armies recovered almost all the territories held by the English. His reign also witnessed the construction of many significant buildings, including the Château du Louvre, Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and the Bastille.
Louis X of France was the king of France from 1314 to 1316. He was the eldest son of Philip IV of France and Joan I of Navarre. He reigned for a very short time marked by turbulence and tensions. He abolished slavery and allowed serfs to buy their freedom. He died under mysterious circumstances in 1316, aged just 26.
Charles VI of France reigned as the king of France from 1380 to 1422. He is best remembered for his psychotic episodes and mental illness which troubled him throughout his life. Charles' defeat at the Battle of Agincourt led to the signing of the Treaty of Troyes, which eventually changed the course of history.
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Napoleon II was the son of Emperor Napoleon I and Empress Marie Louise. He was the titular Emperor of the French for a few weeks in 1815. He was just a small child when he became the disputed emperor following his father’s abdication. He died as a young man before getting the chance to serve his nation.
Louis XVIII of France was the king of France from 1814 to 1824, except for the duration of the “Hundred Days” in 1815. He was the son of Louis, Dauphin of France, and his wife Maria Josepha of Saxony. He ruled for slightly less than a decade. He was not popular as a king.
Philip VI of France was the first king of France from the House of Valois. He reigned from 1328 until his death in 1350. He was the nephew of King Philip IV of France and occupied the throne after his death, being his nearest male relative. His reign witnessed the beginning of the Hundred Years' War in 1337.