Confused by Pommy history? Here’s a guide to defining moments in England’s past. WORDS: Daniel Landon

With so many kings and queens and wars and battles, English history can seem incredibly confusing.

But it does matter: this seemingly chaotic past has made Britain the prosperous, stable, democratic, idiosyncratic country it is today. So here’s the TNT guide to English history. 

1. Eurotrash invasion

Before the Romans arrived in AD43 England was a loose collection of (mainly) Celtic tribes. But once the Romans left in AD410 tribes from all over northern Europe – notably the Angles and Saxons – invaded.

The legacy: England became a predominantly Anglo-Saxon region, with the Celts pushed out to Ireland, Scotland and Wales. 

2. 1066 and all that

In 1066 the ruler of Normandy in France decided to stake a claim to the English throne. William the Conqueror won the decisive Battle of Hastings, and gained control of England.

The legacy: It was the last time England was successfully invaded. The Normans built the Tower of London, their ‘Domesday Book’ codified a taxation system (the bastards), and French merged with Anglo-Saxon to create the Middle English language.

3. Rights stuff: Rule of law is born

Fed up with King John doing as he liked, the land-holding barons forced him to sign the Magna Carta in 1215.

The ‘Great Charter’ restricted the monarch’s power and codified (to a limited degree) rights and justice.

The legacy: The statement that “no free man shall be seized or imprisoned … except by the lawful judgement of his equal” set a powerful precedent for the rule of law.

4. Henry VIII says bugger off Pope

King Henry got through six wives in his bid to produce a male heir. When the Pope refused to annul his first marriage, he made himself head of the new Church of England.

The legacy: The split with Rome in the 1530s put power in the hands of the aristocracy, not the church, and led to England becoming a mainly Protestant country.

5. A not-so-civil war

Charles I thought the “divine right of kings” allowed him to do whatever he wanted.

So parliamentarians (led by Oliver Cromwell) and royalists went to war.

Charles lost and was executed in 1649. Cromwell put himself in charge, but soon started to act like a king himself.

The legacy: The monarchy was restored in 1660 but the idea that citizens should be ruled by elected officials, not the monarch, took root.

6. Poms and Scots get loved up

England and Scotland were overcoming their age-old animosity by the 16th century, thanks to shared interests in religion, trade and the monarchy.

In 1707 the two parliaments voted for a union, with the HQ in London.

The legacy: From 1996 film Trainspotting: “It’s shite being Scottish … Some hate the English. I don’t, they’re just wankers. We, on the other hand, are colonised by wankers.”

7. Meeting their Waterloo …

After conquering much of Europe Napoleon set his sights on Britain.

But in 1805, off Cape Trafalgar in Spain, Britain’s navy defeated a French and Spanish fleet – wrecking invasion plans.

In his last stand Napoleon was beaten (just) in the battle of Waterloo in 1815.

The legacy: Victory at Trafalgar helped lay the basis for Britain’s global economic domination. 

8. Britain hits the jackpot

Rapid technological advancements from about 1760 changed the world.

The Industrial Revolution kicked off in Britain thanks to: its ready supply of labour and natural resources; a thriving cottage industry; a big merchant navy; free trade throughout the country; and, controversially, the Protestant work ethic.

The legacy: The extraordinary economic growth created huge wealth, lining Britain up to be the superpower of the 19th century.

Rule Britannia

Britain entered the 20th century as arguably the world’s richest and most powerful nation, presiding over a huge empire.

It ended the century eclipsed by the US, China, Russia, Japan and Germany. But how?

Put simply, Britain never recovered its economic clout after the devastation of World Wars I and II, while the colonies clamoured for their independence.

However, the fact that Britain managed to win (or at least not lose) both world wars is still a source of great national pride.