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It seems that in English 'older times' it was expected for the King or monarch to lead the armies in battle.

My research suggests that this was the case in the 12th century in the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Maud/Matilda (her champion being Robert of Gloucester an half brother). Note that since she was never recognized as monarch, she is mentioned only as a combatant1.

Both King Stephen and his son were on the battlefield, his son dying there (though note that his son was also never the monarch - due to his premature demise).

  • Who was the last English/British monarch to be a combatant?
  • Who was the last English/British monarch to die on the battlefield?

  1. By 'combatant' I mean:

    A person operating close enough to the battlefield that they might be taken captive in the event of 'loss of battle'.

    A monarch does not necessarily need to actually 'draw a sword' to be in that position, but merely close enough to the battlefield that if it goes wrong, they are in imminent danger of capture (or execution/death by battle wounds).

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Welcome to History.SE! – Reliable Source Feb 3 '13 at 13:03
May be it is not what you are looking for, but the king's brother was killed in WWII. – Anixx Aug 2 '13 at 22:51
As an addition to Anixx's comment, Prince Harry Windsor was present in Afghanistan in 2007 (he is however 4th to the throne at the moment) – Voitcus Sep 9 '13 at 9:39
Captain Wales (Prince Harry) also flew (Co-Pilot/Gunner) Apaches with the Army Air Corps in Afghanistan in 2012/2013. – Kobunite May 22 '14 at 10:29
up vote 12 down vote accepted

The last king to lead in battle is George II in the Battle of Dettingen. The last one to die in battle was Richard III at Bosworth.

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The problem lies in the first question mentioning 'common'. If you ignore that (quite subjective) word, the 1st and 3rd questions essentially become a single question. As such, I think your answer covers all 3 questions. Thank you. – Andrew Thompson Feb 3 '13 at 13:50
So according to Wikipedia, it is 1485 for last death of monarch in battle & 1743 for 'last combatant'? – Andrew Thompson Feb 3 '13 at 13:54
Maybe by combatant, he means that the monarch was directly involved in combat as opposed to be an observer or a commander from behind. – Louis Rhys Feb 3 '13 at 14:27
@AndrewThompson: Curiously, by your definition Napoleon III was a combatant at Sedan. So, if you look at not only English but also French rulers you can push it to 1870. – Felix Goldberg Feb 3 '13 at 20:26
@FelixGoldberg I am actually more interested in the situation in England/Britain due to 1) Some knowledge of the period gained from novels by Ken Follett (though he does change details to make a plot) & watching eps. of Cadfael 2) That was the area of the world that most affects my ancestors. They were primarily English, with Scottish, Welsh, Irish and a smattering of Germanic peoples mixed in (yes, true 'muts'). Either way, thanks for that extra nugget of knowledge. :) – Andrew Thompson Feb 4 '13 at 1:15

Elizabeth I also went fully armored at the battle of the English Channel when the British expected the Spanish army to debark on English soil.

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