Mnemonics: The Kings and Queens of England

As I wrote about previously, Mnemonics are great. They can help scientists, engineers, mathematicians, physicians, physicists, biologists, astronomers, and just folks like you and me remember long lists of things that would be otherwise difficult to keep straight.

Munroe is brilliant and irreverent – you can see a complete selection of his updated versions here.

In 1969, someone – I never found out who – gifted me with a subscription to a short-lived publication called “Intellectual Digest.” It went out of print in the early 70’s, and in 2010 Tracy Shier attempted a relaunch, which – most sadly – did not seem to take off. But within its pages I remember reading the a poem outlining the kings and queens of England, and for decades I could only recall the first few verses. Now, thanks to the magic of the Internet, I present it here (with a few variations, notably after Queen Victoria.)

First William the Norman, Then William his son,
Henry, Stephen, and Henry, Then Richard and John,
Next Henry the Third, Edwards, one, two, and three,
And again after Richard, Three Henries we see,

Two Edwards, third Richard, If rightly I guess,
Two Henries, sixth Edward, Queen Mary, Queen Bess,
Then Jamie the Scotchman, Then Charles whom they slew,
Yet received after Cromwell Another Charles too. (or, “another Charles, Two” in some versions)

Next James the second Ascended the throne,
Then [good] William and Mary together came on.
Till Anne, Georges four, And fourth William all past, (…)
God sent Queen Victoria, may she long be the last!

(obviously an appendix)

But 60 years later, she too want to Heaven
And next on the throne was her son Edward Seven;
George the Fifth, Edward Eighth (abdication not reckoned);
And at last George the Sixth and Elizabeth Second.

Alternate endings:


Came the reign of Victoria, Which longest did last,

Then Edward the peacemaker, He was her son,
And the fifth of the Georges, Was next in the run,
Edward the eighth, Gave the crown to his brother,
Now God’s sent Elizabeth, All of us love her.


God gave us Queen Vic, may her fame ever last.

And after Victoria’s long reign was done
We see Edward 7th and George fifth his son,
and Edward the 8th who gave up his crown
to his brother King George, and this brings us down
to Elizabeth Second, our sovereign today,
Many more years on the throne may she stay.


God gave us Queen Vic, may her fame ever last.

And after Victoria’s long reign was done
We see Edward 7th and George fifth his son,
and Edward the 8th who gave up his crown
To his brother, George Sixth, who reigned with renown.
Elizabeth Second then takes up the reign
And “God Save the Queen” is echoed again.

It is certain that locked away within the memories of countless souls in the UK there will be other versions as well. Two others which I was able to locate are below:

Willy, Willy, Harry, Stee,
Harry, Dick, John, Harry Three,
One, Two, Three Neds, Richard Two
Harry Four, Five, Six, then who?
Edward Four, Five, Dick the Bad,
Harrys Twain and Ned the Lad,
Mary, Bessie, James the Vain,
Charlie, Charlie, James again,
William and Mary, Anna Gloria,
Four Georges, William and Victoria.
Edward Seven, then George Five,
But Edward Eight preferred his wife.
George the Sixth did then arrive
And Lizzie Two is still alive.

This version begins before Guillaume le Bâtard and ends with Victoria, but contains some additional historical tidbits.

Old Britain was under the Romans
From fifty-five years before Christ,
To four hundred fifty-five A.D.
When her eight states on home-rule insist.

For may a year now they wrangle,
Ah! Yes, for quite three seventy-two,
Being ruled by this king, now that one,
As each might the former o’er throw.

But ever since eight-twenty-seven,
Britains rulers have reigned by descent,
From Egbert, first “Monarch of England,”
To Victoria, daughter of Kent.

A score reigned and fell. – Second Harold
In ten-sixty-six, proud, usurps,
But soon in fierce battle is conquered
By William of Normandy’s troops.

Then came William the Conqueror, a Norman,
Then William the Second, his son;
Then Henry and Stephen and Henry,
Then Richard (Coeur de Lion), and John.

Next Henry the Third, and First Edward,
Edward Second and Third, Richard two,
Henrys Fourth, Fifth and Sixth, and Fourth Edward,
Fifth Edward – Third Richard they rue.

Henry Seventh and Eighth, and Sixth Edward,
Then Mary, Bess, James and Charles First, –
|Eleven years then with no monarch;
Second Charles, Second James, not the worst.

Then William and Mary, then Anne,
Four Georges, Fourth William until
Came Victoria, long live her queenship,
For she wields her proud scepter with skill.

Þe Old Wolf hath goodly spoke.

Violet, resistance is futile.

Science is full of facts and numbers and formulæ and things to remember. Keeping it all straight can be a chore, even for the geniuses. As a result, over time people have developed interesting ways of remembering the order of things in groups and categories.

Cross-stitch reminder of resistor codes, courtesy of Adafruit.

Another way of remembering the color values:

First two (or three) digits: Bad boys rape our good girls, but Violet gives willingly – get some now ->

Black, Brown, Red, Orange, Gold, Green, Blue, Violet, Grey, White (gold, silver and none refer to the tolerance band)

Resistors can be ever more complicated than in the early days when this mnemonic was developed. Six-band resistors have three significant digits, a multiplier, a tolerance band, and a temperature coefficient.

339Ω with a 1% tolerance.

39 kΩ with a 10% tolerance

Mnemonics are a good way of remembering other things as well. Most of us became good friends with Roy G. Biv in school:

Partial rainbow over Utah Lake, Mt. Timpanogos in the background. The order of colors in a rainbow are Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.

There are numerous mnemonics for remembering the order of the planets in the solar system; my favorite is found in Robert A Heinlein’s Have Space Suit, Will Travel: Mother Very Thoughtfully Made A Jelly Sandwich Under No Protest (he used “T” for Terra, and included the “A” for Asteroids.)

And for what it’s worth, to Hell with the AIU. Pluto may be smaller than some of the other TNU’s and dwarf planets out there, but it was part of the solar system since Tombaugh discovered it, and by the dessicated skull of Mogg’s grandfather, there it stays. Randall Munroe of XKCD fame disagrees, and I give him mad props for being a genius, but as far as I’m concerned,

Huge selection of mnemonics here.

The Old Wolf has spoken.