Who are the most important British monarchs? (As judged using pub names)

The King's Head, in Chingford, north east London. Image: Ewan Munro/Flickr/creative commons.

Who is the best of all the kings and queens? Since science has not yet provided a way to have them all fight, there is only one true way to find out: see who has the most pubs named after them.

The monarchy has had a long association with the names of boozers. Even back when most of their customers were illiterate and pubs would distinguish themselves by the illustrations on their signs, there was a strong royal influence. The White Hart and The Red Lion have long been two of the most common pub names in Britain, both having been the symbols of British royals (Richard II and James I respectively).

But the true mark of respect is actually having a pub named directly after you: clearly, the more pubs that share your name, the better a monarch you must have been. So, let’s crunch those numbers!


To do this, I counted every pub sharing the name of a monarch on a big list of British pubs (e.g. beerintheevening.com). Sometimes there’s some ambiguity: for example, pubs called “The George” can refer to one of 6 different monarchs, or indeed St George from off of Game of Thrones. So I only counted pubs where it could be clearly determined which monarch is being paid homage to – say, if their face is on the pub’s sign. 

For the same reason, I decided to elimate anything that wasn't a name. Lots of King's Head pubs were renamed from Pope's Head under prominent non-fan of Catholicism, Henry VIII, but not all, for example; and it's not clear if a Royal Oak built in the 19th century is a reference to Charles II, or just a generic pub name. So, all these got excluded. (Readers who disagree with this methodology are encouraged to angrily post about it on social media, so long as they include a link.)

And so:

The Top 5 British Monarchs (according to pub names)

5. George V – 8 pubs

George V was in power during the First World War, so likely benefited from boozers cashing in on a general air of patriotism. Notably, the King George V in the Kentish village of Brompton acquired the name after having all its windows smashed when war broke out in 1914 because it was originally called the King of Prussia.

4. George III – 14 pubs

He may have lost America, but he didn’t lose all the pubs! Somewhat surprising given that what most people remember about him is the going mad. And that he once issued a proclamation condemning excessive drinking (also “profane swearing” and “lewdness”). The most evil kind of boozing of them all, ‘tippling on the Sabbath’, could incur you a fine of 3 shilling and 4 pence. Miserable git.

3. George IV – 15 pubs

George IV was widely hated by just about everyone, apart from pub landlords, apparently. Possible explanations for his popularity with the latter include that he was

a) a massive pisshead;

b) according to Blackadder the Third he was actually the popular comedy character Blackadder (spoilers); and

c) happened to reign at the beginning of the British empire’s biggest period of growth.

The George IV pub in Brixton is now a Tesco, suggesting that any remaining respect is on the wain.

2. William IV – 61 pubs

William IV is a surprising runner-up, seeing as he reigned for less than seven years. But one of the first things he did as king was to sign into law the Beerhouse Act 1830, which enabled anyone who could scrape together two guineas to start selling beer.

The idea behind the law was that, if it was easier to buy beer, people would just have some nice relaxing ales instead of getting smashed up on gin the whole time, and all of Britain’s alcohol-related woes would be solved. Yes. Anyway, lots of the new landlords were so grateful for their new booze-selling opportunities that they named their pubs after him.

1. Queen Victoria – 208 pubs

And at number one, it’s the Empress With The Mostess… Queen Victoria!

Confession: I did not check absolutely every pub called Queen Victoria or The Victoria to make sure it was not e.g. named after Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, Queen consort of Spain from 1906 to 1931, or Victoria, a medical training robot that simulates giving birth. But even if we discount half the pubs on the list, she’s still way in the lead.

Why’s she so popular in pub terms? Well, when she took the throne in 1837, Britain had a population of around 20m. By 1901, the population had reached 40m. No other monarch has reigned over such an expansion of population. And being Britain, those 20m extra people were in need of a lot more pubs: who better to name them after than their (usually) quite popular queen?


English rulers just outside the top five include King Edward VII (of potato fame), King Alfred (of being the first one fame), and Oliver Cromwell (of not being a king fame), all tied on seven pubs. Sorry guys, maybe you should have tried having longer reigns at times when they were building more pubs. Losers.

One monarch in particular stands out as having not one single pub named in her honour: Queen Elizabeth II. Poor old Liz, even Sweyn Forkbeard has a pub named after him, and he only ruled England for about five weeks in 1014.

Unfortunately for the Queen, the number of British pubs has been in decline ever since she got into power, so there just haven’t been as many opportunities to get one named after you. Still, she is getting that new tube line, so cheg on that, Forkbeard!

Ed Jefferson can be found on the internet at @edjeff.

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook

 
 
 
 

What do new business rates pilots tell us about government’s appetite for devolution?

Sheffield Town Hall, 1897. Image: Hulton Archive/Getty.

There have been big question marks about any future devolution of business rates ever since the last general election stopped the legislation in its tracks.

Not only did it not make its way to the statute book before the pre-election cut off, it was nowhere to be seen in the Queen’s Speech, suggesting the Government had gone cold on the idea. (This scenario was complicated further recently by the introduction of a private members’ bill on business rates by Conservative MP Peter Bone, details of which remain scarce.)

However, regardless of the situation with legislation, the government’s announcement in recent days of a pilot phase of reforms suggests that business rates devolution will go ahead after all. DCLG has invited local authorities to take part in a pilot scheme which will allow volunteer authorities to retain 100 per cent of the business rates growth they generate locally. (It also notes that a further three pilots are currently in operation as they were set up under the last government.)

There are two interesting things in this announcement that give some insight on how the government would like to push the reform forward.

The first is that only authorities that come forward with their neighbours with a proposal to pool all business rates raised into one pot across a wider geography will be considered. This suggests that pooling is likely to be strongly encouraged under the new system, even more considering that the initial position was to give power to the Secretary of State to form pools unilaterally.

The second is that pooled authorities are given free rein to propose their own local arrangements. This includes determining, where applicable, a tier split (i.e. rates distribution between districts and counties), a plan for distributing additional growth across the pool, and how this will be managed between authorities.

It’s the second which is most interesting. Although current pools already have the ability to decide for some of their arrangements, it’s fair to say that the Theresa May-led government has been much less bullish on devolution than George Osborne in particular was, with policies having a much greater ‘top down’ feel to them (for example, the Industrial Strategy) rather than a move towards giving places the tools they need to support economic growth in their areas. So the decision to allow local authorities to come up with proposed arrangements feels like a change in approach from the centre.


Of course, the point of a pilot is to test different arrangements, and the outcomes of this experiment will be used to shape any future reform of the business rates system. Given the complexity of the system and the multitude of options for reform, this seems like a sensible approach to take. But it remains to be seen whether the complex reform of a national system can be led from the bottom up. In effect, making sure this local governance is driven by common growth objectives, rather than individual authorities’ interests, will be essential.

Nonetheless, the government’s reaffirmation of its commitment to business rates to devolution and its willingness to test new approaches is welcome. Given that the UK is one of the most centralised countries in the western world, moves to allow local authorities to keep at least some of the tax revenue that is generated in their area is a step forward in giving places more autonomy over how they spend their money. That interest in changing this appears to have been whetted once more is encouraging.

There are, however, a number of other issues with the current business rates system which need to be ironed out. Centre for Cities is currently working on a briefing of the business rates system, building on our previous work in this area, and we’ll be making suggestions as to how the system can be improved.

Hugo Bessis is a researcher for the Centre for Cities, on whose blog this article originally appeared.

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.