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.

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Cats and dogs and Pokémon and ball pools: The eight joyful trains of Japan

Okay, it may not look like much, but... the exterior of the Genbi Shinkansen art experience. Image: ©Mika Ninagawa, used courtesy of Tomio Koyama Gallery.

If you’re on this website, you’ll likely agree with the statement: trains are good. We like trains. Trains are marvellous.

But in Britain our idea of a good train is “runs on time, doesn’t smell of wee, possibly has a spare seat”. Our national rail ambition has been battered by years of this crap: the most exciting we can hope for is to catch sight of the Orient Express as it flashes through a station, or a ride on the Settle to Carlisle railway.

Yet in Japan, there are trains dedicated to art and sake and Pokemon. There’s a train with a ball pool, for Christ’s sake.

These trains aren’t usually part of the ‘real’ timetable (that is, they don’t show up in the regular searches), and sometimes only run on specific days, they do still run proper routes. The Tohoku Emotion, for instance (all about dining; one car is an open kitchen) runs between Hachinohe and Kuji, adding a direct train between those cities in an otherwise annoying two hour gap.


Cost is, of course, another issue. It’s not possible to book many of these trains outside Japan so prices are tricky to come by, and some of the dining packages on offer will obviously involve laying down some hefty yen.

That said, the Kawasemi Yamasemi, an exquisitely decorated train that runs three times every day direct between Kumamoto and Hitoyoshi in central Kyushu, costs about the same as travelling between the two on the bullet train (it’s faster too, because it’s direct). And I’m happy to bet the farm that any of these trains will cost a damn sight less than Japan’s newest, shiniest novelty train – and probably be more fun.

So without further ado, here are some of the best – and this really is what they’re called – Joyful Trains in Japan.

Pokémon with YOU

Yes, there really is a Pokémon train. Introduced in Tohoku to cheer up – and raise money for – the region’s children after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the service runs between Ichinoseki and Kesennuma stations, and if Niantic hasn’t worked out a way to put special Pokémon Go characters at each station, it’s missing a trick. There’s a playroom with big Snorlax cushions, the Drilbur Tunnel and real life Poké balls. And, as far as we can tell, a seat costs less than a fiver.

Oh, and because it’s run by JR East, you can do a Google Street View walkthrough of the whole train, which are available for many of the company’s Joyful Trains. Japan. Is. Awesome.

Image: Google Street View.

Tama-Den

If cute character-themed trains are your thing, then you should also check out the Tama-Den which runs on the Wakayama Electric Railway’s Kishigawa line. Tama, you may recall, was a calico cat who became feted as a stationmaster, and elevated into a goddess when she died in 2015. (Her replacement, Tama II, works a five day week at Kishi station.) The Tama-Den is covered in drawings of her. And you thought your cat was spoiled.

Meow? Image: as365n2/Flickr/creative commons.

The same company also runs the Omo-den, which is all about toys and has cash-guzzling capsule toy vending machines on board.

Aso Boy!

Where there’s a cat train, there must also be a dog. Aso Boy! usually takes you past the caldera of Mount Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan, but since the Kumamoto earthquake the route is altered.

 But even with the lack of its main scenic draw, this is still a top train because it features the cutest of all Japan’s regional mascots. Kuro is JR Kyushu’s yuru-chara and the damnably adorable dog gets everywhere. It’s one-up on the Tama-Den because you can buy Kuro-themed food and souvenirs, and this is the train with the ball pool.

The balls are wooden though. Ouch.

On board Aso Boy! Image: Jill Chen/Flickr/creative commons.

Genbi Shinkansen

The bullet train is cool enough, but this one is decorated inside and out with the work of eight modern artists. Running between Niigata and Echigo-Yuzawa, the Genbi Shinkansen reckons it’s the world’s fastest art experience. With a journey time of just under an hour, works range from standard wall-mounted paintings to art that’s literally part of the furniture.

Images: ©Mika Ninagawa, used courtesy of Tomio Koyama Gallery.

SL Ginga

Not only is this train hauled by a steam locomotive, it has a freaking planetarium on board. It’s inspired by children’s author Kenji Miyazawa’s book Night on the Galactic Railroad which is set in the early 20th century, and the decor is meant to echo that era. There are galleries devoted to Miyazawa’s life, and the train runs between Hanamaki – where he was from – and Kamaishi.

Image: Google Street View.

FruiTea Fukushima

The whole of Fukushima province has been tainted by association with its namesake nuclear power plant, which is deeply unfair as it’s a gorgeous part of the country.

To drum up tourism, the FruiTea train went into service a couple of years ago on the standard line connecting Koriyama to Aizu-Wakamatsu, a castle-and-samurai town. There are several Joyful Trains dedicated to eating and drinking, but this one deserves a mention because its locally produced fruit snacks and drinks deserve wider recognition. As does the area.

Here’s your Google Street View walkthrough:

Image: Google Street View.

Shu*Kura

There are three Shu*Kura trains, all departing from Joetsumyoko but with different destinations. This is another train dedicated to eating and, well... drinking.

Niigata Prefecture claims to brew the finest sake in the world, and this three car service showcases the best of them. It also has live music and snacks, but the point here is that you can stand at a sake cask-themed bar and get tiddly without anyone judging you, like they would for that M&S prosecco.

And check out the lights on that thing.

Image: Google Street View.

Toreiyu Tsubasa

This is the train to catch if you want to go full Japan. Most of the cars don’t have seats, they have tatami mats and low tables instead, billed as a ‘conversation space’.

There’s another tatami car designed as more of a lounge for people after they’ve used the footbath. Yes, you did read that correctly. A footbath. You’re not going to want your shoes with all this tatami anyway, and it’s a unique way to view the scenery between Fukushima and Shinjo.

Image: Google Street View.

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