#16: Royal Action!

16.1  In honor of the Royal Wedding, let’s take a peak at the motherlode of genealogical shenanigans, the Royal Houses of Europe. Large families and indiscriminate cross-border inbreeding yield a kaleidoscopic blizzard of kinship komplexities. International? Descendants of Queen Victoria, for example, today populate the Royal Families of Greece, Germany, Norway, Romania, Yugoslavia (as was), Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Spain…in fact, Prince Philip, as Victoria’s the oldest living great great grandchild, is in the line of succession in 16 countries, including Great Britain…at last check I believe he’s #522…Uncle Wiki has a list that goes up to #2398. But then, somebody new may have been born between yesterday and today, shoving Philip down a position…that’s how it works, you see.

16.2  You want inbreeding? Probably the worst case is that of Charles II of Spain. For normal folk, going back 5 generations yields 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents, 16 2G grandparents, and 32 3G grandparents…taken together that’s 62 different individuals. In Charles’ case, it was only 32! Going back 2 more generations, 254 slots were filled by just 82 people! It’s said that his degree of in-breeding was almost double that of a brother-sister union, as impossible as that might sound at first blush. And of course, it took its toll: he had severe physical and emotional defects, and was sterile to boot, leading to the War of Spanish Succession. The technical term is “Pedigree Collapse,” and we’ll get into that one of these times.

16.3  One thing you’ll encounter with alarming frequency…among royals and rabble alike…is uncles marrying their nieces. Right off the bat, such an uncle finds that his brother is now his father-in-law, and his nephew has become his brother-in-law. For the niece, her dear old Granny now does double duty as her mother-in-law…etc., etc. Not for nothing, but Charles II’s father and 2 of his great grandfathers married their  nieces, and genealogically speaking, we’re off to the races.

16.4  Today we’ll look at Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip, and 5 of the ways in which they are blood relatives to each other. Undoubtably there are more, but these will give you the flavor of it. Chart 49 shows the most straightforward relationship, that of 3rd Cousins. And if you collected stamps as a kid, you know all these people already! That green stamp off to the side is Edward VIII, son of George V and older brother of George VI,  the one who abdicated. And that happened so quick, only 3 stamps and no coins bear his image…altho see today’s Wicked Ballsy section.

chart 49

16.5  So here we have Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert*…they are great great grandparents to both Elizabeth and Philip. As you can see, their offspring, siblings Edward VII and Alice are the Royal Pair’s great grandparents…grandparents George V and Victoria are 1st cousins…and parents George VI and Alice are 2nd cousins, making Elizabeth and Philip 3rd cousins. In this and the subsequent charts, actual Sovereigns are in red, all others in black…a black with a Roman numeral was the King or Queen of someplace, just not Britain.

*And no, he wasn’t the pipe tobacco, Prince Albert in a can…that was his son, also Prince Albert, better known to the world as Edward VII.

16.6  While 3rd cousins is the most obvious relationship…just straight up the direct lines to Victoria…the closest relationship between Elizabeth and Philip is 2nd Cousins Once Removed, as shown in Chart 50. Members of the Greek and Danish Royal Houses are indicated by the appropriate flags, all others are British. And as I have done in the past, Philip is highlighted to show where he appears twice. This relationship derives from King Christian IX of Sweden, and you can see that Elizabeth’s father George VI is 2nd cousin to Philip’s mother Alice on one side, and also 2nd cousin to Philip himself on the other side, making Elizabeth and Philip 2nd cousins once removed.

chart 50

16.7  This is a good time to review exactly why 2C 1R is closer than 3C. Recall that a 2C 1R is your father’s 2nd cousin. His son is then your 3rd cousin. In creating that son, a whole new blood-line is brought into the family, namely that of the 3rd cousin’s mother. Thus, whatever the degree of relationship between you and your 2C 1R, your relationship to his son is half that. And it works the other way, too…your relationship to your 2C 1R’s father, who is your 1C 2R (i.e. your grandfather’s 1st cousin) is double that of your relationship to your 2C 1R.

16.8  But here’s where it really gets interesting, because Victoria and Albert, great great grandparents to both Elizabeth and Philip, were 1st cousins to each other! As we see in Chart 51, Brits merged with Germans. Thus, their offspring were both siblings and double 2nd cousins to each other…their grandchildren both 1st and double 3rd cousins…great grandchildren both 2nd and double 4th cousins…and great great grandchildren, like Elizabeth and Philip, both 3rd and double 5th cousins to each other. And any other ways that Victoria and Albert were related, over and above 1st cousins, will trickle down the Family Tree to Elizabeth and Philip as well.

chart 51

16.9  A couple of things about Chart 51…the first is George III…ever heard of him? Right, he was King during the American Revolution. But you’ll also notice that Victoria’s father Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, was not a King…and the way they got from George to Victoria is a story in itself. George III was succeeded by his eldest son George IV. When George IV died without an heir, son No. 2 son Frederick was already dead, and he too had no heir. Thus the Crown descended to William IV, the No. 3 son…mind you, George III had 9 sons and 6 daughters. When William IV died…you guessed it, heirless…No. 4 son Edward was also dead, but his only child, 18-year-old Victoria, wasn’t…so there you go.

16.10  Getting back to Elizabeth and Philip, they are also 4th cousins once removed. In Chart 52, on the left is the familiar direct line from Philip to Victoria, then thru Edward to George III. Elizabeth’s direct line parallels this line, and thus she and Philip are 3rd cousins as we’ve noted. But Elizabeth is also descended from George III by another route, thru George’s son Adolphus. As a result, Elizabeth is the 4th cousin of Philip’s mother Alice, and Philip’s 4C 1R. Are we having fun yet?!

chart 52

16.11  But of course there are 2 sides to every family. Chart 52  traced it back thru Mary Adelaide’s mother Mary of Teck, Elizabeth’s paternal grandmother. If we instead wend our way thru Francis of Teck, Mary of Teck’s father, we come to Ludwig von Württemberg, an esteemed Herzog or Duke, and Philip’s 3G Grandfather, making he and Elizabeth 4th cousins, free and clear, Chart 53.

chart 53

16.12  So how closely are Elizabeth and Philip related? I get of Coefficient of Relationship of 56/2048,  which is closer to 2nd cousins at 64/2048 than to 2nd cousins once removed at 32/2048. Relationships beyond 5th cousins won’t add much, so that’s pretty much where it stands. Time to rummage around in the mailbag.


16.13  Dear Stolf: I’ve heard the postpositive adjectives Consort, Regnant, and Regent applied to the Royals….could you explain what they mean?…from Narcissus in Singapore…

16.14   Not only will I, but I’ll go you one better, and we’ll start with Regnant. This term exists due to the bias in favor of male heirs. It is applied almost exclusively to Queens…it simply means she is Queen by her own hereditary right. True, there were a couple of Kings Regnant way back, when it was found expedient to please all parties concerned with well-chosen technicalities, if you catch my drift. But the general thinking is that the only way you can be King is thru hereditary descent, thus the adjective isn’t necessary. It is necessary for Queens, who can be such thru hereditary or thru marriage…and in the latter case…

16.15   …they are termed a Queen Consort…i.e. partner…altho in practice she will be referred to simply as the Queen. Now the husband of a Queen Regnant is a Prince, altho after 17 years of marriage, Victoria bestowed upon Albert the title of Prince Consort. There is no such thing as a King Consort, owing to the theory that “you cannot make a King.” In fact, Victoria wanted the title “King Consort” for Albert, but was persuaded otherwise, the implication being that a King Consort would be a King who is subordinate to a Queen, which would be considered a Royal no-no, altho that goes right over the heads of us Yanks, nez pah?

16.16  Philip could have been a Prince Consort, but it was felt that the term was so identified with Albert that they’d as soon leave it just with him. But the funny thing is, as hidebound by tradition as this stuff may appear, there’s always room for something new. And that’s “Princess Consort,” a new term devised to apply to Prince Charles’ wife Camilla, if and when he should become King. Again, a neat bit of nitpicking that satisfies the Brits’ sensitivities, given the past histories of all concerned.

16.17  Finally we come to the interesting term Regent. This is a person who is what we might  call an “acting Sovereign,” reigning in one of 3 circumstances: the Sovereign is out of the country for an extended period of time…or is incapacitated either physically or mentally….or is a minor. For England, I have only seen the term used as Prince Regent…for example, for the 9 years prior to George III’s death, his son George IV ruled as Prince Regent, owing to the elder George’s mental illness. A Princess Regent would then simply be the wife of a Prince Regent, altho I have seen Princess Regent used in a literal sense in other countries, when the heir to the throne was a female.

16.18  I said I’d go you one better, and here it is: Royal. As used in the UK, the title Princess Royal is one that is specifically conferred upon, and not automatically inherited by, the Sovereign’s oldest daughter, and it is a title for life. Elizabeth’s daughter Princess Anne was declared such in 1987, at age 37. Elizabeth herself was never a Princess Royal, as the title was held by her grand aunt Mary, the only daughter of George V, from 1932 until her death in 1965, and there can only be one at a time. Prince Royal…as an equivalent of Crown Prince…is used in other countries, but neither term is kosher in Great Britain. The fact that there was once a ship HMS Prince Royal was probably meant in the colloquial sense of “Royal Prince,” not as an official style and title, as they say. Next time, haven’t decided yet…be surprised.

wicked  ballsy…

You philatelists and numismatists don’t have any of these, as they were only in the planning stage when You-Know-Who did you-know-what…but cool to see nonetheless, sez me…


Copyright © 2011 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


2 thoughts on “#16: Royal Action!

  1. Through geneology website, I supposedly have kings in my tree, but at differing levels, for example via one strand a king is my 25th great-grandfather, and he is my 29th great-grandfather via another string. Which is my proper reference to this guy, or are both correct? Also, my spouse has the same king, as a 28th great-grandfather. Is she my 25th cousin 3X removed AND my 29th cousin once removed? Or, what?

    • Your ancestor by 2 different lines is related to you in 2 different ways so both are correct. As to how you are related to your spouse, 29th cousin once removed is correct…the other is 26th cousin 3 times removed. When you’re dealing with 2 different “great” numbers, call the larger one L and the smaller one S. Then the cousin number is S+1 and the removed number is L-S…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s