On 21st April, 2016, HM Queen Elizabeth II turns 90. She is descended from many illustrious figures, and can trace her ancestry back to Charlemagne, Hugh Capet, William the Conqueror, St Louis IX, the Emperor Maximilian I, and the Catholic Kings, Ferdinand and Isabella, amongst others.
Statistically, if your grandparents were born in Europe before the First World War, you are almost certainly descended from Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor, crowned on Christmas Day in the year 800. There are around 38 generations between Charlemagne and the present, which means, if there were no intermarriage between your ancestors, you would have 2 to the power of 38 individual progenitors in 800 AD – that is some 274 billion (yes, billion) people at a time when the world population has been estimated at around 240m. (Figure from the History Database of the Global Environment, published by Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency 2007)
For most of us, however, this is merely a statistical quirk, and, unless we are lucky with our family tree research, we run into the sand in the mid-sixteenth century, before which time Parish Registers did not have to be kept.If we have linked into a family that was prominent by that time, we can boast of being descended from Charlemagne, from William the Conqueror, from Robert the Bruce or Hugh Capet. Otherwise, we are just peasants…
For The Queen, of course, genealogy and history are practically the same thing. The vast majority of the branches of her family tree can be traced back for many generations, although her maternal line (mother’s mother’s mother and so on) peters out in the mid-eighteenth century with Mary Garritt, the wife of a Land Surveyor of Stow-on-the-Wold. We have summarised fifteen interesting snippets about the Queen’s family tree here.
1.She is descended from two of the sons of Charlemagne who succeeded him in lands and power – Pepin, King of the Lombards and Louis the Pious, Holy Roman Emperor.
2. The descent from Pepin passes through Eleanor of Aquitaine to King John’s daughter, Isabella, who was Holy Roman Empress, through her marriage to Frederick II of Hofenstaufen, one of the most celebrated Emperors of the Middle Ages. Isabella’s daughter, Margaret, Queen of Sicily, married Frederick I, Margrave of Meissen, who is HM’s patrilineal ancestor (father’s father’s father etc.)
3. Surprisingly, The Queen is not descended from Charlemagne in her patrilineal line.The earliest known ancestor in her male line (joining the British Royal Family through Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Queen Victoria’s Consort) was Theodoric of Wettin, who lived around 916 – 976.
4. HM’s husband, Prince Philip, although descended from Charlemagne many times over, is also not a patrilineal descendant – instead, his furthest identified male-line ancestor is Maurice of Oldenburg d. 1211.
5. Pepin of the Lombards and Louis the Pious were the 6 and 7 x great-grandfathers of Matilda of Flanders, wife of William the Conqueror. This couple are The Queen’s ancestors numerous times over, through their son, Henry I of England, and their daughter, Adela of Normandy, who married Etienne II, Count of Blois.
6. One of the shortest line of descent from Charlemagne passes through Elizabeth Woodville, Queen of Edward IV. Although her low birth was frowned upon at the time, Elizabeth’s mother, Jacquetta of Luxembourg was a direct descendant of Charlemagne, through Marie of France, the daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and her first husband, Louis VII of France.
7. Lest anyone think that the Tudors were not equally well connected, they too can be woven into the tree – Henry VII’s grandmother, Katherine de Valois, was descended from Charlemagne through Louis VII and his second wife, Adele of Champagne, who were both of the ancient line.
8. It is possible, although not proven, that there was also a link from Owain Tudor.Some genealogies give his great-great-grandmother as Eleanor of Bar, the daughter of Eleanor of England, by her second husband, Henri III, Duke of Bar, and the wife of Llywelyn ab Owain.Llywelyn ab Owain was the 3 x great-grandson of Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Wales, so such a marriage is not impossible.
9. Another illustrious ancestor of The Queen is Hugh Capet, considered the first King of France. His grandmother, Beatrice of Vermandois, gave him the blood of Charlemagne, whilst his grandfather, Robert I of France, was the male descendant of Robert of Hesbaye, the earliest recorded male line progenitor of the Capetian kings who ruled France until the revolution of 1848 (other than during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic years).
10. One of The Queen’s most prolific ancestors was Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor was Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right, a territory that was wealthier and larger than neighbouring France, although she was a vassal of the French king. Orphaned at the age of about 14, Eleanor was soon married to the Dauphin of France, Louis, with the objective of joining her Duchy to the French crown. The young couple became King and Queen of France shortly after their marriage, but were ill-suited. They had two daughters, Marie and Alix, who were married to two brothers, the Counts of Blois and Champagne.
Divorced in 1154, Eleanor speedily married Louis’s great rival, Henry FitzEmpress, Count of Anjou, and soon to be King Henry II of England. Henry and Eleanor had five children who lived to adulthood, although only three of them had grand-children: King John, Matilda, who was married to Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Eleanor who was married to the King of Castile. The Queen is descended from Eleanor through all five of her children who had offspring, several times over.
11. The ancient royal houses of England, Wales and Scotland are all conjoined in the current monarch. The daughter of Alfred the Great, Aelfhryth of Wessex, married Baldwin II, Count of Flanders, from whom Matilda, wife of the Conqueror was descended. Aelfhryth’s niece, Aedgyth, married the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto I, and through her daughter, Liutgarde, was the ancestor of most of the subsequent Emperors, including Maximilian I, Charles V and Ferdinand I. The Queen is the 15 x great-grand-daughter of Maximilian I.
12. The Welsh Princes, Rhys of Deheubarth and Llywelyn the Great, are both her 22 x great-grandfathers via the late Queen-Mother, the first via her descent from William Carey and Mary Boleyn, and the second via her descent from Henry VII.
13. The Queen can lay claim to descent from Kenneth Mac Alpin, King of Scots, through her descent from Malcolm III’s two daughters, Matilda (born Edith), who married Henry I of England, and Mary, Countess of Boulogne, whose descendants were Dukes of Brabant and Counts of St Pol. Jacquetta of Luxembourg (mother of Elizabeth Woodville) is descended from this family, and one of her other daughters, Katherine, is the antecedent of the late Queen Mother via her marriage to Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham.
14. Other Scottish royal descent is straightforward, from Marjorie of Scots’ marriage to Walter the Steward, creating the royal Stewart/Stuart line.
15. And finally, The Queen is descended from the siblings of the first four of Henry VIII’s wives (Juana of Castile, Mary Boleyn, Edward Seymour and Duke Wilhelm of Cleves) as well as from the grandfather of Katheryn Howard (Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk) and the grandmother of Katherine Parr (Elizabeth FitzHugh, by her second marriage to Sir Nicholas Vaux).