Wednesday, 2 July 2014

How British Is The Queen?

We've all heard it said; "the Royal Family aren't really British, they're German." Ignorant republicans with a very limited understanding of British history and the genealogy of the House of Windsor love repeating this line, especially as a counter-argument to monarchists' claims that the monarchy is a key symbol of British culture and identity. Of course, the truth is that the Royal Family are partially of German descent; the current crop of royals are descended from His Royal Highness Albert, the Prince Consort, consort to Queen Victoria and Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. His son, Edward VII, was of his house and therefore a Saxe-Coburg and Gotha himself, as was George V until he changed the name of the royal house to "Windsor" by royal edict during the First World War in response to high anti-German sentiment. But Prince Albert was the last truly German member of the Royal Family, and he died in 1861! Every monarch since has been born on British soil.

Sophia, Electress of Hanover,
George I's mother
Still, when people attempt to claim that the Royal Family "aren't really British," it is not poor old Prince Albert who they pick on. The insistence of some republicans is that in 1714, following the death of Anne, Queen of Great Britain, Parliament found some random Protestant German noble family and imported itself a new Protestant monarch to be King. Therefore, the House of Hanover was simply a "German export" and all descendants of George I are really "German." Firstly, it must be said that many of these people would have a field day if you tried to say that, say, a third-generation Indian immigrant to the UK, who was born in Britain but is entirely of Indian descent, was not really British but Indian. Yet they insist, much like the British National Party who infamously proclaimed that anyone whose ancestors migrated to the UK after 1066 were not entitled to be here, that the family of a German immigrant who arrived in 1714 and have since married into the native population and adopted the English language and British culture are nonetheless not really British but German. It beggars belief.

Alfred the Great of Wessex, first
Kingof the Anglo-Saxons
Secondly, George I was not simply some random German Protestant nobleman. He was only able to claim the throne because he was a descendant of King James VI and I through his daughter, Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia, who was George's grandmother. So the Queen is in fact a descendant of the House of Stuart, and through James, can trace her descent back to Henry VII of England whose daughter Margaret was the Queen of James IV, King of Scots (my avatar), and so mother of King James V. And through Henry VII, our current Queen can trace her descent all the way back to William the Conqueror. Not only that, but the Queen is also descended from Matilda of Scotland, Henry I's queen, through their daughter the Holy Roman Empress Matilda and her son, King Henry II. This is significant because Queen Matilda's mother, Saint Margaret of Scotland, was the granddaughter of Edmund Ironside, one of the Anglo-Saxon Kings of England and a member of England's first royal house, the House of Wessex. This makes the Queen a descendant of none other than Alfred the Great.

So the Queen has a fairly sound claim to the English throne. But what about her Scottish credentials? Well, the first Stuart (or Stewart) King of Scots was Robert II, from whom James IV, and so the Queen, was descended. Robert II took the throne of Scotland in 1371 after the death of King David II, the last of the House of Bruce. Robert's claim to the throne was through his descent from Robert I- the famous Robert the Bruce who defeated the English at Bannockburn- whose daughter Marjorie
Kenneth MacAlpin, according
tolegend the first King of Scots
was Robert II's mother. So the Queen is descended from Robert the Bruce. The Bruce himself was able to claim the throne of Scotland because he was a fourth great-grandson of King David I of the Royal House of Dunkeld. The House of Dunkeld was founded by King Duncan I of Scotland- the very same Duncan killed by Macbeth, although the historical Duncan was a young man slain in battle against Macbeth's army, not an elderly king murdered in his sleep. Duncan was the grandson of Malcolm II of Scotland (Máel Coluim mac Cináeda or Malcom, Son of Kenneth in medieval Gaelic), who was the last King of Scots from the House of Alpin, and a descendant of none other than King Kenneth MacAlpin (Cináed mac Ailpín), the semi-legendary founder of Scotland who united the Scots and the Picts in the 9th century AD to found the Kingdom of Alba.

So, our "foreign" Queen is in fact the descendant of both the semi-legendary first King of Scotland and the semi-legendary first King of England. A German import, indeed.

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