The British Royal family is a melting pot of nationalities, cultures and dynasties. Their relations can be traced to many areas of the world and to different historical periods. This article will give a brief overview of some of the major, and more interesting, ethnicities in the British Royal family.
The first monarch to use the title ‘King of England’ was Alfred of Wessex 849-899. Emma of Normandy married into both the House of Wessex and to their Danish successors. This fusion of Swedish, Danish and French dynasties fought over the throne until 1066 and the introduction of William the Conqueror. His House of Normandy ruled until 1135, marrying into Scotland, presenting the 12th century as a precursor to the 1603 union of the Scottish and English thrones.
The French Houses’ of Blois, Anjou and Plantagenet ruled until 1399 when Richard II died childless. The throne was contested by the English branches of the Plantagenet House, Lancaster and York, until 1485. The figures involved were drawn from France, Scotland, Luxembourg, Burgundy and Antwerp.
These multi-ethnic claims manifested in the victory of the House of Tudor under Henry VII, of Welsh, French and English descent. His grandchildren, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, were descended from English, Spanish and French backgrounds respectively.
On the death of Elizabeth I, James VI of Scotland became James I of England. His grandmother was from the French House of Guise; a powerful family related to the Houses’ of Loraine and Anjou. This illustrates the complex ties of royal families in early modern Europe and the resulting dynastic wars.
The House of Stuart continued after the English civil war through William III of Orange, the sovereign Prince of Orange in the Dutch Republic but also a grandson of Charles I. His English wife, Mary II, was the daughter of James II and the niece of Charles II.
Due to the 1701 Act of Settlement excluding Roman Catholics from the throne, George I of the House of Hanover, was the next in line to the British throne in 1714. He was related through his mother to James I.
Queen Victoria was the last Hanoverian monarch; her children married into families as far as Russia, earning her the title ‘the grandmother of Europe’. Her son, Edward VII, inherited his father’s House, that of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, but changed this to ‘Windsor’ in 1917 due to WWI anti-German sentiment. But German was not the only non-English ethnicity. George V had a Danish mother while Edward VIII and George VI had Croatian ancestry through their mother.
The current queen, Elizabeth II, was born to English parents. However, her family tree illustrates that there is far more to her ancestry than these two closest relatives.