The Complete Guide to the British Peerage & Baronetage
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The Royal Family
HM Queen Elizabeth II - Fourth Sovereign of the House of Windsor
The House of Normandy (1066 - 1154)
The Early House of Plantagenet (1154 - 1327)
The Later House of Plantagent (1327 - 1485)
The House of Tudor (1485 - 1603)
The House of Stuart (1603 - 1714)
The House of Hanover (1714 - 1901)
The House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha later Windsor (1901 - )
The Early Scottish Kings (1034 - 1371)
The Later Scottish Kings (1371 - 1603)
Since 1066 Britain has had one Royal Family. From time to time the Crown has passed through daughters and the current ruling house has changed (thus we have the House of Normandy, the House of Anjou or Plantagenet, the House of Tudor, the House of Stuart, etc.) but all our Kings and Queens can show a descent from the first Norman king, William "the Conqueror, who reigned between 1066 and 1087. Through his daughter-in-law, Queen Matilda, the Kings and Queens from Henry II onwards can also show a descent from the ancient Saxon Kings of England.
Both England and Scotland have followed the tradition of allowing daughters to inherit the Throne in preference to junior male heirs. On the Continent the reverse often applied (i.e. male heirs inherited in preference to more senior female heirs) and it was the application of the so called "Salic Law" that, for example, caused Hanover to become a separate kingdom from Great Britain in 1837, when Queen Victoria inherited the Throne of the United Kingdom but that of Hanover went to her late father's younger brother.
As can be seen from the above articles, the family relationships between members of the Royal Family were often complex, with first and second cousin marriages being far from exceptional (although we have never gone as far as the "uncle-niece" marriages that occasionally happened in the Royal Houses of Spain and Austria). Down through the Middle Ages and to the end of the Tudor period the Royal Family frequently intermarried with peerage families. It was only with the ascent of King James VI & I that the concept of the Royal Families of this and other nations as a "Royal Caste" took hold in Britain. Indeed the rigid rule of "royals marrying royals" for senior members of the Royal Family was only broken in 1871, when Princess Louise, 4th daughter of Queen Victoria, married Lord John Campbell, styled Marquess of Lorne, who later became the 9th Duke of Argyll.
A large number of the Reigning and former Reigning Royal Houses of Europe can show a descent from Queen Victoria and all of them with the exception of the Grimaldis of Monaco can show a descent from King James I & VI. Through the interwoven and complex royal "cousinage" Queen Elizabeth II can show close relationships with the Royal Families of Europe as well as more exotic lines of descent from El Cid, Vlad "the Impaler" (the prototype for Count Dracula), the Emperor Charlemagne, Genghis Khan, the Byzantine Emperors, and the Ummayad Caliphs of Islam. She can also show through her late mother a relationship to George Washington, First President of the USA and to General Robert E Lee, the famous American general.
Last updated 24 Mar 2003
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