Cracroft's Peerage
The Complete Guide to the British Peerage & Baronetage

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Seize Quartiers of the Kings and Queens of Great Britain



The Royal Arms of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland


A New Dictionary of Heraldry has this to say about seize quartiers:


"A European phenomenon (though more often encountered in text books than in practice), proof of seize quartiers (i.e. that all sixteen of an armiger's great-great-grandparents were entitled to bear arms in their own right) was sometimes proposed as a means of defining genuine ancestry, 'true blood' and, therefore, undisputed gentility. The principle was considered to be of some importance in German armory but, fortunately, has always been regarded with great suspicion in Britain where instances of genuine seize quartiers are rare."


This is putting it mildly. Perhaps because of the general fluidity of the British class system, it is not always easy to draw up seize quartiers for members of the British Peerage, although my recent research has shown that there might be more provable seize quartiers than I had first thought. Two of the most well-known published seize quartiers are the one for the 6th Duke of Leinster in Fox-Davies's A Complete Guide to Heraldry and the one for the 8th Duke of Buccleuch (brother of HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester) in Moncreiffe & Pottinger's Simple Heraldry. It is unfortunate that the latter contains a minor error in that the 8th Duke of Buccleuch descends from the second wife of the 6th Duke of Bedford, Lady Georgiana Gordon, not his first wife, Hon Georgiana Byng. A seize quartiers for another peer, the late 17th Duke of Norfolk, shows that not every line has to be titled to complete the scheme of quarterings.


Turning to the Royal Family, when seize quartiers are drawn up for our Kings and Queens they can show interesting relationships and descents. The following is a series of seize quartiers relating to the Royal Family since 1154:



Whilst not members of the Royal Family, we have included the following seize quartiers as being of particular interest:

These three tables were the result of research the Editor carried out for The Times newspaper.


When Mr Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010 The Times asked me if he was the most aristocratic Prime Minister in recent years. Certainly with his illegitimate descent from King William IV, which makes him a fifth cousin twice removed to HM The Queen through their common ancestor King George III (and also a fifteenth cousin once removed through their common ancestor King Henry VII), and his other connections through the Dukes of Somerset, he is certainly the most well-connected Prime Minister since Sir Alec Douglas-Home (formerly Earl of Home).


Research into the ancestry of his wife, the former Samantha Sheffield, showed three illegitimate lines of descent from King Charles II, one through her father and two through her mother. The research showed that Samantha was related to her husband in 109 different ways, ranging from 10th cousins once removed through their common ancestor the 4th Earl of Southampton to 21st cousins once removed through their common ancestor King Edward III. Mrs Cameron is also an eleventh cousin of HM The Queen. English Royal descents notwithstanding, one of the really interesting aspects of Mrs Cameron's ancestry is her descent through her Dutch great-grandmother from the Counts of Limburg, giving her connections with many of the leading families of the former Holy Roman Empire.


The research into Boris Johnson's ancestry was carried out about a year before the BBC's Who Do You Think You Are had Mr Johnson as one of their "subjects". His descent from King George II through an illegitimate daughter of the Royal House of Wurttemberg is certainly unusual. This descent makes the Mayor of London and the Prime Minister eighth cousins, which is probably too distant to have any particular influence on their sometime tetchy political relationship!

Carrying on the political theme, Ms Rudd's ancestry was only pointed out to me recently by a reporter from The Mail on Sunday. Ms Rudd has the almost obligatory descent (for senior Conservative ministers, that is) from King Charles II. Hers is through the Barrett-Lennard baronets and the Lords Dacre. Her mother is the great-grandaughter of a highly respected Law Lord, Lord Fitzgerald of Kilmarnock. Both her mother's grandfather and father were eminent barristers. Ms Rudd also descends through the St Aubyn and Barrett-Lennard families from Rt Hon Sir William Morice MP, who was Secretary of State for the North between 1660 and 1668.


Perhaps at this stage (and as can be seen there is still a lot of work to be done on Ms Rudd's parternal ancestry), the most interesting part of Ms Rudd's ancestry is through her maternal grandmother, Christina Evangeline Bradhurst. Born in 1894, she was the daughter of Augustus Maunsell Bradhurst, an American emigré who lived the life of the English country gentleman to the full, marrying the granddaughter of a baronet and marrying only child into the upper rank of British society. Augustus was born in the United States in 1868, and descended in the male line from a well known New England family who are placed amongst the earliest colonists. One of Augustus's distinguished ancestors was Hon Thomas Pell, of Pelham Manor, Westchester County, New York. He married Anna, the daughter of Wampage, Sachem or Chief of the Siwanoy Indians, by Susanna Hutchinson (1633 - 1713). Susanna had been captured in a raid on the Rhode Island colony by the Siwanoys, where her father, William Hutchinson, was Governor. It is said that when her family tried to rescue her, she refused to leave and insisted on staying with Wampage!

These two tables show some of the close connections between the relatively small number of aristocratic English Roman Catholic families (often referred to as the recusant families on account of the number of fines they received for recusancy, i.e. non-conformation with the Established Church of England). Both tables show an illegitimate descent from King Charles II through the Lee family.

The outstanding point of interest from a study of the Scottish peerage families is how much they tended to choose wives and husbands from other peerage or baronetage families. This often led to marriages between third, second or even first cousins. The ancestry of Lady Clementina Fleming illustrates both these points. Her sixteen great-great-grandparents comprise: one marquess, two daughters of marquesses, seven earls, five daughters of earls, and one daughter of a Lord of Parliament


Even though Mr Tindall had married a granddaughter of the Queen, I traced his sixteen great-great-grandparents more as a reaction to being told it could not be done. As suspected the table shows that the Tindalls were solid Yorkshire stock, living in Skipton for five generations and having their origins in Ledsham, a village near Leeds and close to the Great North Road.


Both these ladies are "gateway" ancestors, as they provide the English families they married into with interesting Continental descents.


Doña Sancha, who was part of the group of young Castilian ladies of aristocratic birth who accompanied Princess Constance of Castile when she came to England in 1371 to marry John "of Gaunt", Duke of Lancaster, married Sir Walter Blount, of Sodington, co. Worcester, in about 1373. She gives her many English descendants descents from some of the leading families of medieval Spain as well as a royal descent from the Kings of Castile & Leon.


Charlotte de la Trémoille was the daughter of a French nobleman, the Duke of Thouars. Her mother was a Princess of Nassau & Orange and she herself was the first cousin of William II, Stadtholder of the Netherlands, the father of the future King William III. Charlotte married the 7th Earl of Derby in 1626 and she is principally remembered for her spirited defence, in her husband's absence, of Lathom House in 1644, when it was put to siege by Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War. Her ancestry has royal descents from the Kings of Naples, the Dukes of Savoy and several from the House of Bourbon.


Last updated 16 Mar 2014



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