Friday, 28 October 2011

She didn't reign over us - but what if?

So the Commonwealth heads of state have agreed to end the system of male primogeniture. It will not be retrospective therefore the Princess Royal will sadly not shoot up the Royal succession charts from number 10 back to number 4, the position she last held the moment before Prince William was born. However, as the historian it does make me look at what would have happened if the rule change had come in earlier, here are  three important turning points in history if things had been different.

It is 1509 and Henry VII lies dying from tuberculous, his eldest surviving child Margaret is making the journey south from her husband James IV's Kingdom to be at her father's side. Her first son James had died the year before and she is currently early in the pregnancy of her second son Arthur who will be named after her late brother. Her 18 year old brother Henry rides to meet her at York and escort her to Richmond where their father lies dying. She arrives just in time to be beside her father. See is crowned Queen Margaret in Westminster Abbey by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but her husband ordered that the Stone of Destiny be transported from Scone and placed into a specially designed throne so that he could sit beside her. The infant Prince Arthur was sadly to die months after being present at his mother's coronation. But she was to bear another son James who would be King James I of England and V of Scotland. Under her reign the UK remained a Catholic nation but was to become a tolerant society for the reformation that swept Europe in the reigns of her descendants.

Her brother Henry married their brother Arthur's widow Catherine of Aragon, but when he grew tired of her in 1533 after she only bore the Duke of York a daughter Mary, the Queen refused to have him annul his marriage. He took a series of mistresses, first Anne Boleyn with who he had an illegitimate daughter Elizabeth. Catherine died in 1536 and the Prince remarried to Jane Seymour who bore him a son Edward but she died in childbirth. He found a third wife in Anne of Cleeves but she was not as attractive as her portrait portrayed her but again the Queen refused to annul the marriage. He took in turn two more mistresses Catherine Howard, the cousin of his previous mistress Anne Boleyn, and Catherine Parr who it is said he was most happy with.

Scenario one After Henry VII, Queen Margaret I (Apr 1509- Oct 1541), James I of England and V of Scotland (Oct 1541- Dec 1542), Queen Mary (Dec 1542- Mar 1602*), King James II and VI of Scotland, Queen Elizabeth I (Mar 1925- Feb 1662), King Charles I (see below) ( Feb 1662- Aug 1680), King Charles II (Aug 1860- May 1865), Queen Elizabeth II (May 1865- Dec 1722), King Philip I (Dec 1722- Dec 1723), Queen Louise I (Dec 1723- Feb 1743), Queen Charlotte (Feb 1743- Jan 1761), King Louis (Jan 1761- May 1768), Queen Louise II (May 1768- Jun 1821), King Louis Philippe I of UK and France (Jun 1821- Aug 1850), King Philip II (Aug 1850- Sep 1894), Queen Amelie (Sep 1894- Oct 1951), Queen Margaret II (Oct 1951 - Present)
The woman who's diamond Jubilee we could have been celebrating on Tuesday

Elizabeth II?
Suppose instead the change was brought in my either Mary or Elizabeth after they succeeded their father Henry VIII and brother Edward VI. In 1625 James I of England and VI of Scotland dies and his daughter Elizabeth become Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen had married some 12 years earlier Frederick V, Elector Palatine. After almost 37 years on the throne dies in 1662 leaving her son already reigning for 30 years as Karl I Ludwig to assume the throne of England as Charles I, who reigns benevolently for 18 years as he is ruling the United Kingdom and is not a focus for opposition forces there is no Civil War. In 1680 he is succeeded by his son as Charles II sadly Charles II's marriage to Princess Wilhelmina Ernestina of Denmark is childless when he dies five years into his reign to be succeeded by his sister as Elizabeth III, who was married to the younger brother of the King of  France.
Scenario two after James I, Queen Elizabeth II (Mar 1925- Feb 1662), King Charles I (see above) ( Feb 1662- Aug 1680), King Charles II (Aug 1860- May 1865), Queen Elizabeth III (May 1865- Dec 1722), King Philip II** (Dec 1722- Dec 1723), Queen Louise I (Dec 1723- Feb 1743), Queen Charlotte (Feb 1743- Jan 1761), King Louis (Jan 1761- May 1768), Queen Louise II (May 1768- Jun 1821), King Louis Philippe I of UK and France (Jun 1821- Aug 1850), King Philip III (Aug 1850- Sep 1894), Queen Amelie (Sep 1894- Oct 1951), Queen Margaret (Oct 1951 - Present)

Queen Victoria II?
Finally in 1901 when Queen Victoria I died her daughter the German Empress Frederick becomes Queen Victoria II and her son  Wilhelm II becomes heir apparent. The Queen moves for an act of Parliament to co-join the two Empires allowing her eldest son to succeed her, which the Marquess of Salisbury delivers in person for Royal Ascent just before the summer recess. However, within weeks of the Royal Succession Act of 1901 passing into the Queen dies on 5 August and the House of Hohenzollern-Saxe-Coburg-Gotha are in mourning for a second time in seven months. The Emperor rules Germany and the UK until 4 June 1941 just before the celebration to mark the 40th anniversary of the Royal Succession Act (1901) and his own reign in the UK. However he did extend his Empire after winning the Great War of 1914-16. Annexing France and Poland. He is recognised by Tsar Nicholas II and Emperor Charles of Austria-Hungary as Holy Roman Emperor. However, Nicholas is deposed by a communist uprising in 1921 the same year that William II of Germany and V of the United Kingdom declares an independent Ireland.

Scenario three  after Victoria, Queen Victoria II (Jan-Aug 1901), King William V (Aug 1901-Jun 1941), King William VI (Jun 1941-July 1951), Queen Felicitas (July 1951- Aug 2009), Queen Frederica (2009-present)

All three of these ladies were the oldest surviving child when their reigning parent died and as you can see there are interesting twists to history that would have been the outcome, not just to the history of the Royal Family but to the UK and Europe as a whole.

* Of course without Elizabeth being a legitimate threat to the Mary she is not executed and lives to the age of 60.
** Of course Queen Mary Henry VIII's daughter married Philip of Spain and her titles were his for the term of their marriage, making him King Philip of England, hence in this time like the first Philip who is an heir has the second regnal number.

Further reading If you like slants on actual geo-political history I can recommend Prime Minister Portillo: and Other Things that Never Happened (2004) edited by Duncan Brack and Iain Dale. But I also have just  seen there are follow ups also edited by Duncan of counter factuals President Gore: and Other Things that Never Happened and Prime Minister Boris: and Other Things that Never Happened. I'm sure a fourth volume will have to include will have to include a chapter, if not be the title "Queen Victoria II: and Other Things that Never Happened" looking at the issue of gender neutral primogeniture well Duncan you know where you can find me to contribute that chapter.


  1. Oh that is very, very naughty. But bloody brilliant! Bravo!

  2. All based on facts and what happened when certain people weren't also on the throne of England ;-)

  3. That girls are now also able to become non-elected rulers isn't really anything to celebrate: