Monday, August 18, 2008

Question from Nikki - "Britain's Real Monarch"

I was watching a documentary today titled "Britan's Real Monarch." The documentary claims that the current Queen is not really the true claimant to the throne. This dates back hundreds of years to Edward IV, who was claimed to be a bastard.

Edward IV's birthday was April 28th, which would have put him as being conceived in July or August of the previous year. The problem with that is that Edward's father was in France fighting a war during that time. The royal family tried to claim that Edward was conceived a couple months before Edward's father left, which would make him about 8 weeks overdue. There was a lavish christening celebration for Edward's younger brother, but Edward's christening was very low key.

There were rumors of Edward's mother, Cecily, having an affair, which would put truth to the bastard claim. If this is true, that would mean that Henry VII's wife was not of royal blood, which of course is why he married unite the houses of York and Lancaster. They claim that this would've made Elizabeth and Henry VII both illegitimate, which would of course make the royal bloodline completely different.

In the documentary they traced the royal bloodline as it would have happened if Edward was illegitimate. Margaret, Countess of Saulisbury is the blood line that they follow for the descent, as she would've been the true Plantaganet heir since her brother, Edward, Earl of Warrick, was locked up in The Tower where he died. (We know that Henry had her executed because of her claim to the throne.)

Michael Hastings is claimed to be Britain's current monarch and he lives in Australia. He moved in 1960 when he was 17 and would've been King Michael I. He's a Plantaganet descendant. Interestingly, he's in favor of a republic! Haha you think there's any truth to this? I know this is lengthy but I wanted to give you the background in the documentary.


Anonymous Kelly said...

I don't think its true.

August 18, 2008 3:32 PM  
Anonymous PhD Historian said...

The story makes a great television show, but the notion that Edward VI was "illegitimate" is not supported by either the evidence or the common law of England.

To begin with, under English common law (and incidentally American common law as well), the child of a married woman is legally also the child of that woman's husband, unless the husband publicly challenges paternity. Richard of York always claimed Edward as his own and never denied paternity, therefore Edward was Richard's child under the law.

Edward's mother Cecily was actually in France with her husband, Richard. She was living at the French city of Rouen while Richard was leading troops at Pontoise, a distance of about 50 miles, in the summer of 1441 when Edward was conceived. So it is not as though they were on opposite sides of the Channel. If Richard brought his wife with him to France, he did so in order to have her near him. And if he wanted her near, it is entirely logical that he visited her whenever he could. It is therefore absolutely possible for Edward to have been conceived by his mother's husband. It is unlikely that Cecily had an adulterous affair in France, right under her husband's nose.

Edward and Edmund were both born in Rouen, both while their father was on military campaign. They were born almost 13 months apart. A lot can happen in 13 months. Without first checking into the specific details of Richard's military campaigns, I'd wager anything that the difference in the lavishness of the two christenings can be attributed to Richard's military obligations. If he were in the midst of a major seige or other military maneuver when Edward was born, for example, that could explain why that christening was relatively low key. On the other hand, if he had just won some victory when Edmund was born, that could explain why Edmund's christening was more celebratory. I will leave it to the military historians to investigate Richard's battlefield preoccupations at the time of the two births, however.

Edward's CLAIM to the throne of England was an hereditary one, true enough. And it is also true that a claim based solely in heredity might be compromised by accusations of illegitimacy. But Edward's RIGHT to the throne was by conquest, not heredity. He defeated Henry VI in battle, twice, in order to become King of England. Illegitimacy in a conqueror is not an impediment to the full right to the Crown of England. One need only look to William the Conqueror for incontrovertible evidence of that fact. Other monarchs would go on to take the Crown of England by right of conquest after Edward, most notably Henry VII. Under unwritten English constitutional law, William the Conqueror, Edward IV, and Henry Tudor were each fully and rightfully kings of England by virtue of military conquest and subsequent recognition by the nobility of England, regardless of the legal status of their individual births.

The rumors that Edward was illegitimate did not arise until his throne was challenged. Richard Neville made the accusation in 1469 after having defeated Edward in battle and capturing him. Edward's brother George also made the accusation during his own abortive coup attempt in 1478. And Richard III made the accusation during his own reach for the throne after Edward's death. None were successful, and Richard III eventually changed focus but kept the same tactic when he leveled similar claims of illegitimacy against Edward IV's two sons. In every case, the claim was nothing more than political propaganda.

Edward IV was legally the legitimate child of Richard of York. He was almost certainly also biologically the child of Richard of York. And though his claim to the throne was based in heredity, his right to it was by military conquest and therefore irrefutable.

Lastly, whether or not Elizabeth of York was legitimately born also has no bearing on the hereditary royal bloodline. Though queen consorts are usually of noble or royal blood, they are not always so and there is no English constitutional requirement that they be. Neither Anne Boleyn nor Jane Seymour were of (near) royal blood and neither were born to titled fathers, yet no one today disputes the right of each woman's child to the throne of England. (And even in the absence of the various Acts for the Succession, it is entirely probable that Jane's son Edward VI and Anne's daughter Elizabeth would have succeeded in their turn without significant resistance.)

August 18, 2008 5:05 PM  
Anonymous Nikki said...

I agree about the Queen Consort not having to be of royal blood, I wondered why the documentary even suggested this! It's clear that Queen Consorts after Elizabeth of York weren't royal.

All of your points were the same ones I found on the internet when I googled the subject...the child of a married woman is legally the child of the husband, unless the husband denies paternity...even IF he was illegitimate, he won the right to the throne through battle. What I did not read anywhere was that Cecily was in France with Richard.

I know these types of things makes for good television (hello, the tudors!!) because it's very entertaining, but it's beyond me why they leave out the important stuff!

August 18, 2008 7:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Hastings myself I would like to think it is true...wouldn't be the first time Royals covered up a scandal...

March 05, 2009 5:47 AM  

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