Legitimacy of Queen Victoria
The parentage of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom has been the subject of speculation.
Succession crisis 
Princess Charlotte of Wales was the only daughter and heir of the Prince Regent (later King George IV). Her death in childbirth in 1817 set off a race between the Prince Regent's brothers, the seven surviving sons of King George III, to see who could father a legitimate heir. Some of the brothers had been previously involved in scandals. Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, the second in line to the throne, was amicably separated from his wife, Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia. The sixth son, Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, had contracted two marriages in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act 1772 (as had the Prince Regent before his marriage to Charlotte's mother). Three brothers, the third, fourth and seventh in line to the throne, married in 1818: Prince William, Duke of Clarence; Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn; and Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge. The fifth son, Prince Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, was already married.
The Duke of Clarence married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen. Though he had been able to father ten illegitimate children with an earlier mistress, none of his children by his wife survived childhood. The second daughter, Elizabeth, lived the longest, being born on 10 December 1820 and dying on 4 March 1821. The next son to produce an heir was the Duke of Cambridge, whose son George was born on 26 March 1819. He would be displaced two months later by the birth of a daughter to the Duke of Kent and his wife. Their first and only child was called Princess Alexandrina Victoria but was known to her family as "Drina". She was born on 24 May 1819, just three days before the son of the Duke of Cumberland, also called George.
Both George III and the Duke of Kent died in January 1820. The Prince Regent became George IV and Drina was third in line to the throne after her uncles, the Duke of York and Duke of Clarence (the future William IV). She would ultimately take the throne as Queen Victoria in 1837.
Rumours about Victoria's parentage centred on a controversial Irish soldier and adventurer called John Conroy who was her mother's private secretary and the comptroller of her household. The Duchess of Kent was the same age as Conroy, whereas she was nineteen years younger than her husband; the court gossiped openly about their relationship. After the Duke's death Conroy assumed a parental role towards Victoria that she bitterly resented. This caused a near permanent rift between Victoria and her mother, as well as between the Duchess and her brother-in-law, William IV. Conroy expected that when Victoria became queen he would be made her private secretary, but instead one of her first acts as monarch was to dismiss him from her household.
The belief that the Duchess and Conroy were lovers was widespread. When asked by Charles Greville whether he believed they were lovers, the Duke of Wellington replied that he "supposed so". The Duke later recounted a story, suspected to have come directly from Victoria: according to him, when Victoria was young she had caught Conroy and the Duchess engaged in what were diplomatically called 'familiarities'. Horrified, she told her governess, Baroness Louise Lehzen, what she had witnessed. Lehzen in turn told her close ally, Madame de Späth, who confronted the Duchess about her behaviour. The Duchess of Kent was furious and promptly dismissed de Späth. She could not, however, dismiss the Baroness, who was protected by George IV and later William IV. Regardless, dismissing de Späth had already strained relations between the Duchess and her daughter, dismissing Lehzen could have created an irreparable breach.
Two pieces of evidence are sometimes mentioned to suggest that Victoria's father could not have been the Duke of Kent:
- The sudden appearance of hæmophilia in the descendents of Victoria. The illness was not known to exist in the royal family before.
- The supposed disappearance of porphyria from the descendants of Victoria.
Both arguments can be countered. Since hæmophilia is X-linked, in order for a father to transmit it he must have the condition himself, but Conroy was healthy. Nor is there evidence of hæmophilia in either Conroy's ancestors or descendants. While hæmophilia is usually inherited from the mother, in this case it is likely that the mutation arose spontaneously because the Duke of Kent was in his 50s when Victoria was conceived; Hæmophilia arises more frequently in the children of older fathers, and spontaneous mutations account for about 30% of cases.
With regard to porphyria (which famously George III may have had), it may have continued among descendants of Victoria. One of her granddaughters, Charlotte, Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen, is strongly suspected of having suffered from it. In the 1970s, Prince William of Gloucester, who was killed in an aeroplane crash, was supposedly diagnosed with variegate porphyria by three different specialists. However, William was also descended from Victoria's uncle (if the Duke of Kent was indeed her true father) and seventh son of George III, the Duke of Cambridge (via Queen Mary, George V's consort), and could have inherited it from him, whilst Charlotte, on her father's side, was also descended from George III's great-grandfather, George I, who in turn was descended from two Stuart monarchs, James VI and I and Mary, Queen of Scots, who are both conjectured to have suffered from the disease and, if so, may have passed it on to their descendants.
The belief that Victoria may have been Conroy's daughter has been generally dismissed by historians as a legend based solely on rumour and innuendo, often from sources hostile to the House of Hanover. One recent writer, A. N. Wilson, has given the claim some credence though, an action criticised in book reviews by his peers. Legitimacy doubts have been a common feature throughout the history of the British Royal Family and its predecessors and the only way to dispel them for certain is through DNA testing.
- McKusick, Victor A. (1965) "The Royal Hemophilia", Scientific American, vol. 213, p. 91; Jones, Steve (1993) The Language of the Genes, London: HarperCollins, ISBN 0-00-255020-2, p. 69; Jones, Steve (1996) In The Blood: God, Genes and Destiny, London: HarperCollins, ISBN 0-00-255511-5, p. 270; Rushton, Alan R. (2008) Royal Maladies: Inherited Diseases in the Royal Houses of Europe, Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford, ISBN 1-4251-6810-8, pp. 31–32
- Hemophilia B (Factor IX), National Hemophilia Foundation, 2006, retrieved 20 June 2010
- Röhl, John C. G.; Warren, Martin; Hunt, David (1998) Purple Secret: Genes, "Madness" and the Royal Houses of Europe, London: Bantam Press, ISBN 0-593-04148-8
- A. N. Wilson, The Victorians (Arrow, 2003). ISBN 0-09-945186-7 While his book was well received, his claims about Victoria's parentage were not and were the subject of critical reviews.
Further reading 
- Katherine Hudson, A Royal Conflict: Sir John Conroy & the Young Victoria (Hodder & Stoughton, 1994)