Endogamy in the British monarchy

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The British royal cousin marriages are considered an example of endogamy, or the practice of marrying within a specific class and social group, often for financial gain or influence in affairs of state. The handful of first-cousin marriages was not out of the norm for their time.

Unknown family relationship[edit]

After the 11th century, in only two cases (those of the first wife of James II and of Edward VIII) is there no known familial relationship. Neither woman was queen consort (one died before her husband became king, and the other married after he abdicated). Both marriages were considered scandalous for their time. The first wife of James II was the only daughter of a wealthy man, but with no pedigree. The marriage did produce two future sovereign queens. Edward VIII married Wallis Simpson, and cited his desire to marry the twice divorced American woman as the reason for his abdication in 1936.

First cousin marriages[edit]

Richard III was portrayed by Shakespeare in Act IV, scene III of the play, "Richard III," as planning to murder his present wife, Anne Neville, and plotting to marry his teenage niece, Elizabeth of York, and stop the Wars of the Roses. However, this proposed marriage seems to have been a rumor that Shakespeare used to make Richard III seem particularly evil, and there have been no marriages in British royalty closer than first cousin.

  1. 1299: The first royal marriage of first cousins once removed was between Edward I of England and his second wife Margaret of France when Edward was age 60.
  2. 1472: The second royal marriage of first cousins once removed was between Richard III of England and Anne Neville. The marriage is famously depicted by Shakespeare as one of the most twisted in all of history. Richard III is depicted as wooing Anne after killing her first husband and her father; and he would take her in her heart's extremest hate, with curses in her mouth, tears in her eyes. This marriage produced one son who died young.
  3. 1554: The next royal marriage of first cousins once removed was between Mary I of England, and the Philip II of Spain. It was one of the most despised relationships in British history. The couple barely saw each other, with Philip spending most of the time in Spain, and after Mary's death, the Spanish king would launch the Spanish Armada against England. There was no issue from this marriage. Their common ancestors were the Catholic Monarchs who were the grandparents of Mary I, and the great grandparents of Phillip II.
  4. 1677: The initial first-cousin marriage (with no generations removed) was the marriage of William III of England and Mary II of England. It was a stable marriage. Their common grandparents were Charles I of England and his wife Henrietta Maria of France.
  5. 1682: The next first-cousin marriage was that of George I of Great Britain and Sophia Dorothea of Celle. It was pre-arranged and ended in divorce 12 years later. The couple hated each other. George had his ex-wife/cousin imprisoned for the last three decades of her life for infidelity. Sophia Dorothea of Hanover, their daughter, married her only first cousin Frederick William I of Prussia. As a result, all the legitimate descendants of Sophia of Hanover, the mother of George I, are identical to the descendants of George I. So the entire line of succession to the British throne is descended from this cousin marriage. There are over 5000 descendants alive in the beginning of the 21st century.
  6. 1795: The pre-arranged marriage of George IV of the United Kingdom to his first cousin Caroline of Brunswick was disastrously unhappy. The couple despised each other and separated shortly after the birth of their only child, Princess Charlotte of Wales. Charlotte later married Leopold I of Belgium and died in childbirth, eventually paving the way for Victoria to succeed to the throne.
  7. 1840: Queen Victoria's marriage to her first cousin Albert, Prince Consort had little strategic and no economic advantage, but was long planned and encouraged by the couple's mutual uncle, Leopold I of Belgium. This marriage produced nine children, 40 grandchildren and more than 1000 total descendants who constitute a sizable portion of the reigning royalty in Europe over the next century and a half. The hereditary disease, haemophilia – which manifested in the couple's children and remoter descendants – is not documentably attributed to inbreeding, nor are there any documented marriages between two haemophilia genetic carriers among the numerous inter-marriages between their descendants.

Of the four first-cousin marriages (no times removed), only the marriage of George I and Sophia Dorothea of Celle was a parallel cousin marriage. The fathers of the couple, George William, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and Ernest Augustus, Elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg, were brothers. Both brothers were alive when George imprisoned his ex-wife. The other three royal-cousin marriages were of cross cousins, where the parents who were siblings were brother and sister.

All marriages of sovereigns[edit]

The table shows the closest cousin relationship (1st, 2nd, 3rd, ...) between the sovereigns and their spouses and the closest common ancestor.

England[edit]

Insufficient information is known concerning the spouses of the Anglo-Saxon and Danish kings of England to enable their relationships, if any, to be determined.

Kings of England
STATUS Monarch Spouse Cousin Generations removed Closest common ancestor [1]
King William the Conqueror Matilda of Flanders 3 1 Fulk II, Count of Anjou
King William II never married ---
King Henry I Beauclerc Matilda of Scotland 5 1 Hugo II of Nordgau
Adeliza of Louvain 4 Mathilde von Sachsen
King Stephen Matilda of Boulogne 4 1 Mathilde von Sachsen
Lady of the English Matilda Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor
not a consort
2 2 Gisela of Swabia
Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou
not a consort
4 1 Richard I, Duke of Normandy
King Henry II Eleanor of Aquitaine 3 Ermengarde of Anjou, Duchess of Burgundy
King
died before father
Henry the Young King Margaret of France 4 Robert I, Duke of Burgundy
King Richard I (Lionheart) Berengaria of Navarre 4 Robert I, Duke of Burgundy
King John I Isabel, Countess of Gloucester
not a consort
2 Henry I of England
Isabella of Angoulême 4 1 Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury
King Henry III Eleanor of Provence 4 Umberto II, Count of Savoy
King Edward I Eleanor of Castile 2 1 Henry II of England
Margaret of France 1 1 Beatrice of Savoy
King Edward II Isabella of France 2 1 Beatrice of Savoy
King Edward III of Windsor Philippa of Hainault 2 Philip III of France
King Richard II Anne of Bohemia 4 Henry III, Duke of Brabant
Isabella of Valois 3 Charles, Count of Valois
King Henry IV of Bolingbroke Mary de Bohun
not a consort
2 Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster
Joan of Navarre 3 Philip IV of France
King Henry V Catherine of Valois 3 1 Charles, Count of Valois
King Henry VI Margaret of Anjou 3 John II of France
King Edward IV Elizabeth Woodville 6 1 Blanche de Brienne, Baroness Tingry
King Edward V murdered as a child ---
King Richard III Anne Neville 1 1 Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland
King Henry VII Elizabeth of York 3 John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster
King Henry VIII Catherine of Aragon 3 1 John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster
Anne Boleyn 5 1 Eleanor of Lancaster
Jane Seymour 5 Philippa, 5th Countess of Ulster
Anne of Cleves 5 Elisabeth of Sicily, Duchess of Bavaria
Catherine Howard 5 1 Eleanor of Lancaster
Catherine Parr 3 1 Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland
King Edward VI never married ---
Queen (unofficial) Lady Jane Grey Lord Guilford Dudley 3 1 Sir Edward Grey, 1st Lord Ferrers (of Groby)
Queen Mary I Philip II of Spain 1 1 Isabella I of Castile
Queen Elizabeth I never married ---

Scotland[edit]

Prior to the 11th century, insufficient information is known of the wives of Scottish kings to allow their relationship to their spouses to be determined.

Monarchy of Scotland
STATUS Monarch Spouse Cousin Generations removed Closest common ancestor
King Malcolm III Ingibiorg Finnsdottir no known relation
Margaret of Wessex no known relation
King Donald III known to have children, no mother mentioned ---
King Duncan II Ethelreda, daughter of Gospatric 2 Crínán of Dunkeld
King Edgar never married ---
King Alexander I Sybilla of Normandy 6 Hugh II, Count of Nordgau
King David I Maud, Countess of Huntingdon no known relation
King Malcolm IV never married ---
King William I the Lion Ermengarde de Beaumont 4 Robert I, Duke of Normandy
King Alexander II Joan of England 3 Henry I of England
Marie de Coucy 3 1 Hugh I, Count of Vermandois
King Alexander III Margaret of England 4 Henry I of England
Yolande of Dreux 4 1 Robert I, Count of Dreux
Queen (unofficial) Margaret, Maid of Norway never married ---
King John Balliol Isabella de Warenne 4 William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey
King Robert the Bruce Isabella of Mar 6 1 Duncan I of Scotland
Elizabeth de Burgh 3 1 William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke
King David II Joan of The Tower 6 Henry I of England
Margaret Drummond no known relation
King Robert II Elizabeth Mure 4 1 William Comyn, Lord of Badenoch
Euphemia de Ross 3 1 William Comyn, Lord of Badenoch
King Robert III Anabella Drummond no known relation
King James I Joan Beaufort 5 1 John Fitzgeoffrey
King James II Mary of Guelders 4 1 William I, Count of Hainaut
King James III Margaret of Denmark 5 Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor
King James IV Margaret Tudor 3 John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset
King James V Madeleine of Valois 3 1 Adolph I, Duke of Cleves
Mary of Guise 3 Arnold, Duke of Guelders
Queen Mary I Francis II of France 3 John VIII, Count of Vendôme
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley 1 Margaret Tudor
James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell 3 1 Joan Beaufort, Queen of Scots

England & Scotland[edit]

Following the accession of James I of Scotland to the English throne, the two crowns were held by the same monarch in personal union.

Monarchs of England and Scotland
STATUS Monarch Spouse Cousin Generations removed Closest common ancestor
King James VI & I Anne of Denmark 3 1 Christian I of Denmark
King Charles I Henrietta Maria of France 3 1 Francis, Count of Vendôme
King Charles II Catherine of Braganza 5 Isabella I of Castile
King James II & VII Anne Hyde
not a consort
9 1 Eleanor of Lancaster
Mary of Modena 3 1 Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany
Queen Mary II William II (co-monarchs) 1 Charles I of England
Queen Anne Prince George of Denmark 2 1 Frederick II of Denmark

United Kingdom[edit]

Monarchy of the United Kingdom
STATUS Name Spouse Cousin Generations removed Closest common ancestor
Queen Anne Prince George of Denmark 2 1 Frederick II of Denmark
King George I Sophia Dorothea of Celle 1 George, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg
King George II Caroline of Ansbach 3 1 John George, Elector of Brandenburg
King George III Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz 2 2 Adolf Frederick I, Duke of Mecklenburg
King George IV Maria Fitzherbert (marriage declared invalid)
Caroline of Brunswick 1 Frederick, Prince of Wales
King William IV Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen 3 1 Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha
Queen Queen Victoria Albert, Prince Consort 1 Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
King Edward VII Alexandra of Denmark 3 1 Duke Louis of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
King George V Mary of Teck 2 1 George III of the United Kingdom
King Edward VIII Wallis Warfield Simpson
not a consort
no known relation
King George VI Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon 13 Henry VII of England
Queen Elizabeth II Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh 2 1 Christian IX of Denmark

Other Royal Marriages[edit]

Marriages not of monarchs but other closely related people to the monarch. The marriages from previous centuries are shown to connect missing generations.

Other Members of Royal Family Britain and the UK
STATUS Name Spouse Cousin Generations
removed
Closest common ancestor
Princess Marjorie Bruce Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland 4 1 Walter Stewart, 3rd High Steward of Scotland
Queen of Bohemia Elizabeth Stuart Frederick V, Elector Palatine 4 Magnus II, Duke of Mecklenburg
Duchess Sophia of Hanover Ernest Augustus, Elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg 2 1 Christian III of Denmark
Prince of Wales Frederick Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha 3 1 John II, Duke of Saxe-Weimar
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathern Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld 3 1 Frederick I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg
Prince of Wales Charles Diana Spencer 7 1 William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire
Camilla Shand Parker Bowles 9 1 Henry Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Prince Edward Sophie Rhys-Jones 11 1 Nicholas St. John
Prince William Catherine Middleton 12 1 Sir Thomas Leighton

Windsor marriages[edit]

The most recent common ancestor of George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth was Henry VII who had died over 400 years before their marriage. When the future king married his 13th cousin on 26 April 1923 his older brother, Edward VIII, the heir apparent was still only age 28 and was still expected to marry and succeed to the throne. However, shortly after the marriage, Edward began to openly talk about his desire to abdicate and make his brother the sovereign, which he actually did 13 years later. This marriage was the most distant family relationship that produced a child that also became a sovereign. It was also the first time since James II & VII that a sovereign married a spouse of primarily British descent. It was also the first time since Charles II that a sovereign married someone who was more distantly related than 3rd cousin once removed (not including Edward VIII, marrying Wallis Simpson after his abdication).

The most recent common ancestors of Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh were Christian IX of Denmark and his wife Louise of Hesse-Kassel. The table above list the closest familial relationship, but sometimes more distant relationships are better known. Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are also third cousins from their descent from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Christian IX died in 1906. Queen Victoria died in 1901.

Prince Charles' first proposal and the only one before Diana, was to his 2nd cousin, Amanda Knatchbull. She and her husband were invited to his eventual marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005.[2]

The 3rd Duke of Devonshire.

Prince Charles and Diana's most recent common ancestors were William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire and his wife Catherine Hoskins, who died in the last half of the 18th century. Since they both had well documented pedigrees, they have hundreds of known ancestors in common before that time.

Prince Charles and Camilla's most recent common ancestor is Henry Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne who died in 1691.

Catherine Middleton and Prince William are known to be 15th cousins.

Prince Arthur of Connaught was a male line grandson of Queen Victoria and first cousin to George V. He married his first cousin once removed, Princess Alexandra, Duchess of Fife, a female line granddaughter of King Edward VII on 15 October 1913. The couple had a son, Alastair Windsor, 2nd Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, 10 months later. Alastair was born ninth in line to the throne and died unmarried and childless as 12th in line in 1943. He is the last child born to a couple consisting of first cousins once removed in the British royal family.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Sources[edit]