Most royal candidate theory
The most royal candidate theory is the proposition that the winning candidate in United States presidential elections will be the candidate with the greatest percentage of "royal blood" in his or her pedigree. The theory was first publicized by Harold Brooks-Baker, who promoted it during several election cycles, ending with the 2004 presidential election.
Every four years for a number of election cycles, Harold Brooks-Baker publicized his theory during the presidential election campaign, touring the talk circuit and expounding upon it. He gave examples of Presidents whose losing opponents did not have royal blood (Ronald Reagan vs. Walter Mondale), or where the winner simply had "more royalty" (John F. Kennedy vs. Richard Nixon). Based on his theory, Brooks-Baker predicted that John Kerry would defeat the incumbent President George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election because while sharing a number of royal bloodlines Kerry had more royal ancestors than Bush. However, Bush was re-elected and Brooks-Baker died a few months later.
In 2012, the theory received fresh interest when BridgeAnne d'Avignon, a twelve-year-old schoolgirl from California, claimed to have traced the ancestors of all except one of the 43 Presidents back to John, King of England (1166–1216; reigned 1199–1216). According to d'Avignon, every President from George Washington to Barack Obama is a descendant of King John, with the sole exception of Martin van Buren.
Brooks-Baker was not known for the reliability of his information. His obituary in The Daily Telegraph would say of him: "[H]is great advantage for journalists was that he was always available to make an arresting comment; his disadvantage was that he was often wrong". Critics of the theory point out that perhaps a third of all Americans may be descended from King John and that the odds of being distantly related to other royalty are even higher. This is an effect of a phenomenon known as pedigree collapse which occurs due to the doubling of the number of a person's ancestors with each generation. In theory, each person has over one thousand ancestors after ten generations and one million after twenty, far exceeding the number of persons actually living in most regions at any point in time. In fact, most people are descended from the same ancestors multiple times through different lines while anyone living at the time of King John could have tens of millions of descendants in the present day.
Proponents of the theory may counter by noting that even if one third of all Americans are descended from King John, two thirds are not, therefore one would not expect most Presidents to count him among their ancestors. However, the leading candidates for President in each election cycle do not represent a random sampling of the American population. Nearly all of the Presidents and their opponents have had English ancestors, greatly increasing the likelihood of their descent from King John or other British monarchs.
There remains a factual question as to whether the number of each candidate's royal ancestors or percentage of "royal blood" can be accurately estimated without being able to trace every branch of the candidate's family tree for an indefinite length. However, the relevance of such descent is also questioned due to the relatively small degree of inheritance a person receives from such distant ancestors. For instance, a person ten generations removed from a royal ancestor would have less than one thousandth of that ancestor's DNA and this amount would be halved with each subsequent generation. Thus, even if being a twenty-seventh generation descendant of King John could confer some advantage on a presidential contender, it is unclear how it would have any measurable effect.
The central claim that until 2004 the winner was always the most royal is called into question by four instances in which successive elections were contested by the same two candidates, with different results. In 1800, 1828, 1840 and 1892, the victorious candidate had lost to the same opponent in the previous election.
- The New York Times: Chronicle. October 28, 1996.
- The Guardian: Kerry's royal roots will give him victory, says Burke's. August 17, 2004.
- USA Today: Royal authority Harold Brooks-Baker dies. March 6, 2005.
- U.K. Daily Mail:: Is Ruling in the Genes? All Presidents Bar One are Directly Descended from a Medieval English King. August 4, 2012.
- "Harold Brooks-Baker". The Daily Telegraph. 8 March 2005.
- "Is the Queen really a descendant of Prophet Mohammed?". The Week. 12 April 2018.
- Adams, Cecil. "How You Can Always Have More Ancestors as You Go Back in Time". Retrieved 28 February 2012.
- "Genealogy and Ancestry of Barack Obama and the Other U.S. Presidents".
- The New York Times: Royal Genes Too Diluted to Help Bush. July 21, 1988.