26 February 2011

Royal Baby Names for Frederik and Mary

With only six weeks remaining until the christening of Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary’s adorable twins [view their official photos], I’ve been weighing their baby name choices in case they log on to the Princess Palace looking for ideas. On April 14, the names of the little prince and princess will finally be announced, so here are some names to consider:

Family Names

It’s possible, the little prince could be named John, in honor of his maternal grandfather, but unlikely to be named Henrik in honor of his paternal grandfather since Frederik’s brother Prince Joachim gave that name to his third son last year. They might also choose to step back one more generation and select Andre for Frederik’s French grandfather, Count Andre de Laborde de Monpezat or Peter for Mary’s Scottish grandfather, Peter Donaldson. Henri and John, however, are already among the names given to the couple’s firstborn child, Prince Christian Valdemar Henri John.

For the little princess, the most likely family names might be Margrethe for Frederik’s mother the Queen, Ingrid for Margrethe’s mother or Henrietta for Mary’s late mother. However, Frederik and Mary gave all of these names to their first daughter Princess Isabella Henrietta Ingrid Margrethe, so maybe not. Since the royal family recently celebrated Queen Ingrid’s centenary year, I would not rule it out entirely. Other family names include Renee for Frederik’s French grandmother and Jane or Patricia for Mary’s sisters. As a long shot, I will also mention Alexandra for Frederik’s popular ex-sister-in-law, the former Alexandra Manley, who is now Countess of Frederiksborg.

Royal Names

As the oldest monarchy in Europe, Denmark offers scores of possibilities in its long history. The names of the couple’s first two children came from Danish royal history. Prince Christian got his name because for centuries, the crown was past from Frederik to Christian to Frederik in a loop that was only broken when King Frederik VIII had no sons. As for Princess Isabella, Frederik and Mary selected it after perusing their royal history. It was a rather surprising choice because there has really only been one other Isabella in all of that history, a 16th-century queen consort known as Isabella of Austria, daughter of the Spanish Queen Juana the Mad and therefore granddaughter of Ferdinand and Isabella as well as niece of Henry VIII’s first wife Catherine of Aragon.

With these choices for the first two children, don’t be surprised if they follow the same pattern in naming the new babies. For girls, this list includes Feodora, Marina, Cecilia, Thyra, Mariane, Louise, Charlotte, Juliana, Amalia, Ulrika, Christina, Eleonore, Augusta, Philippa, Martha, Adela, Emma and Catherine. Since another prominent royal event is taking place elsewhere in April, I would eliminate Catherine and Philippa from this list (to avoid concerns that the princess is being named for either of the Middleton sisters.) Eleonore seems to be popular among current European royals: Princess Leonor of Spain, Princess Eleonore of Belgium and Countess Leonore of Orange-Nassau in The Netherlands. I don’t know whether this popularity makes the name a more or less likely choice. I personally am a fan of Charlotte, Helena, Emma and Cecilia, while Mariane could pay tribute to the baby’s mother the Crown Princess, her aunt Princes Marie and her great-aunt Queen Anne Marie of Denmark.

The list of royal boy names offers many, many Nordic choices like Eric, Knud, Olaf, Haakon, Valdemar, Niels and Harald as well as possibilities like Christopher, Carl, George, Adolf, Jacob and Abel. For some reason, Jacob and Abel seem attractive to me; perhaps because they have been rarely used, just like Isabella. They also work well in Princess Mary’s mother tongue of English. I think Harald and Haakon are unlikely since these are the names of the current Norwegian king and his heir and Christopher would seem odd for a boy with a brother named Christian. Or, perhaps in honor of the Disney version of the Danish story, “The Little Mermaid,” the baby will be christened Prince Eric.

Australian Names

Another possibility is that Mary will reflect her Aussie upbringing by selecting names that are popular in Australia, which could lead to the rather informal choice of Prince Jack or the very surprising Princess Madison and Prince Cooper. However, the top ten list of most popular Australian baby names also includes the potentially appropriate-enough Olivia, Lily, Chloe, Grace and Amelia as well as William, Thomas, Max, James and Alexander.

Greenlandic Names

Another option might be to honor the people of Greenland who are also subjects of the Danish queen. Popular names there include Karen, Johanna, Helene and Anna for girls and as well as Peter, Lars, Soren and David for boys. Of course, the couple could choose to celebrate the Greenlanders by selecting ethnic Greenlandic names such as Princess Allinna, Ivi, Paarma or Usinna and Prince Atoq, Manu, Peri or Tavik.

My Choices

Based on nothing more than my own intuition, I’m placing my top five choices for each baby as Ingrid, Margrethe, Helena, Louise or Henrietta for the little princess and Andre, John, Jacob, Eric or Peter for her brother.

22 February 2011

"Old" Royal Brides

In light of recent reports that Catherine (Kate) Middleton is the “oldest royal bride EVER” in England, I decided to put together a quick list of royal brides older than 29-year-old Kate. [UPDATE: Meghan Markle will be 36 when she marries Prince Harry of Wales in May 2018, but she will not be the oldest royal bride either.]

Maria Fitzherbert, 29
A young widow, Maria married George Prince of Wales in 1785 after he begged her many times, even faking a fatal illness to gain her sympathy. The couple kept the marriage secret because it threatened his royal status on two accounts: he did not have the king’s permission and, since she was a Catholic, he could no longer be in the line of succession. Maria, however, did not enjoy having a secret marriage and was not pleased by her husband’s philandering ways. The couple experienced several separations, especially after 1795 when he (bigamously) married a princess in order to get Parliament to erase his debts. Maria and George’s marriage was never terminated but it was also never officially acknowledged. She died before he became King George IV in 1820.

Eleanor of Aquitaine, 30
Eleanor was at least 30 and perhaps a bit older when she married the future King Henry II, having just received an annulment from her first husband, King Louis VI of France. Eleanor was about 11 years older than her teenaged second husband and the two enjoyed an active married life, which resulted in eight children. Together they ruled an “empire” that stretched from Scotland to southern France, but their relationship was often rocky. When she sided with their sons in rebellion against Henry, he imprisoned her for 11 years. She was only released after his death. She lived into her late 80s, never slowing down for a second: one of her last acts was to travel over land to Spain to retrieve her granddaughter and bring her back to marry the French heir.

Victoria of Saxe-Coburg, 31
Although she did not marry a direct heir to the throne, at the time that Victoria married Edward Duke of Kent in 1818, it was possible that he might become king because none of his three older brothers had living heirs. Victoria was a widow with two young children. Her proven fertility worked out well for Edward and the couple quickly produced a daughter, also named Victoria. A few months later, though, she was widowed again. It is widely rumored that she had a romantic liaison with her comptroller, Sir John Conroy, and that the two of them hoped to rule the kingdom when Edward’s daughter succeeded the throne in 1837. Young Queen Victoria, however, quickly established her independence, sparking a schism with her mother that took years to mend.

Katherine Parr, 31
Katherine’s birth date is uncertain, but it is possible that she was in her thirties when she became Henry VIII’s final wife. Henry was her third older husband with grown children, although she had never had any children of her own. By this stage, however, Henry had become disillusioned with young wives and had likely given up on having any more legitimate children. Nevertheless, Katherine nearly met an untimely fate, not for cuckolding the king like her beheaded predecessors but for holding reformist religious beliefs. Luckily, she intercepted her arrest order and was able to persuade the king that she appeared to adopt these views for the sake of providing good debates for his intellectual mind. Katherine outlived the king, married her one true love and died in childbirth shortly after.

Anne Boleyn, 32
Henry VIII’s infamous second wife also has an uncertain birth date, but she may have been in her thirties when Henry finally freed himself from his first wife and quickly married Anne, who was already pregnant or quickly became so. After giving birth to the future Queen Elizabeth I, Anne failed to have another living child and Henry grew tired of her demanding personality. Anne’s enemies were able to provide the king with (probably) false evidence of Anne’s infidelity and she met her end at the hands of the axeman.

Joan of Navarre, 32
Joan was the widow of the Duke of Brittany when she married the widower King Henry IV. Between them, they had 16 children, but they had no kids together. In addition to being politically advantageous, the marriage might also have been based on affection. Joan is said to have been a good stepmother although she was later accused of using witchcraft to try to kill her stepson, King Henry V, after her husband’s death. She spent a few years imprisoned but then was released and lived another 14 years.

Queen Mary I, 38
One of Queen Mary’s first acts once she ascended the throne was to marry her cousin, the future King Philip II of Spain, who was more than 10 years younger. When she was a young princess, Mary had been the presumptive heiress and her father King Henry VIII had pursued several possible marriages for her. Once he became obsessed with producing a male heir, Mary’s status deteriorated and, at one point, she was even declared a bastard. Her unstable status not only meant that her father could gain nothing politically through her marriage, but that men could not risk marrying her. By the time she was finally able to marry, it was really too late for her. She imagined herself in love with Philip but he certainly viewed it as a purely political match. He remained in England for about a year while Mary endured a phantom pregnancy. She was devastated when he left, but he did not return for two years. When he left again, she once again imagined that she was pregnant. She died several months after it was clear that no child was coming.

Camilla Parker-Bowles (née Shand), 57
Having been painted as one of the worst villains in modern times, Camilla finally married her longtime love, Charles Prince of Wales, in 2005. She is, without a doubt, the oldest person to marry an heir to the throne. The couple met in their twenties, but Camilla married someone else while Charles was pursuing his naval career. When he later married Lady Diana Spencer, it quickly became clear that they were ill-matched and his relationship with Camilla soon resumed. Following his divorce and Diana’s tragic death, public feeling against Camilla was extremely high. Another eight years passed before things had calmed down enough for Charles and the now-divorced Camilla to marry. Controversy still exists, however, as represented by her decision to use one of her husband’s lesser titles and be called Duchess of Cornwall rather than Princess of Wales. Upon his accession, will she be Princess Consort as announced when they married or will she be Queen? In her own words, “You never know.”

In the last 100 or so years, it’s actually more common for royal brides to be a bit older rather than younger. Diana was barely 20 and the Queen was 22, but nearly all the other Windsor women were in their late twenties or older.

Marina of Greece was 27 when she married the Queen’s uncle, Prince George The Duke of Kent in 1934.

Her daughter-in-law, Katharine Worsley, was 28 when she married the current Duke of Kent in 1961.

Queen Victoria’s youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, was 28 when she married Prince Henry of Battenberg in 1885.

Sylvana Tomaselli was 29 when she married the Earl of St Andrews in 1988.

Sophie Winkleman was 29 when she married Lord Frederick Windsor in 2009.

The Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, was 29 when she married Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960. The couple later divorced.

Queen Victoria’s popular granddaughter, Princess Patricia of Connaught, was 31 when she married Hon. Alexander Ramsay in 1919 at Westminster Abbey and voluntarily surrendered her royal titles.

Autumn Kelly was 30 when she married the Queen's oldest grandson, Peter Phillips, in 2008.

Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott was 33 when she married another uncle of the Queen, Prince Henry The Duke of Gloucester in 1935. She had her first child one week before her fortieth birthday.

The previously married Baroness Marie Christine von Reibnitz was 33 when she married Prince Michael of Kent in 1978.

Sophie Rhys-Jones was 34 when she married Prince Edward The Earl of Wessex in 1999.

Lady Louise Mountbatten, born Princess Louise of Battenberg, an aunt of  Prince Philip, was 34 when she became the second wife of Crown Prince Gustav Adolf in 1923. She became Queen of Sweden in 1950.

Princess Paola Doimi de Lupis de Frankopan was 37 when she married Lord Nicholas Windsor in 2006.

Wallis Warfield Spencer Simpson was 40 when she married her third husband, the recently abdicated King Edward VIII, and became the Duchess of Windsor in 1937.

Anne The Princess Royal was 42 when she married her second husband Timothy Laurence in 1992.

05 February 2011

Succession Series: Born to Be King?

(For background on this series, click here.)

Princess Elizabeth of York was the world’s darling from the moment of her birth in 1926. She was an instant celebrity gracing the covers of magazines with photos of her released at regular intervals. Stories about her seemed to enchant people. How did she dress? What were her favorite toys? How did she turn the gruff old King George V into a tiny girl’s playmate?

Despite this fascination, absolutely no one dreamed she would one day become queen. She was born #3 in the line of succession after her father, Albert Duke of York, and his older brother, Edward Prince of Wales. It was expected that the charming, thirty-something Prince of Wales would marry and beget more heirs. Furthermore, the Duke and Duchess of York would probably have a large family (he had six siblings; she had nine), some of whom would surely be boys who would supplant their older sister.

It seemed that the delightfully celebrated little Princess Elizabeth was destined to grow up as a cadet member of the royal family, probably living a comfortable and pleasant life in the country with her horses and dogs.

Fate, however, intervened.

First, her parents had only one more child, another little princess. Then, when Elizabeth was nine years old, her beloved “Grandpapa England” died. Her now forty-something uncle became king. Since he was still a bachelor, Elizabeth moved up to #2 in the succession. Elizabeth’s darling uncle was spending less and less time with her, but it wasn’t the duties of kingship keeping him away; it was his growing obsession with his married mistress Wallis Simpson. By the end of the year, he had decided that Wallis was more important to him than the throne. He abdicated, Elizabeth’s dad became King George VI, and little Elizabeth was suddenly and unexpectedly the heir presumptive of the British Empire. Just 16 years later, her father’s premature death made her queen at the tender age of 25.

Since the Act of Settlement in 1701, only nine people were born in the direct line of succession. Only half of them inherited the throne. Additionally, five indirect heirs (including Elizabeth) eventually became monarchs. Here is a breakdown:


Frederick Prince of Wales (1707-1751)
Born during the reign of Queen Anne, Frederick was the fourth generation direct heir under the guidelines of the recent Act of Settlement. He was #4 after his father (the future George II), his grandfather (the future George I) and his great-grandmother Electress Sophia of Hanover. Sophia (1630-1714) and her descendants had been selected as the only legal heirs of Queen Anne, who had no surviving children. Sophia died shortly before Anne and so did not inherit the throne. George I decided to leave his seven-year-old grandson in Hanover, which meant Frederick grew up separated from his family. By the time, his father became king in 1727, a deep rift had developed and Frederick was left in Hanover for a while longer. He was eventually allowed to come to England, he got married and he fathered nine children. However, he predeceased his father by nine years and never made it to the throne.

Princess Augusta of Wales (1737-1813)
The first child of Frederick Prince of Wales, Augusta was born at #2 after her father. She would have become queen, if only she had had no brothers. As it was, she remained a direct heir for less than a year, when she was supplanted by her little brother George. More brothers and their descendants pushed her further down the line, falling as low as #18. She was even superseded by her own granddaughter. How is that possible? Augusta’s daughter, Caroline of Brunswick, married her oldest nephew, the Prince of Wales, who was #1. So, their only child, Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, was #2. At the time of her death, Augusta had moved back up a couple of spots to #16.

King George III (1738-1820)
As the first son of Frederick Prince of Wales, George took his older sister Augusta’s place at #2. When his father died in 1751, the 13-year-old prince moved to #1 and eventually became king at the age of 22. Despite being quite a moral stickler (or perhaps because of it!), his giant brood was full of rapscallion sons and overprotected daughters. Sadly, the long-lived George descended into mania likely caused by a metabolic disorder called porphyria and spent the last decade of his reign in oblivion isolated from his large family. When his precious granddaughter Princess Charlotte Augusta’s death caused a succession crisis in 1817 and his beloved wife died in 1818, George was completely unaware of either ocurrence.

King George IV (1762-1830)
George was the first of King George III’s plentiful progeny and the first person to be born at #1 since the Act of Settlement. Young George loved dressing well, building elaborate homes and having a rollicking good time with older, particularly married, women. In 1785, he married the twice-widowed Maria Fitzherbert. This secret marriage invalidated his claim to the throne because he not only lacked the king’s permission, but Maria was a Catholic. By 1795, George's debts were massive; unaware of the illegal wife, the king agreed to pay George's debts if he married. So, he married his first cousin, Princess Caroline of Brunswick. In a reaction more violent than when Henry VIII met his “Flanders mare”, the two instantly hated each other, but they miraculously had one child, Princess Charlotte Augusta, exactly nine months after their wedding. George spent the next 22 years trying to get rid of Caroline and even locked her out of his coronation in 1820. He reigned for 10 years. Technically, his bigamous second marriage was also invalid.

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales (1996-1817)
Princess Charlotte Augusta was the “People’s Princess” of her day. Born at #2 to warring parents, she spent her childhood living in her own household often ignored by both of them and at other times being used as a weapon in their battle with each other. Although hoydenish, Charlotte Augusta’s youth, beauty and unaffected manner set her apart from her dissolute father and his equally disreputable brothers in the minds of the people. She gained even more popularity when she refused to marry the man her father selected because the marriage would require her to live outside of England. When she enacted a kind of reverse fairytale by marrying a man of her own choosing, Charlotte Augusta sealed her position in the hearts of the people. Her death in childbirth devastated the nation and caused a succession crisis. Suddenly, her middle-aged uncles were on the hunt for royal brides, dreaming of capturing the crown for themselves. Charlotte remained #2 throughout her entire life. [Read more about Charlotte Augusta]

Princess Victoria The Princess Royal (1840-1901)
Once the dynastic dust settled after Princess Charlotte Augusta’s death, a young Queen Victoria married and started her own family. Her first child was a bright and beautiful girl whom she named for herself. Vicky was born #1 and is the only person born #1 who did not ascend the throne; she was supplanted by a brother less than a year after her birth. A princessly prodigy, Vicky was the beloved favorite child of her father Prince Albert, far surpassing the heir who never managed to live up to his parents’ expectations. Like the current queen, Vicky fell in love when she was just an adolescent. At 17, she was allowed to marry her sweetheart and the two remained practically inseparable until his death in 1888. Vicky survived another 13 years, but was too ill with cancer to travel to England for the death and funeral of her mother in 1901. She died later that year. After numerous brothers who had numerous children and grandchildren, Vicky had fallen from #1 to #28.

King Edward VII (1841-1910)
Queen Victoria’s firstborn son displaced his older sister at #1. Named Albert Edward in honor of his father and grandfather. He was not clever like his older sister and he got into some adolescent romantic entanglements, which led both of his parents to conclude that he was morally lax. When an already-ill Prince Albert traveled in terrible weather to chastise the prince for one of these peccadilloes, he contracted a fatal illness and died at the age of 43. Queen Victoria blamed her son. For the next four decades, she denied him any responsibilities, leaving the fun-loving prince with no useful occupation. By the time he became king in 1901 at the age of almost 60, his fast-living ways had likely taken their toll. Opting not to use his father’s name, (I wonder why—hmmm?) he reigned as King Edward VII for only nine years.

Prince Albert Victor The Duke of Clarence (1864-1892)
Prince Albert Victor was the first child of the future King Edward VII. Born at #2, he was everything Victoria and Albert had feared his father was. Albert Victor’s tutors were unable to teach him anything and his service in the navy and then the army yielded no achievements. Even more inclined to fast living than his father, Albert Victor rutted in dissipation, likely contracting venereal disease and even being one of the suspects for Jack the Ripper, which is highly unlikely. All that the prince had going for him was his good lucks and amiable charm. When a royal bride was found for him, he obligingly fell in love and proposed. Weeks later, however, he died from pneumonia just days after his 28th birthday. [Read more about Albert Victor]

King Edward VIII (1894-1972)
Born at #3 behind his father, the future King George V, and his grandfather, the future King Edward VII, Prince Edward was handsome and charming. Dispatched on numerous international tours, he attracted huge crowds and the newfangled newsreel cameras everywhere he went. There was even a song written about him called, “I Danced with a Man Who Danced with a Woman who Danced with the Prince of Wales.” Behind the scenes, however, he was not a happy person. He really did not like the formality of being royal and the limitations it placed upon him. He also enjoyed spending time with married ladies, indulging in a series of affairs kept secret from his adoring public. Meanwhile, the media constantly speculated about which princess he would marry. His father grew increasingly distraught, famously and accurately predicting that after his own death, the prince would ruin himself in a year. Once he became king in January 1936, he decided he would marry his married mistress Wallis Simpson. The British press had kept the affair quiet, so when the news broke, the nation was stunned. Almost as soon as they heard about it, the king abdicated. It was December 1936. Now The Duke of Windsor, he married Wallis and they lived among the international jetset. He died in 1972.


Five eventual monarchs were not born directly in the line of succession. Three of them were younger brothers of the direct heir and two of them, including the current queen (described above), were nieces.

King William IV (1765-1837)
Born at #3, William The Duke of Clarence was the third son of King George III. After joining the navy, he settled down with his mistress and they had 10 children. In the meantime, William’s two older brothers had each married princesses but only had one child between them, Princess Charlotte Augusta. When she died, it was clear that the now 52-year-old sailor prince would eventually become king. He found a royal bride, Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meinengen, who was exactly half his age. Having fathered so many children already, William undoubtedly expected to have numerous royal heirs of his own, but none of Adelaide's children lived. When he ascended the throne in 1830, he accepted his next brother the late Duke of Kent’s only child, Princess Victoria, as his heir. However, he feared dying before the little girl reached 18--he wanted her to rule in her own right instead of under her mother’s regency. Stubborn until the end, he lived just long enough, dying a month after Victoria’s eighteenth birthday.

Queen Victoria (1819-1901)
When King George III’s only legitimate grandchild unexpectedly died in 1817, the old king’s unmarried, middle-aged sons acquired royal wives and started trying for an heir. [Read about the Royal Baby Race] Son number four, Edward The Duke of Kent and his new wife had Victoria 12 months after the wedding. She was #5 and it seemed unlikely they she would eventually ascend the throne: both her Uncle William and her father would probably have a son who would supplant her. But, her father died before her first birthday and Uncle William had no surviving legitimate children. Victoria became queen at 18 and soon embarked, although unintentionally, on creating a huge dynasty. Although she repeatedly said she didn’t want a large family, she also famously enjoyed her husband’s “company.” The first of their nine children was born ten months after the wedding. When she died in 1901, she was the head of a family that included more than 70 living descendents

George V (1865-1936)
The second son of the future King Edward VII, George was born #3. The good-natured George was believed to have a positive effect on his charming but slow-witted older brother, Prince Albert Victor. So, whatever Albert Victor did, George was sent along too—including being placed in the navy when he was only 10 years old. Fortunately, George adored his older brother and he made a pretty good navy officer. George never had the slightest thought about being king one day. His world changed forever when Albert Victor died in 1894. George was named The Duke of York and encouraged to marry his late brother’s fiancée, which he did. Sixteen years later, he became king. George lived until 1936, devoted to his wife, his family, his nation and his stamp collection.

George VI (1894-1952)
Born on the anniversary of his great-grandfather Prince Albert’s death, Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George was the second son of the future King George V. He was #4 following his grandfather, father and older brother. Instead of seeing his unfortunate birthday in a negative light, Queen Victoria surprised everyone by declaring that it was a blessing for him. It’s unclear whether she was right. Bertie, as he was called, developed severe digestive problems following years of abuse by a nanny. He also suffered from knock knees, which were corrected by years of wearing painful metal braces. These two circumstances combined with emotionally distant parents likely contributed to his famous stammer. Bertie was no one’s idea of a king. When it became clear that his brother, King Edward VIII, was going to abandon the throne, some even speculated that Bertie and his daughters might be passed over in favor of one of his younger brothers. But Bertie had an unshakeable sense of duty. Upon his accession, he chose to use the last of his names in honor of his late father. Throughout World War II, he and his young family were symbols of stability and continuity. Unfortunately, Bertie exacerbated his lifelong ill health heavy by smoking heavily, which led directly to his death in his mid-50s.

Go to Succession Series index

Succession Series: Background

Imagine being born first in line to the throne, living into your sixties and never becoming queen. This was the fate of Queen Victoria’s first child, Victoria Princess Royal, who slid lower and lower in the line of succession as her brothers, their children and their grandchildren were born.

Each monarchy has different rules regarding the succession. Some have been updated within the last generation to allow gender-blind accession or to limit the people who are qualified. For instance, in Sweden, the succession is limited to the descendants of King Carl XVI Gustaf and just one of his uncles AND it stipulates that the order is determined by birth order rather than male preference. When these guidelines were enacted in the 1970s, infant Prince Carl Philipp lost his place at #1 to be supplanted by his older sister, Crown Princess Victoria. The restrictions mean that there are currently only four people in the Swedish line of succession; the shortest line in Europe.

The line of succession in Great Britain is determined by legislation and by traditions, some of which seem archaic today. The primary guidelines are determined by:

 male preference primogeniture which grants precedence by birth order but places all sons and their descendants ahead of the their sisters;
 legitimacy which requires that only individuals born to lawfully wedded couples can be legal heirs;
 the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 which bars individuals who do not have the monarch’s permission to marry (or, if over age 25, assent from the Privy Council) as well as the descendants of an unauthorized marriage; and

 the Act of Settlement of 1701 which bars all Catholics and any descendants who marry a Catholic and which limits the succession to the descendants of Sophia Electress of Hanover, a granddaughter of King James I.

Under these guidelines, there are currently more than 1,800 people eligible to ascend the throne; if Catholics were included, the list would exceed 5,000!

The upcoming marriage of Prince William of Wales has sparked debate about whether these guidelines should be amended to eliminate male-preference primogeniture and remove the ban on Catholics. All this succession talk got me thinking about the fate of princesses under the current guidelines. If a princess was born high in the order of succession, how low might she fall before her death? In my analysis, I focused primarily on people born in the first top 10 spots to see how they moved up and down the line throughout their lives. (For convenience, I considered only the line of succession as it stood on the last day of each year, thereby avoiding the bouncing around caused by individual deaths and births and also overlooking any infants who died quickly after birth. It also means an individual’s rank at death is numbered according to where he or she stood on the last day of the previous year. I have tried to be as accurate and thorough as possible; I welcome any corrections.)

Here are some of my observations:
 Four of the nine monarchs (not including George I and George II who were already alive in 1701) were born at #3. (Click for more.)
 Only three people were born at #1; Vicky is the only one of these who did not ascend the throne.
 Four of the eight consorts were also in the line of succession.
 There have been several periods where the top ten did not change for more than a decade; the most recent being from the birth of Princess Eugenie in 1990 to the birth of Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor in 2002. The longest period of no change followed the birth of Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales in 1796 and lasted until her death in 1817.
 Only three monarch’s children were not born into the top ten. These were the three youngest daughters of King George III – Mary, Sophia and Amelia. Because George’s children had very few legitimate children, Mary and Sophia eventually moved up to #9 and #10 respectively but dropped many spots before their deaths. Amelia died fairly young at #14 having dropped only one spot since her birth.
 Today’s top two, Charles Prince of Wales and his son William, were both born at #2.
 Two top ten people were extremely affected: Princess Victoria of Hesse (later Marchioness of Milford Haven) started at #10 and ended at #149 and Queen Victoria’s youngest daughter Princess Beatrice started at #9 and fell to #149. Princess Beatrice’s most “senior” descendent, Mr. Robin Bryan, is currently #520.

Three factors seem to have the greatest impact on how far one can fall during a lifetime. These are:

1. Gender: Being born female or in the female line means that more people can step ahead of you.
2. Lifespan: The longer you live, the more likely others will be born ahead of you.
3. Large families: If you are born a younger child (or a female) in a large family with siblings who have large families, you will experience a steady decline.

Only a couple of things can help you move up the line;
1. Catholicism: if those above you become Catholic or marry a Catholic, you will move up. Also, their Catholic children cannot push you down the line.
2. Death: Each person who dies above you, moves you up. There have been two years in the last three centuries when tragic deaths caused dramatic jumps for those lower in the line: 1918 and 1937. In 1918, the Russian Revolution led to the murders (assassinations and/or martyrdoms, depending on your viewpoint) of eight people in the succession: Empress Alexandra (a granddaughter of Queen Victoria) and all five of her children, who had been #101 through #106 as well as Alexandra’s older sister Elizabeth who had married a Russian Grand Duke and who had been #99. The Tsar also was in the line of succession, but he was very, very far down the line.
In 1937, the tragedy was a plane crash that killed Prince Philip’s sister Princess Cecilia of Greece (#134), her husband the Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse (#117) and their two sons (#118 and #119). Adding to the tragedy, Cecilia’s father-in-law (#116) had died just weeks before; Cecilia had been heavily pregnant and her youngest son was stillborn as a result of the accident; and her only surviving child, who had been left at home, died of meningitis two years later.

All of this research has suggested several blog topics to me, so I am launching an irregular Succession Series of posts. I hope you will enjoy them.

Go to Succession Series index

Ovation offers week of royal programming

For my U.S readers, you may wish to check out Ovation TV's extensive royal programming next week. Below is the schedule they forwarded to me. Enjoy!

The King's Speech: An Inspirational Story of an Unlikely Friendship
Sunday, February 6, 2011 - 07:00PM
Monday, February 7, 2011 - 02:30AM
Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 08:30PM
Friday, February 11, 2011 - 01:00AM
Saturday, February 12, 2011 - 03:00PM

Sunday, February 6, 2011 - 08:30PM, 11:00PM
Sunday, February 13, 2011 - 05:30PM
Monday, February 14, 2011 - 02:00AM

Icons: Princess Diana
Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - 08:00PM, 11:00PM
Saturday, February 12, 2011 - 02:30PM
Sunday, February 13, 2011 - 04:30AM

William and Kate: A Modern Royal Romance
Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - 08:30PM, 11:30PM
Saturday, February 12, 2011 - 05:30PM
Sunday, February 13, 2011 - 04:00AM

How to Be a Prince: Part 1 of 2
Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - 09:00PM
Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 12:00AM, 02:00AM
Saturday, February 12, 2011 - 06:00PM
Sunday, February 13, 2011 - 02:00AM

How to Be a Prince: Part 2 of 2
Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - 10:00PM
Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 01:00AM, 03:00AM
Saturday, February 12, 2011 - 07:00PM
Sunday, February 13, 2011 - 03:00AM

Bertie and Elizabeth
Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 09:00PM, 11:00PM
Friday, February 11, 2011 - 02:00AM
Saturday, February 12, 2011 - 03:30PM
Sunday, February 13, 2011 - 01:30PM

Diana's Dresses
Saturday, February 12, 2011 - 08:00PM, 11:00PM

Princess Diana: Her Life in Jewels
Saturday, February 12, 2011 - 09:00PM
Sunday, February 13, 2011 - 12:00AM

Diana Everlasting
Saturday, February 12, 2011 - 10:00PM
Sunday, February 13, 2011 - 01:00AM