Book review: Britain's Royal Families

Book review: Britain’s Royal Families

It is a complete family history of all members of the royal houses of England, Scotland and Great Britain in one handy volume.

It includes some biographical information relating to all members of the royal houses of England, Scotland and Great Britain and their immediate families (parents, siblings, children and grandchildren). Illegitimate offspring are also included, but important aspects of some monarchs’ reigns are omitted.

England

Kingship existed in England for more than 2,000 years—beginning from tribal chieftains of Celtic or Romano-British stock until the Dark Ages.

Barbarian invasions during the mid 5th Century impacted on Europe as Angles, Saxons and Jutes arrived on England’s shores.

Vikings began raids during the 8th Century.

Britain’s Royal Families begins with Egbert of Wessex (born c769-80), continues with the Norman Conquest in 1066, the Angevins, the Plantagenets (including Lancaster and York), and the Tudors until 1603.

Scotland

The Scottish kingdom was first established during the 9th Century by Alpin (House of MacAlpin or MacAlpine’s founder). Earlier rulers’ details remain obscure.

Succession in Scotland favoured the ancient system of tanistry—the crown was passed from one branch of the family to another, ensuing the oldest, fittest male inherited the throne—until the adoption of primogeniture during the late 11th Century.

Weir begins with the House of MacAlpine although she says Malcolm II was the first monarch of modern Scotland.

The House of MacAlpine provided kings until 1034 when the succession passed to the House of Dunkeld through marriage of Malcolm II’s daughter, Bethoc.

The House of Dunkeld ruled until 1290 when Queen Margaret, the Maid of Norway, died en-route to Scotland.

Edward I of England was asked to arbitrate between thirteen contenders for the throne during the First Interregnum (1290-1292). Edward’s appointee, John Balliol, abdicated four years later. Scotland without a king between 1296-1306 (the Second Interregnum) until Robert the Bruce declares himself king.

Bruce’s grandson, Robert II, became the first Stewart king. The Stewarts reigned Scotland for over two hundred years, and Britain for one hundred.

Great Britain

According to Alison Weir, George III allegedly secretly married a Quakeress, Hanna Lightfoot, on 17 April 1759. Lightfoot, the daughter of a Wapping shoemaker, was said to have born him three children.

Documents relating to this alleged marriage, with the Prince’s signature, were impounded and examined by the Attorney General in 1866. Legal experts at the time believed they were genuine. These documents were placed in the Royal Archives at Windsor. However, permission was denied to a would-be author who asked to see them in 1910.

Had George III committed bigamy when he married Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz on 8 September 1761? If so, every monarch since was a usurper whilst the true heirs were George’s children by Hannah Lightfoot—if they existed.

Yet George III introduced the Royal Marriages Act in 1772 after several of his brothers made extremely unsuitable marriages. (This Act still applies to the royal family today.)

One noticeable discrepancy: Weir lists Alix of Hesse as “Alice Victoria Helena Louise Beatrice”.