The Royal Baby - A unique occurence?
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting a baby. I know, they kept that quiet! Seriously though think about this new child’s line of descent from The Queen. The Queen’s eldest child and heir is The Prince of Wales, his eldest child and heir is The Duke of Cambridge and this new baby will be his eldest child and heir. Allowing for whatever succession laws were in place at the time (see my other article “Is the line of succession changing?” www.spanglefish.com/webbyswonderfulworld/index.asp?pageid=474423 ), has this ever happened before? That is, the first three in line to the throne are the eldest child and heir of the previous one and the first in line is the eldest child of the monarch? Well yeah, but no, but yeah, but no, but... I think I better explain the times in the monarchy’s history that came closest to this occurrence.
1)-Anne and Sophia
In 1701 Queen Anne was the last protestant Stuart, and sadly all of the 19 children she had conceived had died during pregnancy or infancy. The UK was a protestant country, and parliament had already passed a law,the Bill of Rights 1688, to remove Queen Anne’s father, James II, from the throne because he remarried to a catholic woman and then had a son James who was to be brought up catholic despite being heir to the throne. The Bill of Rights said the people in line of succession to the throne were Anne’s older sister Mary (II) and Mary’s husband William (III), then William and Mary’s issue (there was none), followed by Anne and her issue. With none of Anne’s children surviving by 1700, there was nobody in the line of succession as laid down by the Bill of Rights, so parliament passed a new law, The Act of Succession 1701, which chose, as heir to Queen Anne, the next protestant descendant in line of primogeniture from James VI & I, who was identified as Sophia (of Bohemia by birth), the 70 year old dowager Electress of Hanover. When Sophia and her heirs were designated as heirs to the throne of the UK her eldest son George (I) and his eldest son George (II) were alive and next in line to the throne. In 1705 Sophia’s grandson George (II) married Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach, and in 1707 their first child, Prince Frederick Louis was born. Thus in 1707, for what I believe to be the first time in English/British history, four generations were in the direct line to the throne with no side-steps to siblings. Of course in this instance they were not descended from the monarch, Queen Anne, and in the event Sophia actually died in 1714, just weeks before Queen Anne. Had Sophia lived long enough to see the throne then her first three heirs would have been her eldest child, his eldest child and his eldest child, without any side steps, just as is the case today.
2) George III
By 1811 George III had been relieved of his monarchial duties due to his increasing ‘madness’ (now widely accepted to have been caused by the hereditary disease Porphyria) and his eldest son George, Prince of Wales, was now the Prince Regent. The Prince Regent had only had one child, Princess Charlotte of Wales, who in 1811 was now 15 and due to her lack of siblings and her parents unsuccessful attempt to divorce it was virtually certain she would one day be Queen. In 1816 Princess Charlotte of Wales married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (later Leopold I of the Belgians, and a few weeks after suffered an unexpected miscarriage whilst attending the opera. In April 1817 Princess Charlotte was again pregnant, and the child would therefore have been the eldest child of the eldest child of the eldest child of the monarch, just as today’s royal baby is. However it wasn’t to be, as on the 5th November 1817, and after a lengthy labour, the baby was stillborn. Even more tragically the strain of the lengthy labour took its toll on Princess, who died the day after the stillbirth.
3) Queen Victoria
By 1890 Queen Victoria was 71 and been on the throne for 53 years. Her eldest son was the 48 year old Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and his eldest son was the 26 year old Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale. Since Prince Albert Victor had not yet married the birth of the next generation in the direct line of succession was still at least a few years away, but the Queen was in good health and may easily have lived long enough to see Albert Victor’s first child but it wouldn’t happen. On 3rd December 1891 Prince Albert Victor proposed to Princess Mary of Teck, and the wedding was set for 27th February 1892, but in January 1892 he fell victim to the influenza epidemic that had been ongoing since 1889, and on 14th January 1892, just days after his 28th birthday, he died as a result of pneumonia. His only surviving brother, George, went on to bond with Princess Mary of Teck, as a result of their shared mourning, and on 6th July 1893 married her himself. George and Mary’s eldest child, Prince Edward, was born on 23rd June 1894, so for a day short of 6.5 years, until Queen Victoria’s death on 22nd January 1901, there were 3 generations of immediate heirs to the throne, however the middle one (later George V) only became the immediate heir to his father when his elder brother had died, when George (V) was already 26 and therefore was not raised as a direct heir. Furthermore the young Prince Edward, born in 1894, eventually reached the throne in January 1936, as Edward VIII, and spent an uncrowned, unhappy and scandalous ten and a bit months on the throne before parliament accepted his decision to abdicate in order to marry the woman he loved, a twice-divorced US woman, Mrs Wallis Simpson.
So there you have it, of the three times before that the circumstance of three generations of direct heirs descended from the British monarch could have occurred, one involved four generations of legally designated heirs to a childless monarch and didn’t in the event lead to three generations of direct heirs to a monarch, due to the death of the eldest heir before she could inherit. The second was prevented by the tragic loss of both the expected baby and the next heir up, his mother, as a result of the labour. And on the third occasion the eldest grandchild died very shortly before his wedding, and his wife-to-be transferred her affections to his younger brother before the baby could eventually come along, and that baby was ultimately doomed and his line expunged from royal history (though he didn’t have children in the end anyway). So the Cambridge’s baby will be the first time that the immediate line of succession has been the monarch’s eldest child, their eldest child and their eldest child without any exceptions for a deceased elder child who left no issue, and this will be true regardless of the child’s gender and future siblings, due to the changes in the Act of Sucession, for which see my other article “Is the line of succession changing?” www.spanglefish.com/webbyswonderfulworld/index.asp?pageid=474423 . I wish the royal baby, its parents, grandparents and great-grandparents better fortune and health than all their royal predecessors involved in the three occasions that were a precedent to this one.
Page Last Updated - 16/07/2013