So what's the history of the Windsors? (Britain's royal family)

Got interested in the subject while reading this thread:

Now, I’m aware that they are not actually of British heritage. How did this come to pass? What’s the story on how the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas took the throne? And how true is it that all of Europe’s royalty are closely interrelated? What “house” do they come from? How interrelated were the various lines that continuously took over from one another during the years when all of Europe was ruled by royals? How, in general, did their system breeding (and imbreeding) work?

A good place to answer all of those questions would be at the Queen’s home page. All of your Saxe-Coburg inquires will be answered there.

The name of the House to which the Royal Family belonged was changed from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (usually written Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) in 1917 thanks to anti-German attitudes during World War I. It resulted from Queen Victoria (born into the House of Hanover) having married Prince Albert, a scion of that German ducal/quasi-royal family, in the 1840s, and all their children therefore belonging to that family.

(Do not attempt to Google Prince Albert’s lineage – you’ll find that the city named after him in Saskatchewan has a plethora of amateur genealogists!)

This Wikipedia article has a pretty good quick summary on the family – which, it would seem, ranks second only to the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg dynasty for exporting monarchs.

Royalty of one country would arrange a marriage between the royalty’s child and a child of royalty of another country so that peace could be assured between the countries. Whether or not the children liked it. Hence, there were many marriages between the “houses” of one country, such as England, and the “houses” of another country, such as Germany or Russia. I don’t think all of Europe’s royalty are closely related, but many such countries have engaged in these marriages of convenience.

I’d also recommend the Queen’s website for all of the historical details. In summary though, the key factor was the *Act of Settlement * 1701, passed by the English parliament to ensure the Protestant succession to the throne. It vested the throne, in default of Stuart heirs, in Sophia, Electress of Hanover (and grand-daughter of James I). On the death of Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch, the throne passed to Sophia’s son, George I. The Hanoverians then ruled until the time of Queen Victoria.

More importantly, do not attempt to google “Prince Albert”, period, if you’re at work. Your company webtechs will have a field day with that web monitoring catch…

Here it is, all in one lump, as learned by British schoolkids for the last couple of hundred years (updated as required, of course):

Willie Willie Harry Stee
Harry Dick John Harry three;
One two three Neds, Richard two
Harrys four five six…then who?
Edwards four five, Dick the bad,
Harrys (twain), Ned six (the lad);
Mary, Bessie, James you ken,
Then Charlie, Charlie, James again…
Will and Mary, Anna Gloria,
Georges four, Will four Victoria;
Edward seven next, and then
Came George the fifth in nineteen ten;
Ned the eighth soon abdicated
Then George six was coronated;
After which Elizabeth
And that’s all folks until her death.

Do they catch it in a can?

No, it’s usually around front…

::blank look::
I was once a British schoolkid, and I’ve never heard that rhyme in my life.

The reason there were no Stuart heirs from Queen Anne is a very sad story. Anne was pregnant at least 18 times, suffered 13 still-births and lost her remaining children in their youth. It’s amazing how big a role gynecology has played in who gets to be in charge of large populations of people.

Her Majesty is quite certainly of British heritage. She’s not descended from all of the kings and queens that preceded her on the throne, and holds the throne by virtue of an Act of Parliament from three centuries ago, but she definitely is of British heritage.

Elizabeth II claims the throne by being the leading descendant of the Electress Sophia, whom Parliament chose as the heir to succeed Queen Anne in the Act of Settlement of 1701. Sophia in turn was the grand-daughter of King James I of England. Through James I, Her Majesty is directly descended from William the Conqueror and most of the English kings that held the throne between 1066 and 1625, the year James I died. (The prime exceptions from the English monarchs prior to James I are that she’s not descended from the Lancastrian kings, nor from any of the Tudors other than Henry VII.)

In fact, Her Majesty’s royal ancestry pre-dates William the Conqueror. One of her ancestors, King Henry I, married a princess of the pre-Norman, English royal house, which means that she can trace her ancestry back into the various Anglo-Saxon kings, including Alfred the Great.

Since James I was also King James VI of Scotland, Her Majesty is also directly descended from all of the Scottish monarchs in the Stewart line, with links to the pre-Stewart Scottish monarachs as well.

She is also directly descended from all but three of the kings and queen that held the combined throne of the United Kingdom from 1714 onwards, when the first Hanoverian, George I, her many-great grandfather, became king. (The three exceptions are George IV and William IV, her many-great-uncles, and Edward VIII, her uncle.)

She is not descended from the Stuart monarchs other than James I/VI. That would be Charles I, Charles II, James II, William III, Mary II, and Anne, who reigned between 1625 and 1714.

Considering that her direct ancestors have been on the throne for approaching 300 years, and that she traces her lineage back to most of the English and Scottish monarchs prior to 1625, it seems a bit academic to say that the Windsors are not really British.

(And as for Elizabeth II herself, considering that her mother was Scottish, daughter of the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne , her British ancestry is pretty well established.)

Interestingly, the marriage between the Prince of Wales and Princess Di has added a bit more Stuart blood to the mix. I recall seeing at the time of the marriage that the Spensers are descended from one of Charles II’s “cough” natural sons, as well as from one of James II’s natural sons.