In light of the increasing number of spurious "royal experts" infiltrating the media, Princess Palace has created this online testing and training center/centre (a.k.a. trivia quizzes) to facilitate the recognition and certification of actual royal experts. Anyone receiving certification may add C.R.E. (certified royal expert) after one's name. This site is created and maintained entirely for fun. Its creator asserts no authority for certifying anyone's qualifications for anything. ;)

01 February 2011

"The Spare" Answers

Princes William and Harry have often been referred to as "The Heir and the Spare." Throughout history, the British line of succession has been somewhat precarious.

1. How many English monarchs since the Norman Conquest have been directly succeeded by their firstborn son?
Relatively few. William the Conqueror himself was succeeded by his third son, William II, who seized the throne while his oldest brother wasn't looking. (The second son had died as a teen while hunting in the New Forest, which seems to have been a very deadly place.)

The first firstborn son to succeed the English throne was Henry III who followed his father King John 150 years after the conquest. Then, Henry III was succeeded by his own firstborn son Edward I.

The others were Edward II to Edward III; Henry V to Henry VI; Edward IV to Edward V; George I to George II; George III to George IV; and George V to Edward VIII.

The only time a reigning queen has been succeeded by her firstborn son was when Queen Victoria was succeeded by her son Edward VII. In fact, that is the only time an English queen has ever been succeeded by her own child. Let's see if Elizabeth II becomes the second to do so or if, as some suggest, Charles will be skipped over for his son, William--an unlikely occurrence by my estimation.

So, out of 43 monarchs, only nine were succeeded by their firstborn sons.

[Others offered by respondents included Henry IV to Henry V, but Henry actually had an earlier son named Edward who died after four days. Another suggestion, Henry VIII was suceeded by his first surviving son, Lady Jane Seymour's child, Edward VI; but Henry had several sons by his first two wives, including two who lived long enough to be named Henry, one of whom was even named Prince of Wales. And, in the case of Charles I to Charles II, not only was there an infant older brother named Charles James, but Charles II technically did not succeed his father directly because of the interregnum following the Civil War.]

2. How many English monarchs since the Norman Conquest have been directly succeeded by their firstborn daughter?
This list is of course much shorter since there have been so few reigning queens. However, only one-third of six queens were the firstborn daughters AND directly followed their fathers. Mary II succeeded her father James II after the Glorious Revolution of 1688; she reigned jointly with her husband/cousin William III. The only other firstborn daughter to directly succeed her father is the current Queen Elizabeth II who followed her father George VI.

It could be argued that Mary I was the firstborn daughter of Henry VIII since her only older sister was stillborn. However, she succeeded her brother Edward VI rather than her father.

Finally, several respondents also point to the case of Empress Matilda, who became known as the "Lady of the English." She was the firstborn daughter of Henry II, who had the barons swear allegiance to her as his heir. However, she was out of the country when he died and her cousin Stephen usurped the throne. Stephen and Matilda fought a nasty back-and-forth war for many years. At one point, Matilda did seize control of London and could have been proclaimed queen, but she didn't take care of that business quickly enough. The Londoners were stunned by her high-handedness and soon kicked her out of the city. Ultimately, the conflict was resolved when Stephen agreed to make Matilda's son Henry his heir. [Read my post about Empress Matilda at Princess Palace.]

3. Which English king had the most children become an English monarch?
King Henry VIII literally moved heaven to try to have a living male heir. In his efforts, he married six women, separated the Church of England from the Church in Rome, and fathered only three children who lived beyond early infancy. All three of these children eventually succeeded to the throne. They were, in order of their reigns, Edward VI (the last born), Mary I and Elizabeth I.

Another monarch who technically had three children accede was Henry II. In an effort to ensure an uncontested succession for his son, Henry II (who remember only became king after a bitter war between his mother and her cousin) decided to have his oldest living son crowned king during his own lifetime. This son, also called Henry, was not given a regnal number but he did become known as the Young King. While Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine had a huge and healthy brood of children, they led risky lives on the battlefield and in the tournaments. Young King Henry died of dysentery contracted on the battlefield while fighting his father. Leaving no heirs of his own, his place was taken by the next son Richard who was decidedly not crowned during his father's lifetime--partly because he was also warring against his father--but he did succeed him upon his death. When Richard, who spent a matter of only days with his wife, also died without heirs, the throne skipped over the children of the next brother Geoffrey (who died in a tournament) to Henry's youngest son King John. John made Geoffrey's son disappear and kept his daughter imprisoned to solidify his grasp on the throne. So, Henry II did have three regal offspring: Henry, Richard the Lion Heart and King John. [Thanks for the tip, Yvonne Strongman, V.C.R.E.]

4. Which kings were immediately succeeded by their grandchild?
In England, the Prince of Wales has twice predeceased his father but left a living heir to succeed. It first happened when the long-lived Edward III's celebrated son Edward the Black Prince died at the age of 46, leaving behind a 13-year-old son who became Richard II ten years later. It was Richard's death without children that eventually sparked the Wars of the Roses among the descendants of Edward III's other sons.

It happened once again almost 400 years later when the not nearly so beloved Frederick Prince of Wales died at age 44, having fathered nine children, including the future George III who became king nine years later upon the death of his grandfather George II. George II and Frederick had despised each other. Hate, in fact, would not be too strong of a word. The enmity between them was strengthened by the distance placed between them by George's father George I. When the Hanoverian George I became King of England, he allowed his only son, whom he did not like, to come to England, but he forced him to leave his oldest son and heir in Germany. By the time, George II became king, his family had been without the truculent Frederick for so long that George delayed bringing the young man across the Channel. The two were never able to heal their relationship.

5. Which 20th century British monarchs were not firstborn children?
Three of the five 20th century British monarchs were not firstborn children. Edward VII, while the oldest son, was the second child of Queen Victoria. His successor was his second-born son George V and George V's second son succeeded as George VI when the firstborn Edward VIII abdicated.

One other 20th century monarch was the firstborn (and only legitimate) child of her father, the Duke of Kent, but she was the third child of her mother, Victoire of Saxe-Coburg. Although she may not seem very 20th century, Queen Victoria did not die until January 1901 so she just barely qualifies. [Thanks for that one goes to Ella Kay, V.C.R.E.]

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