This is the first installment of my rolling out of what I’ve learned about the most senior line of descent from England’s King Edward III. Why? It’s an intellectual exercise, a fascinating one that’s turned out to be quite fruitful, too!
From a surprisingly revealing ladder by which to get a hold of making sense of the intricate pecking order of Continental European aristocracy over the past 700 years, to both a tidy tale of how down to earth and normal some are today due in no small part to actual changes in the world’s rulership and wealth, as well as succinct lessons in the opposite: how some of them still cling to the money & power.
Inspired by the Wikipedia page on “Alternate Successions” to the throne of Britain/England (& the hilarious tidbit that the most senior line, for instance, of Queen Victoria, was through her daughter to Kaiser Wilhelm II!) and my limited American understanding of the rules of succession, I determined several months back to find out if I could what the senior line was and if there were any descendants. Indeed there are! And you can see her above, next to her royal ancestor, a widely forgotten daughter of Edward III.
So, I’ll start today with the wayback:
Edward III’s eldest son, Edward, gets a lot of press since, well, he was the most apparent heir…whoooo, didn’t quite make it to the throne, as he died a year before his dad. He also gets attention, not only due to his snazzy black armor and “all that” attitude, but because it was his son who inherited the crown and became king after Edward III: Richard II.
Richard II, however, had no children. He selected his cousin, Roger Mortimer to inherit the crown from him.
Roger Mortimer was a great-grandson of Edward III through the next son after Edward, namely Lionel (called “of Antwerp” and also Duke of Clarence). Lionel’s daughter Philippa had married a Mortimer, and they’d had two kids, Roger being the boy. His older sister married Henry “Hotspur” Percy, and you’d think would have a claim to the throne, too; more on that later.
Cousin Roger died before Richard II, so being the heir passed to his 7-year-old son Edmund. But wee Edmund didn’t get to be king since his and Richard’s cousin Henry, who was the son of Edward III’s third son, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, up and took the throne for himself, becoming King Henry IV.
And as we know, Henry IV’s son, grandson et al (aka: the House of Lancaster) arm-wrestled (ie, battled in most bloody fashion) with the sons etc of Edward III’s fourth son, only a year younger than John, Edmund of Langley (aka, the House of York) for the throne over the next 200 years, this civil war known now as Game of Thrones–er, War of the Roses.
So Edward the Black Prince and his brothers Lionel, John and Edmund all get press. So does their baby brother Thomas, since he was murdered.
And you even hear about poor, young Joan, Edward III’s daughter, because she actually died of the Black Death at age 15 on her way to Spain to marry the prince there.
But you never hear about the couple of other daughters, mostly, it would seem, because they had no kids. But to me it’s very curious why we don’t hear more about the 2nd oldest kid of the bunch. Between Edward and Lionel was–apparently Edward III’s favorite child: Isabella, named for his mother, the French princess whose blood allowed/led Edward III to make war on France, claiming the throne (and by which he added the snazzy blue field with gold fleur-de-lys to the Plantagenet/English royal coat of arms).
Isabella turned down various marriages, and finally wed a nobleman in France. Perhaps it was because her dad has launched that ongoing war with France that she got written off, history-wise. Not sure about that yet. What I am sure of, and am here sharing, is her line of descent to the present. It’s funny to me that they counted descent from Lionel’s daughter Philippa but not a generation up from Isabella.
Here’s a chart showing the great-grandkids (work-in-progress) of Edward III & Philippa of Hainault:
Part II soon…in which we meet the next few generations of Edward III’s most senior descendants, some of the most famous, most powerful, most wealthy noble folks of the Continent….