15 December 2008

King Francis II

Every British monarch since 1715 has been German. In 1701, having run the British Parliament passed the Act of Settlement setting out the Protestant succession to the throne. Following the death of Queen Ann, the last Protestant Stuart, the throne passed to Georg Ludwig, Duke of Brunswick-Luneberg and Prince-Elector of Hanover. George Louis - as he was known in Britain, was only fifty-second in line to the throne, but he was a Protestant. The Hanovers reigned until 1901 when Queen Victoria died.

Victoria's son, Edward VII, became the first monarch of the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha line, inheriting these titles from his father, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. During the First World War George V decided that Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was a little too German and in 1917 decreed that he was now of the House of Windsor. This is how all subsequent monarchs, including the current one, have been styled.

The current Queen's husband, Prince Philip, is Greek, but the (former) Greek royal family, like the British royal family, is German (though with a strong Danish accent). Philip is descended from the House of Scleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg.

With me so far? Good. Now here's the Bavarian connection.

In recent years there have been suggestions that it is now time to change the law banning Catholics from the throne. The typical scenario envisaged to justify this change tends to focus on future heirs to the throne from the House of Windsor who might choose to marry a Catholic or convert to Catholicism.

A more intriguing possibility is that the current leading descendent of the Catholic Stuart Princes who were passed by in favour of the House of Hanover might raise a claim. And who is this person? He is Franz Bonaventura Adalbert Maria Prinz von Bayern also known as His Royal Highness, Duke of Bavaria and head of the House of Wittelsbach. Yes, those Wittelsbachs. The very same Wittelsbachs whose equestrian statues adorn squares and parks across Munich.

The Saxons have had a long run as British monarchs. Perhaps it's time to give the Bavarians a chance.

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