In Search of the Ultimate Lancastrian

Or, an attempt to restore the reputation of Mary I

I like John of Gaunt.  I think he was a pretty awesome guy.  He certainly had a huge impact on England, and, genealogically speaking, a massive impact on the world.  You know.  With his dick.

I’ve talked a lot about him, but never his whole story in regards to all three of his wives.

Ol’ Johnny was the third son of Edward III.  When he was a teenager, he married his third cousin, Blanche of Lancaster.  It was through her that he inherited the massive Lancastrian lands and became the Duke of Lancaster.  This made him one of the richest men in England, and adjusted for inflation, one of the richest men in history.  He and Blanche were very much in love.  She bore him three children who lived to adulthood: Henry, Philippa, and Elizabeth.  Their governess was a foreigner named Katherine Swynford.

Young Katherine de Roet had come in the train of Philippa of Hainault, the wife of Edward III.  Her mother died young, so she was sent to Philippa to be fostered.  When she grew up, she became attached to John of Gaunt’s household as the children’s governess.  She married a minor Lancastrian knight named Hugh Swynford.  John stood as godfather for their first child, a daughter named Blanche.  Katherine’s and Hugh’s children were raised with John’s and Blanche’s.  The two families were very close.

Sadly, Blanche died relatively young.

Around this time, the king of Castile, Pedro, was overthrown by his bastard half-brother Enrique of Trastámara.  Pedro took refuge in a part of English-held France with his two daughters, Costanza and Isabella.  Pedro negotiated with Edward the Black Prince (oldest brother of John of Gaunt) to regain his throne.  They succeeded, but Edward was so disgusted with Pedro that he immediately abandoned him.  Enrique of Trastámara quickly killed his brother and took the throne.

John of Gaunt, wanting a throne for himself, married Costanza and, through her, called himself king of Castile.  It’s unclear exactly when he began sleeping with Katherine Swynford, whether it was before or after his marriage to Costanza.  Either way, Hugh Swynford had died before they ever hooked up.

Several years and several battles went by, with John none the closer to the throne of Castile.  He and Costanza had one daughter, oddly enough named Catalina (Castilian for Katherine).  He and Katherine had four children together, given the surname “Beaufort”.  Eventually the nobility grew sick and tired of him having a lowborn, foreign mistress and the two of them were forced to separate.  His marriage to Costanza had already broken down, though it had never been particularly close to begin with.

Catalina was eventually married to Enrique’s grandson, Enrique III of Castile, and John and Costanza gave up their claim to the Castilian throne.

Costanza died in 1394.  John and Katherine weren’t sleeping together anymore, but they had maintained contact during the entirety of John’s marriage to Costanza.  John was very involved in all of his children’s lives, including his bastard Beauforts.  Two years after Costanza died, he negotiated with his nephew, King Richard II, and the pope to obtain an act of legitimacy for his four Beaufort bastards, and then married Katherine.

To have a sustained mistress at this time was extremely rare.  From the wife’s point of view it was obscene, but from the mistress’ point of view it was beautiful and romantic.  John was the son of a king, a prince, and a duke.  He had to make political marriages, and for the majority of his life, that’s what he did.  He couldn’t help that he fell in love with a woman he couldn’t marry.  He was a prince, she was a no-body.  But they fell in love, and when he found himself single in his 50s, he did what no one had ever done at that point, and married her.  There was enough scandal as it was when Prince Charles married Camilla.  Imagine that drama but against the backdrop of medieval England!  He and Katherine felt a real, enduring love.

Anyway, as I said, John had a massive impact on the genealogical history of European royalty.  I mentioned that his daughter with Costanza married into the Castilian royal family.  Philippa, his elder daughter with his first wife Blanche, married into the Portuguese royal family.  And, once they had been legitimized, his Beaufort bastards made a bunch of advantageous marriages into English and Scottish royalty.  This set the stage for the creation of what I’m going to call the Ultimate Lancastrian. The Portuguese and Castilian royal lines quickly converged, as the houses of Trastámara and Aviz frequently intermarried.  Isabella (of Ferdinand and Isabella) was the first Castilian to be descended from both Philippa and Catalina.  Edward IV was the first English king to be descended from John and Katherine, but it was Edward IV’s grandson, Henry VIII (Tudor), that married Katherine of Aragon, descended from both Trastámara and Aviz.  With Beaufort, Castile, and Portugal, Katherine and Henry had a daughter, Mary.  Thus Mary was the very first Ultimate Lancastrian, descended from all three of John of Gaunt’s wives. Please note that the -> symbol means that I skipped a few generations.

Sadly, when Mary became queen as Mary I, she made a politically bad marriage and had no children.  As her father had broken with Rome and her successor, Elizabeth I, continued in his path, the now Protestant England could no longer intermarry with either Castile (which had become Hapsburg through a twist of fate) or Portugal, as both were ardent Catholics.

For several generations, France, Hapsburg, and Portugal intermarried, keeping Philippa’s and Catalina’s blood mixed together.  But the Beaufort blood stayed isolated in England.

It wasn’t until Charles I of England and Scotland came to the throne that the possibility of uniting all three bloodlines came up again.  Charles I married Henrietta Maria of France, whose grandmother was the Hapsburg Archduchess Johanna of Austria (and thus descended from the Portuguese and Castilian lines).  Charles and Henrietta Maria had kind of a weird marriage.  Because she was Catholic, she couldn’t take part in an Anglican marriage and therefore couldn’t be crowned queen.  Regardless, she and Charles had several children, the firstborn being Charles II.  The second Ultimate Lancastrian. At least, as far as I can tell.  It’s possible there was another born that I haven’t been able to track down.  Lots of people, lots of marriages.

As far as the English throne went, that entire chunk of the family tree turned out to be a dead end, politically speaking.  Charles II had no legitimate children, so his brother inherited.  James II had two protestant daughters who in turn had no children who lived to adulthood, and his son was Catholic so barred from the throne (the politics get complicated here – for better understanding, read Outlander).  The only child of Charles and Henrietta Maria to have legitimate descendants today is Henrietta, Duchess of Orleans.  She married back into the French royal family and is the ancestress of the kings and queens of Sardinia and Lichtenstein.  She was the ninth Ultimate Lancastrian, but a Catholic so she couldn’t inherit the English throne.

As a result of the Act of Settlement of 1701 (which officially barred Catholics from the throne), the throne went through James I’s daughter, Elizabeth.  This routed around Henrietta, which meant that the bloodlines of Portugal and Castile stayed together but split from Beaufort.

Which brings us to Victoria, the last Hanoverian monarch. Through a relatively long and complicated descent, Victoria’s mother was descended from Maria of Hapsburg, another Austrian Archduchess.  At this point there were several Ultimate Lancastrians running around (England had married into France a few times, and France had intermarried a ton with the Hapsburgs, not to mention all of Charles II’s bastards), so I don’t know what number Ultimate Lancastrian she was.  But as every English king since was descended from her, they have all been Ultimate Lancastrians. Descendants of all three of John of Gaunt’s marriages are permanently joined. 

Other notable Ultimate Lancastrians

            Marie Antoinette: Her mother was the last Hapsburg and her father was descended from Elizabeth Stuart (the grandmother of George I, the first Hanoverian king).

HRE stands for Holy Roman Emperor

            Jon Snow (Kit Harrington): Kit is supposedly descended from one of Charles II’s many many bastards.  I haven’t been able to find the full line between the two, but it’s neat to think that Jon Snow (The son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, The Heir to the Iron Throne, The King in the North, The Fucker of Aunts, Half of #EpicBoatSex, The Risen, The 998 Commander of the Night’s Watch, The Prince Who Was Promised, Azor Ahai Reborn, and a Right Proper Lad) is an Ultimate Lancastrian.

Queen Elizabeth II: As a descendent of Victoria, naturally, the current British queen is an Ultimate Lancastrian.

The Romanovs: or at least the murdered children of Emperor Nicholas II.  He married Alexandra Feodorovna (Alix of Hesse) who was a granddaughter of Victoria.

Margarethe II of Denmark: Nearly all of Europe’s royalty is an Ultimate Lancastrian because they’re all descended from Victoria.  The queen of Denmark is no exception.

King Felipe VI of Spain: A great great grandson of Victoria, the Ultimate Lancastrian bloodline came to Spain when Victoria’s granddaughter Victoria Eugenie married Spanish King Alfonso XIII.  Sadly Victoria Eugenie carried the hemophilia gene which led to the death of her eldest and youngest sons. 

Kaiser Wilhelm II: The last German Emperor and King of Prussia, Wilhelm was the eldest grandchild of Victoria, and therefore an Ultimate Lancastrian.

Harald V of Norway: Again, descended from Victoria, the current king of Norway is an Ultimate Lancastrian and is actually about 70th in line for the British throne.

A note on Mary I.

            Mary was given the nickname of “Bloody Mary” because she forcibly tried to convert England back to Catholicism by burning Protestant heretics.  Records indicate that she burned a little fewer than 300 people, including women and children.  Obviously not a very nice thing to do, but history tends to ignore the fact that Elizabeth, the so called “Virgin Queen,” or “Good Queen Bess,” or “Cate Blanchett is an amazing actress,” killed roughly the same number of Catholics.  And that doesn’t even come close to the number of people their father, psychotic Henry VIII, killed.  The Tudors were incredibly bloody; their reign started in blood and would have ended in blood had some people had their way.  The truth is that Mary was harassed and abused as a child by her own father, yet was beloved by her people.  The English people adored her all throughout her father’s reign, and when her brother tried to disinherit her near his death, the country rallied around Mary to crown her queen.   Her mother was an amazing woman who was similarly abused by her psychotic husband, and had Mary been given a normal childhood without the terror of an abusive stepmother (Anne Boleyn), constant threats of violence (Francis Bryan, her own father, etc.), and the destruction of nearly everything she knew and loved (her parents’ marriage, her governess Margaret Pole, the Catholic institution in England), chances are she could have been an amazing queen.  Instead, she was given a pile of shit and turned to violence when she became queen.  The only reason people call her “Bloody” and revere Elizabeth is because Elizabethan historians wrote the history books.  Had Mary succeeded in turning England back to Catholicism and left children to rule after her, it’s probable that the history books would have been a lot nicer to her.

Questions? Comments? Let me know below! I can also be reached on Twitter @Rhydnara.

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