I got married to the widow next door…

Posted: July 30, 2008 in Journal, misc, WTF

Jen got me Season One of The Tudors for my birthday. While the show plays fast and loose with timelines, characters, and events, it’s very entertaining. And VERY rated “R”.

Anyway. Watching the show has renewed my interest in European history, particularly the succession of royalty and the line to the throne. I found this page on tudorhistory.org which delineates the family tree of Henry VIII and his six wives. And here is where I discovered something very interesting.

Henry (1491-1547) and ALL of his wives are, ultimately, direct descendants of King Edward the I (1239-1307), through his two marriages. The intermingling of the families involved is difficult to decipher (I’m unused to reading family trees) but it seems like this particular family tree has more trunk than branches. I mean, if you pick just one thread and follow it down you find a startling amount of marriages between differing degrees of cousins. 

Here’s something fun, if you can follow me.  At the very beginning of the tree, Edward I married Eleanor and had daughter Margaret.  Years after Eleanor died, Edward I married again, this time to Marguerite of France, and had son Thomas. Margaret’s marriage produced a son (John III), and Thomas’ marriage produced a daughter (yet another Margaret). John III and Margaret married. 

So. John’s mother and Margaret’s father were half-siblings.

Put another way, an intermarriage occurred between the grandchild of Edward I and his first wife, with the grandchild of Edward I and his second wife.

Eep.  What does that make them?  My brain hurts.

Back to my original ponderance, I wonder if Henry chose wives decended from Edward I on purpose? Or were there few enough people in the aristocracy at the time that common ancestors and intermarriage were unavoidable? Certainly if you try to trace today’s royal family back a few hundred years it’s pretty hard to find a common thread. I started with Prince William and went back to the 1700’s before I gave up, and didn’t see much – or really, any – commonality among the relations.

Still. How cool would it be to be able to trace your lineage back hundreds and hundreds of years? I only know back as far as my great-grandparents on my mother’s side, and I know nothing at all about my father’s side.

Okay. Probably this stuff is only interesting to me (I can see Calvin rolling his eyes even as I type this). He may think that books are stupid, but he agrees with me that history is awesome. He just prefers WWII history (of which he is the utmost expert) over pretty much anything else.

As for me, I’m having way too much fun digging up evidence of inbreeding. Yarg.

  1. K says:

    I believe that makes them second cousins…which lots of people marry their second cousins..ish, if you ask me….

  2. archibael says:

    They’re essentially a little less than first cousins (their parents are half-siblings). Marrying one’s first cousin was pretty commonplace, especially among royalty, in those days.

  3. Laura says:

    K – Ew.

    Archibael – Well, hi! Also, ew.

  4. Taoist Biker says:

    Maybe those babes were the only decent-looking women of royal blood that survived the War of the Roses? (Well, except Catharine of Aragon, wasn’t she more or less solely a political marriage? European history ain’t my thang.)

    One of my old (American history) professors once told me that there could be an excellent master’s thesis written on the laws in the various American states on what level of relative you were allowed to marry. I think second cousins are pretty much fair game everywhere according to the law. According to good taste, maybe not, but then again back in the “good ol’ days” you could really only date within horse-ridin’ distance, and if the majority of the wimmins within horse-ridin’ distances were your cousins…

  5. Taoist Biker says:

    Also, in the interest of full disclosure, my great-grandfather and his older brother married sisters, so my grandfather had a “double-first cousin.” Maybe I’m more blase about this sort of thing. 😀

    I know a fair bit of my genealogy back to 1800-1830, and that never got me out of the same 50 square miles of Virginia. I have a couple of ancestors that have parentage that is really hard to track – that sort of thing gets really tough anyway until around 1850.

  6. Calvin says:

    “within horse-ridin’ distance” I never really thought about it that way, it would make for slim pickens.
    But I must say if the women had looked and acted like the girls on the tudors I would have taken a ride over to my cousins as often as possible.
    But I always think all the heavy clothing and no running water might make going for a swim at the local pond a better idea.

  7. It’s a bit of both “Chose descendants of Edward I” and “only women to survive the war of the roses” all packed together.

    Henry was VERY conscious of lineage and succession. His father didn’t get the crown easily, and marrying women who could bare sons with a reasonable link to the line of succession meant that his enemies couldn’t produce sons with a reasonable link to the line of succession.

    ALSO, the pool of surviving female royalty who were sufficiently allied with the house of Tudor (or willing to offer up a daughter to the house of Tudor) was a bit thin on the ground.

    Catherine of Aragon was ALL about the political maneuver. Henry had very little “choice” in that as she had been his older brother’s intended wife, and the alliance with Spain was at different times of utmost importance to Henry VII.

    The end result of the fallout from his Divorce from CoA was a DISTINCT cooling of relations with other powerful European houses. With the Papacy and the Holy Roman Emperor-ship falling to foes and away from friends and allies…well…let’s just say that his dance card at the “All European Singles Ball” would have been tough to fill.

    Hot, English, descendants of the houses of York and Lancaster with good, baby making hips…well…he WAS king…

  8. Taoist Biker says:

    We should know that a guy with an avatar that looks like DC’s would know his 16th-century English history. 😀

  9. Laura says:

    TB x2 – Heh. “In the interest of full disclosure”, when I got married to my ex we had to prove that we weren’t related. It was one of the steps toward getting a marriage license. Second cousins are fair game in Maine.

    Calvin – Don’t get any idears…

    Charming – My goodness, lookit all the knowledge you have! I think the whole subject is fascinating. I just read up yesterday afternoon on all the different houses leading up to the Tudors (http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/Page5.asp – awesome website, by the way). It’s shocking how many children didn’t make it beyond their first year, back then…

    TB – No kidding!!!

  10. Karen says:

    You are not the only one-this stuff is waaay interesting. The tangled web of Henry VIII’s children and who gets to inherit the throne when Mary dies? Elizabeth!(and only by luck, really?) You can’t make this stuff up! By the way, my husband and I have a theory-any period in history that really fascinates you-you were probably there. For me Civil War-snooze, Josephine and Napoleon on the other hand-infinitely fascinating… For Calvin,he probably was involved in WWII.

  11. Laura says:

    Karen – Huh! Interesting theory. I was probably a handmaiden in King Arthur’s court, then.

  12. Amanda says:

    You should read Philippa Gregory’s “The Other Boleyn Girl”. I’m not entirely sure how accurate it is – might be a bit like The Tudors – but it’s a really good book (and much better than the movie in case you’ve watched that)

  13. Laura says:

    Amanda – I haven’t seen the movie; I’ve heard so many bad things about it that I have avoided picking it up. Since I usually prefer the book over most movies based on them, I’ll have to head to the library!

  14. […] Exhibit B) My Comment on I got married to the widow next door… […]

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