Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Queens who did the double

Producing one king was on the essentials list when it came to the job spec of a queen consort.  Running a good court, keeping visitors happy, wearing good clothes and encouraging trade were also on the desirable list.  But if you wanted a bonus and a good reference then only delivering a future monarch would do.  And while some queens missed out on motherhood, others filled their royal nursery so successfully that not one but two of their children went on to be crowned.  Seven women have done the royal double in British history.

Four kings together - the little boys in the centre became Edward VIII and George VI, the last brothers to be kings of England
Cecily Neville has taken centre stage in The White Queen (BBC One, Sundays) again but she was actually the third mother of two kings. 
First on the list is that first modern queen of England.  Matilda of Flanders gave birth to four sons and all of them claimed the right to be king of their father's conquered land at one point but only two were acknowledged as such and crowned. In fact it was sons number three and four who got the big job - perhaps the only time in history that two such low born boys have usurped the older siblings so successfully.  William and Henry both ruled England after dad but big brothers Robert and Richard didn't fare so well.  Robert was the first born and always lined up to be Duke of Normandy after William I died but second son Richard expected England to come his way.  Unfortunately for him, he was killed in a hunting accident in the New Forest in the south of daddy's new land before he could inherit.  And that meant the crown went to William who was....killed in a hunting accident in the New Forest but not before he ruled England for 11 years.  Matilda's two boys clocked up 46 years on the throne between them, the longest rule of two brothers in English history.

William Rufus of England was his father's third son and might have expected diddly squit in the will - but the death of an older brother, Richard, led to him becoming King of England form 1087 to 1100
That powerhouse of medieval womanhood, Eleanor of Aquitaine, was never going to produce just one king.  She had so much royal blood and ambition flowing through her that only multiple monarchs would do.  She, too, saw two older sons lose out on the crown.  Her first born child with second husband, Henry II, was a little boy called William who died aged just three.  They had another son, Henry, but he died six years before his father after several years of rebellion, stoked in part by his mother.  That left son number three, Richard, to take the throne but his ten years of rule ended with his early death in 1199 and his eight years of marriage had failed to produce a child.  Eleanor's fourth son, Geoffrey, was dead by then too so it was son number five, the last of her children, who became King of England against all the odds.  John started life known as Lackland but ended up holding a whole country when he took the crown in 1199.  He was lacking in land again by the end, having lost much of his French territory and a lot of his power to his nobles.  Eleanor's second king proved to be one of the most disastrous monarchs the country has ever known.
King John was the last of Henry II and Eleanor's  children but somehow ended up monarch
And then we come to Cecily.  She, of course, was never queen but came so close to wearing a crown herself that reports of her bitterness towards those who did end up as consort are completely understandable.  Cecily was a looker and a rich one at that and at the age of fourteen she married Richard, Duke of York.  Following the disastrous reign of Henry VI, Richard began pushing for the throne himself and in 1460 was recognized as the heir making Cecily all but queen.  But the Lancastrian win at Wakefield and the death of her husband dashed her hopes of being consort.  Instead, she saw her second son, Edward, become king soon afterwards and hold on to the throne through the bloody battles of the later War of the Roses.  On Edward's death, her youngest son wrestled the throne from his nephews and became Richard III.  Cecily outlived both her kingly boys and died in 1495.
Cecily Neville, mother of two kings and just months away from being a queen herself
After the union of the crowns, the first queen to provide two kings was Henrietta Maria of France.  She married Charles I in 1625 and provided him with four sons.  Her eldest was stillborn and son number two was given the same name as his older brother.  He became Charles II but died without children in 1685 meaning the crown passed to his younger brother, James II.  But James was by then Catholic and the birth of his own legitimate son, James, in 1688 led to him being overthrown.
Henrietta Maria, Queen of England painted by Anthony Van Dyck.  She was the mother of two kings, the last of them unseated by two daughters whose own mother provided multiple monarchs
James' throne was taken by his daughter, Mary, who became the second queen regnant of that name and shared her throne with her husband, William III.  On his death, the crown passed to Mary's sister, Anne.  Mary and Anne were both daughters of James II with Anne Hyde, his first wife whose father was chancellor but who was a commoner.  Pepys said the marriage had undone the kingdom but Anne is the only woman in British history to give birth to two queen regnants.

Anne Hyde with her husband who was at that time James, Duke of York.  With them are their two daughters, Mary and Anne, who would later boot dad off the throne and both end up as queen.
Anne's children all predeceased her so that the crown passed to the Hanoverians.  And it was the longest serving of that house's queen consorts who became the mother of two kings.  Charlotte of Mecklenberg-Strelitiz married George III soon after he became king and provided him with fifteen children including nine sons.  The eldest became George IV but he lost his only heir when his daughter, Charlotte, died in childbirth.  The older Charlotte's second son, Frederick, died three years before his big brother and left no children so number three stepped in and became William IV.
Queen Charlotte had two sons take the throne but between them they ruled England for just 17 years
And then we come to the last queen, so far, to provide two kings.  Mary of Teck married George V after her first fiance, the man who was in line to be king, died.  Her eldest son became king on George's death in 1936 but the old monarch's warning, that the Prince of Wales would ruin himself within a year, came true and Edward VIII abdicated just before Christmas that year.  Mary's second son, Albert Frederick Arthur George, became king and ruled as George VI.  The queen saw her granddaughter, Elizabeth, become queen regnant in 1952 and died the following year.
Mary of Teck.  Almost 900 years after Matilda of Flanders became the first queen consort to be mother of two kings, Mary saw two of her boys take the throne of England.

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