“How German are the British royals?” Germany’s public broadcaster funded Deutsche Welle (DW) asked the day before King Charles III set off on the first state visit of his reign.
Very, it concluded, reprising an article first published in October soon after Charles took the throne.
The King “has a bloodline made up of roughly half German ancestors”, it said, and Prince Harry’s wife Meghan “is said to have German ancestors”.
And the piece de resistance of the “special relationship” is spelled out as follows: Should nearly 5,000 people in the royal line of succession die, the British crown will go to German hospital “therapist Karin Vogel, who lives in Rostock, [and] is a descendant of Sophia of Hanover, the mother of King George I, the first British king from Germany”.
It’s true that for all Britain’s aspirations to the so-called “special relationship” with America, it is with Germany that the kinship is flesh.
Indeed, the Windsors were wholly German barely three centuries ago. Until 1714, Britain’s future King George I, ruled Brunswick-Luneburg or Hanover. He was succeeded by his son George II (responsible, according to DW for the British national anthem, God Save The King) and then grandson George III, generally known as Mad King George. He was “the first in the line of German kings to be born in England,” says DW, but he appears to have compensated for that by marrying German Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
George IV also had a “predominantly German bloodline,” says DW and when his niece, the “partly German” Victoria was crowned, she promptly married the German Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Succeeded by Edward VII, “the first English king from the German dynasty of Sachsen-Coburg and Gotha,” the family’s name was simplified for English tongues to Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
When Edward VII’s son became King George V, he married Maria von Teck. DW points out that she too “had German blood”, something that seems to have been obscured by the fact she became known as Queen Mary. With World War I raging, the British king decided to renounce his German family name and titles, christening the royal family ‘Windsor’. Meanwhile, George V’s cousin Ludwig von Battenberg took the surname ‘Mountbatten’. It was his grandson, Philip, who would go on to marry Princess Elizabeth, mother of King Charles III.
So just how Teutonic is Charles? Very. While his mother was “only partly of German descent,” admits DW, she did “display some stereotypical German virtues throughout her life, including discipline and a sense of duty”. As for his father, he “had predominantly German ancestors and spoke fluent German”.
Would diversity and the British royal family mean more Plantagenets?