British succession – what if…

An interesting question came up by Jane on The British Royal Message Board (I love “what ifs” scenarios, or counterfactual history,  when it comes to historic events, and let my geek come out often)

Jane writes: “All this talk of changing succession rules in the UK leads me to ask: just who exactly would be this person, under the law of fully cognatic (“absolute”) primogeniture?” She goes on to say that neither the current monarch nor the Stuart pretender, currently the Duke of Bavaria would qualify.

A fully cognatic primogeniture would give the oldest child, regardless of sex, rights to the throne.

Since the Act of Settlement 1701 is saying that the rights go to descendants of Sophia of Hanover, who aren’t Catholic or married to a Catholic, we start with her.

Sophia was not the oldest child of Elizabeth Stuart, but since the others either died long before the Act of Settlement came to, without offspring or were Catholic… and though the current suggestion for amendment would possibly alter it so that those married to Catholics can ascend, the current point is that the monarch would still have to not be Catholic (if I have understood it correctly). Therefore, Sophia would still be the starting point for this evening’s little excision into royal genealogical geekery.

Prepare for some tedious genealogical rambling of almost biblical proportions.


I am putting the actual monarch at the time in brackets in the headings after each alternative, so there will be a comparison between the counterfactual history and the real thing. I am also putting the year of the reign in parenthesis in the headings. 


George I (1714-1727)

After Queen Anne passed away, Sophia of Hanover’s oldest child ended up on the throne in the United Kingdom as George I.


George II (1727-1760)

George I’s oldest child followed him as George II. Until this point, history and counterfactual history agrees in this case.

Since George II’s oldest son, Frederick, Prince of Wales, didn’t survive his father, the next on the throne in the UK was his son, George III. But George III had an older sister, Augusta Frederica of Wales. And this is where the theoretical discussion begins. George III would still have taken over Hanover, but lose the UK to his sister.


Augusta (1760-1813) [George III (1760-1820)]

Augusta married Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick.

Their oldest child was Auguste Caroline Friederike Luise, who married Friedrich III, Duke of Württemberg in 1780. She passed away before her mother, in 1788, so the throne would have passed over to her oldest child.


William I of Württemberg (1813-1864) – [George III (1760-1820), George IV (1820-1830), William IV (1830-1837), Victoria (1837-1901 )]

Auguste’s oldest child was William I of Württemberg. (1781 – 1864). He was married three times, divorced once.


Marie of Württemberg (1864-1887) [Victoria (1837-1901 )]

William I’s oldest child with his second wife, Catherine Pavlovna of Russia, Marie (1816–1887), married count Alfred von Neipperg. The couple does not appear to have any offspring, so after 1887, the throne would have gone to Marie’s sister’s descendants.

Her full sister, Sophie of Württemberg married Willem III of the Netherlands, but neither she, nor any of their three sons survived until 1887.


Catherine of Württemberg (1887-1898) [Victoria (1837-1901 )]

Since none of Sophie’s three sons survived their maternal aunt, it would have been time to turn to Marie’s half sisters. William I’s  third marriage produced three children. The oldest of these, Catherine (1821–1898), married her cousin Frederick. She also survived her older sisters, and so would have inherited the throne.


William II of Württemberg (1898-1921) [Victoria (1837-1901), Edward VII (1901-1910), George V (1910-1936)]

Catherine and Frederick’s marriage produced one child, William II of Württemberg (1848 – 1921) He was deposed from the throne in Württemberg in 1918, but since this is theoretical anyway…

William II was married to Princess Marie of Waldeck and Pyrmont. They had three children, and the oldest would inherit.


Princess Pauline of Württemberg (1921-1965) [George V (1910-1936), Edward VIII (1936), George VI (1936-1952), Elizabeth (1952-)]

Princess Pauline of Württemberg (1877 – 1965) married William Frederick, Prince of Wied in 1898.

Their oldest son, Prince Hermann of Wied, died in 1941. But he was married to Countess Marie Antonia of Stolberg-Wernigerode, and they had offspring, so skipping a generation again.


Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Constantine of Wied (1965-2000) [Elizabeth (1952-)]

Prince Hermann’s oldest son, Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Constantine, married Guda Prinzessin zu Waldeck und Pyrmont

That marriage produced two sons, of which the oldest would have inherited in 2000.


Johann Friedrich Alexander Hermann Wilhelm Josias of Wied (2000-) [Elizabeth (1952-)]

He is the direct legitimate descendant of Sophia of Hanover through the oldest line, and he would then be the current monarch of the United Kingdom.

In the counterfactual historic line, there would have been ten monarchs since Queen Anne. In reality, there have been eleven. The longevity of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth have made up for the relatively short reigns of William IV, Edward VII and Edward VIII

There are certain things I have to note, though. 

I have done a cursory check on the religion of the above mentioned, but that is only cursory. If a Catholic spouse has entered the picture somewhere, the conclusion would be wrong.

In addition to that, the above line is correct if one merely follows today genealogical lines if the change would have been retroactive today. If they had gone for absolute primogeniture at the time of the Act of Settlement, it is likely that some of the marriages down the line wouldn’t have occurred. (The match between Marie of Württemberg to Count Alfred von Neipperg seems especially unlikely)

If I’m missing something, please let me know, and I’ll alter accordingly.

By Anne

Anne is a librarian by day. By night, she reads. She knits. She watches movies and television shows. She enjoys board games. And posting on royal related forums.