Royals have been marrying their cousins since time immemorial, traditionally as a means of strengthening political alliances. What might be surprising though is that members of the royal family have continued to marry their cousins, right up to the present day!
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert: 1st cousins
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were first cousins, having shared the same grandfather, Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld:
- Victoria: Victoria was the daughter of Francis’s daughter, Princess Victoria of Saxe Coburg-Saalfeld.
- Albert: Albert was the son of Francis’s son, Ernest III, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.
Fun fact: The match between Victoria and Albert was encouraged, if not made, by their mutual Uncle Leopold, the second son and third child of Francis. More about Uncle Leopold later. Here are some amazing perks you never knew the royal family had.
King George IV and Caroline of Brunswick: 1st cousins
Just one generation prior, Queen Victoria’s uncle, King George IV, married his first cousin Caroline:
- George IV: George IV was the son of King George III, who was the younger brother of Princess Augusta Frederica.
- Caroline: Caroline was the daughter of Princess Augusta Frederica.
Sharing a grandfather, King George III, George IV and Caroline were first cousins. However, unlike Victoria and Albert, George IV and Caroline did not have a fruitful or a happy marriage. In fact, they married in 1795 and had permanently separated for good by 1796.
The unhappy marriage between cousins that changed history
Universal History Archive/UIG/Shutterstock
King George IV and Caroline’s unhappy union produced only one child, Princess Charlotte, who died in childbirth in 1817. When George IV died, the crown went to the next oldest son of King George III, William IV (who was King George IV’s brother), who was 64 years old at the time. When King William IV died without legitimate children, the crown went to Victoria, the oldest living legitimate grandchild of King George III (her father was King George III’s son, the late Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn).
Had the marriage between King George IV and Caroline lasted longer, there might have been a living heir when King George IV died, and Queen Victoria would never have been Queen. In this photo, Princess Charlotte is shown with her husband, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, who was the brother of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s parents, and who made the match between Victoria and Albert. These are the royal wedding rules that the entire royal family must follow.