In the previous instalment, we looked at some Kings and Queens who succeeded their elder sibling and ruled a country despite the odds. Now, in light of the recent revelation that Prince George’s younger brother or sister will arrive in April, here are some more rulers who, at one point or another, were once nothing more than royal siblings.
King James II
However, with the events of the Civil War and King Charles’ beheading in 1649, this meant that both James and his elder brother were forced to flee to France, where they spent their ten year long exile.
When the Restoration of 1660 put Charles II on the throne, restoring the monarchy after the Commonwealth, James was rewarded by his brother for his loyalty. He was made Lord High Admiral, and was granted the revenue from both the post office and wine tariffs.
Although Charles II had many mistresses, and many children from them, he had no legitimate children with his wife, Catherine of Braganza. So the throne passed to his brother, James II, upon the King’s death in 1685. King James’ reign was not to last however, and he was deposed three years later during the Glorious Revolution, which consequently put his daughter and son-in-law on the thrones of England and Scotland in a dual-monarchy.
Like Queen Elizabeth I before her, Queen Anne, who was both a younger sibling and a girl in a situation where male primogeniture was the practice, succeeded her older sister Queen Mary (in Elizabeth’s case it was Mary I). Mary II was married to William, Prince of Orange, who ruled alongside her as King William III. The pair had ascended the English throne after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and when Mary died of smallpox in 1694, William continued to rule, but did not marry again and produce any heirs. Anne became his heir presumptive and, because he derived his claim to the throne from his late wife Mary, any children that he had from another marriage would automatically be placed under Anne in the order of succession.
Upon the death of King William in 1702, Anne became Queen and proved to be a very popular Monarch. The Act of Union was passed during her reign, and it resulted in England and Scotland uniting to form a single nation, Great Britain. Unfortunately, despite her 17 pregnancies, none of her children survived into adulthood. When the Queen died, the throne passed to her cousin from Hanover, King George I, and his descendants.
To read more about Queen Anne’s life, click here.
King William IV and Edward, Duke of Kent
King George III and his wife had 15 children, of which two became King and one fathered a future Queen.
The King’s eldest son was the future King George IV. When he was the Prince of Wales, George had married Caroline of Brunswick. But the pair hated each other, and they separated shortly after their marriage. Despite that, the union produced one child, a daughter, Princess Charlotte. Charlotte was to succeed her father, and grew very popular among the citizens. Tragically, she died in childbirth, predeceasing both her father and grandfather. All of a sudden, the Prince of Wales was left without an heir and without a wife.
Then, when the King died, George IV became the King of Great Britain and Ireland. He had been the Prince of Wales for almost sixty years. However, he had lived a lavish life and had grown fat and unhealthy. When he died, just ten years later, he was succeeded by his second brother, William IV. William had spent his youth serving in the Navy, a job that is usually taken up by a Monarch’s younger sons, and earned himself the nickname “Sailor King”. He was married to Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, after whom the city of Adelaide in Australia is named, but the couple had no children.
Princess Charlotte’s death had caused a scramble among the rest of King George’s sons to get married and have children of their own. Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, married Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and they had a daughter, Alexandrina Victoria. Sadly, the Duke of Kent died before she was even one year old, and didn’t have a chance to ever become King himself. But his dynastic ambitions were fulfilled, and his young daughter grew up to succeed William IV as Queen Victoria, the longest reigning monarch of Great Britain.
King George V
One of the most popular instances of a “spare” ascending the throne is that of King George VI. But what very few people know is that his father, George V, was also never meant to be King. The second son of the future King Edward VII, George had an elder brother, Albert Victor, who, at the time of his birth, was second in line to the throne. When he was 27, Albert Victor got engaged to Mary of Teck but, less than six months later, he died of pneumonia.
George grieved the loss of his brother and in a letter to his grandmother, the Queen, he wrote: “How deeply I did love him; & I remember with pain nearly every hard word & little quarrel I ever had with him & I long to ask his forgiveness, but, alas, it is too late now!” During the period of mourning, he and Mary were drawn to each other by their mutual loss. Since Queen Victoria had already approved of Mary as a Royal bride, George proposed to her and they were married in 1893.
Less than twenty years later, George became King, and Mary his Queen.
King George VI
Perhaps the most well-known case of a King’s brother succeeding him is King George VI, who took the throne after King Edward VIII abdicated in order to marry American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. The Abdication Crisis of 1936 came just a few years before the outbreak of the Second World War, and the King, formerly Albert, Duke of York, was most unprepared to lead the country at this time of need. But, he adopted the regnal name of George to establish a continuity between his reign and that of his father’s, and proved to be a most effective wartime King.
King George VI was the father of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen herself has four children, 8 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Prince George, her only great-grandson, is expected to someday rule over the United Kingdom, while his younger sibling will enjoy a life of royal duties and privileges, but with fewer responsibilities. However, should circumstances go awry, it is entirely possible that someday the descendants of William and Catherine’s second child will sit upon the throne of England. We pray that it does not happen, but only time will tell.