Updated: Apr 12
Royal facts & stories from our British Royal Family History
Twice a Widow at 17;
Spare a thought for Judith of Flanders, also known as Judith of France (c. 843 – c. 870), Queen of Wessex, & granddaughter of Emperor Charlemagne.
In 856 aged just 13 she was married off to 56 year old Æthelwulf, King of Wessex. The king died two years later in 858 leaving Judith now aged 15 a widow.
Now the widowed 15 year old was married off to Æthelbald, the new King of Wessex , who just so happened to be the widowed Queen's, erm...step-son, yes, step-son!
The church were furious with this arrangement, as they regarded the relationship in direct contravention of church law.
But like her first marriage, it didn't last long as the king died in 860, leaving the now 17 years old, a widow twice over.
Following Æthelbald's death, Judith sold her properties in Wessex & returned to France. In 861, Judith eloped with Baldwin (830s – 879), later Count of Flanders. Her father was furious, & they went to the Pope, Nicholas I to plead their case. The Pope took diplomatic action & asked Judith's father to accept the union as legally binding & welcome the young couple into his circle – which ultimately he did.
The couple then returned to France & were officially married at Auxerre on 13 December 862. She had three children with Baldwin, & died sometime after 870.
👑 Judith's first husband Æthelwulf, was the father of King Alfred the Great, by his first wife Osburh.
The Grandmother of Europe;
Queen Victoria's links with Europe's royal families earned her the nickname "the grandmother of Europe". Victoria & Albert had 9 children. Not bad for someone that hated being pregnant, viewed breast-feeding with disgust, & thought newborn babies were ugly.
Victoria & Albert had a massive '42' grandchildren, of whom 34 survived to adulthood, & and 87 great-grandchildren!
They had 20 grandsons & 22 granddaughters, of whom two (the youngest sons of Prince Alfred & Princess Helena) were stillborn, & two more (Prince Alexander John of Wales & Prince Harald of Schleswig-Holstein) died shortly after birth.
Their first grandchild was the future German Emperor Wilhelm II, who was born to their eldest child, Princess Victoria, on 27 January 1859; the youngest was Prince Maurice of Battenberg, born on 3 October 1891 to Princess Beatrice (1857–1944), who was herself the last child born to Victoria and Albert & the last child to die.
The last of Victoria & Albert's grandchildren to die (almost exactly 80 years after Queen Victoria herself) was Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone (25 February 1883 – 3 January 1981).
Their descendants include Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Harald V of Norway, Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, Margrethe II of Denmark, & Felipe VI of Spain.
Victoria & Albert's nine children; from left-right;
Princess Victoria, Princess Royal, later German Empress & Queen of Prussia ( 21 November 1840 – 5 August 1901)
Prince Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later Edward VII ( 9 November 1841 – 6 May 1910)
Princess Alice, later Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine (25 April 1843 – 14 December 1878)
Prince Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, & Duke of Edinburgh ( 6 August 1844 – 30 July 1900)
Princess Helena, later Her Royal Highness Princess Christian (25 May 1846 – 9 June 1923)
Princess Louise, later Duchess of Argyll (18 March 1848 – 3 December 1939)
Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn ( 1 May 1850 – 16 January 1942)
Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany ( 7 April 1853 – 28 March 1884)
Princess Beatrice, later Princess Henry of Battenberg (14 April 1857 – 26 October 1944)
Victoria's youngest son, Leopold, was affected by the blood-clotting disease haemophilia B & two of her five daughters, Alice & Beatrice, were carriers.
Royal haemophiliacs descended from Victoria included her great-grandsons, Alexei Nikolaevich, Tsarevich of Russia, Alfonso, Prince of Asturias, & Infante Gonzalo of Spain. The presence of the disease in Victoria's descendants, but not in her ancestors, led to modern speculation that her true father was not the Duke of Kent but a haemophiliac.
There is no documentary evidence of a haemophiliac in connection with Victoria's mother, & as male carriers always suffer the disease, even if such a man had existed he would have been seriously ill.
It is more likely that the mutation arose spontaneously because Victoria's father was over 50 at the time of her conception & haemophilia arises more frequently in the children of older fathers. Spontaneous mutations account for about a third of cases.
Four Lions & Elephant & a Polar Bear;
Henry III ( (1 October 1207 – 16 November 1272)
The king kept a quartet of lions in the Tower of London. They were called Fanny, Miss Fanny, Miss Howe & Miss Fanny Howe.
The English king even received a polar bear from the King of Norway. It was allowed to hunt for fish in the River Thames on the end of a long rope. The first elephant in England was a gift to King Henry III from the King of France.
William II ( c. 1056 – 2 August 1100);
The son of William the Conqueror, William 'Rufus' II, was a cruel, greedy monarch &, hated by the church, which he exploited. Abbeys without an abbot had their revenues paid to the King & , at the time of his death, Nicknamed 'Rufus' the king was enjoying the incomes from 12 abbeys that he deliberately kept without an abbot.
Rufus died in 1100, killed by an arrow while hunting in the New Forest. No one knows whether it was a hunting accident or an assassination. But he was so little cared for by the people that nobody enquired too deeply. Disposal of his body was left to a poor charcoal burner who dumped the King’s body in his cart & took it to Winchester Cathedral. There was no great ceremony, but because Rufus had been king he was buried under the floor. A year later the tower of the cathedral collapsed, destroying his tomb.
William the 'Bastard' (c. 1028 – 9 September 1087);
More commonly known as William the Conqueror , the king was also known as ‘William the Bastard’ during his lifetime, being the result of his father’s affair with a tanner’s daughter, but never to his face!. His tendency, when offended, to order a person’s tongue to be cut out & nailed to a door probably accounted for this.
The White Tower centrepiece of the Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror in 1078, & was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite.
He was one of the most brutal monarchs who, after an uprising in York, sent his army north with orders to kill every man, woman & child living there. Around 150,000 people died & much of the north of England was depopulated for generations.
William died putting down a rebellion in Normandy in 1087. Even after his death he was kicking up a stink! He was already obese & his body swelled further on its journey to Caen to be buried. It would not fit his coffin & had to be forced in. During the struggle his abdomen burst open. The smell was horrendous & they couldn’t get the lid on fast enough.
The Queens fishes;
Technically the Queen still owns the sturgeons, whales & dolphins in the waters around the UK. A statute from 1324, at the time of the reign of King Edward II, states that: ‘Also the king shall have… whales & sturgeons taken in the sea or elsewhere within the realm.’
This statute is still valid today, & sturgeons, porpoises, whales & dolphins are recognised as ‘Fishes Royal’.
When captured within three miles of UK shores, or washed ashore either dead or alive, they may be claimed on behalf of the Crown. Generally, when brought into port, a sturgeon is sold in the usual way, & the purchaser, as a gesture of loyalty, requests the honour of its being accepted by the Queen.
According to one of her biographers, Giles St Aubyn, Queen Victoria wrote an average of 2500 words a day during her adult life.
From July 1832 until just before her death, she kept a detailed journal, which eventually encompassed 122 volumes.
After Victoria's death, her youngest daughter was appointed her literary executor. Beatrice transcribed & edited the diaries covering Victoria's accession onwards, & burned the originals in the process. Despite this destruction, much of the diaries still exist.
The Queen wrote of her wedding day "I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert ... his excessive love & affection gave me feelings of heavenly love & happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, & we kissed each other again & again! His beauty, his sweetness & gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband! ... to be called by names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before – was bliss beyond belief! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!
Pictures below of Queen Victoria's writing desks & Osborne House.
For more information about Osborne House visit English Heritage
King George V loved the swearword ‘bugger’, & before he died, when it was suggested he should go back to Bognor to recuperate from his illness he famously said ‘Bugger Bognor’.
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