The lineage of the British Royal Family has an intriguing history with an established ancestry that dates back hundreds of years.
The British Royal Family is probably the most famous monarchy in the world. Headed by Queen Elizabeth II, the royal family plays the role of a constitutional monarchy in the UK. That means that, while Queen Elizabeth II is the British head of state, the family does not officially have political influence in the country.
Elizabeth is also the head of state of 54 other areas of the Commonwealth and has links with other monarchs across Europe.
Since 1917, the Royal Family has also been known as the House of Windsor. Today, the most famous family in Britain still plays a significant role in society and continues to divide public opinion.
Over the years, its members have made headlines for good and bad reasons. Here is a list of interesting facts about deceased and living members of the most loved (and hated) family, including the commonly confusing lineage of the British Royal Family.
Names & Titles In The Lineage Of The British Royal Family
Until 1917, the Royal Family was known as the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which was indicative of the family's German heritage. King George V opted to change the name while Britain was at war with Germany, so from 1917 onwards, the family name was Windsor.
Queen Elizabeth II later stipulated that family members should have the surname Mountbatten-Windsor to reflect both her husband's (Prince Philip) family name and the House of Windsor.
The Longest-Serving Queen
Queen Elizabeth II began her reign as the British head of state on February 6th, 1952. She was 27.
At the time of writing this, she is approaching 70 years on the throne, which makes her the longest-serving monarch by some distance. Previously, Queen Victoria held this record, having reigned from 1837-1901.
A Family of Many Generations
The lineage of the British Royal Family dates back to the 9th century AD and has 37 generations. Since then, all Kings and Queens who have ruled have a common ancestor, Alfred The Great. Some well-known British royals from the past include Henry V, Henry VIII, Richard III, and Mary I.
It is interesting to note that Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Phillip are descendants of Queen Victoria. Inbreeding was common in the Royal Family, but that is not the case today.
Queen Elizabeth II became the first woman in the Royal Family to volunteer for military service full-time. During World War 2, as a member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service, she worked as a mechanic and learned to drive and repair vehicles.
Elizabeth's daughter Anne, Princess Royale, took part in the 1976 Olympic games in equestrian, a sport in which she is a European champion.
A more recent addition to the Royal Family is Catherine (Kate) Middleton. She made her own history by being the family's first female member with a university degree.
Rules of Marriage in the British royal family tree
If you happened to marry a member of the British Royal Family, you could never become the king or Queen. This is because only direct descendants of the previous monarch can take the throne to maintain the lineage of the British Royal Family. Hence, as the head of the state's spouse, you would be called king- or queen-consort.
There is a rule in the family that no one can marry before the age of 25 without permission from the king or Queen.
Interactions with the Public depend on where you stand on the British royal family tree
Strictly speaking, royals are not supposed to touch or be touched by members of the general public. That includes politicians. However, it's not strictly enforced and has been broken from time to time.
In 1977, American president Jimmy Carter famously kissed Queen Elizabeth II's mother on the lips during a visit.
More recently, Michelle Obama broke the rule by putting her arm around the Queen at Buckingham Palace. This was received well since Queen Elizabeth II herself returned the gesture.
Though loved by many, royal family members are not allowed to sign autographs for fans, which is probably due to the risk of fraud.
The Lineage of the British Royal Family Might Have Been Different
What is most interesting about the recent generations of the royal family is that things could have been very different. After the death of King George V, his first son Edward took to the throne in 1936.
Edward abdicated at the end of 1936 due to public disapproval of his marriage to a divorced American woman. Subsequently, the second-oldest child (George) replaced him.
King George VI reigned from 1936 until he died in 1952, at which point his oldest daughter Elizabeth took hold of the throne. She is still ruling today.
Had Edward VIII's abdication not happened, the family's history as we know it might be completely different today.
Queen Elizabeth II is not required to own a license to drive or a passport to travel anywhere, despite doing both frequently.
The latter makes perfect sense because British passports are all given in the Queen's name, so she does not need her own permission to travel overseas.
The British royal family tree comes with immeasurable wealth
The Queen does not have to pay taxes, though she personally opted to pay her share in 1992 and has continued ever since.
Many members of the family have personal fortunes in the millions, but that is spare change compared to the total value of their estate, which comprises property and land across the UK.
The Crown Estate is estimated to be worth more than £7.3 billion. Many of the buildings are not the personal property of the Queen and cannot be sold. Instead, they are passed down the lineage of the British Royal Family.
Although the Royal Family does not have any official political power, the Queen does hold a weekly meeting with the British Prime Minister at Buckingham Palace. During these discussions, she can give her advice on political affairs.
The monarch is also responsible for opening the British parliament every year by delivering a speech at the house of lords.
The monarch is also the head of the Church of England.