Canadian Royal Heritage Trust

A National Educational Charity

A Royal Reflection of the Canadian Mosaic (18 Oct. 2015)

Canadians have always been interested in genealogy.  In many First Nations, it determined chiefship or clan membership.  In the nineteenth century, Cyprien Tanguay and E.M. Chadwick collected family trees in Québec and Ontario.  The United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada was chartered in 1914 for “the descendants of those families who … sacrificed their homes in retaining their loyalty to the British Crown,” which presupposes knowledge of ancestry. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, however, genealogical research has exploded in Canada.  Genealogical societies now exist in every province. When politicians rise to prominence, the media report on their ancestry, and millions of Canadian genealogical records are available on line.

The census of 2006 found Canada to have a population of 31,241,030, with 18,319,580 people reporting a single ethnic background, and 12,921,445 mixed ancestry. As this article shows, the lineage of the Queen, Prince Philip, the Prince of Wales and the late Princess, and the Duke of Cambridge reflects this Canadian mosaic. (For convenience, the last four will often be called Philip, Charles, Diana, and William).

There are 1,678,235 Aboriginal Canadians (5½ percent of our population). It does not appear that the Royal Family has any Aboriginal Canadian blood, but some of their cousins probably do, perhaps through Isabella, first Lady Strathcona (died 1913), a Métis.

Our largest ethnic group comprises people who are wholly or partly of English heritage:  6,570,015 (21 percent).  The English trace their roots to the Anglo-Saxons, Germanic tribesmen who settled in Britain.  By the time of Alfred the Great (died 901), the various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were united under a single English monarch. In 1707, England and Scotland joined in the kingdom of Great Britain, which with the addition of Ireland in 1801 became the United Kingdom.  The Duke of Cambridge is descended from many early Anglo-Saxon kings, and from Alfred and every subsequent English and British sovereign who left children except William IV (died 1837).  The Duke’s other English ancestors include Lady Godiva (11th century); George, Duke of Clarence (died 1478), who as recounted by Shakespeare was drowned in wine; the British prime minister Charles, second Earl Grey (died 1845); and an eighteenth-century plumber named Mr Walsh.  Through both his parents he is also descended from George, fourth Earl of Huntingdon (died 1604), who may have been a kinsman of Mary Arden, mother of William Shakespeare (died 1616).

5,000,350 Canadians (16 percent) report French ancestry.  The Royal Family is descended from France’s Carolingian (752-987), Capetian (987-1328), and Valois (1328-1498) dynasties. Through Diana, William is descended from Henri IV (died 1610), first king of the Bourbon dynasty and Champlain’s sponsor.  The Royal Family’s many other French ancestors include the Norman and Plantagenet kings who ruled England from 1066 to 1485.

At 4,719,850 (15 percent), Canadians with Scottish ancestry are our third largest community.  The kingdom of Scotland emerged in the ninth century through the fusion of two Celtic peoples, the Picts and the Scots. The Royal Family claims descent from Fergus Mór (died 501), the legendary king of the Scots who came over from Ireland, and his descendant Cináed (died 860) who became king of the Picts, and many later Scottish monarchs including Robert the Bruce (died 1329) and Mary Queen of Scots (died 1587). The late Queen Mother’s father was Scottish, Claude, fourteenth Earl of Strathmore (died 1944), and through him the Queen is descended from many leading families of Scotland.

There are almost as many Irish-Canadians as there are Scottish-Canadians: 4,354,155 (14 percent).  Until the twelfth century, there were scores of kingdoms in Ireland, all nominally subject to a High King.  One of the earliest historical kings was Niall Noígíallach, “Niall of the Nine Hostages,” who lived in the fourth or fifth century. His descendants, the Uí Néill (O’Neills), dominated Ireland until their power was broken by Brian Bóroimhe (died 1014), founder of the Ua Briain (O’Briens). In 1169, at the invitation of Diarmait, King of Leinster (died 1171), a Norman army from England landed in Ireland.  The Queen Mother was descended from Niall, Brian, and Diarmait, as well as the Norman families of Butler, de Burgh, and Fitzgerald which settled in Ireland after 1169. Over the succeeding centuries, Ireland came under English rule; the Queen Mother was also descended from Aodh Mór Ó Néill, Earl of Tyrone (died 1616), who led the final Irish resistance to the conquest. In 1922, the twenty-six counties of southern Ireland were constituted the Irish Free State, which in 1949 became the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom. Until 1973 the sovereign was represented in Northern Ireland by governors, the first of whom, James, third Duke of Abercorn (died 1953), was a great-grandfather of Diana’s.

One of every ten Canadians, 3,179,425, claims German heritage. Another 194,255 trace their background to Austria, which until 1866 was one of the German states.  Germany was the core of the Holy Roman Empire, which was founded by Charlemagne (died 814) and lasted until 1806.  The Royal Family is descended from Charlemagne and many later dynasties of Emperors, including the Hohenstaufens (1152-1197, 1215-1250) and Habsburgs (1440-1740, 1745-1806; the Habsburgs also ruled Austria until 1918).  Over time, the German nobles became virtually independent monarchs, and remained sovereign through the unification of Germany in 1871 until the end of the First World War in 1918. The Royal Family claims descent from the rulers of many German states, for example Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, Württemberg, Baden, Brunswick, Hesse, Lippe, Mecklenburg, and Oldenburg.  Among their other German ancestors are the Münchhausens, the same family as the storyteller Baron Münchhausen (died 1797), and the princes of Thurn and Taxis, who dominated European postal services from the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries.

Canadians of Italian origin number 1,445,330 (5 percent).  The first King of Italy was the Royal Family’s ancestor Pepin (died 810).  During the Middle Ages, Italy was divided. The south became the kingdom of the Two Sicilies, founded by the Queen’s ancestor Ruggero I (died 1154).  The centre of the peninsula was ruled by the Pope; Diana was descended from Pope Felix V (died 1451), who before becoming a priest was the married Duke Amadeus VIII of Savoy. Northern Italy was long partitioned into city-states, which came to be dominated by noble families, including Diana’s ancestors the Dorias of Genoa, the Medicis of Florence, and the Viscontis of Milan.  In addition, the Queen is descended from Count Adenolfo of Aquino, brother of St Thomas Aquinas (died 1274).

There are 1,346,510 Chinese-Canadians (4 percent).  A succession of imperial dynasties ruled China until 1911.  The genealogist David Hughes proposed descents for our Royal Family from the Han (206 BC-AD 220), Northern Wei (386-535), Tang (618-907) and Second Zhou (690-705) dynasties.  The descent from the Han and Northern Wei runs through the chiefs of the Göktürks (a Central Asian people) and kings of Persia to the Exilarchs (heads of the Jews of Babylon), and then accepts a (now-discredited) identification of the Queen’s ancestor Theuderic of Narbonne with the Exilarch Makhir (see below).  The descent from the Tang and Second Zhou comes through the rulers of the Yenisei Kyrgyz of Siberia and the Mongol emperor Genghis Khan (died 1227).  As will be seen below, Queen Mary may have been descended from Genghis Khan.

The 1,209,090 Ukrainian-Canadians make up 4 percent of our population.  The Queen is descended from many medieval Grand Princes of Kiev, now the capital of Ukraine, including St Volodymyr the Great (died 1015), who accepted Christianity, and Volodymyr Monomakh (died 1125), who presided over the Golden Age of Kiev.  Many Ukrainian-Canadians trace their origins to Galicia or Halych, a region now divided between Poland and Ukraine.  The Queen is also descended from Danylo I (died 1264), the first king of Halych.

Three percent of Canadians, 1,035,965 people, have Dutch heritage.  Philip’s ancestor William the Silent (died 1584) led the Dutch War of Independence against Spain.  For two centuries, his descendants governed the Dutch Republic, and they have held the throne since the Netherlands became a kingdom in 1815.  Through the Queen Mother, the Royal Family is also descended from Hans Bentinck (died 1709), a nobleman who accompanied our Dutch King William III to England and was created Earl of Portland; and both Diana and the present Duchess of Cornwall are descended from another of William III’s Dutch courtiers, Arnold Joost van Keppel, Earl of Albemarle (died 1718).

There are 984,565 Canadians of Polish origin (3 percent).  Through his mother, William is a direct descendant of Mieszko I (died 992), first historical ruler of Poland, and Kazimierz III (died 1370), one of the country’s greatest monarchs.  In 1386 Kazimierz’s grand-niece Jadwiga married Jogaila (died 1434), the pagan Grand Duke of Lithuania, who converted to Christianity and became King Władysław II of Poland. Władysław and Jadwiga’s descendants, the Jagiellons (from Jagiełło, the Polish form of Jogaila), ruled Poland and Lithuania until 1572.  The Royal Family is descended from three of the Jagiellon Kings.

Another three percent of Canadians, 962,670 people, trace their roots to India.  While the Royal Family seems not to have any Indian ancestors, it does have cousins of Indian heritage.  For example, the Canadian genealogist Morris Bierbrier has shown that the Gardner family of Uttar Pradesh in India unites the blood of the Queen’s ancestor Edward III and the Indian Emperor Shah ‘Alam II (died 1806).

The census lists 783,795 Canadians as Black (2½ percent).  The present Royal Family does not have any identifiable Black heritage.  Some years ago, a Belizian-Canadian, Mario de Valdes y Cocom, claimed that George III’s wife Queen Charlotte had inherited noticeably African features from her distant ancestor Madragana, a mistress of King Afonso III of Portugal, who Mr Valdes says was Black.  Unfortunately, there is no evidence that Madragana was Black or that Charlotte had an African appearance.  The Royal Family does, however, have cousins with Black ancestry.  For example, James, Marquess of Hamilton, a second cousin of Diana, is descended from Abram Petrovich Gannibal (died 1781), a Black courtier of Peter the Great of Russia.

There are 500,600 Russian-Canadians (1.6 percent).  The Queen is descended from many of the Rurikid princes who ruled in Russia from about 862 until 1598.  From 1613 to 1917, Russia was ruled by the Romanov dynasty, which included Philip’s ancestors Peter the Great (died 1725) and Catherine the Great (died 1796).

470,580 Canadians claim Arab origin (1½ percent).  The Royal Family may be descended from some of the Arab monarchs of Spain.  For example, the Queen’s ancestor Queen Elvira of Sicily (died 1135) was the daughter of the Spanish King Alfonso VI of Castile by his wife Isabella. Some historians have identified Isabella with Zaida, who was either daughter or daughter-in-law of Muhammad al-Mu’tamid (died 1095), the Arab king of Seville.

Since 1301, the eldest son of the monarchs of England and Britain has generally borne the title of Prince of Wales, creating a special bond between the Royal Family and the 440,965 Welsh-Canadians (1½ percent).  The Welsh are descended from Ancient Britons who dominated much of Great Britain before the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons. The rulers of the three main medieval Welsh principalities (Gwynedd, Powys and Deheubarth) traced their ancestry to the semi-legendary Coel Hen, the “Old King Cole” of the nursery rhyme. Our Royal Family is descended from him and many later Welsh princes, including Rhodri Mawr (the Great) of Gwynedd and Powys (died 878), Hywel Dda (the Good) of Deheubarth (died 950), and Owain Fawr (the Great) of Gwynedd (died 1240), the last important monarch before the English conquest in 1282.  The Royal Family is also descended from the two greatest Welshmen of the fifteenth century, Owain Glyndŵr (died about 1416), who revolted against the English, and Harri Tudur, or Henry Tudor (died 1509), who in 1485 became King Henry VII.

Canadians of Scandinavian heritage include 432,515 of Norwegian ancestry, 334,765 Swedish, and 200,035 Danish, for a total of 3 percent.  Through Philip and Queen Alexandra, the wife of Edward VII, the Royal Family is descended from Harald Hårfagre (“the Fair-Haired”) (died about 933), first King of Norway; Olof Skötkonung (died 1033), first King of Sweden; Gorm den Gamle (”the Old”) (died about 958), first King of Denmark, and almost all the Danish Kings of the House of Oldenburg from 1448 to 1906.

Iberian-Canadians make up 2½ percent of our population, with 410,850 of Portuguese heritage and 325,730 Spanish.  Through Diana, William is a descendant of Afonso I (died 1185), first King of Portugal.  Through Edward III’s wife Isabella of France, the Royal Family is descended from García Jiménez, a ninth-century nobleman who became the ancestor of the kings of Castile, León, Aragon, and Navarre, the main Christian states of medieval Spain, and from Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (died 1099), called El Cid, one of Spain’s greatest warriors.  The Spanish kingdoms were united by two of Diana’s ancestors, King Ferdinand of Aragon (died 1516) and Queen Isabella of Castile (died 1504).

316,350 Canadians (1 percent) claim American heritage.  Some were born in the United States, others are men and women whose ancestors have come from the U.S.A. over the last 230 years, and still others are probably descended from Loyalists who settled here after the American Revolution.  The Queen Mother was a descendant of Augustine Warner (died 1674), a leading inhabitant of colonial Virginia and also an ancestor of George Washington.  One could probably trace a connection between the Warners and Virginia Loyalists who settled in Canada, for example the Robinsons.

There are 315,510 Hungarian-Canadians (1 percent).  Queen Mary, wife of George V, had a Hungarian grandmother, Countess Claudine Rhédey de Kis-Rhéde.  Through her, the Royal Family is descended from Árpád (died about 907), who led the pagan Magyars into central Europe and founded Hungary.  From then until the Hungarian throne fell vacant in 1921, almost all the sovereigns of Hungary were descendants of Árpád, and many of them were ancestors of our Royal Family.

Another 1 percent of Canadians, 315,120 people, describe their origin as Jewish.  The Royal Family may have Jewish ancestry through Zoltán of Hungary (died 947/8). He married the daughter of one Menumorut, who it has been suggested was a Khazar.  The Khazars ruled the steppes from Ukraine to Kazakhstan, and around the beginning of the tenth century their monarch and many of his nobles adopted Judaism.  If Menumorat was a Khazar, and if his family took part in the conversion, then the Royal Family has Jewish forefathers.  A discredited theory, put forward by the historian Arthur Zuckerman, identifies the Queen’s eighth-century ancestor Theuderic of Narbonne with Makhir, leader of the Jews of Babylon and then Southern France, who was said to be a descendant of the Israelite King David (died about 970 BC).  There are also claims that the Royal Family’s ancestors the Colonnas, a prominent Roman family since the twelfth century, are of Jewish origin.

No other Canadian ethnic groups reaches one percent of our population.  There are 242,685 Greek-Canadians.  Philip was born in Greece, the son of Prince Andrew of Greece and the grandson of George I (died 1913), the first Greek king of the House of Oldenburg which reigned until 1974.  Philip is also descended from the Komnenos, Dukas, Angelos, Laskaris, and Palaiologos dynasties, which ruled the Greek Byzantine Empire from 1057 to 1453. Then there are 192,170 Romanian Canadians.  Until 1859, Romania was divided into two principalities, Moldavia and Wallachia.  Through Queen Mary, the Royal Family is descended from the Bogdanids of Moldavia (about 1363-1668) and the Basarabids of Wallachia (about 1310-1627).  The ancestor of the Basarabids was named Thocomerius; some identify him with Togatemür, great-great-grandson of the Mongol emperor Genghis Khan (died 1227), others with a Slav named Tikhomir.  Be that as it may, the best-known Basarabid was the bloodthirsty Vlad III, called Ţepeş (“the Impaler”) (died 1476), who was called Dracula (“son of the Dragon”) because his father was a Knight of the Hungarian Order of the Dragon.  Bram Stoker took this nickname for the main character of his novel, and Queen Mary was descended from Dracula’s half-brother Vlad IV Călugărul (“the monk”) (died 1495).

135,060 Canadians claim Czech or Czechoslovak ancestry.  The Czech Republic includes the old kingdom of Bohemia.  The first historical ruler of Bohemia was Bořivoj I (died about 889), a direct ancestor of William. Indeed, William can trace his lineage to members of all of the principal dynasties that ruled Bohemia until the kingdom ended in 1918: the Přemyslids, Luxembourgs, Poděbrads, Jagiellons, Wittelsbachs, and Habsburgs.  These include Boleslav I Ukrutný (“the Cruel”) (died 972), brother of St Václav I (died 935) whom we call “Good King Wenceslas.”

And so the Duke of Cambridge is related to both Dracula and Good King Wenceslas.  That may be merely a curiosity, but there is no doubt that our Royal Family’s ancestry makes it a wonderful reflection of the Queen’s Canadian people in this year of her Diamond Jubilee.

–John McLeod



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