In October 2018, Kensington Palace announced that Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex is expecting a baby in the spring of 2019. The royal baby will be seventh in line to the throne after the Prince of Wales; Prince William the Duke of Cambridge; Prince George; Princess Charlotte; Prince Louis and Prince Harry himself.
Over the centuries, royal children born seventh in line to the throne have often enjoyed a balance between public and private life, experiencing close connections to their reigning relatives but also opportunities to pursue independent careers and interests. In the 18th and 19th centuries, however, there were sometimes opportunities for a prince or princess who was seventh in line to the British throne, or even further down the line of succession, to become a king or queen elsewhere in Europe. Here are seven royal babies who were seventh in line to the throne when they were born, from the 17th century to the present day.
Prince John Philip Frederick of the Palatinate (26 September 1627 – 16 February 1650)
In 1627, King Charles I of England and Scotland had been married to Princess Henrietta Maria of France for two years. Henrietta Maria had been just 15 at the time of the wedding in 1625 and would not give birth to a living child, the future King Charles II, until 1630.
For English Protestants, however, the succession was already secure in the person of Charles I’s sister, the former Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia, and her children. While Henrietta Maria was a Roman Catholic and guaranteed control over her children’s education according to the terms of her marriage contract, Elizabeth was considered to be a Protestant heroine. Her husband, Frederick V, Elector Palatine, had accepted the crown of Bohemia as the request of the predominantly Protestant population of Prague in 1619. Frederick and Elizabeth spent a single winter as king and queen of Bohemia before Frederick was defeated by the Roman Catholic Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II at the battle of White Mountain in 1620 and the family sought refuge in the Hague. Elizabeth and her family were included in English prayers for the royal family and their large number of children seemed to guarantee a stable Protestant succession in the event that Charles I and Henrietta Maria were childless.
On 16 September 1627, Elizabeth gave birth to her tenth child and sixth surviving son, John Philip Frederick. The new baby, seventh in line to the English and Scottish thrones, spent his early childhood in Leiden before being sent to the French court for his education, along with his elder brother Edward. While John Philip’s eldest brothers, Charles Louis, Rupert and Maurice, sought their fortune at the court of King Charles I, John Philip became involved in a scandal following his return to the Hague.
In 1646, John Philip killed an exiled French colonel, Jacques de l’Epinay, in a duel. The colonel had boasted that he had enjoyed the favours of John Philip’s mother, Elizabeth, and one of his sisters, the portrait artist Louise Hollandine. These claims outraged the young prince. Wanted by the Dutch authorities after the duel, John Philip fled the Netherlands and became a mercenary in the service of the Duke of Lorraine, where he was killed during the Fronde rebellion in France in 1650.
The descendants of Elizabeth of Bohemia ultimately ensured Protestant succession for the British royal family, as the English Protestants of Charles I’s reign had hoped. In 1701, the Act of Settlement decreed that the succession would be restricted to the Protestant descendants of John Philip’s younger sister, Sophia of Hanover. Sophia’s son, George I, succeeded to the British throne in 1714.
Princess Mary of Great Britain (5 March 1723 – 14 January 1772)
Mary was born in the reign of her grandfather, King George I. She was the sixth surviving child of the future king George II and his queen, Caroline of Ansbach and seventh in line to the throne after her father and five elder siblings. Mary was a voracious reader and described as “tall, and handsome enough to be a painter’s model”.
On 8 May 1740, Mary was married by proxy to the future Frederick II, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace London. She did not meet her new husband until the following month.
Although Frederick proved a useful ally to Great Britain, providing Hessian soldiers to fight for the British during the American Revolution, Frederick and Mary’s marriage was an unhappy one. Described by Horace Walpole as “obstinate, of no genius” and “brutal”, Frederick was abusive toward Mary. She spent extended periods of time in Britain to escape her husband. After Frederick’s conversion to Catholicism became public in 1754, Mary achieved a permanent separation. Mary’s father-in-law provided her with a residence in Hanau where she raised her three sons.
After the death of her younger sister, Louisa, from pregnancy complications in 1751, Mary took a strong interest in the upbringing of Louisa’s four children from her marriage to King Frederik V of Denmark: three daughters and one son who survived infancy. Mary also corresponded with her relatives in Britain, maintaining the connections between the various branches of King George II’s descendants.
Louisa’s son King Christian VII married his cousin, Princess Caroline Matilda of Great Britain, who was a sister of King George III. The marriage of Caroline Matilda and the mentally unstable Christian VII was deeply unhappy. Caroline Matilda wrote to her aunt Mary: “I am amazed at the King’s torpor and insensibility,” and complained that she was badly treated by her mother-in-law. Mary expressed great concern for her niece but was unwilling to become involved in conflicts within the Danish royal family. Caroline Matilda pursued a disastrous affair with the court doctor Johan Struensee, circumstances that inspired the 2012 Danish film A Royal Affair.
Mary died at Hanau in 1772. Her descendants included Alexandra of Denmark and Mary of Teck, the queens consort of King Edward VII and King George V respectively. Princess Mary of Great Britain, once seventh in line to the throne, is therefore an ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II.
Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge (24 February 1774 – 8 July 1850)
The seventh in line to the throne is usually born to a junior branch of the royal family. George III and his queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, however, were the parents of seven surviving sons as well as five surviving daughters. The seventh in line to throne for part of George III reign, therefore, was also a son of the reigning monarch.
George III and his elder sons George IV and William IV were kings of Hanover as well as Great Britain, and as a younger son, Adolphus was trained to represent the more senior members of his family in Hanover. Adolphus attended the University of Gottingen in Hanover (which had been founded by his great-grandfather, King George II) before pursuing a military career.
From 1816 until 1837, Adolphus served as viceroy of Hanover, representing his elder brothers George IV, then William IV. His administration was effective and he was credited with helping to maintain the continued connection between the British and Hanoverian thrones. When his niece Queen Victoria succeeded to the British throne and his brother, Prince Ernest, Duke of Cumberland, became king of Hanover, Adolphus returned to Britain and devoted the rest of his life to philanthropy, becoming the president of six different hospitals. He died at his London residence and was buried at Kew, where he had spent much of his childhood.
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Adolphus married Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel in 1818 and they had three children: Prince George, Duke of Cambridge; Princess Augusta and Princess Mary Adelaide. Despite the junior place that he occupied in the line of succession, Adolphus is an ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II: Mary Adelaide married the future Duke Francis of Teck, and their daughter Mary of Teck married the future King George V. The title of Duke of Cambridge was revived for Prince William when he married Catherine Middleton in 2011.
King George V of Hanover (27 May 1819 – 12 June 1878)
Born in Berlin just three days after his cousin, the future Queen Victoria, Prince George Frederick Alexander Charles Ernest Augustus of Cumberland was seventh in line to the British throne during the last months of his grandfather King George III’s reign. He was preceded in the line of succession by his uncles – the future King George IV, Prince Frederick Duke of York, the future King William IV, and Prince Edward– his cousin Victoria and his father Prince Ernest, Duke of Cumberland. Although Victoria’s birth meant that he was unlikely ever to become king in Britain, the succession to the Kingdom of Hanover was determined by Salic Law, which precluded women from reigning in their own right. Since 1714, the monarch of Great Britain had also been elector of Hanover, but that would change with the accession of Queen Victoria.
By 1840, George had lost his sight. When his father, the Duke of Cumberland, became king of Hanover in 1837, there were questions concerning George’s suitability as crown prince because of his blindness. But George’s family supported his succession rights and George succeeded his father as King of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick and Duke of Cumberland in 1851.
The new king was philosophical about his blindness, stating that: “eyesight was the sense that we could most easily dispense with.” However he was stubborn about his royal prerogatives and often in conflict with the Hanoverian parliament because he feared that his ministers would attempt to limit his authority. In 1866, George supported Austria against the wishes of his counsellors in the Austro-Prussian War. After Prussia won the war, George’s maternal first cousin King William I annexed Hanover and George went into exile. Following his death in Paris in 1878, his remains were sent to Britain where he was buried at George’s Chapel, Windsor, with other members of the British royal family.
The Honourable Gerald Lascelles (21 August 1924 – 27 February 1998)
King George V and Queen Mary were the parents of five children who survived adolescence: the future Kings Edward VIII and George VI; Mary, Princess Royal; Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Prince George, Duke of Kent. After the First World War, George V granted permission for his children to marry into the British aristocracy, expanding the range of acceptable spouses for royalty.
In 1922, Princess Mary became the first of King George V’s children to marry, and her wedding to Henry Lascelles, the future sixth Earl of Harewood, was celebrated in the United Kingdom as the “people’s wedding”. The marriage produced two children, George and Gerald, who born sixth and seventh in line to the throne.
As the two eldest grandchildren of King George V, the births of George and Gerald Lascelles attracted widespread public attention. Postcards were printed depicting Princess Mary with her young sons. Their public prominence faded with the arrivals of royal cousins who superseded them in the line of succession, including the future Queen Elizabeth II in 1926 and Princess Margaret in 1930 (Margaret shared Gerald’s birthday).
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Nevertheless, they attended royal events and their own weddings were occasions for the royal family to come together. Gerald married the actress Angela Dowding in St Margaret’s Church, Westminster, in 1952 in presence of much of his extended family. The absence of the new Queen Elizabeth II, ostensibly because of cold, however, led TIME Magazine to speculate that there had been “a royal snub” and that “cousin Gerry [was] never a royal favourite”. Gerald and Angela divorced in 1978 and Gerald remarried another actress, Elizabeth Colvin, in Vienna that same year. One son was born to each marriage.
Gerald resided at Fort Belvedere, which had once been the favourite residence of his uncle, King Edward VIII. Gerald’s interests included jazz music and racecar driving. He was president of the British Racing Drivers’ Club from 1964 to 1991 and worked with music critic Eric Sinclair Traill on producing annual Just Jazz yearbooks in the 1950s. He died in France in 1998.
Prince Michael of Kent (born 4 July 1942)
Queen Elizabeth II’s cousin, Prince Michael George Charles Franklin of Kent, was born during the Second World War, the youngest child of Prince George, Duke of Kent, and Princess Marina of Greece – and a nephew of the reigning King George VI. At the time of his birth, Michael was seventh in line to the throne after his cousins, the future Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret; his uncle Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester; his cousin Prince William of Gloucester; his father Prince George, Duke of Kent, and his elder brother Edward, the present Duke of Kent.
The circumstances of Michael’s infancy were shaped by wartime. As he was born on 4 July, Britain’s wartime ally President Franklin Roosevelt was one of the godparents, along with Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who took refuge in the UK during the German occupation of the Netherlands. The christening took place in an undisclosed chapel in the countryside for reasons of wartime security. Michael was seventh in line to the throne for just seven weeks. His father, Prince George, Duke of Kent, died in a plane crash on 25 August 1942.
Prince Michael was a pageboy at the wedding of the future Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in 1947. Michael attended Eton and the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. In contrast to his siblings – Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra – Michael did not assume a full schedule of royal duties as an adult but instead pursued a military career for 20 years before opening a consultancy business. He occasionally represents the Queen on important occasions in the Commonwealth, including the coronation of King Mswati III of Swaziland and the independence celebrations in Belize.
Michael’s maternal grandmother, Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia was a cousin of Tsar Nicholas II, and Michael is the only member of the British royal family who speaks fluent Russian. He attended the funeral of the last tsar and his family in Saint Petersburg in 1998 and has hosted documentaries about the Romanovs.
In 1978, Michael married Baroness Marie Christine von Reibnitz, who was styled Princess Michael of Kent after the wedding. The royal couple resides in a ‘grace and favour’ apartment in Kensington Palace and have two children, Lord Frederick and Lady Gabriella Windsor and two grandchildren, Frederick’s daughters Maud and Isabella. Prince Michael’s marriage to a Roman Catholic removed him from the line of succession according to the terms of the 1701 Act of Settlement, though the succession reforms that came into force in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth in 2015 restored his eligibility to succeed to the throne. Having been born seventh in line to the throne, the 76-year-old Prince Michael of Kent is currently 47th in the line of succession.
Lady Sarah Chatto (born 1 May 1964)
The daughter of Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones, Earl of Snowdon, Lady Sarah Frances Elizabeth Armstrong-Jones was born seventh in line to the throne, preceded by the Queen’s four children, her mother Margaret, and elder brother David, Viscount Linley. The same age as the Queen’s son Prince Edward, Sarah shared his early lessons in the Buckingham Palace schoolroom before attending Bedales school in Hampshire where she earned an A-level in art. Growing up, Sarah was a frequent royal bridesmaid. She was part of the wedding party when Princess Anne married Mark Phillips in 1973 and when Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.
Sarah studied at the Camberwell School of Art and pursued a successful career as an artist, and has also carried on some of her mother Princess Margaret’s cultural patronages including the role of vice president of the Royal Ballet.
In 1994, Sarah married Daniel Chatto. The couple have two sons, Samuel Chatto (born 1996) and Arthur Chatto (born 1999). Sarah is close to her royal relatives: the Queen invites Princess Margaret’s children and grandchildren to join the royal family for Christmas at Sandringham. She is the godmother of both Prince Harry and his cousin, Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor. The 54-year-old Lady Sarah is currently 23rd in line to the throne.
Dr Carolyn Harris is an instructor in history at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and the author of three books: Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada; Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinetteand Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting.
This article was first published by History Extra in October 2018.