So, for some fairly random reason, the announcement of the Abdication of King Juan Carlos of Spain got me looking into the relationships between the British Monarchy and that of Spain. As a family historian, the tangled inter-relatedness of the European monarchies is something that’s interested me for a long time - there’s something about the contrast of the glamour and the tiaras with the often tense relationships and an entire life lived on duty - but I foolishly decided to try to chart out the relationships between these two particular royal families.
Given that Kate Middleton’s and even Lady Diana Spencer’s royal antecedents are some considerable way back, I decided to concentrate on the relationships between the two current reigning couples: Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Philip, King Juan Carlos & Queen Sofía.
In these days where it’s increasingly common for royalty to marry "commoners", it can come as a surprise to find that the Consort of a Monarch is every bit as royal in their own right, but it needs to be remembered, for example, that even during the 1970s, it was widely assumed that Prince Charles might marry a European Princess. (Princess Marie-Astrid of Luxembourg was one of the candidates discussed in the press, and she did indeed go on to marry European royalty, in the form of Archduke Carl Christian of Austria.)
And in the case of the two couples in question, the consorts are indeed every bit as royal as the monarchs. To put it at its simplest, all four of the people listed above are descended from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert: the Queen from their son King Edward VII, Philip from daughter Princess Alice, King Juan Carlos from daughter Princess Beatrice and Sofía twice from daughter Princess Victoria (via the Kaiser and King Paul of Greece). That makes them all third cousins to each other.
Three of the four are also descended from King Christian IX of Denmark (who is known as "the father-in-law of Europe" because so many current and former European monarchies are descended from him and his wife, Louise of Hesse-Kassel): the Queen from their daughter Princess Alexandra, Prince Philip from son Prince George (who became the King of Greece) and Sofía from son Prince George and daughter Princess Thyra. That makes the Queen third cousin twice over to Sofía and second cousin once removed to Prince Philip.
Queen Sofía is also descended from Queen Victoria’s half-sister, Princess Feodora of Leiningen.
It should be noted that in order to focus on these four people, I’ve been casually "hiding" on my diagrams any number of Kings, Queens and Tsars of Romania, Denmark, Greece and Russia amongst others, not to mention endless Dukes, Grand Dukes and Archdukes, Princesses and Empresses. I’m also pretty certain that there are lines of descent, even just from Queen Victoria and Christian IX, that I haven’t yet discovered, because I haven’t yet followed down every descendant, just the more obvious ones.
And let’s not even think about looking at the many and various relationships these people have through their descents from Kings George II and III of England.
All of which makes it extraordinarily difficult to draw an actual picture of the relationships, but I don’t suppose that will stop me wasting more hours trying.