Friday, July 23, 2010

Question from Stacey - Illegitimate children of Queens

Other than the rumors about Elizabeth, has there ever been a child born of a queen that people were "sure" was the product of an affair?


Athena said...

I think some people might have questioned Margaret of Anjou and Henry VI's son Prince Edward. Margaret was supposedly intimate with one of the King's advisors (I think the Duke of Somerset). Probably just slander though.

Henry didn't help matters by going insane and saying that the child was conceived 'by the Holy Ghost'.

Jennifer said...

Besides Elizabeth, Queen Victoria was supposedly the product of an affair between her mother and her father's equerry, Sir John Conroy.

After Victoria's father, Edward the Duke of Kent, died when she was eight months old, her mother came to heavily rely on Conroy when he became her comptroller (financial officer). Conroy then developed complete control over Victoire (Victoria's mother) with the effect of alienating Victoria and her mother from the rest of the royal family and subjecting her to a suppressive education system. Conroy's intentions were that he would eventually gain control of Victoria once she succeeded to the throne, and thus become the "power behind the throne."

As a result of his great influence over the Duchess of Kent, many people at the time and since, have assumed that they had been lovers. Even the Duke of Wellington (the man who defeated Napoleon) suspected the two were lovers. However, Victoria herself commented later that her mother was too pious to ever have slept with Conroy. Naturally, the extension of this rumour of an affair was that the affair had actually started during the marriage of the Kents, and that he had really fathered Victoria.

A supposedly "supporting" fact was that Victoria, who was a carrier of haemophilia - a hereditary disease that prevents blood from properly clotting and is passed on the X chromosome - could not have received the disease from the Duke of Kent. However, the disease was not in Conroy's family either.

In any event, this whole story, just like that of Elizabeth's illegitimacy, is most assuredly false with no basis in fact, much like the rumours that Victoria herself had illegitimate children with her servant, John Brown, after her husband's death.

Marilyn R said...

Cleopatra VII of Egypt came to the throne at 18 and married her own 10-year-old brother Ptolemy XIII. After his death she became the wife of another of her brothers, Ptolemy XIV and then had an affair with Julius Caesar. With Caesar, who already had a wife, she had a son, Caesarion, ‘Little Caesar’, who later ruled Egypt jointly with his mother as Ptolemy XV. Julius Caesar actually brought Cleopatra and Caesarion to Rome, but the Romans hated her.

After Caesar’s assassination she had twins with Mark Anthony whom she did not marry until 4 years after their birth. Needless to say, the story includes murders, deaths in battle and suicides.

Makes Henry VIII seem rather tame!

Foose said...

Probably the most famous contemporary example for Tudor people of a queen's bastard is the Spanish princess La Beltraneja. Putatively the daughter of Queen Isabella's brother Henry IV, she was widely suspected of being the result of an affair by the Portuguese queen Juana and Beltran de la Cueva, the king's favorite (and latterly, the queen's). So persistent was the rumor that Isabella was able to utilize it effectively in her campaign to become heiress and then queen of Castile, displacing her niece.

La Beltraneja's status throughout her childhood oscillated, depending on Henry IV's fortunes - he was ultimately induced to formally acknowledge Isabella as his heir and young Juana as a bastard. Her mother, Queen Juana, was imprisoned and tried to escape; the failure of the escape revealed she was pregnant by one of her jailers. Whether the sex was consensual or coerced, it was immensely damaging to her daughter's cause. Ultimately, Queen Joanna was sent back to Portugal (I don't know what happened to her pregnancy); La Beltraneja continued to be a thorn in the Catholic Monarchs' side, supported by her uncle Alfonso V of Portugal. She was mooted as a bride for Isabella's son Juan and Alfonso's son Joao, but ultimately wound up a nun. Many modern historians think that La Beltraneja was actually Henry IV's daughter, but DNA matching would be needed to be sure.

James I was frequently alleged to be the bastard product of Mary Queen of Scots' affair with David Rizzio. Most historians discount this suggestion, which was facilitated by James' notable lack of resemblance to either the attractive Mary or the handsome Darnley.

Tudor-era people might also have been familiar with the scandalous career of Isabeau of Bavaria, an ancestress of the royal house. As Queen of France, she was alleged to have taken lovers, including her brother-in-law, and her two youngest children - the future Charles VII and Catherine de Valois, later wife of Henry VI -- were particularly suspected of bastardy. Isabeau is alleged to have proclaimed Charles a bastard in getting him disinherited from his father's throne under the Treaty of Troyes, although recently historians have published works exculpating her and trying to rehabilitate her reputation. The fact that Catherine's son Henry VI appeared to have inherited the insanity of her father Charles VI has been seen as evidence that she was not a bastard.

Further back, Louis X succeeded to the French throne with his repudiated wife still alive (and perhaps technically a queen). Marguerite of Burgundy had been found guilty of flagrant adultery with a knight, and imprisoned for years. The paternity of her daughter, Jeanne, was an open question. When Louis died and his posthumous son (by a second wife) also died, Jeanne's ambiguous status helped establish the Salic law as the rule in France, as the lords were reluctant to put a little girl on the throne, and especially one who might be a bastard. Ultimately, it was decided that she might inherit Navarre (tacitly deciding she was the king's daughter, as she inherited Navarre through his mother) but not the French throne. This led to more trouble later on, when Jeanne's son Charles "the Bad" of Navarre decided he had been cheated out of his rightful inheritance and made common cause with the English and Burgundians during the Hundred Years' War.

Kathy said...

Then there is one of my favorite stories where the baby may or may not have been related to neither the King or Queen -- The Warming Pan Baby.

Susan Higginbotham said...

The "Holy Ghost" remark supposedly made by Henry VI is almost always taken out of context. It comes from a dispatch on March 27, 1461, from Prospero di Camulio, Milanese Ambassador in France, to Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan. Writing from Brussels about the latest English news, Camulio reported that it was being "said that the King of England had resigned his crown in favour of his son, although they say his Majesty remarked at another time, that he must be the son of the Holy Spirit, etc." What writers who latch onto this tasty morsel of a statement almost never quote is the rest of Camulio's sentence: "but these may only be the words of common fanatics, such as they have at present in that island." Certainly the timing of this gossip, circulating just a few weeks after Edward IV had taken the throne—and more than seven years after Edward of Lancaster's birth—should make us suspicious, as it did Camulio. Incidentally, on March 15, 1461, Prospero di Camulio had also passed along the rumor that Margaret of Anjou had poisoned Henry VI, who in fact was very much alive.

In contrast to this remark, the Paston letters report that soon after Henry VI recovered his sanity, he was presented with his son, who had been born while the king was insane. Henry's reaction was one of pleasure: "And on the Moneday after noon the Queen came to him, and brought my Lord Prynce with her. And then he askid what the Princes name was, and the Queen told him Edward; and then he hild up his hands and thankid God therof. And he seid he never knew til that tyme, nor wist not what was seid to him, nor wist not where he had be, whils he hath be seke til now. And he askid who was godfaders, and the Queen told him, and he was well apaid."

Foose said...

Before modern DNA testing, people relied a lot on the mother's conduct, the father's appropriate performance of gender norms and physical resemblances in developing how "sure" they were about a child's bastardy. (For example, the English elite were allgedly cautioned to "never comment on a likeness!" when entering high society.)

Dates were also important in speculating on bastardy. "Les dates ne correspondent pas," was the haughty response of the Empress Eugenie's mother, Dona Manuela, when it was suggested to her that her lover Lord Brougham and not her husband was the father of the Empress.

Political trouble also was an important factor, with chroniclers recording their own biases or dynastic interests. Susan Higginbotham's comment shows that popular rumor should always be revisited to consider the biases involved.

Foose said...

Some of the other cases of queens alleged to have produced bastards:

-King Wladyslaw Jagiello of Poland married, in his extreme old age, Sonia Holszany. Her two sons were initially suspected of being bastards, as Jagiello had had no surviving children by his previous three wives. However, despite her lively reputation, "Queen Sonka" was vindicated when her second son Casimir became known as "Jagiellonczyk" because of his very close resemblance to old Wladyslaw.

-Anne of Austria, married for 20 years to a reclusive introvert who had not touched her for over a decade, gave birth in her late thirties. Louis XIV and his brother Philippe had rumors of bastardy swirling around them for years, with Cardinal Mazarin fingered as the putative father.

-Caroline Matilda, the Queen of Denmark, fell in love with her mad husband's doctor and her daughter Louise was regarded as a bastard. She grew up to marry a minor German prince and her descendants ultimately married back into the Danish royal family. Caroline Matilda, however, was imprisoned, exiled and died young.

-Maria Luisa of Parma, as Queen of Spain, was notorious for her affair with the priapic Manuel Godoy, a low-born favorite who rose to the status of prime minister. Speculation centered on her two youngest children, with one observer noting "The youngest Infante, Don Francisco de Paula, and his sister the Infanta Isabella, are the offspring of the Prince of the Peace [Godoy], their likeness to whom makes decent people blush for shame." Isabella married the heir to Naples, and had to put up with her mother-in-law calling her a "little epileptic bastard."

-Maria Luisa's daughter Carlotta Joaquina was the ill-reputed queen of Portugal, who also allegedly took lovers both in Portugal and in Brazil. Her favorite son Miguel, whom she consistently supported against his elder brother Pedro and who managed to usurp the Portuguese throne claimed by his niece, was thought to be her bastard.

-Catherine the Great intimated in her Memoirs that her heir Paul was actually the son of courtier Serge Saltykov rather than of her husband Peter III. Her assertion was undercut by Paul's resemblance to Peter. She had a daughter Anna allegedly by Stanislas Poniatowski, who passed as Peter's daughter and died young, and a son, later Count Bobrinsky, by her affair with Grigory Orlov.

-When Gustaf III of Sweden's queen, Sofia Magdalena, gave birth to a son, the story went round that the sexually ambiguous king had asked the queen to commit adultery with a loyal nobleman in order to provide cover for his inadequacies. The queen allegedly demanded a signed document giving her permission before proceeding. Modern historians have tended to discount this story.

-Marie Antoinette's second son, the ill-fated Dauphin who died in Jacobin custody, was thought to be her bastard by Count Fersen. Her husband Louis XVI left an interesting document in which he drew a distinction between the two boys by referring only to the elder as "my son," but historians still argue about Fersen's paternity.

-Napoleon's stepdaughter Hortense, the Queen of Holland, had an affair with Charles de Flahaut and became the mother of the future Duc de Morny. The child was sent away as an infant to be raised secretly, but reappeared years later to become one of the chief architects of the Second Empire.

-Isabella II of Spain, although ardently devout, was notorious for her affairs. Married to her allegedly impotent and notably effeminate cousin Francisco de Asis, she gave birth to 5 or 6 children by a wide selection of fathers. While Isabella was deposed and restored a couple of times owing to her incompetence and immorality, her eldest son -- known as "El Puigmoltejo," as he was supposedly the offspring of one Puig Molto, a tubercular soldier who had caught her eye -- eventually succeeded to the throne as Alfonso XII.

Kathy said...

This isn't quite on topic, but interesting nontheless. I've been doing a lot of genealogy work lately, and I ran across a fun little saying that seems to be known by most genealogists: "Mama's baby, Papa's maybe...."