Sunday, August 30, 2015

Royal Marriages Act - and who was actually eligible?


After the new Succession law became official, several writers wrote about the demise of the Royal Marriages Acts.  Several made statements that the marriages of about 6000 descendants of George II were now valid.  This is an incorrect statement.  The actual number of descendants of George II who were affected by the law since its promulgation since 1772 is less than 300.

 Only the first six in line to the throne will now need permission to marry.

The Royal Marriage Act of 1772

Most GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN, WHEREAS your Majesty, from your paternal affection to your own family, and from your royal concern for the future welfare of your people, and the honour and dignity of your crown, was graciously pleased to recommend to your parliament to take into serious consideration, whether it might not be wise and expedient to supply the defect of the laws now in being; and, by some new provision, more effectually to guard the descendants of His late majesty King George the Second, (other than the issue of princesses who have married, or may hereafter marry, into foreign families) from marrying without the approbation of your Majesty, your heirs, or successors, first had and obtained; we have taken this weighty matter into our serious consideration; and, being sensible that marriages in the royal family are of the highest importance to the state, and that therefore the Kings of this realm have ever been entrusted with the care and approbation thereof; and, being thoroughly convinced of the wisdom and expediency of what your Majesty has thought fit to recommend, upon this occasion, we, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, in this present parliament assembled, do humbly beseech your Majesty that it may be enacted: and be it enacted by the King's most excellent majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, in this present parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, That no descendant of the body of his late majesty King George the Second, male or female, (other than the issue of princesses who have married, or may hereafter marry, into foreign families) shall be capable of contracting matrimony without the previous consent of his Majesty, his heirs, or successors, signified under the great seal, and declared in council, (which consent, to preserve the memory thereof is hereby directed to be set out in the licence and register of marriage, and to be entered in the books of the privy council); and that every marriage, or matrimonial contract, of any such descendant, without such consent first had and obtained, shall be null and void, to all intents and purposes whatsoever. II. Provided always, and be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That in case any such descendant of the body of his late majesty King George the Second, being above the age of twenty-five years, shall persist in his or her resolution to contract a marriage disapproved of or dissented from, by the King, his heirs, or successors; that then such descendant, upon giving notice to the King's privy council, which notice is hereby directed to be entered in the books thereof, may, at any time from the expiration of twelve calendar months after such notice given to the privy council as aforesaid, contract such marriage; and his or her marriage with the person before proposed, and rejected, may be duly solemnized, without the previous consent of his Majesty, his heirs, or successors; and such marriage shall be good, as if this act had never been made, unless both houses of parliament shall, before the expiration of the said twelve months, expressly declare their disapprobation of such intended marriage. III. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That every person who shall knowingly or wilfully presume to solemnize, or to assist, or to be present at the celebration of any marriage with any such descendant, or at his or her making any matrimonial contract, without such consent as aforesaid first had and obtained, except in the case above-mentioned, shall, being duly convicted thereof incur and suffer the pains and penalties ordained and provided by the statute of provision and premunire made in the sixteenth year of the reign of Richard the Second.



The law  applied only to those descendants of George II who descended in the male line or (from the distaff sovereigns: Victoria and Elizabeth II.)  The law did not apply to the descendants of princesses who married into "foreign families."   This latter group numbers about 6000 or so people.
 
This post follows the progression of members of the British Royal Family and non-royals) who were required to seek permission from the Sovereign.  

The Royal Marriages Act refers to the descendants of George II, with the exception of princesses who married into foreign royal families.  The only male line with descendants was Frederick Louis, the Prince of Wales, who married Princess Augusta of Saxe-Coburg-Saafeld.    Frederick died in 1751, preceding his father.  The only other adult male son was Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, who died unmarried in 1765.  


George II had five daughters: Anne, Amelia, Caroline, Mary and Louisa.  Anne married Willem IV, Prince of Orange (the Dutch royal house descends from this marriage.)   Mary was the wife of Friedrich II, Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, and Louisa married King Frederik V of Denmark and Norway.  The descendants of these marriages were excluded from the RMA as all the princesses married into foreign families.


George III was the eldest son of the Prince and Princess of Wales.  He succeeded his grandfather, George II, in 1760.

The names of those who received RMA approval are in bold.
 
The other children of the Prince and Princess of Wales:

Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of York, who died unmarried in 1767.
 
Prince William, Duke of Gloucester married secretly in 1766 to Maria, Countess Waldegrave.  (He married before the RMA)  Two children: Prince William and Princess Sophia Matilda.  William succeeded his father as Duke of Gloucester.  He married his first cousin, Princess Mary, daughter of George III.    Princess Sophia, once considered as a bride for the future William IV, never married.
 
Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland married in 1771 to Anne Luttrell.  It was this marriage that was the impetus for George III's promulgation of the RMA. No issue.
 
Two of George II's daughters married and had descendants.  Augusta married in 1764 to the Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttell and Caroline Mathilda, who married in 1766 to King Christian VII of Denmark and Norway.   As they married into foreign families, their descendants were exempt from the law.
 
George III and his wife, Charlotte of Meckleburg-Strelitz, were the parents of fifteen children.
 
George IV married his first cousin, Princess Caroline of Brunswick, the daughter of Princess Augusta.  They had one child, Princess Charlotte of Wales, heiress presumptive to the throne.  Married to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saafeld,  Charlotte died in 1817 after giving birth to a stillbirth son.  Her marriage was approved according to the RMA.
 
Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, married Princess Friederike of Prussia.  No children.    The Duke of York was the first descendant of George II to marry under the RMA law. 
 
William IV (Duke of Clarence)  married Duchess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen. No surviving descendants.
 
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent married Princess Victoire of Saxe-Coburg-Saadfeld.  One daughter, Victoria.
 
Prince Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland.  Married Princess Friederike of Mecklenburg-Stretliz.  One son, Prince George of Cumberland.
 
Prince Augustus, Duke of Sussex.  He married twice, in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act. Two children, Augustus and Augusta, by first marriage.  His wives and children did not have royal titles.  His children, neither of whom had descendants, were not in line to the throne.
 
Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, married Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel.  Three children: Prince George, Princess Augusta and Princess Mary Adelaide.  George, who succeeded his father as 2nd Duke of Cambridge, also married in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act.  He had three sons, two of whom were born before the not-recognized marriage, and they used the surname, FitzClarence.   The 2nd Duke of Cambridge's descendants do not have dynastic rights.
 
Princess Charlotte, the Princess Royal married the King of Württemberg.  No descendants.
 
Princess Elizabeth married the Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg.  She was 48 years old at the time of the marriage.  No descendants.
 
Princess Mary married her first cousin, Prince William, Duke of  Gloucester, when both were 40.  No children.
 
When Queen Victoria succeeded her uncle, William IV in 1837, there were only four royals who were approaching the age of marriage:  Prince George of Cumberland, Prince George, Princess Augusta and Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge.   The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester were childless and Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester was unmarried.  Queen Victoria was already queen, and did not to seek permission to marry.
 
So let's move to the next generation and focus on Victoria's paternal first cousins.  As we have already seen,  Prince George, 2nd Duke of Cambridge's marriage was in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act, and the descendants (most of them) of his two sisters are exempt because they married into foreign families.  Augusta married her maternal first cousin,  the Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.  Their descendants are exempt.


Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge was married in 1866 to  Prince Franz, Duke of Teck.  The Duke of Teck did not become a British national until 1882, which meant that their descendants were exempt from the RMA.   Although her action was later deemed as "unnecessary,"  Queen Victoria gave her approval of the marriage to Mary Adelaide's son, Prince Adolphus to Lady Margaret Grosvenor.

The question of the family's RMA eligibility was raised in 1919 when Adolphus' younger daughter, Lady Helena, became engaged to John Evelyn Gibbs.  On August 21, 1919, the Home Office  broached the matter of "His Majesty's Consent" as they had been asked about the Special License for Lady Helena's marriage.  It was pointed out that Lady Helena was an exception to the RMA requirement because her grandmother, Princess Mary Adelaide married into a foreign family.    George V's Private Secretary Lord Stamfordhaven was informed by the Home Office that "Royal Consent" was not necessary for Mary Adelaide's descendants.

A "parallel case "is that of Princess Ena of Battenberg, the only daughter of Princess Beatrice and Prince Henry of Battenberg. 

Prince Henry was naturalized by a private act a month after his marriage to Princess Beatrice.  Thus, their children were exempted from the RMA.  King Edward VII's consent was not given for Ena's marriage to King Alfonso's marriage.

Prince Adolphus, who succeeded his father as Duke of Teck, and Prince
Alexander gave up their German titles, and were created Marquess of Cambridge and Earl of Athlone, respectively.   Lord Cambridge and his wife had two sons: George, 2nd Marquess and Lord Frederick and two daughters, Lady Mary and Lady Helena.   The Cambridges were considered members of the British royal family on two levels: they were descendants of a British princess, and Lord Cambridge and Lord Athlone were brothers of Queen Mary.  

The Times noted that Lady Helena's marriage "has the hearty approval and best wishes of Their Majesties," who were unable to attend the ceremony, as they were at Balmoral. 
 
The line of Prince George of Cumberland (Georg V), only son of Prince Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, included exemptions and non-exemptions to the RMA.

King Georg V lost his throne in 1866, after siding with Austria in its war against Prussia.  He died in 1878, and his only son, Ernst August, married to the sister of the Princess of Wales, chose to be styled by his British title, Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale, rather than a de jure king of Hanover.  The marriages of Ernst August to Princess Thyra of Denmark (exempt) and Frederica to Baron Alfons von Pawel-Rammingen, were also RMA approved.
 
The couple had six children: Marie Louise, Georg Wilhelm, Alexandra, Olga, Christian, and Ernst August.   Marie Louise and Alexandra, styled as "of Cumberland," in their RMA applications, married the Margrave of Baden and the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.  Having married into foreign families, the descendants of Marie Louise and Alexandra were exempt from the Royal Marriages Act.   Olga did not marry, and  Georg Wilhelm and Christian died young, also unmarried.


The youngest brother, Ernst August, married Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia, who was exempt from the law, as she descended from a British princess  (Queen Victoria's eldest daughter, Victoria)  who married into a foreign family.   We will return to the descendants of Ernst August and Viktoria Luise later this article.
 
We are now back at the main British line: Queen Victoria. She and her husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.  They had nine children: Victoria, Edward VII, Alice, Alfred,  Helena, Louise, Arthur, Leopold and Beatrice.  All nine married with Royal Marriages approval.  Victoria, Alice, and Beatrice married into foreign families.  Victoria. 

Princess Helena's husband, Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein acquired British nationality before the  wedding.  Prince Christian was a member of a German ducal family, but having acquired British nationality before his marriage, he was not a member of a foreign family.    Only one of Helena's children, Princess Marie Louise, married, and she received the RMA approval, for her marriage to Prince Aribert of Anhalt.


Although Beatrice's descendants were exempt from the RMA, her granddaughter, Lady Iris Mountbatten received RMA approval from George VI.   This was done for her first marriage to a Roman Catholic Hamilton O'Malley.  They were married in Anglican and Roman Catholic ceremonies. The Anglican wedding is the marriage of record.  The official correspondence, now in the National Archives, does not refer to why Lady Iris, as a descendant of a princess who married into a foreign family applied for permission to marry.  Her father, Lord Carisbrooke, did not seek George V's permission to marry.


The children of the Queen Victoria's  four sons were members of the British royal family, and their marriages required RMA approval. 

 
Victoria's second son, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, married Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia.  They had one son, Alfred (unmarried) and four daughters.  Three of the four daughters, Marie (to Ferdinand of Romania), Victoria Melita (Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig IV of Hesse and By Rhine, and Alexandra (Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg) married with approval.  The youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, whose father was deceased by the time she married, did not seek RMA approval for her marriage to Prince Alfonso of Borbon-Orleans, a first cousin of King Alfonso XIII of Spain.  Thus, her marriage was not valid in the United Kingdom.   Princess Victoria Melita did not seek RMA approval for her second marriage to Grand Duke Kirill of Russia.  She was the divorced wife of  the Grand Duke of Hesse and By Rhine, and her divorced status would certainly have precluded an opportunity to ask her uncle Edward VII for permission to marry again.


It probably never crossed mind of the Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Duchess of Edinburgh) to seek a Royal Marriages Act approval for Beatrice's marriage to Prince Alfonso.  The marriage caused great stress within the Spanish royal house, as Alfonso's first cousin, King Alfonso XIII, had not given his approval for the marriage.  
 
All four of Alfred's daughters married into foreign families.  Beatrice's descendants and the descendants of Victoria Melita's second marriage were excluded because the  these marriages were in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act.  
 
The third son, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, married Princess Luise Margarete of Prussia.  They had three children: Margaret, Arthur and Patricia.  All three sought RMA approval for their marriages.  Margaret's descendants were exempt because she married the future King Gustaf VI of Sweden.   [His second wife, Lady Louise Mountbatten, was exempt from the RMA because she was a descendant of a British princess who married into a foreign family.  Her maternal grandmother was Queen Victoria's second daughter, Princess Alice.]    Prince Arthur married his first cousin once removed, Princess Alexandra, Duchess of Fife, daughter of Princess Louise, eldest daughter of Edward VII.  They were only the second couple, where both were RMA eligible.  The other couple was Prince William, Duke of Gloucester who married George III's daughter, the Princess Mary.



Prince and Princess Arthur's only son,  Alistair, 2nd duke of Connaught, died unmarried.
 
Princess Patricia of Connaught married the Hon. Alexander Ramsay.  They had son, Alexander Ramsay of Mar.  His marriage to the Hon Flora Fraser (now Lady Saltoun) required the RMA approval.  They had three daughters, Katharine, Alice, and Elizabeth.  The two elder daughters married, again with the RMA approval.   Both have issue, but only two will have gone through the RMA process: Louise and Julie Nicholson.  Juliet  is the last descendant of George II to receive RMA approval for her marriage. 
The situation of the descendants of the youngest son of Queen Victoria,  Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany will a new scenario regarding the RMA and eligibility.   His RMA approved marriage to Princess Helene of Waldeck und Pyrmont produced two children,  Princess Alice and Prince Charles Edward, who was born several months after Leopold's death.   In 1900, he succeeded his uncle, Alfred, as the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
 
 As he was on the German side of the war,  Carl Eduard lost his British peerages in the Titles Deprivation Act, as well as his British HRH.   He did not lose his title Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland because that was his right of birth due to a Letters Patent that extended the title to the children of the sovereign in the male line.  Until 1917, his children were princes and princesses of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Princes and Princesses of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.  George V's Letters Patent, issued in 1917, limited the HRH and the title Prince or Princess of Great Britain and Ireland to the children of the sovereign, the grandchildren of the sovereign in the male line, and the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales.  (In 2013, Queen Elizabeth II issued a new Letters Patent that extended the HRH and title of Prince or Princess to all the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales. )


Carl Eduard's descendants, no longer considered members of the British royal family, never sought RMA approval for their marriages.  An RMA application for the eldest son, Prince Johann Leopold, would have made things rather interesting for his position as the heir to his father's estates,  and gain the right to petition Parliament for the right to be Duke of Albany (this could have been done after his father's death.)   Johann Leopold was engaged to marry a divorced woman, Baroness Feodora von der Horst, and his father did not approve of the marriage.  Would George V have treated the couple differently?   World War I ended the close relationship between Carl Eduard and his first cousin, George V.  It seems likely to me that George V would have been advised to make it clear that the Coburgs were no longer members of the British royal family, and, thus, no longer entitled to the Royal Marriages Act. 

Johann Leopold's marriage was  morganatic. He lost his position as heir to his father, and his descendants are not members of the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha Ducal House.
  
Carl Eduard's older sister, Princess Alice, was very much a British princess, who never eschewed duty.  She married in 1903 to Prince Alexander of Teck, the youngest son of Princess Mary Adelaide.  He was exempt from the RMA, but Alice was not, and permission was granted.  Alexander was an anomaly as he was a descendant of a princess who married into a foreign family, but was born a British national.  Thus, Princess Alice did not marry into a foreign family, and the RMA applied to her descendants.

Most of  Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone's descendants have sought RMA approval, Lord Athlone was no longer a member of a foreign royal house.  Their only surviving child, Lady May Cambridge received RMA approval in 1931, when she married Henry Abel-Smith.  Their three children:  Anne, Richard and Elizabeth all received RMA approval.  Anne and her former husband, David Liddell-Grainger were the parents of five children: Ian, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, Charles, Simon, Alice and Malcolm.  Simon did not seek permission for either of his marriages, both of which took place in Canada.  Richard's daughter, Katharine Abel Smith, received permission when she married the Hon. Hubert Wentworth Beaumont, as did their daughter, Amelia when she married Simon Murray.
 
Thus, the Coburg and Hanoverian descendants in the male line lost their British royal titles.  The Duke of Brunswick and Luneburg (Ernst August married to Victoria Luise) also lost his British peerages in the Title Deprivations Act.   Ernst August's line, however, represented the senior male line of descent from George III.  This is something they took seriously, and in 1931,  the Duke of Brunswick  issued a non-binding decree that would allow for the use of the British titles.  The Hanoverian royal family uses the older Prince or Princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and not "Northern Ireland."

 It must be noted that the British sovereigns (George V, George VI and Elizabeth II)  never forced the issue, never asking the Hanoverians to stop using the titles to which they were no longer legally entitled to use.   Members of the family continued to apply for RMA approval: Princess Frederica to King Paul of the Hellenes (1938), Prince Ernst August (head of the family) to Princess Ortrud of Schleswig-Holstein (1951), Prince Welf-Heinrich to Princess Alexandra of Ysenburg (1960), Prince Ernst August, present head of the house, to Chantal Hochuli and then to Princess Caroline of Monaco,  Prince Ludwig to Countess Isabelle von Thurn und Valassina , Princess Alexandra to the Prince of Leiningen and Prince Heinrich to Thyra von Westernhagen.
 
Two Hanoverian Princes did not seek permission to marry: Prince Georg Wilhelm and Prince Christian, second and third sons of Prince Ernst August and Princess Viktoria Luise.  In 1946, Georg Wilhelm married Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark (exempt) but was advised to not apply for permission as it was only a year after the end of the second world war.  A year later, Sophie's younger brother, Prince Philip (exempt) married the heiress presumptive to the British throne, Princess Elizabeth.


In 1963, Prince Christian caused a family scandal when he married a 17-year-old Belgian Mireille Dutry.  All of the descendants of George V and George VI have sought permission to marry according to the Royal Marriages Act with the possible exception of Sophie Lascelles, daughter of the Hon. James Lascelles,
 
 Since the end of World War I the number of RMA applications jumped exponentially due to British princesses marrying into British families.  The last British princess who married into a foreign family was Princess Margaret of Connaught, who married the future King Gustav VI Adolf in 1905.  
 
Edward VII married Princess Alexandra of Denmark (exempt).  Three of their six children married:  George to Princess Mary of Teck, daughter of Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, who was exempt from the RMA,  Louise to the Duke of Fife (descendants non-exempt), and Maud to her first cousin, Prince Carl of Denmark (Haakon VIII of Norway.) Maud's descendants were exempt from the RMA. 

Edward's eldest son, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, was engaged to Princess Mary of Teck at the time of his death.  Their marriage had been approved by Victoria.

Louise had two daughters, Alexandra, and Maud.  Alexandra, Duchess of Fife in her own right, married her mother's first cousin, Prince Arthur of Connaught.  Maud married the Earl of Southesk.  They had one son, James, who succeeded his maternal aunt as Duke of Fife.  The Duke of Fife has two children, Lady Alexandra, and Charles, the Earl of Southesk.  All had RMA approved marriages.

George V and Mary had six children: Edward VIII, George VI, Mary, Henry, George and John, who died as a teenager.  Edward VIII, having abdicated, was not required to seek RMA approval for his marriage to Wallis Simpson.  George VI (Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon) Mary (Earl of Harewood), Henry, Duke of Gloucester (Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott) and George, Duke of Kent  (Princess Marina of Greece) all were RMA approved, as were the marriages of their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren.

Prince Henry's children:  William (died unmarried) and Prince Richard, whose marriage to Birgitte van Deurs was approved.  Three children: Alexander, Earl of Ulster, Lady Davina and Lady Rose.  All three of their marriages were approved.

 Lady Davina Windsor,  married a New Zealand citizen, and their descendants would have been exempt, if the law had remained valid.
 
The Duke of Kent had three children:  Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, Princess Alexandra and Prince Michael.  The marriages of the Earl of St. Andrews, Lady Helen Windsor, Lord Nicholas Windsor, James Ogilvy, Marina Ogilvy and Lord Frederick Windsor were approvedLord Frederick's younger sister, Lady Gabriella, remains unmarried. She will not need to seek permission to marry.
 
 Princess Mary, who married the Earl of Harewood, had two sons: George, Earl of Harewood and the Hon. Gerald Lascelles.   Both married twice, and the four marriages were RMA approved, as were the marriages of Mary's grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.


Returning to the main line, the RMA applies to Queen Elizabeth II and her sister Princess Margaret, when they married Prince Philip and Antony Armstrong-Jones, respectively.  The children of these two marriages:  Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward,  Viscount Linley and Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones were all RMA approved.  Three of Queen Elizabeth's great-grandchildren, Peter Phillips, Zara Phillips and Prince William of Wales were also RMA approved.

Prince William, now the Duke of Cambridge, is the last member of the British Royal Family, to have his marriage approved by the Sovereign due to the Royal Marriages. 

 The first six in line will be the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge,  Prince George of Cambridge,  Princess Charlotte of Cambridge,  Prince Harry of Wales and the Duke of York.   Only the first six will need permission of the sovereign.  This means Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie will be the first members of the Royal family who will not need permission to marry.

The end of the Royal Marriages Act also means that the growing number of descendants of British princesses who did not marry into foreign royal families will not need to ask the Sovereign's permission to wed.  Many of these descendants have little or no real contact with the Queen.   They will not lose their way-down-the-line places in the succession because of the new law. 

The law itself affected a small number of descendants of George II.  Most of George's descendants were exempt from the law because they were descendants of the princesses who married into foreign families. 

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