ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A male heir! A male heir! My kingdom for a male heir!

Updated on October 12, 2018
Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran is a writer & former newspaper reporter/editor who traveled the world as a soldier's better half. Her works are on Amazon.


Long Live the Queen !

If you read British history, you will hear this theme repeated down through the ages. A Male Heir. We must provide a Male Heir. Wars were fought over it. Wives were sent to nunneries over it. Some were beheaded over it. The most important responsibility any king or queen had was to produce a male heir to insure the bloodline of succession continued.

The longest sitting rulers in British history have been two women: Victoria and Elizabeth II, and a little further down the line, Elizabeth I virtually tied for seventh-longest. This fact is impressive since out of approximately one hundred and seventy monarchs only seven have been women. One of those only ruled for nine days, the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey.

Procreation drama was responsible for many wars, plots, and even a few murders. For all their combined efforts, this drama sometimes ended up leading to, not a male child in line of succession, but a female.

These unintended consequences began as early as 1135 when Henry I named as his successor his only living child, a daughter Matilda. Henry I sired more than twenty children, but (also a trend in British royalty) only two were legitimate. His only son, William, sank with the infamous White Ship while the royal court was crossing the English Channel in 1120.

The King's succession wishes didn't stop Matilda's cousin Stephen from seizing the throne in spite of an oath he made to support her ascension. Matilda succeeded in defeating his forces only to suffer her own defeat at the hands of his wife, another Matilda. Henry I's choice won in the end though. After the death of his only son, Stephen named his cousin Matilda's son with Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, as his heir to the throne. Either Karma or persistent rumors suggested Henry II might actually have been fathered by Stephen, the result of a brief affair between the two throne-seeking cousins. The one fact never in question was Henry II's maternal line.

Henry II's recognized father,Geoffrey, went by the nickname Plantagenet, which was his family's emblem. That name, though not used as a surname for more than two hundred and fifty years, became known as the longest-reigning dynasty in British history. And down through the decades, the twists and turns of fate kept the Plantagenets in constant pursuit of the ultimate goal of royalty: a male heir. As it turned out, even a bevy of sons did not ensure this goal was always accomplished.

Henry VIII was born to the daughter of King Edward IV, Elizabeth of York. Her two brothers, one actually crowned briefly as King Edward V, were presumably murdered by their uncle, King Richard III. Arguments persist in pointing a guilty finger at others, even all these years later. (My money is on Elizabeth's eventual mother-in-law, Margaret Beaufort.) Richard may have intended to marry Elizabeth himself, but he was killed by her first cousin and future husband, King Henry VII. After securing, not one but two, male heirs to his throne, King Edward IV’s bloodline continued through his daughter, not his sons.

Again, even the birth of multiple sons could fail to accomplish the coveted goal of placing a son on the throne. Henry VIII's daughter, Elizabeth I, had three half-brothers. Unfortunately for two of them, only one was legitimate or born into a sanctioned marriage. If Henry VIII had the benefit of hindsight, he would have realized he was perfectly capable of producing a boy baby. He simply married the wrong women at the wrong times.

If he had married his mistress, Elizabeth Blount, instead of his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon, his son born in 1519 would have been the legitimate heir to his thrown instead of the daughter Catherine gave him in 1516, the future Queen Mary.

Another mistress and his future sister-in-law, Mary Bolen, then delivered his next two healthy children, (that we know of) a son in 1526 and a daughter in 1529. There is continued debate about whether or not King Henry fathered both of those children. But if he did, and he had married Mary instead of her sister, Anne, when he set aside his marriage to his sister-in-law Catherine, he would have had another legitimate son as an heir. Instead he married “Anne of a Thousand Days,” who gave him a daughter in 1533, the future Queen Elizabeth I.

After having his second wife beheaded, the next day – the next day – Henry VIII proposed marriage to a third wife, Jane Seymour. Through her he finally got his legitimate male heir, the future King Edward VI. Unfortunately Edward only sat on his father’s throne for seven and a half years, dying of tuberculosis at age 16. He didn’t live long enough to marry or produce an heir of his own. Of Henry’s two bastard sons, the first died at age 17, but the second died at age 62, a long life for his day.

So after fathering no less than three sons, Henry VIII’s line finally came to an end. Elizabeth I thought better of marrying and diluting her authority as her half-sister Mary had when she became the first female monarch in the empire’s history. Elizabeth reigned as a single woman for 45 years, and the bloodline of succession jumped to Henry's female cousin’s son, James I of Scotland. After all the desperation for a male heir, this male heir descended from Henry VIII’s sister, Margaret, who had been married off to James IV of Scotland. Her son, James V, had only a daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, mother of James I of England.

Like the first two female sovereigns, two sisters succeeded each other as Queen of England in the mid-sixteen hundreds. James II followed his brother, Charles II to the throne and his only two legitimate children - daughters - followed him, first Mary II then Anne. Mary ruled jointly with her cousin/husband, William. Then Anne succeeded him. Pregnant no less than seventeen times, infant mortality and stillbirths rendered her without an heir upon her death. She was the last of the house of Stuart, and the monarchy transitioned to the house of Hanover through Charles I's sister Elizabeth's line. World War I made their German heritage politically incorrect so Queen Elizabeth II's grandfather, George V, changed it. Today that house is known as the Windsor's.

A rarity: a Queen picks her own husband:

England's Longest-Serving Monarch

Queen Victoria rose to the throne of England in 1838 after her grandparents saw the birth of four sons. Four male heirs in one generation! Not one produced a legitimate child who lived long enough to inherit the throne, except her father, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn. Victoria was his one and only child. He died in 1820 within months of her birth.

Victoria bore nine children, all of whom lived through infancy, which was not the norm in the late 1800s. She was the monarch longer than anyone else had ever been, serving sixty-four years. Her heir was her second born, Edward VII. She had three other sons as well.

Elizabeth II celebrated sixty years on the throne, her Diamond Jubilee, in 2012. Her father was one of three sons born to Victoria’s grandson, George V. He was the second born son, coming to the throne as George VI when his bachelor brother, Edward VIII, abdicated to marry a divorced American. Edward produced no children after giving up his throne. So if he had not abdicated, but still married Wallis Simpson, it is likely Elizabeth would have become Queen anyway, only twenty years later.

Since 802 A.D. the issue of a male heir has dominated royal ambitions. But no more. In October 2011 leaders of the sixteen Great Britain Commonwealth countries unanimously approved new succession laws stating the first born child of a monarch will be the heir apparent regardless of the sex of the child. So after a history going back more than a thousand years, the Brits have finally learned two inherent truths.

Number one: women last longer.

Number two: women have played as much a role in the succession of monarchs as men

– so let them reign.

Note: Since this hub was first published, the current heir to the British throne, William and his wife Catherine have had their first child - a boy. The sex of the child was not announced prior to his birth. The Brits recently changed the law so any firstborn child of a monarch would be the heir to the throne. And after thousands of years when so many of us wanted William and Kate to have a girl, what did they have? A boy.

A few years later, the anticipated girl arrived, Charlotte. God bless her, but it will take another generation to see a female baby automatically become the heir.

It has just recently been announced that this royal family is expecting again. Their quiver will be full!!!

Congratulations to this royal family.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)