Royal claims

The future King Edward VIII, later Duke of Windsor.

Another story of a person “claiming” the British throne appeared in the news recently. While years ago I wrote about a silly claim of an American going back centuries allegedly to the Welsh throne, this story is much more immediate to the current royal family.

In summary, Francois Graftieaux, 73, claims his father Pierre-Edouard Graftieaux, born in 1916, was the result of an affair with the then-Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) and a French seamstress. The suit claims that, “In the 1900s, the true line of succession was unlawfully concealed to block the Graftieauxs from their place in history. Whilst my father and I would have no direct claim to the throne on account of Edward’s abdication…”

This statement is absurd. Edward VIII could have had thirty illegitimate children, and none of them would have had any claim to the throne since they born illegitimately. Charles II and William IV both had recognized illegitimate sons and daughters, but no legitimate children, and the crown passed on to other legitimate heirs.

However Mr. Graftieaux goes one step further. He “has twice written to the Queen asking for a DNA test but has not had a response.” This is where I can point out that the Queen is not the only option, and indeed there is nothing “special” about her DNA versus her cousins of the same generation.

If Mr. Graftieaux were the grandson of Edward VIII, then he and the Queen would be first cousins once removed. This is kinship that always shows up as related in an autosomal DNA test. For the next generation, Prince Charles and his siblings, the kinship would be second cousins. Again, this is a kinship that always shows up as related. The closest kinship that has had cases of no longer sharing autosomal DNA is second cousins once removed.

The Duke of Windsor's sister-in-law, Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, with her older children Princess Alexandra and Prince Edward, ca. 1937. Photo by Marcus Adams

So how many different people could take DNA tests at this level? In addition to the Queen, there are four first cousins who would be first cousins once removed to a grandchild of Edward VIII:

Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester (b. 1944)

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (b. 1935)

Princess Alexandra, the Honourable Lady Ogilvy (b. 1936)

Prince Michael of Kent (b. 1942)

And for the next generation, besides the four living children of Elizabeth II, there are 16 other people that again would be of equal kinship (that is, second cousins):

David Armstrong-Jones, 2nd Earl of Snowdon (b. 1961)

Lady Sarah Chatto (née Armstrong-Jones, b. 1964)

David Lascelles, 8th Earl of Harewood (b. 1950)

Hon. James Edward Lascelles (b. 1953)

Hon. Robert Jeremy Hugh Lascelles (b. 1955)

Hon. Mark Hubert Lascelles (b. 1964)

Alexander Windsor, Earl of Ulster (b. 1974)

Lady Davina Windsor (b. 1977)

Lady Rose Gilman (née Windsor, b. 1980)

George Windsor, Earl of St. Andrews (b. 1962)

Lady Helen Taylor (née Windsor, b. 1964)

Lord Nicholas Windsor (b. 1970)

James Robert Bruce Ogilvy (b. 1964)

Marina Victoria Alexandra Ogilvy (b. 1966)

Lord Frederick Windsor (b. 1979)

Lady Gabriella Kingston (née Windsor, b. 1981)

Then there is always the exciting possibility of Y-DNA testing! So there is no need for Mr. Graftieaux to focus his efforts on the queen’s DNA, for there are plenty of other possibilities for confirmation or dismissal of his theory on his paternal grandfather.

Christopher C. Child

About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.View all posts by Christopher C. Child