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.

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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.

9 thoughts on “Royal claims

  1. An interesting article that raises some candid questions.
    What are the odds of having unidentified and unacknowledged illegitimate relatives in our family trees? I suspect the further back we go to in the tree the greater the probability.
    Also, I would hypothesis that there is a positive correlation between having illegitimate offspring and having a “bun in the oven” when a woman married.

  2. This man, though he may have an awkward sense of how to go about making his claim, has every right to do so. I don’t think that is the point. The point (to my mind) is that a man who was to become king used his position to proposition (the politest word I can think of) young women who were vulnerable, and then walked away. The fact that he failed to claim any of his illegitimate children does not mitigate anything. It just further points up the baseness of his actions and values. Personally, I am looking forward to something like this being a non-issue- and the rest of us recognizing that the aristocracy long ago outlived any value to society.

  3. You are definitely right but none of the Royal family members listed would agree to compare their YDNA test with mine which, by the way, shows 62% anglo-saxon, 23% german and
    only 15% French markers. Regards, F.Graftieaux

    1. The listed people would be for Autosomal DNA testing comparison, only the 7 male Windsors would be applicable for Y-DNA testing (Richard, Edward, Michael, Alexander, George, Nicholas, and Frederick), but autosomal DNA comparison amongst those men would be more specific. But there are many only other male line Windsors (or in the house of Saxe-Coburg). For Prince Albert, there are several male line descendants through his youngest son Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany (by this point autosomal DNA would be less specific, but Y-DNA can still work). There are also many male line descendants amongst descendants of the brothers of Prince Albert’s father, including the later kings of Portugal and Belgium. Within those male-line descendants, there are men who no longer have any royal titles but would still carry the Y-DNA.

    2. One can’t help but wish Mr. Graftieaux some sort of resolution – either a genetic affirmation or a denial – of the alleged legacy that’s been handed on down to him. I have to believe its all he’s really looking for. How many of us have confronted this same sort of problem – only at a different level? He’s doing what many of us do in our genealogical pursuits – (sans any royal claims…) trying to get to the truth of the matter, for his father, himself, and for his family. Many thanks to Chris for explaining it out so well.

      Bravo Mr. Graftieaux, God speed to you on the answers you seek!

  4. Did Edward VIII have any Anglo-Saxon ancestors? I thought the lot of them were 100% German, Victoria/Albert, Edward VII/Alexandra, George V/Mary of Teck?

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