Unraveling the Royal Tapestry: A Journey Through Britain’s Royal Family Tree

Family History
24 May 2023
by Ancestry® Team

With vast wealth and a storied history tied directly to the nation itself, the genealogy of Britain’s royal family is as intriguing as it is complex. According to a recent survey, the British monarchy retains popularity in the United Kingdom, with a majority of the British respondents over the age of 25 supporting the monarchy. 

Although many people are aware of the significance of the British royal family, they may not be familiar with the details of the royal family’s genealogy and how various prominent figures are connected. Take a look at this brief overview of the royal family tree for a better understanding of the British monarchy. 

What Is the Royal Family Tree?

The British royal family tree refers to how members of the royal family are connected through generations. The family tree can trace its familial connections back centuries. It also indicates how people are connected during their lifetimes, such as whether they were or are single, married, or divorced, and whether they have siblings or offspring. 

How Far Back Does the Royal Family Tree Go?

The British royal family’s bloodline is one of the most well-documented in history. The lineage of the British monarchy tree, specifically Queen Elizabeth’s bloodline, can be traced back 1,209 years and 37 generations with incredible accuracy. 

The most well-known royal family tree is the Windsor family tree. It received the name around 1917 under King George V. At that time, the family changed its name to Windsor from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Prior to that, they were the House of Hanover and had provided six monarchs who reigned over Great Britain. Before Hanover (prior to Queen Victoria’s time), the family name was Stuart; this was the timeframe in which the infamous Mary, Queen of Scots lived.

In her time, Queen Victoria was Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, holding the throne for almost 64 years before her passing. She reigned from 1837 to 1901 as a member of the House of Hanover. The surnames on the family tree made the switch to Saxe-Coburg-Gotha with Queen Victoria’s eldest son Edward VII, who took the last name of his father, Prince Albert.

British Royal Family
Members of the British royal family including King George V and King Edward VIII, gathered around Queen Victoria at a garden party

The Relationship Between Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria

The English royal family tree shows that Queen Victoria is a blood relative of both Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II. 

Queen Elizabeth I reigned from 1558-1603. Queen Elizabeth II was Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, sitting on the throne from 1952 to 2022. Although they lived centuries apart, they are related through King Henry VII. He was Queen Elizabeth I’s grandfather and Queen Elizabeth II’s 12 times great-grandfather. This means that the two queens are first cousins separated by 13 generations. However, the connection between Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria is much clearer. Queen Elizabeth II was a direct descendent of Queen Victoria, being her great-great-granddaughter. 

Does the Royal Family Support Intermarriage?

Intermarriage in the royal family is becoming less common, but the royals share so many common ancestors that there are still instances of marriages between blood relatives. 

Queen Elizabeth II was third cousins with her husband, Prince Philip, since they are both related to Queen Victoria. But marriage among blood relatives goes further than that: Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert are first cousins. 

Like many members of a royal family tree, England’s King Charles III and Camilla, the Queen, are not just husband and wife; they are blood relatives too. King Charles is also distantly related to his first wife, Princess Diana, through William Cavendish, third Duke of Devonshire, making them seventh cousins once removed.

How Many Royal Families Remain in the World Today?

Many countries around the world have royal families that continue to be prominent today. In Europe, there are many royal families besides the British royal family; 11 other European countries have royal families with historic bloodlines and their own familial politics. These are Andorra, Belgium, Denmark, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Sweden.

US President and First Lady accompany British royal family on a visit to National Presbyterian Church
US President and First Lady accompany British royal family on a visit to National Presbyterian Church, 1957

The Royal Family and Modern English Surnames

A glimpse at the royal family’s tree can provide you with hints about the origins of many modern English surnames. There are seven types of English surnames, which stem from different factors, including:

  • Occupation: These surnames identified individuals based on the occupation they held. For example, a person with “Carpenter” as a surname will likely discover that a distant ancestor worked with wood.
  • Personal characteristics: A simple method of defining a person is to base a name off a specific characteristic. For example, the surname “Short” may have been used to describe a person of smaller stature.

Additionally, some surnames, such as Percy or Seymour, suggest that a person may have royal blood.

Could You Have Royal Lineage?

If you want to explore your potential connections to a royal family, your surname may be able to tell you. Start the journey of tracing your genealogy by starting a free trial on Ancestry® today, and discover whether you have royal heritage.