Friday, October 19, 2012

Primogeniture and English Royal Bloodlines

"The Queen Mother, the Untold Story of Elizabeth Bowels Lyon, Who Because Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother" by Lady Colin Campbell   St. Martin's Press   487 pages   $29.99

In 1900 when she was born and before, the right of primogeniture meant the first-born son inherited it all.  Daughters didn't figure in and sometimes the estate was said to "slip sidewise" to a distant male cousin, simply to follow the letter of the law.

Naturally, this was a fate nearly as bad as death (and certainly caused by it) for the then-owning family.  What to do?  The problem was often solved in this fashion:  the husband and wife, colluding with one another with gusto, would have a surrogate child.  The sterile party would stand aside and allow the non-sterile to procreate with a much lesser being.

Husbands would take up with a household maid, a real convenience for the wife who didn't have to bother with a pillow around her waist for five months.  If the husband was sterile, three different London doctors offered this valuable service.  Basically it was a stud service with no unseemly contact between the shy, retiring wife and a male.

The wives would come to the doctor's office where they were put in a room to await the sperm, legs akimbo and speculum inserted.  Meanwhile, in a distant room in the house, the men, uh, gave their all which was sped to the waiting putative mother-to-be.

The males were all butlers!  Butlers were considered good breeding stock as they occupied in the house what would be the CEO position in a corporation.  Chosen, in part, for their attractiveness they had also had had the grit to pull themselves up from a really menial position to top of the household elite.

What the hell does this have to do with the Queen Mother, you ask?  She was born of such an arrangement.  Cecilia and Claude Bowes Lyons were the couple in question.  Cecilia had already given birth to eight children and it was feared that she would not survive another pregnancy.  But the couple wanted more children. 

Enter the family cook, a Frenchwoman named Marguerite Rodiere.  She later gave Elizabeth a baby brother, named David. 

I was surprised, too.  She certainly wound up with a mixed bloodline - some royal blood back in the day and an unknown Frenchwoman whose ancestors were ... common.

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