Richard III’s relationship to Elizabeth II

I live in Leicester, and so the recent events concerning Richard III’s discovery have been particularly interesting to me. Alongside a variety of posters across the city, the University of Leicester have put together an excellent website with details of the discovery. (I’d also like to take a brief moment to express my gratitude and support for York Minster in their correct assessment of Richard III and his reburial in Leicester.)

Part of the reason that it’s exciting to have found Richard III is the historical impact that it will have and the contribution to England’s history that it represents. However, the impact it will have on Leicester is also significant. It puts the University of Leicester, a fine institution, in the limelight; it also means a potentially huge increase in tourism for the city. Finally, I’m hopeful that it will lead to a royal visit of some magnitude when it comes time for Richard III’s reinterment.

Queen Elizabeth II visiting NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

I expressed this hope to a friend of mine, who was confused — why would the royal family come to attend the reburial of Richard III, when they’re from different houses? Elizabeth II is not related to Richard III, so why would she make an appearance? Whilst it’s true that Elizabeth II is not from the House of Plantagenet — she is a Windsor, which is a house that came from the ashes of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha — it is not true that she is not related to Richard III. Let me explain.

Elizabeth II is the great-granddaughter of Edward VII, who was the first British monarch from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. He was the great-great-great-great-grandson of George I, the first British monarch from the house of Hanover. He, in turn, was the great-grandson of James VI, who was the first British monarch from the house of Stuart. James VI was the great-great-grandson of Henry VII, who was the first English monarch from the house of Tudor. Henry VII was married to Elizabeth of York, and Elizabeth of York was Richard III’s niece.

As such, Richard III is Elizabeth II’s uncle, albeit many generations (and branches of the royal family!) apart.