A Royal Pedigree to Half the Population of the Country

Detail of The Downsitting of Parliament, from Chatelain's "Atlas Historique" of 1720, showing a graphic scheme of the opening of the Estates of Parliament of Scotland about 1680 - 1685.
Detail of The Downsitting of Parliament, from Chatelain’s “Atlas Historique” of 1720, showing a graphic scheme of the opening of the Estates of Parliament of Scotland about 1680 – 1685.

That so many families claiming royal lineage should be found among our lowest classes is not astonishing. History tells us of change after change in the ruling dynasties of these islands, and of the advent of races the most varied in time and origin. During the last two thousand years enough kings and nobles have sunk from power to furnish a royal pedigree to half the population of the country. It is true that the present Royal Family, and the present aristocracy, inherit, to some extent, the blood of extinct dynasties. But only to some extent. The Prince of Wales has lawfully succeeded to various dignities; but these are of such opposite origin that they cannot possibly be typified in the person of one man. He cannot be, at the same time, a typical Prince of Wales and a typical Prince of Scotland; a genuine Duke of Cornwall and as genuine a Duke of Rothesay; a perfect specimen of the Lords of the Isles and an equally perfect Earl of Chester; he cannot be a thoroughbred Plantagenet, Stewart, Tudor, and Guelph — though a certain proportion of the blood of each may run in his veins. The circumstances that developed such titles have been matters of history for many generations; the titles themselves are now merely so many graceful honours, attaching by right of birth to the Heir Apparent.

David MacRitchie, Ancient and Modern Britons (London: 1884).