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  • Writer's pictureRichard Edmunds

Royal Wedding Genealogy - Indian Roots, Slavery, Saxons and Cousin Marriages

Welcome to the new blog section of my website, where I will post regular news and developments on my upcoming books and projects, and on various different subjects of interest, genealogy and otherwise.

As tomorrow is Royal Wedding day where better to start than an examination of the family ties, ancestry and genealogy of the soon to be newlywed couple.

Harry and Meghan, Xmas 2017

Prince Harry’s direct paternal line is well documented, tracing back twenty seven generations, to Elimar (1040-1112) first Count of Oldenburg in Lower Saxony, Germany, a supposed descendant of Wittekind, leader of the Saxons in their wars against Charlemagne and the Franks in the late 8th century AD. Through him Harry carries paternal haplogroup R1b-U106, common amongst Saxon descendants, and the majority of men in South East England, (including myself).

Harry’s direct maternal line is much more uncommon, tracing back to Gujarat, India, eight generations, to his 6 x great grandmother, a native Indian. From her he inherits the rare South Asian MtDna haplogroup R30b. She was partner to Ahakob Kevorkian, an Armenian merchant based in her home city of Surat, India. Their daughter, Harry’s 5 x great grandmother, Aleza Kevorkian, (later known in Europe as Eliza Kewark), was born there some time circa 1789.

Surat, India in the 18th century

Surat, India in the 18th century

Less is known of Meghan's genealogy. Her direct paternal line traces back to her 3 x great grandfather, Isaac Markle, who lived with his wife, Leah Reisenberg, in Pennsylvania, U.S.A, in the 19th century. The American Markle and Reisenberg families are both believed to have originated in Germany, but little else is known of them.

Meghan's maternal line can be traced back to her 3 x great grandfather Richard Ragland. Born circa 1835 in Georgia, it is likely he spent the first few decades of his life living as an enslaved person. It is possible he later fought with the Union in the American Civil War, for emancipation, as he would have then been in his thirties. His son Steve Ragland, appears on census records described as black. He later married Texie Hendrick, a white woman. Their son Jeremiah Ragland appears on later census records as a Tailor of mixed race. He moved with his family to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Recruitment poster for so called 'Colored Regiments' US Civil War 1860's

Through her Paternal grandmother, Doris Mary Sanders, a quarter of Meghan's ancestry is almost entirely British, and include George Sanders, who emigrated from Essex, England, to the U.S.A, in the mid-19th century, Mary Ann Short, born in Garnsbro, Lincolnshire, in October 1835, husband Thomas Sykes, who did the same, and Thomas Bird, an English shoe maker.

Harry and Meghan are distant relations, being 15th cousins, once removed, through their common ancestor Ralph Bowes (1480-1515), who held the post of High Sheriff of County Durham, during the reign of King Henry VII.  His family seat was at Streatlam Castle, where he held extensive estates. This makes Meghan only slightly more distant a relation to the royal family, than Kate Middleton, who is 14th cousin, once removed, to William and Harry, through common ancestor, Sir William Gascoigne of Gawthorpe, a contemporary of Ralph Bowes, who died in 1486, a year into Henry VII’s reign.

Though still technically cousin marriages, Harry and William’s matrimonial unions are far more genetically distant than their father’s two marriages, to Diana Spencer, his 7th cousin once removed, through common ancestor, William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire (1698-1755) and Camilla Parker Bowles, his 9th cousin once removed, through common ancestor Henry Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Newcastle (1630-1691).

Both of Charles’s marriages were nevertheless genetically distant enough to be considered to ‘commoners’ and bucked recent royal tradition, his mother having married much closer kin, a 2nd cousin once removed, as had her grandfather King George V. George’s grandparents, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, were even closer kin, being first cousins, sharing a set of grandparents.

The expectancy of Royals to marry genetically close kin, to preserve the bloodline, though not always followed, stretches far back into antiquity. One of a great many objections made to Henry VIII’s second marriage, to Ann Boleyn, was her relatively distant kinship to the King, Ann being only a 6th cousin, once removed, though this troublesome fact was somewhat mitigated by the undeniably high status of their shared ancestor, King Edward I (1239-1307).

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert 1840

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