In A Nutshell
Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne of Britain as the latest in a long line of royalty. But according to a sensational document recently discovered in Rouen Cathedral, the current royal family might not be so royal after all. The document seems to confirm longstanding rumors that Edward IV of England was illegitimate—and so are all his descendants. If the Queen isn’t the rightful heir to the throne, then who is? The line leads us to a forklift operator living in Australia.
The Whole Bushel
The line of British kings and queens isn’t quite as unbroken as you’d think—in 1701, the Act of Succession disinherited 57 closer relatives so that the throne could go to the Protestant George I, while Henry VII was a distant, borderline illegitimate relative who essentially stabbed his way to the top at the tail end of the Wars of the Roses. Still, the current Queen claims her throne by virtue of her ancestry. But what if there was someone with a better claim? And what if he was a forklift operator from Jerilderie, Australia?
Well, in 2002, historian Dr. Michael Jones was doing some research in the library of Rouen Cathedral when he made a potentially enormous discovery. According to a record from July 1441, the priests of the cathedral had been paid a hefty sum to pray for the safety of Richard, Duke of York, who was away on campaign. Although never king himself, Richard had a strong claim to the throne and his son would go on to become King Edward IV. There was just one problem—Edward was born in April 1442. But how could that be the case if his father had been off fighting a war nine months earlier?
Well, even before Dr. Jones’s discovery, there had been plenty of speculation that Edward’s real father wasn’t the Duke of York. Rumors at the time claimed that Edward’s mother, the beautiful “Rose of Raby,” Cecily Neville, had engaged in a passionate affair with an archer named Blaybourne, who was the true father of her child. The story was well-known to historians, but there was never any evidence for it until Jones’s discovery. But if Edward was illegitimate, then the throne should have gone to his brother, George, Duke of Clarence, whom he had later drowned in a butt of wine. And if Clarence was the rightful king, then perhaps his descendants might have a better claim to the throne than the current queen.
To find out, Dr. Jones teamed up with Britain’s Channel 4, undertaking a huge project to track down Clarence’s rightful heir. In 2004, they found him. Michael Abney-Hastings was technically the Earl of Loudon (whose coat of arms is pictured above), but his friends in the small town of Jerilderie, Australia (population 768) all just knew him as Mike Hastings, a beer-loving former forklift operator and orange picker who served as chairman of the local historical society. Born in England, Hastings had moved to Australia at the age of 18 with just £50 in his pocket. After working his way around the country for a few years, he settled down in Jerilderie, where he eventually became a rice farmer and married his Aussie sweetheart, Noelene McCormick. Ironically, he was a life-long republican who had actually voted to abolish the monarchy in Australia. (The referendum in question failed.)
Although surprised by his sudden royalty, Mike took the news in stride, joking that he “might send Lizzie a bill for back rent. The old girl’s family have been living in my bloody castle for the last 500 years.” He always insisted that he had no interest in becoming king, noting that the only real result of the news was that his friends had started serenading him with “God Save The King” whenever he walked into a room. “King” Mike passed away in 2012, leaving the throne to his son, Simon, who also has no intention of seizing power: “The family motto is ‘I Byde My Tyme’ and, given the Abney-Hastings have had to wait six centuries to stake any claim, a little longer won’t make much difference.”
Show Me The Proof
Featured image via Wikipedia
BBC News: Aussie is ‘heir to English crown’
The Telegraph: The Earl of Loudon
Time: ‘Rightful Heir’ to British Throne Dies
The Herald Sun: Victorian Simon Abney-Hastings has fair-dinkum claim to English throne
Royal Hertfordshire Murders And Misdemeanors, by Pamela Shields