It is said that most of us have hundreds or thousands of living relations, if only we knew who they were. On one line of my family tree I have found to be descended from such people such as the brother of King Harold of 1066 fame, Robert The Bruce and various old Saxon and Viking kings such as Æthelred the Unready and King Canute going back to the 2nd century BC. (Why not check out two old blog posts on the character Æ The Ædifying use of Æ and also The Terrible Tale of Ælfheah – Archbishop of Canterbury)
Few people have a better researched family tree than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II but on top of all those we all know about at school, by various lines she is also a descendant of, among others, Vlad the Impaler, Robert the Bruce (hello Cuz!), Alfred the Great, a London plumber called John Walsh, and if some would say, the Prophet Muhammad and founder of the Islamic faith.
Unlike myself, the Queen has a quite recent ‘foreign’ blood-line from 1066 and the Normans so given how large empires can get and just how far people travelled and intermixed then it isn’t that much of a leap to think that a European in the 11th century might have some Arab blood in them. The Queen though, as supporters of the claim would say, goes much better as of course she would have to.
This spring across the Muslim world, newspapers and websites have been discussing the ‘fact’ that the Queen not only has Islamic ancestors, but is directly descended from the founder of Islam himself. It seems the current spate of reports emerged from Morocco but I remember reading about them myself 10 or 20 years ago.
There has been a broadly positive reaction to the claim that the Queen is a direct descendant of the founding father of Islam via Edward IV, Pedro the Cruel of Castile and a Spanish princess called Zaida.
If this is confirmed, some Islamic scholars have even suggested that an extra title should be conferred on the Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. New honorifics suggested so far include ‘amir al-mumineen’ (leader of the faithful) and ‘sayyida’ (literally, a ‘commander’ descended from the Prophet’s daughter Fatimah) whilst no doubt targetting a different audionce, one Arab blogger has asked whether the national anthem might become ‘Allah Save The Queen’.
This news suggests the Prince of Wales was very prescient when he professed an aspiration to be crowned as a multi-denominational ‘defender of faith’ come his coronation. He has spent a quarter of a century promoting greater understanding between Islam and the West and established his own Oxford School of Islamic Studies.
How much heed should we pay to these claims? As it happens they are certainly not wholly untrue.
If we take the past few centuries for granted then the leap from established history and along the road to the Prophet Muhammed starts with Richard, Earl of Cambridge, the grandfather of Edward IV. His mother was Isabel of Castile, daughter of Pedro the Cruel, king of Castile. If we follow that line back through assorted kings of Castile and Portugal, we come to Alfonso VI, also known as Alfonso the Valiant, of Castile — who was born in 1072, just six years after William the Conqueror was turning England upside down.
Alfonso’s wife, and the mother of three of his children, was Zaida. She was apparently a Muslim princess who fled the collapsing regime of her father Mohammet II, King of Seville. She sought refuge at Alfonso’s court, became his mistress and converted to Christianity when she married him.
It is from her, so it’s said, that the line goes all the way back to the Prophet Muhammad via her father. That is because Islamic scholars can connect Mohammet II (also known as Al-Mu’tamid ibn Abbad), King of Seville, directly to the Prophet via his grandfather Al-Qasim, King of Seville, and straight back to Muhammad’s daughter Fatimah.
According to the author of last month’s original Moroccan report, Abdelhamid Al-Aouni, the Queen’s link to the Prophet has been verified by one of the most senior scholars in the mainstream Islamic world, Ali Gomaa, the former Grand Mufti of Egypt.
The same theory was also propogated over 30 years ago in the UK by the eccentric editor of Burke’s Peerage, the late Harold Brooks-Baker but for some reason his theory was seen to be unsubstantiated by Buckingham Palace
However, Mr Al-Aouni is standing by his story and believes it comes at a fortuitous moment. ‘It builds a bridge between our two religions and kingdoms,’ he says.
Buckingham Palace has no comment to make on the matter. But royal officials cannot entirely pooh-pooh the reports, as the Palace’s very own reference book confirms the link between the Queen and Zaida. The Royal Encyclopaedia, edited by the Queen’s former press secretary Ronald Allison, is accepted as received wisdom within the Royal Household.
At the back, Appendix 2 contains lists of ‘The Queen’s Antecedents’. One traces the Queen’s ancestry over more than a millennium back via kings of France and a Ukrainian saint to Rurik, Grand Prince of Novgorod, 9th-century founder of the Russian monarchy.
The other line follows the direct lineal connection from the Queen to Edward IV, various Iberian monarchs and all the way back to Zaida. So the strength of the Queen’s connection to the Prophet all depends on this mysterious Muslim princess.
Some scholars say Zaida was not the daughter, but the daughter-in-law, of Mohammet II, in which case she was not a direct descendant of the Prophet. Others say she was not the mother of Urraca, Queen of Castile, who succeeded Zaida’s husband, Alfonso VI. In which case the link to the Queen is not clear.
‘We will never really know,’ says the distinguished historian Hugh Kennedy, Professor of Arabic at the London School of Oriental and African Studies. ‘It is conceivable but improbable that the Queen descends from Zaida, let alone from the Prophet.’
However, he is confident that the Queen has some very illustrious Muslim blood, pointing out that her lineal ancestor is Caliph Haroun al-Rashid, the great ruler who would become a central figure in classic Eastern tales including the Arabian Nights and Sinbad.
His descendants married into the Bagratid kings of Georgia, from whom the Queen is directly descended on her Russian side.
All this focus on the Royal Family’s Muslim antecedents is certainly interesting with the recent Commonwealth Summut week’s Commonwealth summit in London. For the Queen is Head of the Commonwealth and its principal religion is not Christianity but Islam, since it includes some of the world’s most populous Muslim nations including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia.
Over the years, historians and genealogists have enjoyed unearthing unexpected royal ancestry. Thanks to the Queen Mother, for example, the Queen is the most Scottish monarch since James I and VI (and also descended from John Walsh, a London plumber whose granddaughter married the 11th Earl of Strathmore, the great-great-great-grandfather of the Queen).
And the Duke of Edinburgh has some equally interesting lineage. His maternal uncle, Lord Mountbatten, not only claimed that the family were descended from the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, but had a personal theory that he was connected to the Native American princess Pocahontas.
Given that the Duke is also a direct descendant of Queen Victoria, and thus of Edward IV, he can claim the same direct descent from the Prophet, too.
It is relatively safe to assume that St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle is not likely to become a mosque, if only due to planning permissions on what is a Listed Building. Nor will the Queen be making a habit of going on television after Ramadan each year though perhaps Prince Charles might.
‘As-salamu alaykum’ peace be upon you dear readers and for those of you who might be interested, here is the supposed line of succession between The Queen and hte Prophet Muhammad. You might like to check out my much visited post on the destruction of Mecca by Saudi Arabia too.The destruction of historic Mecca by Saudi Arabia.
Elizabeth II, Queen of the UK – daughter of
George VI, King of the UK – son of
George V, King of the UK – son of
Edward VII, King of the UK – son of
Victoria, Queen of the UK – daughter of
Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn – son of
George III, King of Great Britain – son of
Frederick, Prince of Wales – son of
George II, King of Great Britain – son of
George I, King of Great Britain – son of
Sophia, Electress of Hanover – daughter of
Elizabeth of Bohemia – daughter of
James I/VI, King of England, Ireland & Scotland – son of
Mary, Queen of Scots – daughter of
James V, King of Scots – son of
Margaret Tudor – daughter of
Elizabeth of York – daughter of
Edward IV, King of England – son of
Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York – son of
Richard of Conisburgh, Earl of Cambridge – son of
Isabella Perez of Castille – daughter of
Maria Juana de Padilla – daughter of
Maria Fernandez de Henestrosa – daughter of
Aldonza Ramirez de Cifontes – daughter of
Aldonza Gonsalez Giron – daughter of
Sancha Rodriguez de Lara – daughter of
Rodrigo Rodriguez de Lara – son of
Sancha Alfonsez, Infanta of Castile – daughter of
Zaida (aka Isabella) – daughter of
Al-Mu’tamid ibn Abbad, King of Seville – son of
Abbad II al-Mu’tadid, King of Seville – son of
Abu al-Qasim Muhammad ibn Abbad, King of Seville – son of
Ismail ibn Qarais – son of
Qarais ibn Abbad – son of
Abbad ibn Amr – son of
Amr ibn Aslan – son of
Aslan ibn Amr – son of
Amr ibn Itlaf – son of
Itlaf ibn Na’im – son of
Na’im II al-Lakhmi – son of
Na’im al-Lakhmi – son of
Zahra bint Husayn – daughter of
Husayn ibn Hasan – son of
Hasan ibn Ali