British Royal Family was already Multicultural, Descended from Muhammad

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The announcement that Prince Harry is set to marry American actress Meghan Markle provoked a flurry of articles about the British royal family becoming multicultural. The Washington Post actually has a headline about Britain’s “black queen.” (The peculiar American ‘one drop rule’ makes anyone with any recent African heritage African, to the surprise of societies like Brazil which have a spectrum of categories on race. Ms. Markle herself said, “”My dad is Caucasian and my mom is African American … I have come to embrace say who I am, to share where I’m from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident, mixed-race woman.”

I think journalists should respect her self-definition.

Ms. Markle is African-American from her mother’s side and Dutch, English, German, Irish, and Scottish on her father’s side. Except that most African-Americans are also Scottish, English, Dutch, etc. because of their ancestry from their former slavemasters, who routinely used to have children with their slaves (who could not refuse) and then sell the children down the river. Those are the people to whom Confederate statues were erected from the late 19th century.

Because the royal family of Britain is invested in the popular imagination with the ultimate “whiteness,” it is a lightning rod for thinking about race and its boundaries. Hence the controversies about Princess Diana’s Pakistani and Egyptian boyfriends. It seems pretty obvious that she deliberately explored multicultural romantic relationships in part as a rebellion against a Buckingham palace that had tried to micro-manage her life when she was married to Prince Charles.

But “whiteness” is an illusion. Because the crowned heads of Europe intermarried over centuries and because Spanish nobility was in the mix, and because in turn Spaniards and other southwestern Europeans are up to 20% North African in heritage as well as having substantial genetic endowments from Jews and various other Muslim peoples, not to mention Phoenicians and sub-saharan Africans– actually all European royal families have been mixed-race for a very long time. In fact, genealogists allege that Prince Harry is descended from the Prophet Muhammad (see below).

What I actually wish is that we could get rid of the ridiculous residual category of “white,” which was used by working class Catholics in a desperate bid to distinguish themselves from Latinos and African-Americans. But really. Why are Italian-Americans from Sicily “white” in America, but people from Latin America whose ancestors lived in Catalonia are “brown”? In the medieval era, for a while, both Catalonia and Sicily were in the same country, ruled by the crown of Aragon!

The popular press in America is confused about such issues because many writers do not realize that there is no such thing as race in the 19th century biological sense. You have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 16 great-grandparents, and by the time you get back to 1400 you have a million ancestors. For someone who hails from Europe, how likely is it that none of them were Arabs and Berbers from southern Spain who had been forced to convert and then married Catholics? Europe’s population in 1400 was only 78 million or so and they’re descended from a million of them. And Arabs in southern Spain were in turn intermarried with Berbers and Africans. After 50 generations (a generation is 24 years), most of the world’s genes get shared around. Everyone in the Mediterranean basin shares common ancestors from only a few thousand years ago, including Tunisians and Egyptians and Spanish and Italians.

Of course race is not completely an illusion. There are broad geographical races with some outward, phenotypical characteristics that mostly have to do with navigating between dangerous ultraviolet rays and the need for vitamin D. Other features have to do with climate (in cold places a longer nose insulates the brain from frigid air; in warm humid places that isn’t necessary). But mostly what Americans typically think of as “race” is actually culture.

So the British royal family is probably even more all mixed up than the rest of us, but we’re all mixed up. And a good thing, too–genetic diversity in a bloodline makes it healthier.

I made this point a decade ago:

Burke’s Peerage: Queen Elizabeth II Descended from the Prophet Muhammad
By Juan Cole | Feb. 28, 2008 |

. . . I know that it is hard for people invested in a hard East/ West dichotomy to imagine that the icon of Western civilization, the British royal family, has Arab Muslim antecedents (along with a host of other nationalities of course.) But it does.

The Greater Mediterranean got all mixed up over millennia. Most Sicilians (i.e. most Italian-Americans) also have Arab Muslim ancestors. It works the other way around, too. It is obvious that a lot of Egyptians, Lebanese and Jordanians have descent from the Christian European Crusaders.

This is connected to just pointing out that having ancestors named Hussein is more common among Europeans and Americans than is usually realized. Elizabeth II can’t be descended from the Prophet Muhammad without also being descended from his grandson, the original Husayn / Hussein, since that is the line of descent of the Sayyids.

‘United Press International
October 10, 1986

Mixed in with Queen Elizabeth’s blue blood is the blood of the Moslem prophet Mohammed, according to Burke’s Peerage, the geneological guide to royalty. The relation came out when Harold B. Brooks-Baker, publishing director of Burke’s, wrote Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to ask for better security for the royal family. ”The royal family’s direct descent from the prophet Mohammed cannot be relied upon to protect the royal family forever from Moslem terrorists,” he said. Probably realizing the connection would be a surprise to many, he added, ”It is little known by the British people that the blood of Mohammed flows in the veins of the queen. However, all Moslem religious leaders are proud of this fact.”

Brooks-Baker said the British royal family is descended from Mohammed through the Arab kings of Seville, who once ruled Spain. By marriage, their blood passed to the European kings of Portugal and Castille, and through them to England’s 15th century King Edward IV. ‘


Related video:

The Guardian: “Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s first TV interview in full”

15 Responses

  1. The bloodline given makes me laugh, if I remember my warring roses correctly (and I have an old book somewhere in my shelves with a nice foldout very complete geneology table), very little of Edward the IV’s genetic material would have passed to Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, and even less would have been shared down to the Stuarts that succeeded those Tudors, and even less than that would have been shared down to the present line of Hanoverians that succeeded those Stuarts.

    • The comment of someone who does not understand genetic history. Prince Harry has 1 million ancestors in the time of Edward IV. None of them related to Edward IV? Let’s try this: James Stuart was his descendant, which is why he succeeded Edward IV’s great granddaughter Elizabeth I. And Princess Diana was descended from the Stuarts

      link to

      Eh voila Prince Harry gets back to Alphonso who sired children with Zayda of Seville. And that’s just one line out of a million.

      • Prince Harry has a million ancestral links back to those living 500 years ago but certainly less than a million ancestors living then out of a European population of 78 million. Most people wed those who lived nearby and within a short time, there would be a common ancestor which will collapse branches of the family tree. If this wasn’t happening we would need a million million ancestors if we go back another 500 years.

        It does make family tree research look a little silly – first, because it supposes absolute virtue of all our maternal ancestors, and secondly, in claiming a unique and special link when so many of us have a good chance of claiming royalty or descent from the Prophet.

      • it was late at night, the point I was trying, but failing, to make, was this. Edward IV represented the losing side in the War of the Roses, the eventual winner, Henry Tudor who became Henry VII on his military victory in 1485, was descended through an entirely different line of English royals (with bastard-status and maternal descent in the mix). Edward IV and Henry VII both had a common ancestor in Edward III, whose death sparked the war of the Roses. Any inheritance of Mohammed ‘s genetics by Edward IV was not passed to any other British royals after 1485. And the other point I failed to make was that if we all have a million ancestors 20 or 25 generations back, then any one of them only contributed a millionth of our personal genetics.

        • A) we have very little genetic material from any of our ancestors. (B Henry VIII was Edward IV’s grandson unless you know something I don’t

        • The geneologies are messy and internet sources are poor, and I can’t my 700-page “History of the British People” that was a high school text in 1890’s.
          We may have been talking different Henry’s ? I was focused on the Seventh, my first hurried research found a table focusing on males, clearly showing Edward IV and Henry VII on different branches of the tree. A better chart is at the Wikipedia entry link to, and another Wikipedia entry link to provides the quote, “Henry’s paternal grandfather, Owen Tudor, originally from the Tudors of Penmynydd, Isle of Anglesey in Wales, had been a page in the court of Henry V. He rose to become one of the “Squires to the Body to the King” after military service at the Battle of Agincourt.[5] Owen is said to have secretly married the widow of Henry V, Catherine of Valois. One of their sons was Edmund Tudor, father of Henry VII.”

          It’s always a mistake, however, to only focus on the men, because as the first Wikipeida article and chart shows, Henry VII made a “nation-building” move in marrying a prominent scion of the defeated faction, Edward IV’s daughter Elizabeth. So Edward IV was indeed the grandfather of Henry the Eighth, and Elizabeth of York was a grandmother of Elizabeth the First, and contrary to my muddled memory that Edward IV was on the losing side, he did manage to contribute his portion of Mohammed’s genetics to the British royal line. My apologies for shredding the thread.

  2. It seems pretty obvious that she (Princess Diana) deliberately explored multicultural romantic relationships in part as a rebellion against a Buckingham palace. I think that perception might be revisited. The British simply do not have that attitude and the notion that Diana would go out of out of her way to embarrass her sons’ fond grandparents is out of character of anyone caught up in that tortured stage in the transition between two eras. The Royal family evolves through time like everything else, but behind the tide of change not in it’s forefront. An Egyptian was not a ‘coloured person’, simply an Egyptian. If there was anything controversial about Dodi Fayed in the minds of some diehards of the old school, it was his class. His father was a shopkeeper and the fact that he owned Harrods was simply not enough.

  3. As Rodney King said, “Why can’t we all just GET ALONG”. Get with it folks, colour of our skin doesn’t really matter, it’s our attitude and respect for ALL people that matters.

  4. “British Royal Family was already Multicultural, Descended from Muhammad”. Yawn. Only an American steeped in identity politics would find this post at all transgressive or potentially shocking.

  5. Given that we know that all religions are based on special clothes and a fictitious origin story, I think the royal family can rest easy.

  6. As always, good article. However, numerics may need to be revisited, in consideration of consanguinity. For (admittedly extreme) example, Carlos/Charles II of Spain’s 8 great-grandparents were all descended from the union of 2 persons (Philip I of Castile & Joanna/Juana ),etc….etc. Of course, over time, this quickly diminishes the number of discreet,non-identical grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. Less to the point, ancestry from Muhammad would also have been consanguineously through his daughter, Fatima, and his first cousin, Ali. All in all, though, this does not impact the integrity of the article’s real point.

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