Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens

Khalid Elhassan - February 13, 2022

In 2018, a Moroccan newspaper made an assertion that created quite a stir: that it had traced the lineage of Queen Elizabeth II all the way back to the Prophet Muhammad. In reality, the queen’s descent from the founder of Islam had been known – if not widely – since at least 1986. Below are thirty things about that, and other lesser-known British queen facts.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Queen Elizabeth II. Wikimedia

30. Queen Elizabeth II is Descended From the Prophet Muhammad

In 1986, Burke’s Peerage, an authority on British royal pedigree, traced the ancestry of Queen Elizabeth II back 43 generations and determined that she was descended from the founder of Islam. Burke’s research revealed that Her Majesty’s bloodline runs through a fourteenth-century Earl, to medieval Spain, and eventually to Fatima, daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. Those findings were supported by records from Middle Ages Spain, which in turn have been verified by a grand mufti – the highest Islamic religious scholar – of Egypt.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Queen Elizabeth II’s link to the Prophet Muhammad. The Daily Mail

At the time, Burke wrote noted that: “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“. In a letter to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Burke’s cautioned that the queen’s bloodline would not protect her from Islamic radicals. As they put it in a letter to the Prime Minister: “The royal family’s direct descent from the prophet Mohammed cannot be relied upon to protect the royal family forever from Moslem terrorists“. As seen below, the key link between the line of Islam’s founder and that of the British royal family is a medieval Muslim princess who fled to the Christian kingdom of Castile.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Zaida of Seville. Flickr

29. The British Royal Family’s Connection to the Prophet

In 1023, Abu al Qasim Muhammad ibn Abbad, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima, became ruler of Seville. In 1091 the Almoravids, a Berber Muslim dynasty from Morocco invaded Muslim Spain, and Abu al Qasim’s grandson, al Mu’tamid ibn Abbas, lost his throne. His daughter Zaida fled Seville, and took refuge in the Christian kingdom of Castile. There, she became a mistress of its ruler, King Alfonso VI. She eventually converted to Christianity and took the name Isabella. When Alfonso’s sickly wife died, he married Zaida, and she bore him three children. Two centuries later, Maria de Padilla, a descendant of Zaida and Alfonso became the mistress of King Pedro “The Cruel” of Castile. She bore him four children, and two daughters, Constance and Isabella, married sons of King Edward III of England.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Queen Elizabeth II, through links to medieval Spain, is descended from Islam’s founder. The Daily Mail

Constance married Prince John of Gaunt, and became Duchess of Lancaster. Isabella married John of Gaunt’s younger brother Edmund of Langley and became Duchess of York. Isabella bore Edmund Richard of Conisbrough, 3rd Earl of Cambridge. He in turn became the grandfather of kings Edward IV and Richard III, and an ancestor of the Hanoverian line from which Queen Elizabeth II is descended. As it stands at present, the queen’s official title is Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her Other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith. It seems that if she so wished, Her Majesty could add something along the lines of “and Direct Descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, Founder of Islam“.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The Royal Family

28. Her Majesty’s Many Records

As of early 2022, Queen Elizabeth II holds multiple records. She is the world’s longest-reigning current monarch, and also the oldest and longest-serving current head of state. Additionally, Her Majesty is the longest-lived and longest serving monarch in British history. She is also the longest-serving queen in history, and is within striking distance of Louis XIV’s record as longest-reigning monarch of a major state – she just needs to stay alive until 2024. Her long reign, which began in 1952, witnessed major changes. Not least among them was the completion of the decolonization and winding down of the British Empire, once history’s largest, and one over which the sun literally never sent.

Her reign also saw major constitutional changes in the UK, such as the devolution of statutory powers from the Parliament in Westminster to Scotland, Wales, Northern Island, and London. Today, she is queen and head of state not only of the United Kingdom, but also of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, as well as eleven other countries that became independent after her accession: Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Queen Elizabeth II and Marilyn Monroe at a movie premiere. Houston Chronicle

27. The Queen and Marilyn Monroe

Queen Elizabeth II has demonstrated that she takes her coronation oath seriously, and has exhibited a strong commitment to her civic and religious duties. The royal family around her has been engulfed in frequent scandals and has provided the tabloids with steady fodder for decades on end. However, the queen herself has been not only scandal-free but seemingly free of any hint of frivolity. While the queen is a cultural icon, she is worlds apart from another cultural icon born the same year as Her Majesty, in 1926: Marilyn Monroe, whom the queen met once.

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born on April 21st of that year, while Marilyn was born about six weeks later, on June 1st. The two icons lived worlds apart, one in Hollywood, the other in Buckingham Palace. However, the two did cross paths once on common ground, when the monarch met the movie star at the London premiere of the Battle of the River Platte. Both women were thirty-years-old at the time, when Monroe waited in a line of guests to shake the queen’s hand. It was the only time those two different royals – a Hollywood queen and a real-life one – met.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Thomas Seymour. Wikimedia

26. The Slimy Courtier Who Creeped on Queen Elizabeth I in Her Childhood

Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley (1508 – 1549), was one of the Tudor era’s slimiest figures. He and his older brother Edward pimped out their sister Jane Seymour to King Henry VIII, then married to but soured on Anne Boleyn. After the king had Boleyn’s head chopped off, he married Jane in 1536, and she gave him a son, the future King Edward VI. The Seymour family were catapulted from minor country gentry and into the upper reaches of the aristocracy. Thomas Seymour’s older brother Edward gained more power, however, and Thomas resented that. Soon, the siblings had morphed into mortal enemies. Thomas adopted a two-track strategy to increase his power. Gain personal influence over his nephew, the child King Edward who ascended the throne in 1547, or wed one of the king’s sisters, Mary or Elizabeth.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
King Henry VIII hands power over to Edward VI and his Regency Council. Wikimedia

Less than a month after the death of her father, King Henry VIII, Thomas Seymour wrote a letter to thirteen-year-old Princess Elizabeth, asking her to marry him. An alarmed Elizabeth wrote back that she was too young – Seymour was 25 years older – and that she planned to mourn her father for the next two years. Thomas was not interested in Elizabeth because of who she was as a person, but because of what she was. She was the king’s sister, and a potential heir to the throne if the sickly Edward VI kicked the bucket. Seymoure wanted a princess – any princess – and to hedge his bets, even as he tried to get Elizabeth to marry him, he also proposed to her older sister, Princess Mary. She also turned him down.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Princess Elizabeth. Kathryn Lasky

25. Elizabeth’s Creepy Stepfather

When Thomas Seymour’s marriage proposal was rejected by princesses Elizabeth and Mary, he simply moved down the ladder to the next closest royal marital link. He made his moves on their stepmother and the late king’s widow, Katherine Parr, who had been his lover before he ceded her to Henry VIII. They wed within six months of the king’s death – a scandalously brief period of mourning for Parr. Thirteen-year-old Princess Elizabeth, who had rejected Seymour’s marriage proposal, faced a serious problem when he married her stepmother. Elizabeth’s father had chopped off the head of her mother, Anne Boleyn, and now that he too was dead, the princess was a double orphan. Katherine Parr had filled the role of mother when she married Henry VIII, and Elizabeth was raised in her stepmother’s house, Chelsea Manor.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Queen Katherine Parr. Wikimedia

Parr’s marriage to Thomas Seymour brought into that house as a stepfather the man who had sought to marry Elizabeth just a few months earlier. He proved himself an exceptionally creepy stepfather. Katherine Parr had been in love with Seymour since before her marriage to Henry VIII. However, whatever affections he might have felt for her years earlier, he probably married Parr only to get closer to her stepdaughter, Princess Elizabeth, who lived in the dowager queen’s house. Elizabeth was a potential route to power, and perhaps to the crown itself, so Thomas was determined to secure her. He decided that the best way to do that was to seduce the thirteen-year-old old. He got started on that before he had finished unpacking.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Chelsea Manor, where Thomas Seymour lived with his wife Katherine Parr, and her stepdaughter, Princess Elizabeth. Pinterest

24. The Icky Tickler

As soon as he moved into Katherine Parr’s house, Thomas Seymour moved on to Princess Elizabeth and began to flirt with her nonstop. Under the guise of fun and games, he burst into the thirteen-year-old old girl’s room at all hours of the day and night, sometimes dressed just in his nightgown. He would tickle, pinch, wrestle, “romp with”, and smack her butt as she lay in bed. It raised eyebrows in the household, and Elizabeth’s governess, Kat Ashley, was so scandalized by the creepy behavior that she complained to Parr. According to later testimony by Princess Elizabeth’s household staff, Seymour subjected the young girl to early morning visits in her bedroom as soon as he moved in. As the governess put it, he would: “make as though to come at her“, and she would shrink back from him.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Kat Ashley, Princess Elizabeth’s governess. Wikimedia

Elizabeth tried to thwart him by waking up earlier so he wouldn’t catch her in bed when he stopped by. He countered that by visiting her earlier still, to ensure that she was in bed when he dropped by. It became clear that Seymour wanted to catch the young Elizabeth when she was barely dressed. As her governess testified in a later deposition, if Elizabeth was in her nightgown when Seymour burst into her bedroom, he would proceed with his routine and tickle, “romp”, slap her behind, “strike her in the back or the buttocks familiarly“, and otherwise endeavor to cop a feel. However, if the princess was fully dressed when Seymour arrived, he would promptly turn around and leave her bedroom.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Princess Elizabeth in 1546. Wikimedia

23. Queen Elizabeth’s Stepmother Abetted in Her Molestation

When people complained about his behavior around Princess Elizabeth, Katherine Parr accepted her husband’s protestations that he was just having innocent fun. In a bid to demonstrate just how little credence she gave to the gossip, Parr joined in the “romps” between her husband and stepdaughter. She even reportedly held the princess down at times, while Seymour tickled the girl and slapped her butt. On one occasion, Seymour wrestled with Elizabeth in a garden, and Parr stepped in to hold the girl down while he cut the princess’ gown “into a hundred pieces“. Understandably, it got confusing and uncomfortable for the teenaged Elizabeth. She lived with a stepfather who had wanted to marry her not that long ago, and who frequently felt her up under the guise of play whenever he could.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Chelsea Manor. Imgur

On the one hand, Elizabeth reportedly bore Seymour a certain degree of affection. On the other hand, the girl exhibited signs of discomfiture around her stepfather that modern child sex abuse investigators could readily identify. In the winter of 1547 – 1548, Seymour and Parr moved to London. At her stepmother’s suggestion, Elizabeth was left behind with the household staff. It was a welcome break from Seymour’s advances, but it only lasted for a few months. When Elizabeth joined her stepmother and her husband in the spring of 1548, Seymour promptly resumed his routine of early morning visits and creepy conduct. The princess’ governess once again complained of the unseemliness of his dropping into “a maiden’s chamber” in his nightgown but to no avail.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Wax figure of Katherine Parr. Imgur

22. Queen Elizabeth’s Stepmother Was Finally Forced to Act

In the summer of 1548, when Thomas Seymour was away, Katherine Parr asked Elizabeth to arrange the delivery of a letter to him. Before she handed the letter to a messenger, Elizabeth took the opportunity to write on the outside, in Latin, “thou, touch me not“. She then scratched it out, and replaced it with “Let him not touch me“. It spoke volumes of her desperation at finding herself in a helpless situation, in the clutches of a predator whom she wanted to warn off, yet was too frightened to challenge or confront directly. Things came to a head on June 11th, 1548, when Parr found her husband and stepdaughter alone in a room, embracing. She hit the roof. As a household servant put it: “they were all alone, he having her in his arms, wherefore the queen fell out” with Thomas Seymour and her stepdaughter.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Thomas Seymour. Britton Images

That finally convinced Parr to act. So she packed off the by-then fourteen-year-old Elizabeth and sent her away to go and live with the family of Kat Ashley, the princess’ governess. Parr died soon thereafter, and shortly after his wife was buried, Seymour went back to creeping on Elizabeth. When she moved into and set up her own household at Hatfield House, Seymour sent his nephew, John, to help her move and settle into the new place. However, Seymour being Seymour, lending out his nephew was bound to have a creepy element to it. Sure enough, Seymour wanted to know whether Elizabeth’s butt had filled out, and instructed his nephew to ask: “whether her great buttocks were grown any less or no“.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
The coat of arms of Sir Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley. Wikimedia

21. A Creepy Stepfather’s Long-Lasting Impact on Queen Elizabeth

When she lived under the same roof as Katherine Parr and her creepy husband, Princess Elizabeth had been constrained in her ability to openly defy Thomas Seymour. When she moved into and set up her own household, she became more independent. When rumors circulated that she was to marry Seymour, and she was asked whether she would accept his proposal if he asked, she replied: “when that comes to pass, I will do as God shall put in my mind“. It was an ambiguous response that contemporaries interpreted as a rejection. Elizabeth was finally delivered from Seymour’s creepiness when driven to distraction by jealousy over his older brother’s power at court, he tried to kidnap the child King Edward VI. It was a farce, and in the attempt, he shot dead the king’s dog. He was arrested and locked up in the Tower of London.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Queen Elizabeth I. ThoughtCo

Thomas Seymour was charged with thirty-three counts of treason, convicted, and sentenced to death. Parliament passed a Bill of Attainder against him on March 5th, 1549, and he was beheaded fifteen days later. It is unclear if he had ever known Princess Elizabeth in the biblical sense, but he had clearly wanted to. Like any child victimized by a predator, Elizabeth’s experience at a tender age was bound to leave some scars. When she wrote about Seymour “Let him not touch me“, it seems to have applied not just to him, but to all men. Whether or not the “Virgin Queen” ever had any lovers or was literally a virgin, she certainly never married. Her decision to stay single was probably associated, at least in part, with the harassment she had been subjected to by Seymour in her formative years.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Sir Francis Drake. Biography

20. Queen Elizabeth I’s Favorite Sailor

Sir Francis Drake (circa 1540 – 1596) was many things: a sea captain, naval officer, explorer, politician, slave trader, privateer, and at times, he was also an outright pirate. And not just any pirate, but Queen Elizabeth I’s favorite pirate. He gained her favor for good reason. The Virgin Queen invested in English pirates like modern venture capitalists invest in Silicon Valley startups, and she made out like a bandit from the returns on Drake’s high seas hijinks and predations.

The most celebrated seaman of the Elizabethan Era, Drake led one of history’s more adventurous careers. He first went to sea at an early age. As a teenager, he was enlisted by his relatives, the Hawkinses, a clan of privateers who preyed upon French coastal shipping. By the 1560s, Drake had risen to command his own ship, entered the slave trade, and smuggled shackled captives illegally into Spain’s New World possession. By the time his storied career and life came to an end, Drake had become the greatest pirate of his day.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Queen Elizabeth I. Campus Virtual

19. Elizabeth’s Legalized Pirate

Francis Drake’s fame – or infamy – as a pirate is based on his track record of predation upon Spanish sea trade and coastal settlements. Much of it was driven by a desire for payback worthy of a Hollywood action-adventure flick. In one of his early voyages, Drake was cornered by Spanish authorities and escaped only with heavy loss of life among his crew. The experience left him with a lifelong hatred of Spain. In 1572, he received a Letter of Marque from Queen Elizabeth, that authorized him to plunder Spanish property.

Letters of marque were basically licenses issued by governments, that allowed the bearers to prey upon and seize enemy ships. They could keep most of the proceeds, with a proviso that part of the profits from each seized ship belonged to the government that had issued the letter of marque. Armed with that authorization, Drake raided Panama, but was wounded and forced to retreat. After he recovered, he raided Spanish settlements around the Caribbean and returned to England in 1573 with a rich haul of gold and silver.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
The route of Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the world, and that of the earlier Magellan expedition. Encyclopedia Britannica

18. Elizabeth I Profited Greatly From Drake’s Piracy

Sir Francis Drake was more than just a highly successful pirate. Queen Elizabeth I’s favorite sailor also became the second man to circumnavigate the globe after Magellan’s expedition. However, scratch the surface of any of Drake’s occupations, and there was a pirate beneath. So unsurprisingly, he endeavored to combine his voyage of exploration with opportunistic plunder of the Spanish. In 1577, Drake led an expedition of five ships to raid the Pacific coast of Spanish South America, which was wholly undefended in those days.

He braved great storms and passed through the Straits of Magellan in his flagship, the Golden Hind. He then sailed up the coasts of Chile and Peru, and near Lima, he captured a Spanish ship that yielded 25,000 gold coins. Soon thereafter, he seized a fabulously rich prize, the Cacafuego, a Manila galleon that yielded a treasure of 80 pounds of gold, 13 chests of coins, and 26 tons of silver. Queen Elizabeth made out quite well from that prize. Both as an investor in Drake’s voyage, and as the sovereign who had issued him a permit to privateer, and to which a portion of the loot was owed.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Queen Elizabeth I knights Sir Francis Drake aboard his ship, the Golden Hind. Dissolve

17. Drake’s Exploits Cemented His Place as a Favorite of the Queen

With his holds full of loot, Francis Drake crossed the Pacific, sailed the Indian Ocean, rounded the tip of Africa, and returned to England on September 26th, 1580. He had circumnavigated the globe. It was a first for a pirate and the first time that anybody had accomplished that feat after Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition, over half a century earlier. Queen Elizabeth’s favorite pirate was personally knighted by her aboard his ship, the Golden Hind, in 1581. He was also appointed mayor of Plymouth, England’s most important naval base.

In 1585, he was put in charge of a fleet that harried Spanish trade, captured Santiago in the Cape Verde Islands, and plundered Spanish settlements in Florida and Hispaniola. In 1587, as King Philip II of Spain threatened war, Drake led preemptive raids against Spanish fleets that had begun to assemble in Cadiz and Coruna for an invasion of England. He inflicted significant damage, which prevented the Spaniards from sailing that year. As contemporaries described it, Drake had “Singed the King of Spain’s Beard“. He further cemented his place in history – and in the esteem of the queen -when he played a prominent role in the defeat of the 1588 Spanish Armada.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Fire ship attack on the Spanish Armada. Flickr

16. An Elizabethan Adventurer’s End

Francis Drake’s preemptive raids delayed King Philip II’s plans to invade England but did not scotch them for good. The following year, the combined Spanish fleet, the famous Armada, set sail. Drake played a key role in its dispersal and eventual destruction. Particularly on the night of July 29th, 1588, when he organized fire ships against the Armada assembled in Calais. In a panic, the Spanish ships sailed out of that port and into the open sea. There, they were scattered by a combination of English warships and adverse weather. It was the acme of Drake’s success, as well as his popularity both with the public and in the royal court. From then on, things were mostly anticlimactic, until his eventful life finally came to an anticlimactic end in 1596.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Replica of Drake’s ship, the Golden Hind. Wikimedia

After a series of failed raids and attacks against Spanish America, Drake caught dysentery while anchored off Portobelo in Panama, and died. His career, with its turns from soldier and sailor to pirate, illustrates the era’s murky lines between outright piracy and legalized piracy, also known as privateering. In the years to come, the difference between a pirate liable for the hangman’s noose, and a privateer likely to receive official acclaim and adulation, was no more than a piece of paper. Those who plundered the seas with a letter of marque in their pocket were lionized. Those who did the same without such a fig of legality were condemned as pirates.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Coronation portrait of a young Queen Victoria. Wikimedia

15. Queen Victoria Arrived as a Breath of Fresh Air When She Ascended the Throne

An unfortunate feature of today’s world is the proliferation of celebrity stalkers who plague the famous, and sometimes the infamous, alike. Such fame fiends are not a new phenomenon exclusive to the modern era: they have been around for some time, a statement with which Queen Victoria, if she was still around, would wholeheartedly agree. Britain was enamored by the young Victoria when she ascended the throne. Her two predecessors, her uncles, had been old, ineffectual, and corrupt, while their predecessor, the Mad King George III, had been, well… mad.

So when Alexandrina Victoria ascended the throne on June 20th, 1837, she arrived as a breath of fresh air: a young, pretty, innocent, and clean new slate for her realm. Admirers tossed letters into her carriage, the bolder ones visited the palace with marriage proposals, and the creepier ones dedicated themselves to stalking the young queen. The latter’s quest was made easy by the ineptness of Victoria’s staff. Britain’s royal household bureaucracy was a mishmash of inefficiency, ineptness, and outright incompetence.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Edward Oxford’s attempt to assassinate Queen Victoria. Universal History Archive

14. Royal Security Was Marked by Incompetence

When a recently crowned Queen Victoria felt a chill and asked a servant for a fire, she was told that he could not do it. The man’s job was to arrange and prepare the wood and coal for a fire, while a separate department was responsible for actually lighting it. In another example, the task of keeping the palace windows clean was divided between two departments. One department’s responsibility was to keep the outside clean, while the other was responsible for the inside. Security was just as inept and inefficient, and there was no single person in overall charge of the protection of the royal residences. Buckingham Palace, for example, had low walls topped with tree branches, and lax guards.

As a result, drunks and the homeless could often be found asleep in the garden, propped up against the inner wall or laid out beneath the trees. Less innocent interlopers, such as stalkers, faced little difficulty in progressing past the garden, and into the royal residence. Outside, security was no more diligent. In 1840, a four-months-pregnant Victoria was in an open carriage near Buckingham Palace, with no escort other than two outriders, when a nutjob named Edward Oxford opened fire. He let loose with two pistols, and fortunately missed. Oxford was arrested and charged with treason but was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Instead, he was sent to a lunatic asylum, where he was kept for the next twenty-four years.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Buckingham Palace, circa 1837. Pinterest

13. The Queen and Her Silversmith Stalker

An invitation to Buckingham Palace to formally see Queen Victoria was a big deal and a great honor, one that was coveted by many. On the other hand, to simply get into the palace and see the queen, informally and without any invitation whatsoever, was a cinch. Drunks often staggered in from the streets and into the palace grounds, and had little trouble in finding a comfortable spot to sleep off a bender in the royal garden. Others, with more sinister and creepy intentions, had little trouble entering the palace itself.

Such was the case with silversmith Thomas Flower, one of Victoria’s more persistent admirers. He was found asleep in a chair near the queen’s bedroom in the summer of 1838. Apparently, he had managed to get into the palace, then wandered around for hours trying to find the queen – Buckingham Palace was and remains a big building. Finally, after he tired of the search, he dozed off. He was arrested and imprisoned until his friends bailed him out for £50.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Buckingham Palace in 1980. Wikimedia

12. A Century and a Half After a Stalker Broke Into Buckingham Palace, Another Queen Woke Up to Find a Nutjob Seated at the Edge of Her Bed

The fact that Thomas Fowler had gotten so close to Queen Victoria without hindrance was a black eye for Buckingham Palace security. A century and a half later, palace security got another – and even worse – black eye when yet another stalker got close to another queen. On the morning of July 9th, 1982, Queen Elizabeth II was awoken by some unusual noises in her bedroom and opened her eyes to find a strange man seated at the edge of her bed. Blood seeped out of a cut in one of his hands, and he held a shard of broken glass in another.

When she talked to him, the queen realized that he was a disturbed individual, so she phoned the palace switchboard and asked that police be sent over, but none arrived. She phoned again, but again, no help was sent. So she eventually left the bedroom, and personally summoned the police, who eventually came in and arrested the intruder. The man, Michael Fagan, had been able to simply walk into the queen’s bedroom. Apparently, the armed police officer responsible for guarding her door had left his post before his replacement had arrived.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Michael Fagan, the disturbed intruder who managed to get into Queen Elizabeth II’s bedroom while Her Majesty slept. Shutterstock

11. Buckingham Palace’s Security Was a Joke for a Long Time

To make matters worse for Buckingham’s security, it was apparently the second time that Michael Fagan had simply walked into the palace, and wandered all over the place. A few weeks earlier, he had shimmied up a drainpipe and startled a maid, who called security. By the time they arrived, Fagan was nowhere to be seen, and the guards dismissed the maid’s report of an intruder as a figment of her imagination. In the meantime, Fagan entered the palace through an unlocked window. He then wandered around for almost three hours without anybody stopping him, as he snacked on cheese and crackers.

Fagan checked out the royal portraits, sat on the throne for a bit, drank half a bottle of wine that he had found, then eventually got bored and left. As he roamed the palace, Fagan tripped two intruder alerts, but palace security turned them off because they thought it was just a faulty alarm system acting up. At the time, Fagan’s intrusions into the palace and the queen’s bedroom were civil offenses rather than criminal ones. So he was only charged with theft of the wine that he drank on his earlier visit. That charge was eventually dismissed when he was committed for psychiatric evaluation. He was institutionalized for three months before he was eventually released in early 1983.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Queen Victoria in 1839. Wikimedia

10. Queen Victoria’s Creepiest Admirer

Michael Fagan’s intrusion into Queen Elizabeth II’s bedroom, and Thomas Flower’s stalking of Queen Victoria a century and a half earlier were undeniably creepy. However, they paled in comparison to the creepiness of Edward Jones, a disturbed teenager. Dubbed “Boy Jones” by the palace staff, he had an unhealthy fixation on Victoria. Around 5 AM on December 14th, 1838, a palace servant saw a gargoyle of a face in a window. It appeared to be smudged with soot and belonged to an ugly youth who impishly grinned at him.

Investigation revealed that a palace room had been ransacked, so the alarm was sounded, and the hunt for the intruder was on. A constable spotted a teenager outside the palace, gave chase, tackled, seized, and hauled him in. A closer look revealed that he had caught an unfortunately featured young man, whose face and clothes were covered in grease and soot. He had on two pairs of pants, and when the outer one was removed, several pairs of ladies’ drawers fell out – Queen Victoria’s panties.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
An urchin covered in soot and grime. Timeline

9. An Intruder Who Secretly Lived in Buckingham Palace For a Year Before He Was Detected

The soot and grease-covered young man arrested with Her Majesty’s underwear gave his name as Edward Cotton. Subsequent investigation revealed that his real name was Edward Jones, and that he was a fourteen-year-old urchin. He had gotten into Victoria’s bedroom, and along with her panties, had stolen a letter, her portrait, and assorted linens. That he had gotten that close to the queen was bad enough. The discovery of just how long he had been in Buckingham Palace was worse: Edward Jones had secretly lived in the royal residence for a year. In the daytime, he hid behind furniture, or in the chimneys and other spaces in the palace walls. At night, he wandered Buckingham’s halls.

When he got hungry, Jones raided the kitchen, and when he got too dirty, he rinsed his shirt in the wash. On numerous occasions as the queen met with her ministers, the street urchin hid under the table and eavesdropped. Edward Jones’ story became a sensation. When he was sent to the magistrates a few days later, the courtroom was packed with journalists and other curiosity seekers, eager to find out more about the now-famous Boy Jones. The kid was a lovable tramp, and the fact that he had avoided detection for a whole year while he resided in the royal residence testified to his intelligence and talent.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Boy Jones, Queen Victoria’s stalker. The Independent

8. The Public Was Enamored of Boy Jones, But Queen Victoria Was Not Amused

The young Edward Jones was tried for theft and trespass, but after a bonkers trial, filled with laughter and incredulity, the jury found him not guilty. The police congratulated him and wished him well. They also expressed their wish that he would put his undoubted talents to better use. The young man thanked them and left. Less than two years later, on December 3rd, 1840, two weeks after Queen Victoria had given birth to her first child, Jones was found hiding beneath a sofa in a room next to Her Majesty’s boudoir. Whatever the public’s perception of Boy Jones as a lovable tramp, Queen Victoria was not amused. As she put it in her journal: “Supposing he had come into the Bedroom, how frightened I should have been!

He was rearrested, retried, and got three months’ probation. Soon thereafter, he was arrested again, as he tried to break into the palace. This time, he got three months of hard labor. The authorities were stumped. Jones’ crimes were not felonies, so a lengthy stint behind bars was not an option. After he was arrested for a fourth, and then a fifth time, when caught loitering near the palace, they finally shipped him to Brazil, where he was kept in an offshore prison ship for six years. He returned to Britain, and was deported to Australia, but snuck back to London. He finally returned to Australia, where he became Perth’s town crier. He died in 1893 after he fell off a bridge while drunk.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Lady Killigrew. Pickabu

7. Queen Elizabeth I Was a Soft Touch for Pirates in General

Queen Elizabeth I’s fondness – or at least tolerance – for pirates extended beyond her dealings with Sir Francis Drake. An example was how she handled Mary Wolverston. Better known as Lady Killigrew (circa 1525 – circa 1587), she was an English gentlewoman who led a double life as a pirate. She mostly preyed on ships that passed near Cornwall’s rocky coast – a region that had long been home to smugglers, wreckers, and pirates. Back then, as seen from Drake’s example, above, piracy was something of an English pastime.

English pirates were often abetted or outright encouraged by the authorities. Particularly in the middle of the wars against Catholic Spain. In that era, the line between English pirates and the English navy was often indistinguishable. As to Lady Killigrew, it could be said that piracy was in her blood: her father, Phillip Wolverton, Lord of Wolverton Hall, had been a gentleman pirate for years. She was married and widowed at a young age. She was then remarried to Sir John IV Killigrew and became Lady Killigrew.

Related: Female Pirates Who Were Every Bit as Fearsome as Blackbeard.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
A sixteenth century merchant ship. Alamy

6. An Unscrupulous Hostess

Like her father, Mary Wolverston’s second husband also dabbled in piracy. However, unlike her father, who had retired, Sir John Killigrew was still an active pirate. In of itself, that was not too problematic. Elizabethan authorities encouraged piracy on the high seas, as a form of economic warfare against the enemies of the realm. So long as it was conducted far away and in a manner that allowed the English government plausible deniability, piracy was not a problem. However, Lady Killigrew and her husband crossed a line. They did not prey solely upon the ships of enemy countries in the high seas, but also engaged in piracy in English waters, against both foreign and English ships.

The downfall of Lady Killigrew, came in 1583, when a Spanish ship, the Marie of San Sebastian, docked at Arwenack near her castle. Lady Killigrew heard that the vessel carried treasure, so she invited the captain to come to see her. The foreign seamen were entertained by their host, who also extended them an invitation to visit her estates inland. They accepted, and in their absence, Lady Killigrew led a party of raiders that seized the Spanish ship. They killed all who resisted and absconded with the cargo.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Queen Elizabeth I pardoned Lady Killigrew after her son paid a hefty bribe. Wikimedia

5. Queen Elizabeth Spared the Life of This Murderous Pirate

When the Spanish captain and his crew returned to Arwenack and discovered what had happened, they were understandably upset. They complained to the local authorities, but the local judge was Lady Killigrew’s son, so the complaint went nowhere. Enraged, the foreign seamen went to London, where they enlisted the Spanish ambassador’s help. Lady Killigrew’s latest foray proved too reckless for the authorities in London. Instead of discrete piracy carried out far away, she had carried out a brazen act of piracy in English waters that threatened to cause a diplomatic crisis.

Officials were sent from London to investigate. When it was discovered that Lady Killigrew’s son, the judge, had tampered with the local investigation, she and her chief accomplices were arrested. Some of the stolen goods from the Marie of San Sebastian were discovered in her house, so she was charged as a fence for the reception of stolen goods. She was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Two of her accomplices were executed, but Lady Killigrew received a commutation from Queen Elizabeth, and was later released from prison after her son doled out lavish bribes.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
A 1779 portrait of Queen Charlotte. Pinterest

4. The Other Royal Whose Ancestry Created a Recent Stir

Queen Elizabeth II is not the only British royal whose ancestry created a stir in recent years. Another is Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, in the aftermath of producer Shonda Rhimes’ Netflix runaway success historical romance hit series Bridgerton. With a viewership of over 82 million households as of March 2021, Bridgerton catapulted to Netflix’s # 1 in about 80 countries. It became the giant streaming service’s most-watched series at the time of its premiere until it was eventually eclipsed by Squid Game.

As of early 2022, Bridgerton is Netflix’s second most popular series by total watch time on the streaming platform. However, the show’s depiction of racial relations in nineteenth-century Britain has made it as greatly controversial as it is wildly popular. For some reason, many people cannot get over the series’ depiction of Queen Charlotte as a black woman. As seen below, the depiction of Queen Charlotte as black – even though she might have had black ancestry – is historically inaccurate.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Queen Charlotte and her ladies in waiting, as depicted in Bridgerton. Elle

3. The Moorish Ancestry of Queen Charlotte

Bridgerton’s show runners have not claimed that their series is historically accurate. Indeed, they have gone out of their way to describe the show as a light, escapist fantasy that essentially takes place in an alternate universe. In that alternate reality, nineteenth-century Britain is a race-blind – or at least racially progressive – country. One in which nobody bats an eyelash at a black queen, and in which racial discrimination is no barrier to the free movement and advancement of people of color. Nonetheless, the issue of the ancestry of that royal figure created a stir among many fans and generated controversy among some sectors of the public.

The claim that Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744 – 1718) is black rests on her descent from a Madragana Ben Aloandro (born circa 1230). Madragana is described in the earliest available historic sources as either Moorish or Mozarab. A mistress of King Afonso III of Portugal, Madragana bore him at least two children, one of whose distant descendants, fourteen generations later, included Queen Charlotte. So far, that is supported by historic evidence. Whether that made Queen Charlotte black, as seen below, is a different story.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Allan Ramsay’s portrait of Queen Charlotte convinced Valdez that she was black. Repaint Diaries

2. A Weakly-Supported Historic Claim

In 1999, writer Mario d Valdez y Cocom popularized in a website developed for PBS Frontline the claim that Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was black. Valdez’s interest in the British queen’s African ancestry began with his belief that she “looked black” in her portraits. As he put it, Charlotte had a “negroid physiogomy” [sic] and an “unmistakable African appearance“. Others have not found it difficult to spot that in Charlotte’s portraits, which do not stand out from portraits of other royal and aristocratic women of her era. Valdez eventually expanded his claims to include the assertion that Charlotte inherited her blackness from what he described as “a black branch of the Portuguese Royal House“.

Unfortunately, Valdez offered little to no evidence to support his claims, and his theory of Queen Charlotte’s blackness is rejected by most scholars. The queen’s distant ancestress Madragana is described in the earliest sources as Moorish or Mozarab, not black African. Moors are Berbers, Arabs, or Arabized Iberians. Mozarabs are Iberian Christians who adopted Arab customs, and some of them eventually converted to Islam. Some Moors and perhaps even some Mozarabs could well have been black African. However, it is quite a jump to go from the assertion that somebody was a Moor or Mozarab to the conclusion that it follows that said person must have been black African. Not that it would matter, as seen below, even if Madragana had been black African.

Unexpected and Surprising Facts About England’s Iconic Queens
Queen Charlotte’s descent from Madragana. Wikimedia

1. How Much or How Little, African Ancestry Does it Take to Make This Royal Black?

Even if Madragana had been 100% black African, the fact that she was fifteen generations removed from Charlotte would render the queen’s black ancestry insignificant. If we assume no intermarriages among the descendants of Madragana, we have to account for the fact that the number of our ancestors doubles with each generation. As a result, each ancestor’s share in our makeup is halved with each generation. If we apply that to Queen to Charlotte, a black ancestress fifteen generations in her past would make her 1 part black out of 32,768 parts.

Set aside the racist premise that a small trace of black ancestry makes somebody black as if blackness is a defect or disease that irrevocably negates other ancestry. 1 part African in 32,768 parts could not make Charlotte black. Even the notoriously racist “One Drop Rule”, which deemed mixed-race people with small traces of black African ancestry as black, only stopped at 1 part black in 32. To consider Queen Charlotte to have been black, one would have to take the One Drop Rule’s racist formula, and multiply it by – literally – 1000. As with Queen Elizabeth II’s descent from the Prophet Muhammad, such a link might be interesting, but it is small and too far removed to have much practical significance.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

BBC – Story of Boy Jones Who Stole Queen Victoria’s Underwear

Bondeson, Jan – Queen Victoria’s Stalker: The Strange Story of the Boy Jones (2012)

Botting, Douglas – The Pirates (1978)

Den of Geek – The Real History Behind Bridgerton

Economist, The, April 7th, 2018 – Muslims Consider Queen Elizabeth’s Ties to the Prophet Muhammad

Elizabethan Era Org – Teenage Scandal of Queen Elizabeth I

Encyclopedia Britannica – Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour

Harvard Gazette, The, December 9th, 2010 – ‘One Drop Rule’ Persists

Hibbert, Christopher – The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I, Genius of the Golden Age (1992)

History – Is Queen Elizabeth Related to the Prophet Muhammad?

History Collection – 16 Facts About Dollar Princesses, the American Girls Who Were Sold Into Royalty

History Extra – Did Thomas Seymour Sexually Abuse the Teenage Princess Elizabeth?

History Jar – Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour

History Jar – Scandal at Chelsea: the Courtship and Marriage of Katherine Parr and Sir Thomas Seymour

Kelsey, Harry – Sir Francis Drake, the Queen’s Pirate (1998)

Lane, Kris E. – Pillaging the Empire: Piracy in the Americas, 1500-1750 (1998)

History Collection – Queen Victoria’s Chimney Stalker and Other Creepy Moments From History

New York Times, July 22nd, 1982 – Text of Scotland Yard’s Report on July 9 Intrusion Into Buckingham Palace

Oprah Magazine, December 29th, 2020 – Bridgerton Doesn’t Need to Elaborate on Its Inclusion of Black Characters

Pirate Empire – Lady Pirate, Mary/ Elizabeth Killigrew

Sharp, Anne Wallace – Daring Pirate Women (2002)

Timeline – This Teen Stalker Stole Queen Victoria’s Panties and Lived in Buckingham Palace Chimneys For a Year

Times, The, April 12th, 2018 – The Queen May Be a Child of the Prophet Muhammad

History Collection – Amazing Women Who Should Be Way More Famous

Vanity Fair, June 1st, 2016 – See Rare Footage of Queen Elizabeth II Meeting Marilyn Monroe

Vox – The Debate Over Bridgerton and Race

Washington Post, December 27th, 2020 – Was Queen Charlotte Black? Here’s What We Know