George V of the United Kingdom, German, Giuseppe Garibaldi, House of Bourbon, House of Habsburg, House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, House of Windsor, King Charles III of the United Kingdom, Kingdom of Naples, Kingdom of Sicily, Kingdom of the Two-Sicilies, Unification of Italy
Is King Charles III of the United Kingdom German?
I was going to address this topic when the King visited Germany. I was also going to discuss this topic before the Coronation. Oh, well……better late than never.
I saw many comments on social media about the King and the Royal Family being German. It seems to be a popular belief, and also a very popular insult, to see King Charles III as being German.
I want to approach this issue not just as an historian, but as if I were a lawyer building my case. So here we go!
Question: Is King Charles III of the United Kingdom German?
My answer: No he is not!
Does he have German ancestry?
My answer: Absolutely!
I think this is an important distinction between nationality, ethnicity and ancestry which I’d like to explain and I’d like to explain why I think these distinctions is important.
First of all, why I think nationality is important I believe it is important because perception of nationality is important. Perception of a monarchs nationality has led to some problems. I would like to discuss two cases.
In the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily and the succeeding Kingdom of the Two-Sicilies being perceived as a foreign dynasty was part of the reason why the reigning Bourbon Dynasty was deposed in 1861 under Giuseppe Garibaldi.
Free to permit my indulgence here as I briefly relay the history of the kingdom of Sicily to demonstrate my point.
The Kingdom of Sicily was a state that existed in the south of the Italian Peninsula from its founding by Count Roger II of Sicily in 1130 until 1816. It was a successor state of the County of Sicily, which had been founded in 1071 during the Norman conquest of the southern peninsula.
Charles I (early 1226/1227 – January 7, 1285), commonly called Charles of Anjou, was a member of the royal Capetian Dynasty and the founder of the second House of Anjou. Charles was the youngest son of King Louis VIII of the Franks and Infanta Blanche of Castile.
The Capetian House of Anjou, or House of Anjou-Sicily, was a royal house and cadet branch of the direct French House of Capét. It is one of three separate royal houses referred to as Angevin, meaning “from Anjou” in France.
In 1263, after years of negotiations, Charles of Anjou accepted the offer of the Holy See to seize the Kingdom of Sicily from the German Hohenstaufens. Pope Urban IV declared a crusade against the incumbent Manfred of Sicily and assisted Charles in raising funds for the military campaign. Charles was crowned King of Sicily in Rome on January 5, 1266.
In 1282, a revolt against Angevin rule, known as the Sicilian Vespers, threw off Charles of Anjou’s rule of the island of Sicily. The Angevins managed to maintain control in the mainland part of the kingdom, which became a separate entity, a separate sovereign kingdom, also styled the Kingdom of Sicily, although it is commonly referred to as the Kingdom of Naples, after its capital.
Sicily eventually passed to the Kingdom of Aragon and then back to the main Royal line of France and eventually to the imperial House of Habsburg.
In 1734, in the aftermath of the War of the Polish Succession, Naples was reconquered by King Felipe V of Spain, a French Prince of the House of Bourbon, who installed his younger son, Charles, as Duke of Parma, and he also became as King Charles VII of Naples, starting a cadet branch of the House of Bourbon. He also became King of Sicily with the name of Charles V of Sicily the next year.
Charles (Carlos) succeeded to the Spanish throne in 1759 upon the death of his childless half-brother King Fernando VI. He became King Carlos III of Spain. But treaty provisions made him ineligible to hold all three crowns simultaneously therefore on October 6, Carlos III abdicated his Neapolitan and Sicilian titles in favour of his third son, because his eldest son Philip had been excluded from succession due to mental instability and his second son Infante Carlos was heir-apparent to the Spanish throne.
The third son became King Ferdinand IV of the Kingdom of Naples and King Ferdinand III of the Kingdom of Sicily. Ferdinand III-IV was the founder of the cadet House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies.
During the Congress of Vienna of 1815, after the Napoleonic Wars, the kingdom of Naples and Sicily were restored and united as one singular Kingdom, with Ferdinand III-IV becoming King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies under the House of Bourbon.
On April 4, 1860 the latest revolt against the Bourbon regime broke out. Giuseppe Garibaldi, funded and directed by the Piedmontese prime minister Cavour, assisted the revolt.
On October 21, 1860, a Plebiscite regarding the unification of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies with Italy was conducted. The outcome of the referendum was 432,053 (99%) in favour and only 667 in opposition to the unification. Despite claims and evidence of the Plebiscite being “obviously rigged”, many Sicilians viewed the unification as an acceptance of the House of Savoy which were Kings of Sardinia-Peidmont.
King Francis II was the last King of the Two Sicilies from 1859 to 1861. After successive invasions by Giuseppe Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia ultimately brought an end to his rule, as part of Italian unification. After he was deposed, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and the Kingdom of Sardinia-Peidmont were merged into the newly formed Kingdom of Italy. Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia-Peidmont became the first King of Italy.
It wasn’t just the House of Bourbon in the Two Sicilies that was deposed, the House of Bourbon as Dukes of Parma were also deposed as well as the House of Habsburg which ruled Tuscany as its Grand Dukes.
The United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom In 1917, the name of the British Royal House was changed from the German Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the English Windsor because of anti-German sentiment in the United Kingdom during the First World War.
King Edward VII and, in turn, his son, King George V, were members of the German ducal House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha by virtue of their descent from Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Prince Consort, husband of Queen Victoria, herself the last British monarch from the House of Hanover.
High anti-German sentiment amongst the people of the British Empire during the First World War reached a peak in March 1917, when the Gotha G.IV, a heavy aircraft capable of crossing the English Channel, began bombing London directly and became a household name. In the same year, the King and his family were finally persuaded to abandon all titles held under the German Crown and to change German titles and house names to anglicised versions. Hence, on July 17, 1917, a royal proclamation issued by George V declared:
Our House and Family shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor, and that all the descendants in the male line of Our said Grandmother Queen Victoria who are subjects of these Realms, other than female descendants who may marry or may have married, shall bear the said Name of Windsor….
The name had a long association with monarchy in Britain, through the town of Windsor, Berkshire, and Windsor Castle; the link is alluded to in the Round Tower of Windsor Castle being the basis of the badge of the House of Windsor. It was suggested by Arthur Bigge, 1st Baron Stamfordham.
Of the deposing of the House of Bourbon and it’s Italian kingdoms and the name change of the British royal house during World War I raises a question for me.
How many generations does a family need to live within a region or country to be considered a native of that country?
The concludes Part I. Join me back tomorrow as I will answer some of these questions and conclude this topic of “Is King Charles III of the United Kingdom German?”