The problem with gambling on your next king

It seems that DNA testing on the body alleged to be that of King Richard III may show there was a break somewhere in bygone days in the legitimacy of the succession to the throne. Just fancy.

The trouble is that people rather enjoy sex and sometimes they do things with the wrong other people but keep quiet about it. They had no idea that a few hundred years later some blighters would discover DNA and start minding other people’s business.

All this matters quite a lot if you decide, for some unfathomable reason, to appoint your monarchs on the accident of birth rather than on their leadership credentials. If you gamble on the accident of birth lottery, you may get a monarch who isn’t all you hoped for. A pity – but inevitable.

You can of course skew the system by passing an Act of Settlement (as in 1701) that overrides the normal rules of inheritance and hands the English throne to a bunch of Germans (the House of Hanover), rather than have the Roman Catholic Stuart king you’d have got by the usual rules. And centuries later, finding that the country they rule is now at war with Germany, the Hanoverians, now rebranded the House of Saxe-Coburg Gotha, have to go for yet another rebranding, this time as the House of Windsor. But that’s the price you pay if you gamble on the lottery of birth: a Catholic Stuart here, an Edward VIII or maybe even a Charles III there. You just have to ride your luck. Or fiddle the system when you don’t like what you’re about to get.


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