“Six Degrees” from Eleanor of Aquitaine: Joan Beaufort and the monarchs of Scotland

“Six Degrees” from Eleanor of Aquitaine: Joan Beaufort and the monarchs of Scotland

Everything begins with Eleanor of Aquitaine! She is fascinating both for her life and her “life after life.”

Eleanor had a bevy of children – two daughters with Louis VII of France, and three daughters and five sons with Henry II of England. Of those ten children, six had children of their own. Through these grandchildren, Eleanor became the ancestor to the expected (the monarchs of England) and the unexpected!

This month’s “featured Eleanor descendant” is Joan Beaufort, the star of her own royal romantic story complete with love poetry (written by a king, no less!).

Joan (ca. 1400-1445) was the daughter of John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset and Margaret Holland. Through him, she was the granddaughter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.

John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset, was one of four children born to John of Gaunt and his mistress, Katherine Swynford. Long after the children’s births, John and Katherine married. The children were then legitimized and given the surname “Beaufort.” Intelligent, attractive, energetic and ambitious, the Beauforts rose very high indeed.

John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, our Joan’s grandfather, was the son of Edward III and his wife Philippa of Hainault. Edward III’s father was Edward II; his father was Edward I; his father was Henry III; his father was John. King John was the son of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II.

James-&-Joan-BeaufortThe Forman Armorial Roll shows King James I of Scotland with his English queen, Joan Beaufort, a descendant of Eleanor of Aquitaine, holding a thistle. Courtesy of the British Library.

Joan Beaufort has far more than one line of descent from Eleanor of Aquitaine, however. She also has lines of descent (through the queens of the three Edwards) from Eleanor Plantagenet, daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II, as well as from Marie Capet, daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Louis VII of France.

Joan also is descended from Eleanor Aquitaine through her mother, Margaret Holland. Margaret’s father, Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent, was a great-grandson of King Edward I (Edward I was Eleanor of Aquitaine’s great-grandson). Margaret’s mother, Alice FitzAlan, was a great-great-granddaughter of Henry III, the grandson of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II.

Joan, this six-times-over descendant of Eleanor of Aquitaine, married James I of Scotland.

Through Joan’s marriage to James, she (and, through her, Eleanor of Aquitaine) became the “ancestral mother” of all the later Stewart/Stuart monarchs of Scotland. This line is particularly easy to follow! James I was the father of James II, who was the father of James III, who was the father of James IV.

Joan (and Eleanor’s) bloodline reunited with that of the main branch of the English monarchy when James IV of Scotland married Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England (and Henry VIII’s older sister).

James-I-BritLibJames VI of Scotland and I of England was a descendant of Joan Beaufort and Eleanor of Aquitaine in multiple lines. Courtesy of the British Library Illuminated Manuscripts Collection

James IV of Scotland and Margaret Tudor were the parents of James V, and the grandparents of Mary Queen of Scots.

Another of Joan’s descendants, this time through her second marriage to James Stewart of Lorne, was Matthew Stuart (he preferred the French spelling), 4th Earl of Lennox.

The line of descent runs from Joan, to her son John Stewart, 1st Earl of Atholl; to his daughter Elizabeth Stewart, who married yet another John Stewart, this one the 3rd Earl of Lennox; to their son Matthew, who changed the spelling of his name to “Stuart” and became the 4th Earl of Lennox.

Matthew Stuart married Margaret Douglas (herself a daughter of Margaret Tudor, through her second marriage). Their son was Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Darnley married Mary Queen of Scots. Their son was James Stuart, King James VI of Scotland. As successor to England’s Elizabeth I, he became James I of England.

Tower-London-Charles-Orleans-BritLibGeorge III, a descendant of Joan Beaufort and Eleanor of Aquitaine, famously “lost” America. Courtesy of the British Library Illuminated Manuscripts Collection.

Through James VI and I, Joan Beaufort’s bloodline has been carried down to Elizabeth II.

The direct line goes like this: James I; through his daughter Elizabeth Stuart who married Frederick V (Wittelsbach), King of Bohemia, to their daughter Sophia Wittelsbach, who married Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick-Lunen. Then, to Sophie’s son George, Elector of Hanover, who became King George I of Britain in 1714. George I’s son became king as George II; George II was succeeded by his grandson George III.

George III was succeeded by his son William IV. William, childless, was succeeded by his niece Queen Victoria, daughter of George III’s younger son Edward. Victoria’s son succeeded as Edward VII; then his son George V ruled. After the very brief reign (and, then, abdication) of George V’s son Edward VIII, George V’s younger son succeeded his brother as George VI. George VI’s daughter Elizabeth, descendant of Joan Beaufort and of Eleanor of Aquitaine, reigns today.

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