fbpx
    Today's picks

    ROBERT HARDMAN: Is this proof the Queen’s directly descended from Muhammad?

    Should the BBC ever get round to a royal edition of Who Do You Think You Are? they would need an entire series just to cover the more exotic ancestry of the Queen.
    Besides all her regal ancestors whom we learn about at school, she is also a descendant of, among others, Vlad the Impaler, Robert the Bruce (twice over), Alfred the Great, a London plumber called John Walsh, a Bedfordshire clergyman and, wait for it, the Prophet Muhammad.
    For the big news across the Muslim world this month is the ‘fact’ that the Queen not only has Islamic ancestors, but is directly descended from the founder of Islam himself. Reports and detailed family trees began circulating in respectable Moroccan newspapers some days ago, since when they have spread to the Middle East and beyond.
    There has been a broadly positive reaction to the claim that the Queen is a direct descendant of the founding father of Islam via Edward IV, Pedro the Cruel of Castile and a Spanish princess called Zaida.
     
    If this is confirmed, some Islamic scholars have even suggested that an extra title should be conferred on the Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. New honorifics suggested so far include ‘amir al-mumineen’ (leader of the faithful) and ‘sayyida’ (literally, a ‘commander’ descended from the Prophet’s daughter Fatimah).
    Other responses have been less deferential, with one Arab blogger asking whether the national anthem might become ‘Allah Save The Queen’.
    This news suggests the Prince of Wales was very prescient when he professed an aspiration to be crowned as a multi-denominational ‘defender of faith’ come his coronation. He has spent a quarter of a century promoting greater understanding between Islam and the West and established his own Oxford School of Islamic Studies.
    So how strong are the claims? As it turns out, they are not without foundation.
    Last month, a Moroccan newspaper called Al-Ousboue claimed it had traced the Queen’s ancestry back 43 generations, starting with all the usual Hanoverians, Georgians, Stuarts and Tudors.
    The leap from school history books and up the Islamic route starts with Richard, Earl of Cambridge, the grandfather of Edward IV. His mother was Isabel of Castile, daughter of Pedro the Cruel, king of Castile. If we follow that line back through assorted kings of Castile and Portugal, we come to Alfonso VI, also known as Alfonso the Valiant, of Castile — who was born in 1072, just six years after William the Conqueror was turning England upside down.
    Alfonso’s wife, and the mother of three of his children, was Zaida. She was apparently a Muslim princess who fled the collapsing regime of her father Mohammet II, king of Seville. She sought refuge at Alfonso’s court, became his mistress and converted to Christianity when she married him.
    It is from her, so it’s said, that the line goes all the way back to the Prophet Muhammad via her father. That is because Islamic scholars can connect Mohammet II (also known as Al-Mu’tamid ibn Abbad), king of Seville, directly to the Prophet via his grandfather Al-Qasim, King of Seville, and straight back to Muhammad’s daughter Fatimah.
    Got all that? It makes the feuds of the Plantagenets seem positively straightforward in comparison.
    According to the author of last month’s original Moroccan report, Abdelhamid Al-Aouni, the Queen’s link to the Prophet has been verified by one of the most senior scholars in the mainstream Islamic world, Ali Gomaa, the former Grand Mufti of Egypt.
    The theory was also propounded more than 30 years ago by the late Harold Brooks-Baker, the eccentric ancestor-worshipping editor of Burke’s Peerage. He even wrote to then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher recommending extra security for the Queen because of her newfound Islamic connections. Not for the first time, the Palace thought he was off his trolley.
    However, Mr Al-Aouni is standing by his story and believes it comes at a fortuitous moment. ‘It builds a bridge between our two religions and kingdoms,’ he says.
    Buckingham Palace has no comment to make on the matter. But royal officials cannot entirely pooh-pooh the reports, as the Palace’s very own reference book confirms the link between the Queen and Zaida. The Royal Encyclopaedia, edited by the Queen’s former press secretary Ronald Allison, is accepted as received wisdom within the Royal Household.
    At the back, Appendix 2 contains lists of ‘The Queen’s Antecedents’. One traces the Queen’s ancestry over more than a millennium back via kings of France and a Ukrainian saint to Rurik, Grand Prince of Novgorod, 9th-century founder of the Russian monarchy.
    The other line follows the direct lineal connection from the Queen to Edward IV, various Iberian monarchs and all the way back to Zaida. So the strength of the Queen’s connection to the Prophet all depends on this mysterious Muslim princess.
    Some scholars say Zaida was not the daughter, but the daughter-in-law, of Mohammet II, in which case she was not a direct descendant of the Prophet. Others say she was not the mother of Urraca, Queen of Castile, who succeeded Zaida’s husband, Alfonso VI. In which case the link to the Queen is not clear.
    ‘We will never really know,’ says the distinguished historian Hugh Kennedy, Professor of Arabic at the London School of Oriental and African Studies. ‘It is conceivable but improbable that the Queen descends from Zaida, let alone from the Prophet.’
    However, he is confident that the Queen has some very illustrious Muslim blood, pointing out that her lineal ancestor is Caliph Haroun al-Rashid, the great ruler who would become a central figure in classic Eastern tales including the Arabian Nights and Sinbad.
    His descendants married into the Bagratid kings of Georgia, from whom the Queen is directly descended on her Russian side.
    All this focus on the Royal Family’s Muslim antecedents is certainly timely ahead of next week’s Commonwealth summit in London. For the Queen is Head of the Commonwealth and its principal religion is not Christianity but Islam, since it includes some of the world’s most populous Muslim nations including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia.
    Over the years, historians and genealogists have enjoyed unearthing unexpected royal ancestry. Thanks to the Queen Mother, for example, the Queen is the most Scottish monarch since James I and VI (and also descended from John Walsh, a London plumber whose granddaughter married the 11th Earl of Strathmore, the great-great-great-grandfather of the Queen).
    And the Duke of Edinburgh has some equally interesting lineage. His maternal uncle, Lord Mountbatten, not only claimed that the family were descended from the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, but had a personal theory that he was connected to the Native American princess Pocahontas.
    Given that the Duke is also a direct descendant of Queen Victoria, and thus of Edward IV, he can claim the same direct descent from the Prophet, too.
    We can safely say that St George’s Chapel, Windsor is not about to be converted into a mosque. Nor will the Queen be making a 3pm broadcast at the end of Ramadan.
    Even so, after all those years of regally asking members of the public whether they have come far, it might make a nice change for her to say ‘As-salamu alaykum’ (peace be upon you).

    Related Articles

    Close