Saturday, October 29, 2011

Alternate Queens

The AP sidebar that accompanied the Star Tribune's version of the story on the changes to Britain's royal succession could have used a more intelligent alternate historian for a writer.

Princess Royal Victoria in 1867It started off by telling us that Kaiser Wilhelm would have ruled Britain and Germany, since his mother was the oldest child of Queen Victoria, and then followed with this bit of over-simplification: "With Wilhelm II ruling both Germany and Britain, there may not have been two world wars." Clearly, if the princess Victoria had been heir to the British throne, she wouldn't have been married off to another head of state, so Wilhelm wouldn't have existed at all.

After acknowledging that Henry VIII wouldn't have been king since he had an older sister, the story goes on to say that if he had been king, his oldest daughter Mary would have followed him instead of his son. But if Henry hadn't needed a male heir, his son Edward might never have been born in the first place, because Henry wouldn't have had a reason to divorce his first wife. Or even if he did that anyway (and thus breaking with Rome to start the Church of England), he wouldn't have had to behead his second to get something other than a daughter.

This is all starting to sound kind of silly, but such is the risk of this kind of extrapolation. Let's just leave the alternate histories to those who know how to write them, from Phillip Roth to Kim Stanley Robinson, among many others.


Ms Sparrow said...

It always amazes me how you glean stuff from the Strib that I overlooked. You have a very active mind!

Carmella said...

I admit I gulped down these Star Tribune suggestions for alternate histories with my breakfast chow. Thank you for digesting it for me!