The Royal SweepstakesAccording to the Will of Henry VIII, the legal heirs to his throne were his children: Edward, Mary, then Elizabeth. By the principle of male primogeniture, sons always come first, even when they are younger than their sisters.
After the King's children (should they all die childless), the order should by custom have been:
Blood (and policy) is often more important than statute. Hence the real threat of the Stuart claim.
Notice that all claims are through female descent, which may explain why there is no clear heir.
The English Claims
Lady Catherine Grey. Her mother was Frances Brandon, whose mother was Henry VIII's sister Mary. Her elder sister Jane was manipulated into exercising this claim, to her sorrow. Dies in 1568.
Her sons: Thomas (b. 1561) and Edward (b. 1563) Seymour. Catherine Grey's sons by the earl of Hertford, though the marriage was declared invalid by a special commission in 1562.
Lady Mary Grey. Younger sister to Catherine Grey. "Crouchback Mary" (said to be dwarfish and horribly ugly) was never seriously considered, although understood by many to be heir presumptive after her sister's death. Dies in 1578, without issue.
Lady Margaret Clifford, Countess of Derby. Her mother was Eleanor Brandon, Frances's younger sister. Granddaughter to Mary Tudor. Next in line after the Grey girls, according to the Will. Dies 1596. Her sons maintain the claim:
Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntington. His mother was Katherine Pole, a descendant of Edward III, and thus the last Plantagenet heir. Claim displaced by the rise of the Tudors, but still valid, especially since he is a man. Supported by Dudley and Norfolk. Dies childless in 1571.
The Scottish Claims
Lady Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox. Her mother was Henry VIII's sister Margaret. Quarreled with Henry over religion, and he disinherited her. Dies 1578. Her son, Charles Stewart, Earl of Lennox. Dies 1577 (pre-deceasing his mother.)
His daughter, Arabella Stuart. Her mother is Elizabeth Cavendish. She was brought up by her grandmothers to think of herself as the Queen's heiress. 1575-1615.
Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. Her grandmother was Henry VIII's sister Margaret. Dies 1587.
Her son, James VI, King of Scots. Born 1568. Declared the Winner in 1603, when he becomes James I of England.
Order of PlayNotice the dates. Not all of these people were contenders at the same time. Catherine Grey dies the year James of Scotland is born, for example. Of the English, only William Stanley and Arbella Stuart outlive the Queen.
Can't tell the players without a scorecard. See Chart of the Tudor Succession
27 March 2008 mps