Ask me: European royal families

>> Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nathan writes:

I'm frequently confused by all of the intricate connections of the various royal families in European Histories. Can you provide a simple timeline that will make it all clear to me?

I regret having to say this, Nathan, but it is the policy of this blog not to do a student's homework for him or her. Part of this, I confess, is a sort of pique: I had to do my own work in school (and sometimes, frankly, the work of others on ill-matched group projects), and so I feel others must suffer, if a particular assignment is a form of suffering, just because I did. I fully realize that this is petty and stupid, a classic and meaningless form of prejudice that is easily reduced to an absurdity--if I were to say "You shall cut off your thumb because I had to!" I would clearly be a vindictive and bitter jackass (though I understand there is a similar tradition in some religious sects, including Judaism, Islam, certain African Christian sects and some West African tribal groups, involving a... erm... somewhat thumblike appendage, shall we say, being removed under a similar rationale; but I digress).

Anyway, there's that.

But is it suffering to have to do research? It's something I love, the journey being as valuable as the destination, or more valuable if you have the time to make touristy stops along the path of history--a stray paragraph here leading to an odd fact there, a skimmed, passed page returned to whereupon one discovers something thrilling, or weird, or funny that isn't related to the assignment, necessarily, but becomes a fun or inspiring item worth stashing away in the brain. This is the second reason I'm not going to write your paper for you--I hope that if you do your own work on this assignment, you'll find yourself enraptured by history as I was when I was a student (it was the one subject I loved consistently from around fourth grade, when Bob Caisson taught American History using materials meant for more advanced students, through high school and despite Ms. Anrecio's flailing in eleventh grade, eventually majoring in it in college).

With that in mind, I am happy to provide you with a series of links that will get you started on what I hope is a wonderful journey through the past. I will confess and warn you that some aspects of this history can be dry and confusing--though others, like the English War Of The Roses is full of excitement, sword fights, betrayals, romance and epic battles of the sort that people love to make movies about (and, of course, was fodder for much of William Shakespeare's work).

  • Wikipedia, always a good place to start (but rarely an appropriate place to finish) has this spiffy list of European royal houses, which includes links to pages specifically devoted to the royal families and their nations.

  • This section at has links to genealogical information about a number of royal houses in Europe. It's dry and text-driven, but it should give you most of the information you need if your assignment requires you to prepare a poster or display.

  • For a more graphics-based experience, you might try this HTML interactive timeline at HyperHistory Online. Clicking on a name will bring up a sidebar summarizing various historical figures' biographies and achievements, and the design gives you a way to readily, visually compare world events--to know, say, where Ivan IV of Russia's life falls in line with that of Christopher Columbus or India's Akbar The Great. (The fact that the timeline excludes some monarchs while including non-royal important personages like Columbis or Nicolaus Copernicus, as well as non-Europeans, may be helpful for context or merely a distraction, but I hope you still find it a useful reference.)

  • Finally, for a non-online, traditional approach, you may want to see if your school libary or public library downtown has a copy of Michael Maclagan's Lines of Succession: Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe, a book that is apparently so helpful that it is the only (literally, actually, the only) book that Dr. Darryl Smith has ever reviewed twice, a review that a staggering 100% of people have found "helpful." (The lack of a tawdry cover picture only confirms that it must be a useful book, or at least a heavy, dusty leatherbound one, hopefully with gorgeous-though-faded color plates stuck in every few pages and those awesome hand-drawn black-and-white illustrations periodically in the margins.)

These represent a starting point--the rest is up to you! Good luck, and please let us know what kind of grade you get. (And remember, though you're welcome to say that Shoulders Of Giant Midgets gave you a few starting hints--and doing so would certainly be polite--you'll be able to say, with pride, that all the hard work was your own!) Thank you for the question, and I hope this helped!

(As for the toaster--since you and Michelle both asked about it, I'll hold off and write one answer for both of you.)


Nathan Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 9:56:00 AM EST  

On the one hand, my immediate reaction is to take you to task and point out that CliffsNotes would have been a bitter disappointment (and financial failure), if Cliff Hillegass had had your attitude. On the other hand, the HyperHistory link is way cool!

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