... but it could have been so very different

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Things could all have been so different. If history had shifted slightly, 300 years ago, the divorce of Charles and Diana would merit only a few paragraphs in the Hannoverische Zeitung, nobody would have the first idea about Orangemen and we would be mourning King Albert I.

The Battle of the Boyne, in 1690, ousted the Catholic Stuarts and brought us William of Orange. The Stuarts fled into exile. But the line continued, and the Stuart claimant was Prince Albrecht of Bavaria - until this week, when he died.

It does not take a great leap of the imagination to see Albrecht on the throne. He had a good claim, as a direct descendant of Charles I. He was a German, but then so, by origin, are the Hanoverians turned Windsors. It is just that they are north Germans, and so Protestant; while Albrecht was a southern German, and hence Catholic.

Of course, had the Catholic Stuarts prevailed, then the marching season in Northern Ireland would not be quite the event it is now. King William would have remained in the Netherlands, and the House of Orange would not be something for Irishmen to fight over in a far-off island.

Albrecht never made much of his claim to the British throne, though several societies kept it alive - notably a drinking club in Oxford. His funeral will be attended by Europan royalty - including Prince Charles.

Perhaps, as he sits in the church, he may reflect that life would have been a lot easier if his cousins from Bavaria had pressed their case just a little harder.

Royal dream buried, page 12

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