Life would have been better with big sister in charge

The Royal Family is debating a new role, but just who will pay the piper - and call the tune?
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The Independent Online
Imagine a world without a Reformation, a Civil War or even two world wars. No Richard the Lion Heart, no Henry VIII, no madness of King George.

History doesn't relate what might have been if the older sisters of these famous kings had ruled the royal roost at the crucial cornerstones of the country's past.

The ancient law of primogeniture, which determines the royal succession, only allowed women to take the throne in the absence of any men; Queen Elizabeth II has no brothers.

The director of Burke's Peerage, Harold Brooks-Baker, believes the world would have been a dramatically different place - and for the better - had the women been charged with the royal reigns.

For example, James I's eldest child, Elizabeth, who became known as "the Winter Queen" after she married the ruler of Bohemia, Frederick V, would have made a far superior monarch to her younger brother, Charles I.

"She was far more capable than her brother," said Mr Brooks-Baker. "She had the brains, talent and ability ... Great Britain would have been a much stronger nation during that time and probably would have avoided [later] problems." Her brother might even have escaped his unfortunate decapitation. Elizabeth, incidentally, was named the "Queen of Hearts" for her "winning demeanour".

And if Henry VIII had been beaten to the throne by his older sister Margaret? "We would almost certainly have avoided the problems with the Church of Rome. Great Britain would have remained a Roman Catholic nation ... and everyone would have been less confused."

But Mr Brooks-Baker feels sure that the "highly sexed" Margaret Tudor, the eldest daughter of Henry VII, would have kept up with her brother on the spouse front.

A Queen Matilda, daughter of Henry II, instead of King Richard I, "would have avoided the whole nonsense with Richard the Lion Heart". Richard was a "dreamer" who "cared more for crusades than governing his own country", but it is hard to say whether his sister would have been better, since little is known of her.

If the eldest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Edward VII's sister Princess Victoria, "had become sovereign and married the Emperor Frederick of Germany, you could make a fairly good argument that it would have averted the First and Second World Wars," said Mr Brooks-Baker.

And if she had not married the Emperor, they would not have created Kaiser Wilhelm, "certainly the most destructive person in the first half of the 20th century", he added.

Finally, what would have happened had George III's saner sister, Augusta, ruled the country? "There's a good chance that Great Britain would not have lost the American colonies," Mr Brooks-Baker said. "Obviously Great Britain would be a much richer, more powerful country today."