Impossible to prove but also impossible to disprove; this is what makes this subject so fascinating to me. When my lecturer made a joke about how Queen Elizabeth II was descended from Odin, I don’t believe that he honestly intended for anyone to be interested enough to research the subject. Yet here I am, attempting to explain how, through a possibly inaccurate chain of generations, the Christian Queen of England came to trace her genealogy back to the ruler of all Norse Gods in the Pagan Pantheon.
Rulers tracing their lineage back to a divine source is one of the oldest royal traditions, with one of the most famous examples being that of the Caesars of Ancient Rome. One of the titles of Augustus Caesar was ‘Son of (a) God’. On the surface, this is simple to explain as he was the adopted son of the deified Julius Caesar, a connection he was keen to emphasise. However, this title runs much deeper than it initially appears.
Divine imagery was a huge part of the representation of an Emperor and it appears that Augustus was as connected to the Gods as you could physically get, without becoming one yourself (although he was later deified after death). Through Julius Caesar, Augustus claimed to be descended from Romulus the founder of Rome and through him related to both Mars and Aeneas (who is from a different Roman creation myth and the son of Venus), making Augustus descended from multiple Gods and obviously revered by his people.
In Queen Elizabeth’s case, the story is much more chaotic and although she doesn’t boast to be descended from a God, it definitely makes for an interesting story – might even end up on a Pub Quiz one day, who knows.
So, it all starts with Cerdic, a Norse King who chose to settle in England and founded the Kingdom of Wessex. He was supposedly a descendent of Brond, the half human child of Baldr, who was indeed the son of Odin according to all Norse mythology. Many generations of Cerdic’s sons supposedly ruled Wessex after his death in 536AD.
In 802AD Egbert came to rule Wessex and he also claimed to be a descendant of Cerdic – whether this is true or not is unknown. But if Egbert truly was a descendant, it seems that Queen Elizabeth II is technically related to Odin. It is known that she is in fact descended from King Alfred (who is Egbert’s grandson) and Alfred’s grandson Æthelstan was the first true King, claiming the title ‘King of the English’. So if nothing else, it seems that the current Royals have a substantial claim to the throne.
Finally, if Odin wasn’t a sufficient surprise, the Queen is supposedly the 122nd lineal of King David (the one from the Bible), therefore she can also chart her lineage back to Adam and Eve, which in my opinion seems like a more conventional claim than a Christian monarch being descended from a Pagan God.
By Bethany Downs, Advantage Award Student
For further information, please see the Royal Family website: https://www.royal.uk/anglo-saxon-kings