The Illegitimacy Project?

As you might know, I have Google set to send me an alert when certain phrases, like “Edward II,” are mentioned. Today–rather to my irritation–I was notified of the following story from the Associated Press:


LONDON (AP)– Taking its cue from the success of the Genome Project, a group of revisionist historians, genealogists, and history buffs has formed the Illegitimacy Project, with the goal of proving through DNA testing that historical figures rumored to be illegitimate are in fact so.

“We’ve allowed traditionalist historians too much leeway here,” explained Rick Tertius, the founder of the group, which already claims five hundred members. “They’ve been far too willing to discount these rumors as propaganda, or to attribute them to the fanciful imagination of modern filmmakers and novelists, without giving them the proper consideration they deserve. The Illegitimacy Project believes that we shouldn’t be so complacent.”

Because fund-raising is still in its embryonic stages, the directors of the project plan to start on a modest scale. Their first goal is to exhume the bodies of Henry VI and Edward of Lancaster for DNA testing, which Tertius is confident will prove that Henry VI could not have been the father of Edward. “It’s true that Henry was sane at the time Edward was conceived, that he gave his queen generous gifts during her pregnancy, that he expressed delight when he saw his son after regaining his sanity, and that he showed affection toward the boy,” acknowledged Tertius. “But we also have Yorkist claims that he was illegitimate, and we can’t attribute them to propaganda, because that was first invented by Henry Tudor. If a Yorkist said something, it’s almost a hundred percent certain that it was the truth.”

Tertius is also hoping that DNA testing will allow him to pinpoint the real father of Edward of Lancaster. “The most likely candidate is Edmund Beaufort, first Duke of Somerset, and he has descendants living, who might well be delighted to submit to testing,” Tertius mused. “After all, it would be something interesting to put in the family newsletter.”

Tracking down Edward of Lancaster’s real father, Tertius acknowledged, might be an uphill battle if the Somerset theory doesn’t hold. “There were lots of men at court in 1453, and Margaret was known by all accounts, or at least by all Yorkist accounts, or at least by the accounts of twenty-first-century historical novelists, to have been a promiscuous woman,” he warned. “Finding this young man’s real father could be like finding a needle in a haystack, or a sperm in a haystack, if you prefer.”

If the Lancaster project is successful, the group plans to prove next that Edward IV was not the legitimate son of Richard, Duke of York. “It’s true that Cecily was a pious woman in later life, but during her youth she was quite a looker,” said Tertius. “And if you consider Richard, Duke of York’s behavior after Edward was born, I think you’ll find an elaborate attempt to cover up his wife’s infidelity. Trying to marry Edward to a daughter of the King of France, making him Earl of March, describing Edward as his son in the Act of Parliament making York the heir apparent to the throne—it’s all part of a rather pathetic ruse to present Edward as his own legitimate son. But I don’t blame the Duke of York, mind you. The truth might have just been too painful to face for him.”

Tertius bristled when asked if disproving Edward IV’s legitimacy could cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Duke of York’s other children, such as Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, and Richard III. “Of course not. Cecily learned her lesson after Edward, we can safely say.”

The project is also hoping to find proof that Edward III was fathered by another man instead of by his titular father, Edward II. “It’s true that Edward III’s legitimacy wasn’t questioned until very recently, but just because medieval people thought inside the box doesn’t mean that we should also,” said Tertius. “How do we know that Queen Isabella didn’t take a quick trip to Ireland to get, say, Roger Mortimer to father her child? Was anyone videotaping her every move? Of course not. There’s a lot of things a clever woman like Isabella could have done. Besides, she was French, just like Margaret of Anjou. That should be enough right there to show that she was up for a bit on the side.”

If the Illegitimacy Project is successful, Tertius hopes that the money it brings in will allow him to pursue a cherished personal goal: proving that Richard III’s bastard children John and Katherine were in fact his legitimate offspring by Anne Neville. “It’s a known fact—every Ricardian tells us so–that Richard was madly in love with Anne from the age of nine upward and couldn’t bear to think of being with another woman, so why would he have fathered children out of wedlock? It simply makes no sense,” Tertius said. “I suspect that the Woodvilles, and later the Tudors, engaged in an elaborate ruse to cover up the fact that these were Richard and Anne’s legitimate children by faking or altering various documents. Of course, since we don’t have John or Katherine’s bodies, proving that they were Anne’s children might be difficult, but psychic methods of proof might be sufficiently developed in the future to allow for this, so there’s hope. But in the meantime, we’ll concentrate on the real bastards.”

As he showed his interviewer out of his book-lined study, Tertius acknowledged that the Illegitimacy Project might have far-reaching consequences. “If we keep on with it, it could turn out that just about every monarch’s paternity is called into question. Who knows? The real Queen of England might be Sarah Palin.”

Asked to comment, Palin’s spokesperson responded, “Sarah has watched ‘Masterpiece Theatre’ several times and feels quite confident that she could be Queen of England if called to the task.”

For more about the Illegitimacy Project, visit its website.

15 thoughts on “The Illegitimacy Project?”

  1. Hilarious! Loved it. No doubt Isabella made her way over to Ireland so that Mort could father her son by wearing the special magic hood which made her invisible…;)

  2. Nice try Sue but there’s no way it could ever happen not while HM Elizabeth is on the throne. The R3lobby have been begging for years to have the bones dug up in the Tower in 1674 subjected to the latest forensic techniques but HM isn’t having any of it .

    As for that old chestnut that Edward IV was illegitimate logically and psychologically it does not add up. Like the man who would be king was going to pass off somebody else’s brat as his own; in his case it was doubly important that the firstborn son was legit. According to the map Pontoise is only 55 miles from Rouen and the route is an old Roman road – like it would have been several days’ march even in those days?

    For the record my Mum arrived two months ahead of schedule and had to be christened in such a hurry that she ended up being named after the midwives. According to theology babies who die before being christened end up in limbo so if the chances of survival are low or thought to be low an immediate christening becomes paramount. and would have probably be even more so in medieval times No time for the frills and fol-de-rols. and family jamboree – just a case of getting the priest and water and getting on with it..

  3. Thank goodness it only takes watching Masterpiece Theater over and over to be Queen. And I can't really imagine any country being thrilled with this group wanting to exhume all its monarchs…

  4. Happy April Fool's Day, Susan! Very funny- I'm sure there are some diehard Ricardians who will fall for the joke!

  5. Hehehehe. That's a good one. 🙂 I'm surprised he didn't mention digging up Elizabeth I to make sure she was truly fathered by Mark Smeaton. 🙂

  6. Oh my – I can't believe I was fooled!! Lol – that was a good one Susan, I'm still LOL!! For a moment I was outraged… he-he

  7. I feel silly now… it would be good if I would look at a calendar every once in a while! Also helps when rent is due. I blush with shame! Good April Fools joke, though 🙂

  8. Nan Hawthorne, Shield-wall Books

    You have some sharp readers, Susan.. the date went right ober my head. I was just sitting here marveling that there were that many people who cared and was gixin' to quip, but yeah, what if that ain't Henry VI in the grave?

    I bow before you all for your superior obsevational skills.


    P..S. I had an Aril Fool's Day post at but no way near as subtle.

  9. We laugh now, my friends, but I'm willing to wager someone out there is reading this post, saying merrily, "Hey, why didn't I think of that?" and getting their excavating tools out as we speak.

    Almost enough to make you hope the Mayan Calendar is right, what?

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