The Relationship Between Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria

The line of descent from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth

ThoughtCo. / Brianna Gilmartin

Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria are the two longest-serving monarchs in British history. Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901, established many of the precedents that Elizabeth has honored since she was crowned in 1952. How are the two powerful queens related? What are their family ties?

Queen Victoria

When she was born on May 24, 1819, few people thought Alexandra Victoria would one day be queen. Her father, Prince Edward, was the fourth in line to succeed his father, the reigning King George III. In 1818, he wed Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, a widowed German princess with two children. Their only child, Victoria, was born the following year.

On Jan. 23, 1820, Edward died, making Victoria fourth in line. Just days later, on Jan. 29, King George III died, to be succeeded by his son George IV. When he died in 1830, the next in line, Frederick, had already passed away, so the crown went William, Victoria's youngest uncle. King William IV ruled until he died with no direct heirs in 1837, just days after Victoria, the heir-apparent, turned 18. She was crowned on June 28, 1838.

Victoria's Family

Conventions of the time were that the queen must have a king and consort, and her maternal uncle had been trying to match her with Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Aug. 26, 1819 to Dec. 14, 1861), a German prince who was also related to her. After a short courtship, the two were wed on Feb. 10, 1840. Before Albert's death in 1861, the two had nine children. One of them, Edward VII, became the king of Great Britain. Her other children would marry into the royal families of Germany, Sweden, Romania, Russia, and Denmark.

Queen Elizabeth II 

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of the House of Windsor was born on April 21, 1926 to the Duke and Duchess of York. Elizabeth, known as "Lilibet" as a child, had one younger sister, Margaret (Aug. 21, 1930 to Feb. 9, 2002). When she was born, Elizabeth was third in line to her grandfather's throne, behind her father and his older brother, Edward, the Prince of Wales.

When King George V, son of Edward VII, died in 1936, the crown went to Elizabeth's uncle Edward, but he abdicated in order to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American. Elizabeth's father became King George VI. His death on Feb. 6, 1952 cleared the way for Elizabeth to succeed him, and become Britain's first queen since Queen Victoria.

Elizabeth's Family

Elizabeth and her future husband, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark (June 10, 1921) met a few times as children. They were married on Nov. 20, 1947. Philip, who had renounced his foreign titles, took the surname Mountbatten and became Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Together, he and Elizabeth have four children. Her eldest, Prince Charles, is first in line to succeed Queen Elizabeth II, and his sons, Princes William and Harry, are second and third in line. 

The Lineages of Elizabeth and Philip

The royal families of Europe frequently intermarried, both to maintain their royal bloodlines and to preserve some balance of power between the various empires. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are both related to Queen Victoria. Elizabeth is a direct descendent of Queen Victoria, her great-great-grandmother. Working backwards in time, the tie can be traced:

  • Elizabeth's father was George VI (1895 to 1952). He married Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (1900 to 2002) in 1925, and they had two daughters, Elizabeth II, and Princess Margaret.
  • George VI's father was George V (1865 to 1936), Elizabeth's grandfather. He married Mary of Teck (1867 to 1953) in 1893, a German princess raised in England.
  • George V's father was Edward VII (1841 to 1910). Elizabeth's great-grandfather. He married Alexandra of Denmark (1844 to 1925), a Danish princess.
  • Edward VII's mother was Queen Victoria (1819 to 1901), Elizabeth's great-great-grandmother. She married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840.

Elizabeth's husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, is one of Queen Victoria's great-great-grandsons:

  • Philip's mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg (1885 to 1969), married his father, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark (1882 to 1944), in 1903.
  • Princess Alice's mother was Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine (1863 to 1950), Philip's maternal grandmother. Princess Victoria was married to Prince Louis of Battenberg (1854 to 1921) in 1884.
  • Princess Victoria of Hesse and by the Rhine was the daughter of Princess Alice of the United Kingdom (1843 to 1878), Philip's great-grandmother. This Princess Alice was married to Louis IV (1837 to 1892), Grand Duke of Hesse and by the Rhine.
  • Princess Alice's mother was Queen Victoria, Philip's great-great-grandmother.

Further Comparisons

Until 2015, Queen Victoria had been the longest-ruling monarch in the history of England, the U.K., or Great Britain. Queen Elizabeth surpassed that record of 63 years and 216 days, on Sept. 9, 2015. Both queens married princes of their own choice, quite apparently love matches, who were willing to support their reigning monarch wives.

Both were committed to their duties as monarch. Though Victoria withdrew for a period when mourning her husband's rather early and unexpected death, she was an active monarch, even in ill health, until her death. As of this writing, Elizabeth, too, has been similarly active.

Both inherited the crown somewhat unexpectedly. Victoria's father, who predeceased her, had three older brothers ahead of him in succession, none of whom had children who survived to inherit the honor. Elizabeth's father became king only when his older brother, King Edward, abdicated when he wouldn't have been able to marry the woman he chose and remain king.

Victoria and Elizabeth both celebrated Diamond Jubilees. But after 50 years on the throne, Victoria was in ill health and had only a few years left to live. Elizabeth, by comparison, continues to maintain a public schedule after a half-century of rule. At Victoria's jubilee celebration in 1897, Great Britain could rightfully claim to be the most dominant empire on earth, with colonies the world over. Twenty-first-century Britain, by comparison, is a much-diminished power, having relinquished nearly all of its empire.