Prince Franz, Duke of Bavaria. The Rightful Heir To The British and Scottish Thrones

HRH Prince Franz, the Duke of Bavaria

Time and again, we would  hear royals across Europe being deprived of their birthrights to ascend the throne because of so many reasons: change of succession laws, wars, forced abdication and exile. 

But this story of Franz, Duke of Bavaria, is a unique one. His ancestors were barred from succeeding the British throne because of religion.

Something discriminatory in today's society. But that was 17th century England. (Read related story: Why Roman Catholics are barred from succeeding the British throne)

Had Catholics not prevented by an Act of Parliament to succeed the British throne, the reigning King of the United Kingdom is Franz, Duke of Bavaria from the House of Stuart and not from the House of Windsor.

Is it a blessing in disguise or something? You will be the judged.

An Act Drafted Out of Hatred

The story of how things turned into a discrimination of religion in the 18th century is a long tale of drama, bloody conflict, and ultimate sacrifices, but since the pretender to the thrones of England and Scotland, Prince Franz, will turn 87 years old this week, here's a bit of controversial history why Roman Catholics are not eligible to succeed the British throne.

The Act of Parliament of 1701 that deprived all the Catholic descendants of King Charles I from mounting the British throne, many experts would agree, was an Act drafted out of hatred and mistrust. 

Historian Arran Johnston, a spokesman for the Charles Edward Stuart Society, quoted in the interview in the Express UK:

"The reason the Act of Settlement needs to be repealed is that it is a document born out of hatred, a law specifically designed to alienate a religious group and obviously legally dubious in a modern world to put it lightly". 

The Act eventually displaced all remaining descendants of the House of Stuart who were Catholics and settled the British throne to King James I's protestant granddaughter, Sophia, Electress of Hanover, and her non-Catholic descendants.

The Current British Law of Succession

The hatred continues.

The wounds brought by religion discrimination among the Catholic descendants of the royal House of Stuart still left opened even after four centuries.

Discrimination against Catholics still prevalent in the current British law of succession. The wounds left on the Stuart family that passed through many centuries still are not healing.

The ancient law of succession was repealed in 2013 through the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 and took effect in 2015. 

Though it no longer deprived royals of their succession rights when marrying Catholics, still a papist monarch is considered "dead" or never existed.

The law has not repealed one provision in the Act of Settlement of 1701 about Catholics becoming monarchs.

Royals who are Roman Catholics (in communion with the Vatican) are still deemed dead or in layman's term, still not eligible to succeed the British throne. 

Royals who converted to Catholicism and those who are baptized Catholics are also automatically removed from the line of succession.

Lord Nicholas Windsor, youngest son of the Duke of Kent

One son and two grandchildren of the Queen's cousin, the Duke of Kent, are displaced in the line of succession due to their Catholic faith.

Lord Nicholas Windsor, youngest son of Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, Lord Edward Windsor, and her sister, Lady Charlotte Windsor, are all removed from the line of succession to the British throne due to their Catholic faith.

Religion discrimination towards Catholicism in the throne of the United Kingdom is still glaringly waving in the modern times. 

But why?

Historians and royal experts noted this one unforeseen consequence should the sanction against Catholics will be removed in the new British law on succession.

Should the ban be lifted, it will inadvertently validate the succession right of one German aristocrat who, by virtue of bloodline, is the rightful British throne heir. 

His Royal Highness, Franz, the Duke of Bavaria. He is the most senior male living descendant of King Charles I through his youngest daughter, Princess Henrietta, Duchess of Orleans. 

Prince Franz, Duke of Bavaria

Consequently, he is the current head of the House of Stuart (something he really does not bother or even used), which is ahead in the line of succession to the thrones of Scotland, England and Ireland, than the House of Hanover, where Queen Elizabeth II descended.

The Jacobite succession supporters recognized him as King Francis II of England, Scotland and Ireland since 1996, but the Duke considered it as nothing more than an amusing thought.

He has not been heard advancing his claim nor expressing interest pressing his birthright, even during the time Scotland held an independence referendum to separate from the United Kingdom. 

But let's talk about this rarely discussed topic in modern royal times and get to know this Stuart descendant, whose ancestors were deprived to wear the British crown due to their Catholic belief.

Biography of the Duke of Bavaria

Franz, Duke of Bavaria, the current head of the Royal House of Wittelsbach, the former ruling family of the Kingdom of Bavaria, was born on July 14, 1933 in Munich, Germany.

His parents were Albrecht, Duke of Bavaria and Countess Maria Drascovich whose father belonged to the old Croatian nobility of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and whose mother was a Princess of Montenegro.

HRH Prince Franz, Duke of Bavaria

His complete name is Franz Bonaventura Adalbert Maria Herzog von Bayern and was styled as Prince of Bavaria at birth. 

But the Duke did not marry, his heir presumptive to head the House of Wittelsbach and that of the House of Stuart is his younger brother, Prince Max, whose eldest daughter, Duchess Sophie married the Hereditary Prince of Liechtenstein, Prince Alois.

The Duke is a great-grandson of the last Bavarian monarch, King Ludwig III, who was deposed in 1918 when all kingdoms and princely states in Germany were abolished as a consequence of its defeat during World War I.

HRH Princess Sophie of Liechtenstein

The Wittelsbachs were anti-Nazi during World War II. They left Germany and went into exile in Hungary, but in 1944, Germany invaded Hungary and the Wittlesbachs were arrested and thrown into several concentration camps. 

Duke Franz, who was only 11 at that time, endured a life in hard labor in horrible Nazi camps. Until Germany was liberated by the US Third Army in April 1945.

After the war, Franz studied business management and economics at the University of Munich and in Zurich.

He also developed a passion towards modern art and became an art collector. His private art collection now displayed at Pinakothek de Moderne museum art in Munich.

Unlike other royals in Europe who were deposed after World War I and whose properties were confiscated by the government after monarchies were abolished, most royal families in Germany did not experience such fate.

Duke Franz's family was able to recover their properties, splendid palaces and castles after the war. Two of which he used today as his residences. 

Nymphenburg Palace

He currently lived at the wing of Nymphenburg Palace, a splendid royal residence designed in baroque architecture located in Munich's western district Neuhausen-Nymphenburg. It was the former summer residence of the Bavarian royal family.

Adjacent to the complex of Nymphenburg Palace, has more palace buildings including the magnificent Schleissheim Palace with its baroque architecture and beautiful parks and gardens. It was at Schleissheim Palace that Duke Franz celebrated his 80th birthday.

The historic Berg Castle is his country residence. It's a 17th century manor house located on the bank of Lake Starnberg in the village of Berg, Upper Bavaria.

Berg Castle

It was the last residence of King Ludwig II, known as the Mad King, and it was at the nearby lake where he was found dead on June 13, 1886, a death that has been debated down the century as murder and not merely accident.

The Rightful British Heir

According to an article in the Express, in 2011, the Scottish Parliament members were debating whether there's a need to repeal the 310-year-old legislation that led to the Jacobite Uprising in the 17th century. 

They believed the legislation is outdated and discriminatory on sectarian grounds. It might have been one reasons that led to the referendum in 2014, however, vote of the majority made Scotland remained under the United Kingdom.

Franz, Duke of the Bavaria in the middle
Attending the wedding of Prince Georg Friedrich in 2011

Had the majority voted against staying with the UK, it would be most likely that the Scottish throne would be offered to Duke Franz as King Charles I's most senior male living heir.

Unlike in England, Scotland does not have restriction on religion for their next monarch. 

However, the reality of wearing the British crown seems an obscure reverie, Jacobite enthusiast, Stellos Rigopoulos highlighted the fact that while Stuart lineage still existed "there is no way it could ever been given the opportunity to rule the United Kingdom again".

Adding that "Duke Franz is aware of his Scottish heritage but has not been putting any claim for the throne or come over and start a revolution". 

In fact, Duke Franz is just amused with the idea of becoming King of England and Scotland and never expressed interest in claiming it.

The House of Stuart ruled Scotland for many centuries, adding England in 1603 when Queen Elizabeth I died without direct heirs. 

It ended in 1714 when Queen Anne died without surviving children. 

As parliament already passed the Act of Settlement of 1701 prohibiting all Catholic relatives of the Stuart from succeeding the throne, the crown passed to Queen Anne's distant protestant relative, George of Hanover, son of Sophia, Electress of Hanover, who predeceased Queen Anne by two months.

He then reigned in Britain as King George I. The current British royals are his direct descendants.

The Effort to Restore the Throne

Attempts to restore the British throne on the Stuart Dynasty were launched during Queen Anne's lifetime, including the bloody Jacobite Uprising, but all were failed.

Queen Anne herself was open to the possibility of naming her half-brother as her heir, provided he will switch religion from Catholic to Anglican. 

The Scottish Parliament also attempted to draft its own Act of Security demanding the royal family to continue the succession with the next Scottish heirs but ultimately withdrawn due to severe trade sanctions from England.

Ultimately, the challenge to the crown was dropped and embraced what was offered by the English Parliament and finally accepted the Hanoverian succession. 

Queen Elizabeth II directly descended from this family tree.

What is Jacobite?

We've been hearing a lot about it and even extensively reading about it in British history but what is really Jacobite?

It refers to people devoted to the restoration of the Stuart dynasty in the throne of the United Kingdom. 

It takes its name from the Latin word "Jacobus" means James. It's a Latin translation of the name of King James II who was forced to abdicate the throne because of his Catholic belief.

An Obscure Possibility

But even if the Act of Settlement of 1701 be repealed, however, Johnson conceded "it would have no significant impact on the constitution. The change in law cannot be applied retrospectively and would not actually affect the current line of succession".

Considering the amount of time, centuries passed, the House of Stuart is now considered inferior to the House of Windsor so a possibility of giving it to the Wittelsbach line is an obscure idea.

Prince Franz and Prince Georg Friedrich, 
himself the pretender to the German empire throne

Duke Franz himself has not been heard commenting on Jacobite succession. He saw it an "entirely British question" which did not concern him, according to Baron Marcus Bechtolsheim, president of the administration of the Duke of Bavaria.

Although the Duke recognized his Scottish lineage and his blood relation to the House of Windsor,  all opinions about him becoming a King of Scotland and England, Bechtolsheim added "makes him smile because really he is very happy and satisfied with being the Duke of Bavaria".

The Duke of Bavaria considered it as purely a hypothetical issue.

Generally Scandal-free family

With the amount of scandals the current British royal family members generated over the decades, one might have thought if the crown would have worn by someone else, the story might have been very different.

The Wittelsbachs are generally scandal-free royals. Duke Francis lived alone in his palaces and devoted his time in philanthropy and art collection.

His heir-presumptive is his younger brother, Prince Max, who married Countess Elisabeth Douglas in 1967. They have five children, all girls, the eldest being Princess Sophie.

Happy Birthday Prince Franz!

It's Duke Franz's 87th birthday anyway. Let's just wish him a happiest birthday.

For the man whose succession rights to the thrones of Scotland, England and Ireland still drew discussion from royalists, may he continue to live in harmony and good health. 

Happy Birthday HRH!

Photo credit: Sweet Bakes

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