Reports about the arrival of Prince Harry’s baby in England mentioned that his wife is the first royal in modern times of African descent.

Generations of European royal families stretch out very thinly through history, but it’s true that African blood may have seeped into the British monarchy. And both of the kings with that background had impacts on America.

Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, had African forebears. She and that George were on the throne during the American Revolution, and also its sequel, the War of 1812.

Charlotte was born in 1844. Her father was a German prince, and her mother was descended from an African branch of the Portuguese royal family. She was 17 when she married George, who was 22, in 1761.

Some historians say that portrait painters were expected to play down her African features.

Charlotte was highly cultured. She was taught music by Johann Christian Bach, one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s 18 children. Mozart, when he was 8 years old but already composing, dedicated an opus to her.

It’s also said that she introduced the Christmas tree to England. That would be something she got from her German father.

Charlotte had 15 children, one of whom would become George IV. She is the great-great-great grandmother of the present Queen Elizabeth. She shared her husband’s interest in gardening. British citizens nicknamed him “Farmer George.”

George didn’t originally expect to be king. But his father, Prince Frederick, died, some say as the result of being hit in the head by a cricket ball.

Many citizens believed that Charlotte was the real brains of the marriage. In the pubs, they sang, to the tune of their national anthem:

"Queen Charlotte, so they say, has a commanding way

Over King George.

When George has affairs of state, Charlotte sits up to wait,

And if he comes home late,

God save the king."

George III bought a large house from the Duke of Buckingham in 1761 to be a private residence for Charlotte. It was greatly expanded, and since 1837 is the palace of the royal family.

The other king thought to have African blood was Charles II. He had brown eyes and a dark complexion, but that could be explained by his Italian grandmother, of the Medici family. There are tales that when he was young, he was nicknamed “the black boy.”

Charles was one of the Stuart family. It’s said that the name Stuart came from the same Old English source as the word "swarthy."

Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans had taken control of England in 1653, Charles I had been beheaded, and Charles II was living safely in France. But things didn’t work out for the Cromwells, and in 1660, Parliament invited Charles to come home and be king.

Admiral William Penn, a member of the House of Commons, was dispatched to sail across the channel and bring Charles home. The admiral took his teen-age son, William, along for the ride.

Young William and the king became friendly on the return trip. Later, when Charles was financially embarrassed, probably due to the cost of pleasing several mistresses, Admiral Penn paid the salaries of the whole Royal Navy out of his own pocket.

Eventually, grown-up young William Penn told King Charles he could settle the debt by giving him some land in North America, and that’s why there is a Pennsylvania.

Visit columnist Jim Smart’s web site at

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