A scandalous secret marriage to Roman Catholic Maria Fitzherbert may have produced an heir to George IV and the British throne that no one knew existed. Now a gay ex-Mormon who grew up in Virginia is demanding a DNA test to prove his lineage.
James Ord was just a teen when his grandfather pulled him aside to tell him about their royal family and how they’d been tricked out of the crown. But the strange story had been passed down over the years along with the blood and the Ord family name, James Ord, that was given to the first-born son in each branch, according to the Daily Mail.
While the tale may have come to James as he raked leaves at his grandfather’s house, there is some actual history behind it. King George IV’s Maria Fitzherbert was twice-widowed before her relationship began when he was just Prince Regent. Some of his friends believed she was pregnant immediately after their secret marriage.
When King George IV died, it was discovered that he had kept all of Fitzherbert’s letters. The executor of her will begged her to sign the back of her marriage certificate, promising that the two never had a child but she refused. Instead, she spoke to George IV’s brother King William IV, showing him the documents proving their relationship. He offered her a dukedom, but all she wanted was permission to dress in black and mourn her loss.
The Royal Marriages Act requires that all royal marriages have the consent of the king or Parliament. So George IV pulling a royal chaplain out of debtor’s prison to marry the two wasn’t exactly legal. However, Pope Pius VII was persuaded to declare the marriage sacramentally valid by Fitzherbert’s nephew. The 1701 Act of Settlement was the final blow to the union. It prevents any person who marries a Catholic from ruling on the throne.
As a baby, their love child was rushed out of the country to live in Spain with his namesake, an ex-sailor who pretended to be his uncle. Fitzherbert’s cousin, a British ambassador, ensured Ord was appointed to a prestigious position as the superintendent of the royal dockyards. When the family moved to Maryland in 1790, it was another prominent friend of Fitzherbert’s, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Baltimore, that ensured they were well cared for.
The love child attended Georgetown University, the cost paid for by a British official, Notley Young, and British diplomats regularly checked on his well-being while he was in school. The young Ord didn’t understand why.
He briefly served as a Jesuit priest but joined the U.S. navy before transferring to the army to fight against the British in the War of 1812 as a general.
The first mention that Ord was more than a common man came from his uncle, who Ord once told him. “if you had your rights in England, you would be something great. God forgive those who have wronged you.” He didn’t explain. Ord wrote to his mother, though he never confirmed the rumors were true, and he never received a reply.
At one point a biographer discovered that the executors of Mrs. Fitzherbert’s had put all of the papers proving the family’s lineage in a vault of Coutts Bank in London. Relatives attempted to have it unsealed, but the executors refused. Descendant Honorable Lady Beatrice Chichele-Plowden claimed that she too wanted to see the paperwork, but Queen Victoria and Edward VII blocked her. She later alleged that the papers had been moved to one of the royal palaces.
“Royal bastards were traditionally given titles or positions at court, but James Ord was shoved off to America with nothing,” the living James Ord said.
DNA evidence was used recently to decide a claim to the Scottish baronetcy of Pringle of Stichill, so Ord doesn’t see any reason why it can’t be used in his case. The rub is that the Queen must be the one to make the decision to do the DNA tests. Adding an heir to the throne and bringing the scandal to light isn’t exactly the style of the British monarchy.