Noble and Royal Interracial Marriages

Genealogy, Various

How often these days I see articles stating that if Prince Harry of Wales marries Meghan Markle, it will be the first interracial royal marriage ever. Obviously most articles mean, the first British royal interracial marriage – as lots of media tends to forget there are other royal families than the British – but even in that case the statement is not true.

Interracial marriage are nowadays quite normal, but they weren’t until some tens of years ago. Only in 1967 a marriage between people of different race was allowed in all the USA, in 1960 interracial marriages were still forbidden by law in 31 US states. When searching I found a recent article saying that one in 10 marriages in the Netherlands are mixed, they actually meant Dutch people marrying people of another nationality, rather than another race. I think in many countries, including mine – the Netherlands – most people had never seen someone with a different colour than their own until rather recent. Unlike my parents who grew up in a tiny village, I grew up in a small town with children in my class with an Italian, Indonesian and Suriname background. I remember however the first Chinese arriving in the neighbourhood (this was halfway the 1980s) were quite an attraction. An acquaintance of mine who is slightly older, grew up in a smaller village and had never seen others than white people until he was 12 or so. Luckily times are changing.

The question however is: were there ever mixed race marriages in noble and royal circles? Surely there were some, not only in noble and non-reigning royal families, but certainly also in reigning royal families. A rather interesting and early case was a Japanese-German marriage, or rather more than one. Aoki Shuzo (1844-1914) was born to a Samurai family in Japan. He was a diplomat and Foreign Minister. Later in live he was elevated in title to viscount, and became Viscount Aoki. In the late 1860s he was sent to Germany to study. During that time he married a German aristocrat, Elisabeth von Rhade. Their daughter Hanna Aoki (1879-1953) married in 1904 Count Alexander von Hatzfeldt und Trachenberg. Their daughter Hissa (1906-1985) married 1927 Count Erwin von Neipperg (1897-1957).

When searching online for unusual interracial royal marriages I came across an African-Asian one that wasn’t to take place in the end. In 1931 Prince Lij Araya Abebe of Ethiopia (who died in 2002 and was a nephew of Emperor Haile Selassie) traveled to Japan, as he liked the idea of a Japanese bride. Ties between the two countries had become quite strong at the time. After his return a Japanese businessman, Tomoyoshi Sumioka set up the arrangements and circulated advertisements for select women in Japan. About 60 applications were received. Chosen was the young daughter of Viscount Hiroyuki Kuroda, Masako Kuroda, who started soon studying Ethiopian culture. However the marriage plans alarmed the European powers and especially Italy seems to have been uncomfortable about the Japanese interference in the region. In the end the marriage was called off early 1934.

Not much later, in 1948, Seretse Khama, heir to the throne of Botswana, married Ruth Williams, a white English woman. He later became the president of his country. Both in Botswana and Great Britain people were against this marriage. The story of their life was recently turned into a film: A United Kingdom. Quite known also is the case of the American Hope Cooke (1940), who in 1963 became the Queen Consort of the 12th Chogyal of Sikkim, Palden Thondup Namgyal (1923-1982). The couple had two children and divorced in 1980. The monarchy in Sikkim had been abolished in 1975 and the country became a state of India. Hope Cooke returned to the USA and is now a writer, historian and lecturer.

A few more royal examples from reigning royal houses I can think of:

  • Christian baron de Massy, a cousin of Reigning Prince Albert II of Monaco, married (fourthly) in 1996 Cécile Gelabale, who is from Guadeloupe. The couple has two sons. It seems they are either separated or divorced.
  • Prince Joachim of Denmark – son of Queen Margrethe II – in 1995 married Alexandra Manley. The couple divorced in 2005 and has two sons. Alexandra was born and raised in Hong Kong. Her mother Christa Nowotny came from Austria, her father Richard Manley was partly British, partly Chinese. From their three daughters, Alexandra was the most Asian looking one. See for her ancestry here.
  • Prince Maximilian of Liechtenstein – son of Reigning Prince Hans Adam II – in 2000 married Angela Brown (11 years his senior), who was born in Panama as daughter of Javier Francisco Brown and Silvia Maritza Burke. His father consented to the wedding, even when apparently part of the family was shocked by this interracial marriage. The couple has one son. Not much is known about her exact background.
  • In March 2004 the engagement was announced between Lady Davina Windsor, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, and Gary Lewis. They married in July 2004 and had two children. The couple met in Indonesia in 2000. Gary Lewis turned out to be a Maori from New Zealand with an already 11-year-old son from a previous relationship. Queen Elizabeth II gave her permission for the marriage.
  • Prince Rudolf of Liechtenstein – a nephew of Reigning Prince Hans Adam II – in 2012 married Tılsım Tanberk from Turkey. The couple has twins.

Other examples in non-reigning and noble families.

  • In 1892 Count Heinrich Coudenhove-Kalergi married Mitsuko Aoyama from Japan. They had seven children.
  • Princess Ubol Ratana of Thailand, daughter of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, married 1972 Peter Ladd Jensen, from the USA. The couple had three children. They got divorced in 1998.
  • Archduke Ferdinand of Austria in 1999 married Mary Nyanut Ring Machar, from Sudan, in Kenya. The couple has four children.
  • Princess Badiya bint El Hassan of Jordan married British Edward Blair in 2005. He took the Muslim first name of Khaled. They have one son.
  • Archduke Konrad of Austria in 2005 married Ashmita Goswami, of Indian descent. They have issue.
  • Archduke Philipp of Austria married Mayasuni Heath in 2006. She is as far as I know partly British, partly Peruvian. They have one daughter.
  • Princess Michelle Lobkowicz in 2007 married Vishal Khanna, of Indian descent. They both had a Catholic and a traditional Hindu ceremony. They have issue.
  • In 2013 Viscount Weymouth, heir to the Marquess of Bath, married Emma McQuiston. Her father is from Nigeria, her mother from England. They have two sons.
  • In 2013 Prince Viktor von Isenburg married Jung-Eun Anés Lee, from South Korea.

I am certain there will be some more examples, if one has a good look into royal and noble genealogy. So if you know of any interesting marriages, let me know, or post below in a comment.

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