That’s the number connecting me to Eve and Adam — at least by one count on one line. When I was a kid, our ward had a large chart entitled THE ROYAL LINE hanging on the wall near the library. The chart traced lineage from Adam to Judah through European kings like Charlemagne and Alfred the Great to modern leaders including Queen Victoria, George Washington, FDR, and the prophet Joseph Smith.
This chart fascinated me and eventually I convinced my mother to get me a copy. Going through the Bible’s many begets, I checked it, corrected it in a few places, and added names that the original compilers left off. With the help of a book from our public library, Lines of Succession: Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe, I further supplemented the Biblical information with more elaborate charts showing the kings of England and Scotland and the Czars of Russia, among others. Here’s a picture of my faded and marked up copy as it looks today (most of my notations were added in the early 1980s).
One of the things that fascinated me most about this chart was the inclusion of names drawn from Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology. Little had I known that Joseph Smith’s ancestors included Priam, King of Troy, Cronus the Titan, and Odin, chief of the gods of Valhalla! This was one of the earliest indications to me that myths might overlay actual historical persons (i.e., most of the stories associated with Zeus were surely myths, but there might have been an actual person of that name in history). Of course, this also got me pondering the corollary: was it possible that stories about the Biblical figures on the chart had a mythological component?
In adulthood I took another look at this chart. Using information from a family genealogy book compiled by my grandfather’s second cousin, Marian Proctor Brandley, as a starting point, I finally tracked down the exact points where my own genealogy supposedly connected to “royal lines.” There are actually several points of connection and I decided to concentrate on the one that extended through Charlemagne. I took some time to research the links and the histories of the ancestors leading to the medieval Emperor of the Franks and I produced a series of charts.
For convenience, I’ll only include one chart in this post, but will provide links to the rest.
CHART 12 (above) shows Charlemagne and his immediate descendants. The circled numbers at left is a generational countdown leading to myself at generation #1. By this count, Charlemagne is generation #42 — which is to say, on this line he is my 39th great grandfather.
The next chart (CHART 13) contains the Carolingian counts of Vermandois — a county northeast of Paris that was important in the 10th century. CHART 14 connects the heiress of Vermandois with the Capetians, France’s new royal line. CHART 15 follows a Norman count William II of Warren to England, where the line is quickly watered down into lesser nobility. CHART 16 and CHART 17 follow generations of knights into the modern era. By CHART 18 the line has slipped to craftsman class. CHART 19 sees the blacksmith John Prescott emigrate from Yorkshire to Massachusetts. During CHART 20, the line begins moving west and becomes Mormon: Stephen and Nancy Winchester were baptized in the winter of 1833-34. CHART 21 brings us to the present day.
With these links reasonably well established, I turned my attention back up the line. How would the earlier generations stand up to scrutiny? Or rather, given that the links were clearly fictional, where had the names come from? We can follow Charlemagne’s ancestry through history back a few more generations. His father Pepin the Short seized the throne from the last of the Merovingian kings. The Merovingians were the first Frankish royal dynasty and Pepin’s wife Bertrada of Laon, a great grand-daughter of King Theuderic III, had Merovingian blood, see CHART 11. Theuderic’s ancestors can take us back another eight generations to the eponymous founder of the Merovingian dynasty, Merovich I, see CHART 10 and CHART 9. At generation #54, Merovich himself is only a historical memory and his father Clodion the Long-Haired borders onto myth. History takes us no further.
Filling out the chart, I was also able to build down. The Bible famously includes whole lists of “begets,” which many Biblical scholars hypothesize are derived from an early source known as the Book of Generations. Prior to the flood, Genesis takes us from Adam and Eve to Noah’s father Lamech, CHART 1. Next, the line runs through Noah’s son Shem to Peleg (everyone’s favorite beget “for in his day the world was divided”) and then to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah, CHART 2.
Judah’s son is Zara and Zara’s son is Darda, but at this point we leave the Biblical account. According to THE ROYAL LINE chart, we reach the legendary King Priam of Troy in just five generations. How is that possible? It turns out the linkage is quite clever. According to Homer’s Iliad (20:215-293), Priam’s father was Laomedon, who was the son of Ilus, the son of Tros, the son of Erichthonius. Erichthonius’s father was Dardanus, the son of Zeus. At some point, a genealogist made the connection between Dardanus and Darda, and thus equated Zara and Zeus, see CHART 3.
A gap still remained between the mythological Priam at generation #118 and the first semi-historical Clodion at generation #54. Since the Romans had famously connected themselves into Greek mythology by claiming Trojan descent through Aeneas (see Virgil’s Aenied), many other peoples had followed suite. The Franks who claimed to revive the Roman Empire were among these, and I naturally assumed that some enterprising monk in the early Middle Ages had dutifully created the missing generations.
The legend of Trojan descent does date to some of the earliest Frankish sources. A 7th century collection known as the Chronicle of Fredegar tells how the exiled Priam was succeeded by a king called Frigia and then another named Francio — with the name “Franks” deriving from this later king. Another early source, the 8th century Liber Historiae Francorum has Priam succeeded by a son named Marcomeris and a grandson named Faramund. This Faramund is the father of Clodion the long-haired and the grandfather of Merovich. In other words, this confused chronology requires some 1,600 years to pass from the traditional fall of Troy to the historic rise of the Frankish Kingdom in only seven generations!
Modern genealogists, probably from the 15th century or later, recognized the gap of generations between Priam and Clodion and it is they who seem to have made up the names that appear on THE ROYAL LINE chart. Their inventions weren’t consistent — Greek names like Antenor, Nicanor, and Diocles are almost randomly intermixed with Frankish names like Richemir, Clodimir, and Dagobert. Worse, in order to fill out the generations the names repeat and repeat (there are no less than five Marcomirs). So unfortunately, while the final links shown in CHART 4, CHART 5, CHART 6, CHART 7, and CHART 8 are myths, they are neither particularly ancient nor particularly creative. On the internet they survive primarily on Mormon genealogy sites.
Thus, 147 generations of the Royal Line extend from ancient mythologies through modern fictions to medieval histories and finally to all of our own modern genealogies. Have you been doing your genealogy lately? I’m still working on mine.