- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2004

SYDNEY, Australia — Michael Abney-Hastings, a former livestock manager who is fond of sharing a few beers with friends at a neighborhood pub, was shocked when a British television crew knocked on his door to tell him he was the rightful king of England.

“In June, a knock on the door and this TV crew from Britain walks in and says they want to make a film about me. They tell me that some historian in England reckons I should be the king of England, not the present queen.”

Mr. Abney-Hastings, who was living a quiet life in rural New South Wales about 400 miles south of Sydney, always knew he had royal blood and a number of lesser titles.

He had never been in a hurry to publicize the fact to the Australian community, which has an aversion to titles, but when the crew showed up, he decided to take out his family tree and have a closer look.

That’s when Mr. Abney-Hastings, the 14th earl of Loudoun, whose days are spent on Rice Research Australia, a 6,000 acre farm, realized how different life could have been.

“What it meant was that if Edward IV was illegitimate, then that whole line that followed him from Henry VIII right down to Queen Victoria and Elizabeth II ought not to be there,” Mr. Abney-Hastings said.

According to a senior scholar of the Middle Ages, an original document found in France reveals that Edward IV was conceived not by his royal father, Richard the duke of York, but by a French archer, and that Edward’s official father was fighting the French at Pontoise near Paris, while Edward’s mother, Lady Cicely Neville, was having an affair with a commoner.

It would have been a five-day horse ride for the king to reach the queen.

Genealogist Michael Jones’ research contends that Edward IV, who reigned from 1461 to 1483, ought to have been replaced by Edward IV’s younger brother, George, the duke of Clarence, of whom Mr. Abney-Hastings is a direct descendent.

King Louis XI of France is recorded as shouting about Edward, “His name is not King Edward — everybody knows his name is Blaybourne,” the name of the French archer.

But the British royals did their best to hush up the scandal, even going so far as to suggest the conception had taken place in May 1410 in Yorkshire before the royal father set sail for France — which would have involved an 11-month pregnancy.

“I always knew I had Plantagenet blood in me, but had no idea that I might be more than just a minor royal. I was astounded,” says Mr. Abney-Hastings.

So does Mr. Abney-Hastings dream about what might have been?

“Oh no — just look at the royals today, would you? How they stagger from one crisis to another. I don’t harbor ambitions to live in that sort of goldfish bowl and be written about all the time,” he said.

But Mr. Abney-Hastings is enjoying publicity nonetheless.

He is opening stacks of mail from a British public that is enthusiastic in its show of support for a new king.

“I got one letter yesterday where the writer said that he was going to write to Buckingham Palace to inform them of the developments because I was not showing any interest to knock on the queen’s door myself.”

But he has no intention of replying to any of the mail or changing his life.

Michael Abney Hastings came from Britain to Australia at 17, worked on ranches, fell in love with the rural countryside and a local lass, and decided to live on here.

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