My Almost Claim to Being Royal

My Almost Claim to Being Royal

Lady Mary Grey (Wikipedia)
Lady Mary Grey (Wikipedia)

Naming a blog can be as difficult as naming your first child. Our blog name is our brand in the blogging world. It’s what attracts readers to our posts. It’s what we hope will be inscribed on coffee mugs when we become famous. When I first conceived a genealogy-themed blog, I struggled with the name. It seemed all the good ones were taken. Then I came across an old Fox News report from 2006 claiming that “almost everyone on earth is descended from royalty.” This reminded me of a story I had heard regarding the Key family and their near claim to the British monarchy.

My grandmother’s family name was “Kee”, originally spelled “Key” and a variation of the British name “Keyes”. Our genealogy alludes to the possibility that we are descendants of Thomas Keyes, a member of the royal court during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and his second wife, Lady Mary Grey, Maid of Honor to Queen Elizabeth, great-granddaughter of King Henry VIII, niece of King Henry VIII, younger sister of Jane Grey the Nine-Days Queen, and third in ascension to the throne.

My family does not fool around with its claim to fame.

The events leading to the Grey sister’s claim to heiress presumptive are worthy of an HMO mini-series. King Edward VI, a strongly Protestant, feared England would return to Catholicism after his death. On his deathbed,  Edward changed the line of ascension to exclude his bastard half-sisters Mary, a strong Catholic, and Elizabeth. This left his first cousin, Jane Grey, next in line. Jane’s reign lasted only nine days before she was executed for high treason. Edward’s half-sister, Mary, was restored to the crown, followed by her sister, Elizabeth I. The two remaining Grey sisters, Katherine and Mary also remained in line if Elizabeth did not produce an heir.

The act of succession stipulated that neither Katherine nor Mary could marry without the queen’s approval. Knowing that Queen Elizabeth would not approve her marriage to Thomas Keyes, a man without a title, Mary Grey committed treason by marrying Thomas in a secret ceremony. The event included numerous witnesses, however, so that Elizabeth could not declare the marriage invalid, as she had done with Katherine Grey’s marriage.

Fearful that the marriage might lead to ‘little bastard Keyes laying claim to the throne”, Elizabeth separated the couple, placing Mary under house arrest and sending Thomas to the royal fleet. They never saw each other again.  No little bastard Keyes were produced, which from a genealogical perspective means that the family Keyes, and all their name variations, cannot claim to be descended from royalty, at least not through Mary Grey.

But it is a great story.


Genealogist: Almost Everyone on Earth Descended From Royalty (July 5, 2006). Fox News. Accessed July 8, 2015 from

Profile of Mary Grey (1999) Accessed July 8, 2015 from

Lady Mary Grey. Wikipedia.


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