10 Historical ‘What Ifs?’ Part II | Sarah Stook
What if Charles and Camilla had married first?
In 1971, Prince Charles meets Camilla Shand. Whilst she is in a relationship with Andrew Parker-Bowles, said relationship is very tumultuous. The two find that they get along very well and it becomes serious. Camilla finally breaks up with Parker-Bowles and the question of marriage comes up.
Charles goes to the Queen for permission to propose. Initially, the Queen refuses due to her belief that Camilla is not a suitable future consort. She would rather Charles choose a young virgin from nobility. The two argue about it until Charles tells the Queen he wants the love marriage that his parents and grandparents had instead of one being chosen for him. Lord Mountbatten wades in and speaks on behalf of Charles.
The Queen gives permission in early 1973. The engagement is announced in February and the bride and groom wed in a splendid August ceremony.
Camilla gives birth to a son in September 1974 and he is named William. Two more children follow: a son named Philip in 1976 and a daughter named Elizabeth in 1979. Camilla is popular but does not have the reach of what Diana did in reality. The marriage is happy and stable.
Sophie, Countess of Wessex becomes the moderniser in this timeline, having met Prince Edward years earlier.
What if Jackie Kennedy had been killed that day?
As the car enters Dealey Plaza on that November day, Lee Harvey Oswald readied his gun. He aims it as Kennedy but as the bullet goes flying, Kennedy moves his head. The first bullet instead hits Jackie Kennedy.
The reaction is immediate. JFK ducks down as Secret Service agent Clint Hill runs from the car behind and covers him. Jackie was hit on the side of her head and brain matter is showing. Hill commands the driver to head to the nearby Parkland Hospital. Jackie is still semi-lucid but soon falls into unconsciousness.
Oswald panics and flees the scene. He fires at police officer J. D. Tippit when he is stopped by him, though Tippit does survive in this timeline. Oswald is eventually caught after hiding in a cinema.
Meanwhile, Jackie arrives at Parkland. Surgeons rush her into the operating theatre but Jackie has stopped breathing. Manual compressions do not help and it is clear that Jackie is brain dead anyway. Doctors declare her dead at approximately 12:45PM.
News filters out of the room but the death is not officially announced until 1:30PM. The nation goes into immediate mourning for a beloved First Lady. Untainted by the politics of her husband, newspapers and anchors commend Jackie’s grace, elegance and devotion to her family. JFK arrives home that afternoon and informs his children of their mother’s death.
Oswald is arrested and brought to the police station whilst cops try to keep the angry mob at bay. The next day, Oswald manages to get a gun from a nearby police officer and shoots himself dead. He leaves a note apologising for the death of Jackie and says it was not intentional.
A huge funeral brings dignitaries from around the world. JFK puts on a brave face as he leads Caroline and John Jr. Jackie’s sister Lee is the chief mourner whilst the Kennedys rally around their brother. Jackie is buried at Arlington and the remains of their deceased children are interred beside her.
Kennedy remains unmarried and stops his womanising for a short time. He wins the 1964 election on a wave of sympathy and passes legislation with the help of Vice President Johnson. Unfortunately, Vietnam becomes a political hot potato and Kennedy is caught in the middle. Richard Nixon wins handily in 1968.
Just days after Nixon’s 1969 inauguration, Kennedy is taken to hospital with an infection. He soon develops sepsis and dies on the 31st January. It is said he is still mourning Jackie and Bobby, who was assassinated the year before. He wills that the children are brought up by his sister Eunice.
What if Jane Seymour survived childbirth?
Though the labour is hard, Jane Seymour survives childbirth. The nation is jubilant and celebrations occur all around the country. Henry VIII is thrilled to finally have an heir after waiting so long and Jane is showered with gifts.
Mary and Elizabeth are beneficiaries of their father’s joy and return to court. Jane plots to restore them to succession but this will take a while, so she keeps herself in Henry’s good graces. Henry hires the best caretakers for his son.
Once Jane is out of confinement, Mary comes to her. She begs her to get her father to allow her to marry. She is nearly twenty and considered an old maid. Jane agrees and asks Henry to at least consider it. Henry later agrees but will not allow Mary to marry into Spain or France. Negotiations begin with Cosimo I de’Medici, Duke of Florence. These succeed and Mary leaves to marry him in late 1538.
Elizabeth stays at court and becomes close to her baby brother. Meanwhile, Jane gets pregnant once again. In December 1538, she delivers a healthy baby girl named Margaret. Henry is mildly disappointed that it is not another boy but is pleased that she is healthy.
Henry soon meets Catherine Howard, Jane’s new lady-in-waiting. The two begin an affair and whilst Jane is stung, she is smart enough to keep her mouth shut. Henry treats Jane better than his other wives, cheating aside.
In 1542, three year-old Margaret, tentatively betrothed to a Germanic noble, dies. Jane is devastated and Henry shows sadness. Mary, who has had a son by that point, sends her condolences for the sister she never met.
Come Christmas 1546 and Henry is clearly dying. He makes plans to lock the succession down to Edward. Jane’s attempts at having the girls be put in the line of succession are not fully realised but Henry at least acknowledges that it could happen.
Henry dies in 1547 and Edward is immediately crowned king, though the Catholics of the country wish for Mary to return. Mary is too heavily pregnant to return for the funeral so Elizabeth represents both of them.
Jane’s brother Edward Seymour, the Duke of Somerset becomes leader of the regency council. This concerns opponents of the Seymour clan, as the King has both his mother and uncle whispering in his ear. The Duke’s downfall leads to his execution in 1551. A concerned Jane asks her brother Thomas to step in, but the Earl of Warwick beats them to it.
Edward’s health, always precarious, is waning badly as marriage negotiations are going ahead abroad. In July 1553, he dies with his mother by his side.
A crisis looms as the council wonders what to do. Mary is the eldest daughter and has heirs, but the deeply Protestant Edward did not want a return to Catholicism. He skirts around it by having Elizabeth and Mary be declared legitimate, but Mary is lower down because of her marriage abroad.
A furious Mary attempts to raise an army, but finds that her Spanish family refuses to help, believing that they could sway Elizabeth if needed. Mary offers her son George in her place in order to secure the male line, but is rejected. She gives up the fight and allows Elizabeth to ascend the throne.
Jane helps guide Elizabeth in the first years of her reign. Mary and Jane reconcile as Mary recognises Jane didn’t have much to do with the decision and had helped her in the past. Jane dies in 1555, buried alongside her husband, son and daughter.
What if Hitler had been captured alive?
It’s 1945. The war in Europe has raged for nearly six years. Hitler hunkers down in his Führerbunker in Berlin along with Eva Braun and some remaining loyalists. The Russians approach. Before Hitler has the chance to commit suicide, the bunker is shelled.
When the Red Army descended upon the bunker, they find Adolf Hitler. To their surprise, he’s alive albeit injured. Thrilled, they immediately take photos as documentation and send messengers out. Those who aren’t dead are captured. Eva Braun, married to Hitler for only a few hours, is dead after being hit by debris.
The immediate aim is to get Hitler out of the country before the news is leaked. A plane is charted to get Hitler and a few trusted soldiers. Their destination is Moscow.
The news soon breaks but unfortunately for the Allies, Hitler has arrived in Moscow. He’s taken to an underground cell in the Kremlin and is under constant supervision. Only the most trusted of Stalin’s men can watch him. Food is tasted to ensure he is not poisoned.
The Allies are angry about Stalin getting to Hitler first. Stalin sets his terms. He wants Hitler tried in Moscow but per the Yalta Conference, says he wants an international panel. The Allies are torn. On the one hand, Stalin is at least fine with it being international. On the other hand, Hitler being in Moscow gives the Soviets a huge boost.
With no other option, the Allies agree to Stalin’s terms. In November 1945, Hitler is put on trial. The world is glued to their radios and television sets. When asked what his plea is, Hitler replies:
When Hitler took the stand, the world did not see the formerly confident speaker. They saw the shell of the evil dictator, a man who had clearly been tortured by the Soviets. He rambled incoherently and made his time as dictator look like a joke. People saw a true madman.
A high number of witnesses were put on the stand- Jews, Slavs and other victims of Nazi Persecution. A few were unable to speak upon seeing Hitler and had to be carried away in fear. Others were defiant in their condemnation.
As one can imagine, Hitler was found guilty on all charges on the 27th December 1945. He is sentenced to be executed on the 31st of that month.
Hitler requests to be shot like a soldier but this request is refused. A scaffold is quickly erected in a platform on Red Square. Stalin, Churchill, Truman, DeGaulle and Attlee are given front row seats. To add insult to injury, Hitler is given a Jewish executioner.
Thousands pack into Red Square on a freezing New Years Eve. Hitler is led onto the platform by Marshal Georgy Zhukov. As the hangman wraps the noose around Hitler’s neck, he is asked what his last words will be.
Hitler whips out a Nazi salute and shouts ‘Long Live Germany.’ The hangman kicks the stool and Hitler falls. The rope length was purposefully misjudged and Hitler is strangled for several minutes before finally dying.
With that, the world’s most infamous man is dead.
What if Queen Victoria died in childbirth?
The nation is elated when Queen Victoria announces that she is pregnant with her first child in 1840. Prince Albert is thrilled whilst the Queen hates pregnancy. On the 21st November 1840, Her Majesty delivers a healthy girl. The Queen dismisses the fact she is a girl and says that it’ll be a boy next time. As she’s holding the baby, she suddenly feels unwell. Her stomach hurts and has blurred vision. The physician is treating her for these when the Queen starts convulsing.
Her breathing becomes disturbed after some vomit is caught in her throat. The physician calls for help and several more doctors arrive. They desperately attempt to get the Queen to breathe but she cannot. She dies only hours after childbirth.
The nation mourns the young, popular Queen. Ernest, King of Hanover and Victoria’s uncle hears the news and immediately claims he has the right to the throne. He uses his sex, age and the fact he has a son in order to bolster said claims. Unfortunately for him, Ernest is hugely unpopular. The powers that he decide that the legitimate child of Victoria should reign despite her sex. Besides, they can mould her as she grows.
Prince Albert is named regent and will remain so until Victoria II becomes 18. Albert ensures Victoria’s governesses and tutors are liberal, enlightened Europeans. Victoria grows up to be very politically interested and shares her father’s views.
The question of her future marriage begins in around 1855. The husband cannot be the leader or heir of his own kingdom. Eventually, it is decided that Victoria will marry Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders on the condition that he converts to Anglicanism before the wedding. Philippe agrees and they wed in 1862.
Victoria and Philippe have five children. Also listed are their spouses :
- Albert-1863 (m. Archduchess Marie Valerie of Austria)
- Louise- 1865 (m. Gustav of Sweden)
- Charlotte- 1866 (m. Prince Valdemar of Denmark)
- Alice-1868 (m. Grand Duke Peter Nikolaevich of Russia)
- Alfred- 1870 (m. Princess Clémentine of Belgium)
The marriage is fairly happy but not as content as the one between the Queen’s parents. Victoria does not get along with her daughter-in-laws but is fond of her own girls. She is a strict but fair parent.
The Queen dies in 1901. The new King Albert I and his wife Queen Mary (Anglicised from Marie) take the crown. Victoria is widely remembered for her progressive reforms that she indirectly pushes through the Parliament. Her lineage extends into several nations but she did not become the Grandmother of Europe her mother would have done.
All five children live to adulthood and marry. Victoria
What if Charles II had an heir?
Charles II of England married Catherine of Brazanga in 1662. After a miscarriage in 1666, Catherine finds herself once again pregnant two years later. Charles continues his affairs throughout her pregnancy but is excited about a possible legitimate heir. In October of that year, Catherine has a healthy son named James.
The nation is jubilant and the parents prove to be doting ones, though Charles continues his affairs and siring his flurry of illegitimate children. Catherine is sadly unable to have any more children but James’ existence stops politicians encouraging Charles to divorce her.
Charles dies in 1685 when James is sixteen. He requests that Catherine be regent but this is refused and instead the role is given to the Earl of Clarendon.
James comes of age in 1686 and marriage negotiations begin. It is decided that he will marry Maria Amalia of Brandenburg-Schwedt in 1689 in order to please the people- she’s from a minor noble family and is Protestant.
Catherine remains in England. James protects her from plots by anti-Catholics and includes her in court activities though she is not involved in politics. Maria gives birth to their first child, a daughter named Catherine Sophia after her grandmothers, in 1671. The order of their children is as follows, along with their spouses
- Catherine Sophia- 1671 (Frederick IV of Denmark)
- James- 1673 (Duchess Marie Elisabeth of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp)
- Frederick- 1674 (never marries)
- Mary- 1677 (dies young)
James dies in 1710 and is followed by his son of the same name.
What if Bill Clinton was impeached?
The year is 1999. Bill Clinton expects the Senate vote to be tight but thinks he’s going to make it. Those watching it believe the same. To Clinton’s shock, the Senate votes to impeach. Al Gore, Vice President, ascends to the top job.
He immediately chooses Connecticut Senator and friend Joe Lieberman as his Vice President. Both the House and the Senate vote to confirm him. Lieberman officially becomes VP in April 1999.
A wounded Clinton heads to New York with Hillary and Chelsea. Hillary chooses to stand by her husband once again and throws all her energy into the upcoming Senate election of 2000. Interestingly, Clinton remains popular. The economy is doing well and Clinton’s policies seemed to resonate with a lot of people. Voters say that they believe the impeachment was wrong.
Meanwhile, Gore presses on. He decides to distance himself from his predecessor due to annoyance over the affair. This works for a while, but Clinton’s continued popularity eventually dents this. Gore oversees the NATO Bombing of Yugoslavia and has Congress commit troops. His surprisingly eloquent speech after the Columbine tragedy receives praise.
2000 is a particularly pressing year for Gore. First comes the controversial raid on the house of six year-old Elián González. The Cuban community in Florida is in uproar and both sides are angered at the decision to return González to Cuba.
There is also the attack on the USS Cole. The murder of 17 US soldiers by Al-Qaeda shocked the nation and forced a change in military strategy. This is particularly damaging to Gore as it is close to the election.
The 2000 election is a contentious one. Gore decides not to use the Clintons in his campaign in order to protect from their scandal. Bush proves superiors in the debates and uses the Elián González to maximum effect. Gore paints Bush as an extreme conservative as compared to his more moderate image.
The 7th November rolls around. Bush manages to grab New Mexico by the skin of his teeth- the state went Gore in the real timeline. Florida does not have the hanging chads problem as before but is still very close. Eventually it is the last state to be called- for Bush.
Gore leaves office with middling ratings. He’s seen as capable but neither great nor terrible.
What if King Edward VI had lived past childhood?
After his near-brush with death, Edward finds himself much healthier. Confidence grows due to his sudden lack of sickliness. Edward continues to become a strong Protestant and is keen to ensure Catholicism is not permitted in his land. In order to get rid of Mary, he allows her to marry a widowed Spanish nobleman. She agrees in hopes that Edward will have no children.
Edward is keen to marry Elizabeth off in order to strengthen the state of Protestantism in the land, but she vows never to wed. He tolerates it as she will not sway to Catholicism.
In 1559, it is decided that Edward will marry Elisabeth of Valois in the next year. Pope Julius III swears that he will have them both excommunicated if the marriage goes ahead. Edward is not bothered as is Elisabeth’s father. Upon their marriage in 1560, they are both excommunicated. Elisabeth agrees to convert to the Church of England and is crowned after this happens.
The marriage is fairly happy. Edward is not known to have mistresses, though they often clash in terms of faith. Elisabeth is more moderate than Edward, who is known for his deep religious zeal. Still, Court is mostly harmonious. England and France have better relations and work together to fight Spain.
In late 1561, a daughter is born. She is named Jane after Edward’s mother. There is a little disappointment that she was a girl but Edward is confident about the future and less rigid about succession than his father. Jane gives birth to a stillborn daughter the next year, tentatively named Catherine after her mother.
In spring 1563 Elisabeth finally has a son, named Edward for his father. The Kingdom rejoices and it even softens Edward’s cold demeanour, though he remains a devout Protestant. Elisabeth bears a son named Henry for both grandfathers a year later but Henry only makes it to a toddler before dying.
Edward’s health begins to waver. He has the line of succession secured but does not risk mentioning Mary or Elizabeth in case the former declares war. In 1570, Edward gets a bout of dysentery that ails him badly. He dies in summer of that year.
Seven year old Edward is crowned king. Several key noblemen are brought to court to act in the regency council. Elisabeth is nominally named regent but has little power in reality. In 1577, Jane is married to Christian I, Heir Apparent of Saxony. This gives the family a foothold in the Holy Roman Empire, as the Elector of Saxony votes for the emperor.
Edward seeks out a wife in 1583. He eventually settles on Anna Vasa of Sweden, a persona non grata in Europe due to converting to Lutheranism from Catholicism. Though this angers the Pope and several Catholic figures, Edward is determined to marry Anna. They wed in 1584.
Edward and Anna have several children, though no sons survive childhood. Their eldest child, Elizabeth, takes the crown upon her father’s death in 1610.
What if George Washington had become King?
As Britain realises that it’s losing the Revolutionary War, King George III makes George Washington an offer: he can become monarch of the independent United States. Washington decides to accept.
This decision angers Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans who wished to get rid of the shackles of monarchy. Washington is too popular to fight with, however, so their plans go underground.
George I is crowned in 1783.
One issue that comes with the ascension of George I of the United States and that is fertility. Washington is commonly believed to have been made sterile after a bout of smallpox. His wife Martha could have children as evidenced by her first marriage but the two had none together. Washington thought about marrying again if Martha died but never considered divorce.
Martha’s children from her first marriage had all died. The only legitimate male heir would be her only grandson, George Washington Park Curtis. He was only two years old at George I’s ascension which concerned the royal court. George I tentatively made his step-grandson his heir.
Meanwhile, Founding Fathers like Jefferson were plotting to remove Washington when the time was right. George I caught wind of the plot by Jefferson, forcing him to flee to France along with James Madison and Aaron Burr. Alexander Hamilton remains loyal to Washington and becomes the de facto head of government.
George I dies in 1809 when George Curtis is 18. Jefferson and co arrive back in the United States and immediately start an offensive to get the monarchy out. George Curtis is liked but does not have the respect that his step-grandfather does. Jefferson tells Curtis he can live if he renounces his titles. Curtis agrees.
Jefferson is placed in charge of the new republic after assembling a loyal army. He is elected the first president of the United States in November of that year. James Madison is charged with writing a constitution which comes into effect in 1811.
Curtis lives the rest of his life in peace and dies in 1857.
What if the Russian Revolution failed? (With help from Twitter: @nolesfan2011 and @austinmccoy3 in particular)
In February 1917, workers at the Putilov Factory in St. Petersburg went on strike. A snowstorm hit and freight trains full of food remained stuck.
This time, the Tsar decided to stay in the city and not go to the front. He instructed as many forces as possible to get food to the people. Unfortunately for him, this wasn’t enough to get the people to forget about his autocratic rule. Food rationing kicked in and more people arrived on the streets to demand the Tsar’s removal.
Whilst the Tsarina advocated for harshness, advisors had the smarts to tell the Tsar not to be too rash. Whilst the Tsar did not appeal in person, he also did not send police to deal with the protestors. Instead, he formulated a plan.
Firstly, the Tsar relinquished his unpopular control of the army. Despite the pleas of his allies, he decides to start pulling Russian soldiers from the front. Images of Imperial Russia were pulled down.
Following the lead of his British cousin, the Tsar announces that he will establish a constitutional monarchy with a leader chosen by the government. This is accepted by the populace but they are still baying for the Tsar and Tsarina’s blood.
The Tsar offers to resign in favour of his son Alexei. Unfortunately, the government believe that his son has been overly influenced by Rasputin and refute the appointment. The country’s Pauline Laws meant that a woman could only rule if the entire male line was gone, ruling out any of the Tsar’s daughters. The heir to the throne was then Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich.
Initially the Grand Duke refused to take over, believing Alexei to be the rightful heir. The Tsar begged his brother to come to Russia, fearing for the family if something happened. The Grand Duke agreed. He was more popular with the people because of his disgust at the war.
In order to secure the monarchy, the British sent assistance to the Tsar and his supporters. The Tsar Nicholas officially abdicated and gave the throne to his brother. Nicholas and his family left to go into exile in Sweden. Meanwhile, key agitators like Lenin were targeted and killed by Allied forces.
The new Tsar started his reign with reforms, including a relaxation of press regulations and the right to protest. Still, he was unaccustomed to ruling and found himself struggling to get by. He and his wife were unable to bear any more children so his son George remained the only heir. Michael tweaked the laws to allow George the crown in future, as his morganatic marriage had stopped him before.
The monarchy muddled along until 1935 when the Tsar suddenly died. Advisors immediately had George married off to a Russian noblewoman out of fear that the throne would be sought by Tatiana Romanov. Whilst Tsar George and his wife had children, the monarchy weakened and became unpopular after the devastation of WW2.
In 1947, the Tsar resigned and Russia became a republic.