History

The Royal Bastards were formed in 1950 within the community of scholarly genealogists to meet two perceived problems in the landscape of lineage societies and the genealogical community as a whole: the first was the shoddy quality of much genealogy, particularly pre-colonial genealogy, still practiced within existing lineage societies, and by the genealogists who served them; the second was the presumption that possession of a lengthy pre-colonial pedigree was desirable as a social credential. As one of the Charter Members, Walter Lee Shepherd Jr., wrote:

“After many discussions of the problem[s], four serious genealogists in 1950 at Richmond, Virginia, decided to form a precolonial hereditary society, membership in which would be limited to those persons who could prove in a fully documented and properly researched manner, acceptable to the best genealogical scholars, an uninterrupted line of descent from a group of ancestors which would be large enough to provide a base for the Society, but yet a group of ancestors essentially unimportant and without inherited social distinction. We settled on bastards of British royal personages (kings, queens or their princely offspring, and specifically excepting from eligibility those royal bastards subsequently legitimated by Act of Parliament, as, for instance, the four Beaufort children of John of Gaunt) as best fulfilling this requirement. Thus was born the Descendants of the Illegitimate Sons and Daughters of the Kings of Britain (The Royal Bastards, for short).”

These observations are part of a wide-ranging article Lee Sheppard wrote to paint a detailed picture of the history and aims of the group. This article appeared in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly in 1974. Pending permission of the Quarterly, a copy will be made available here to download and read.