The timeline placement is perhaps the most interesting and I think there are two places for it. The first is the very beginning of the timeline post Skyward Sword. It makes sense as this is the founding of Hyrule and Skyward Sword just established the royal bloodline, it doesn’t necessarily start the royal family. However, it’s sort of implied in Tears that the reason there hasn’t been any male Gerudo is because Ganondorf was still alive all this time so it would be weird that the dude somehow reincarnated while trapped beneath Hyrule Castle. The other issue is that this plan fails in the timeline where Hyrule floods since the land is under the sea. Though that one isn’t that big of an issue.
Perhaps Zelda's time powers "lock" her in the timeline branch leading to BotW/TotK.
The big problem with this placement however is how…tight this is for the timeline. This would mean in 100 years, Tetra discovers the new land, seals Malledeus, has a daughter named Sonia, said daughter meets Rauru and founds New Hyrule, then Tetra dies before Ganondorf is introduced. WW Link also needs to die before than. ST Zelda is then born before Sonia dies, the Imprisoning War happen, ST Zelda is raised by Chancellor Cole, TotK Zelda draconifies, and everything ends just before ST Zelda becomes of age. It’s…really, really tight if you want to fit it in there. Other minor problems is that the name Zelda doesn’t set off alarm bells with Rauru and Sonia when they are first introduced to Zelda though maybe Tetra never took on the name officially or that none of Spirit Tracks or Tears interact with each other despite how close the timeline is but that is just in general how these games work.
Uhm, I don't like this explanation. It reduces New Hyrule to Hyrule mk2, which I believe is kinda against the spirit of WW.
I’ve played most Zelda games and am very familiar with how some of them loosely fit together (particularly OoT, MM, WW, TP, and SS). Those game being connected was obviously intentional, though there are still handwaves and contrivances abound. (The gods flooding Hyrule in WW after Ganondorf was unopposed has always bothered me tbh). That said, earlier games were quite clearly added as the “downfall” timeline after the fact, and other individual titles like Four Swords and Minish Cap do not fit well either. The timeline provided in the Hyrule Historia around the time of Skyward Sword’s release was not completed arbitrarily, but was - at least in part - very much put together as an afterthought.
The lore inconsistencies in BOTW and TOTK are simply further proof that this is the case.
Up to OoT, the timeline was very clear:
OoT - ALTTP - LA - Zelda1 - AoL
If you want, you can also throw MM to the mix. Each "main" game had its own side-story and was a prequel of the previous main game. There were small, neat references here and there (notably, the names of AoL towns came from OoT sages).
Then the Oracle games happened, allegedly taking place between ALTTP and LA, but without 100% fitting. Then we had Four Swords, which Aonuma claimed to be "the oldest tale in Zelda timeline", with next to nothing in common with the Ganon/Triforce story arc. And after Wind Waker, it wasn't clear how to connect ALTTP to OoT anymore. This is where things started getting weird.
From some interviews and game data, we can assume TP and (especially) FSA were intended to "bridge" OoT and ALTTP in the Child timeline (the idea of the Child / Adult branch makes sense btw, the ending of OoT shows two time periods). Unfortunately, TP went into development hell, leading to changing the director and rewriting the plot multiple times, and Miyamoto asked to simplify the story of FSA. In the end, none of the two games kept the connection to ALTTP, though you can still see the original intention here and there, especially in FSA (which is very close to the Imprisoning War). In the meanwhile, Capcom released MC, another game without any connection to the "main" plot.
So, by the end of 2007, we basically had three story arcs that made lots of sense taken in a vacuum, but were very hard to fit together.
1. OoT - ALTTP - OoA/S - LA - Zelda1 - AoL
2. OoT - WW (and PH and ST, released some years later)
..........\ - MM - TP
3. MC - FS - FSA
The Downfall Timeline branch doesn't make sense and it is contrived, I agree. And the FS games don't really fit. But the Historia timeline was their "Plan B" after FSA failed to reconcile everything. C'est la vie. At that point, OoT had three sequels (ALTTP, WW, and TP) but only two endings, and it wasn't possible anymore to use another game as ALTTP prequel. So they created the Downfall branch as a desperate move.
By the way, I don't think it's that
hard to reconcile BotW/TotK with the known timeline. They are not straightforward sequels a la Spirit Tracks, but it's not harder than fitting together the three story arcs I mentioned before. We now have a fourth story arc. Basically, we're back to the pre-Historia territory, for better or worse.
I too was surprised at the lack or sheikah tech or even the mentions to prior events in BotW, there is still a busted up guardian on top of Purah's room in Hateno and if you look inside you can see drawings of some of the Divine Beasts, so it's not totally forgotten. I get not taking the timeline seriously, but to not even mention events or things that seemed or were made to be super important in BotW (Divine Beasts/Sheikah Slate) and act like they didn't exist in a sequel is a little sad to me.
Regarding Purah I think she performed another, more refined, experiment to get her back to an older yet still youthful age.
There are the tombstones Zelda dedicated to the victims of the Calamity, and Divine beasts (and BotW plot in general) are mentioned by the teacher at Hateno school. They probably wanted not to alienate the audience who didn't play BotW.