Skip to main content
A photograph of old photographs and notes

Famous people with unbelievable ancestors

Image Credit:

For all those up in arms about the thought of an American joining the Royal Family, there’s good news: Meghan Markle’s connection with Britain’s nobility goes further than just her current relationship (if only slightly tenuously). Genealogists have discovered that the actress is related to Winston Churchill, albeit distantly. Shakespeare’s thrown in too, for good measure.

The research, conducted by genealogy website, found that Churchill and Markle are sixth cousins five times removed through Zachariah Howe who came from a family of British settlers that originated from Essex.

Although it turns out that this isn’t even that remarkable; Markle isn’t the only celebrity that shares a few strange links to notable historical figures.

Another actress that can claim a connection to a former prime minister is Helena Bonham Carter. She is the great granddaughter of H. H. Asquith, which effectively tramples over Markle’s flimsy claim to prime ministers past. Bonham Carter can also count Ian Fleming as family: the two are related by marriage.

Game of Thrones’ Kit Harrington is another celebrity descended from nobility. Anyone that’s seen the BBC’s drama Gunpowder will have noticed Harrington playing Richard Catesby: the leader of the group of Catholics who planned the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 (the fact that it is Guy Fawkes, one of the group’s members, that is remembered rankles with Harrington). What you might not know is that he was inspired to take the role as the two are distantly related.

Like 17 million other people in the United Kingdom, Benedict Cumberbatch is distantly related to Richard III, a relationship that won him the honour of reading a poem at the king’s reburial. Cumberbatch is a 16th cousin to the monarch, which makes his family ties a bit closer than the other 17 million’s.

It turns out, England’s kings have ultimately spawned a number of our current celebrities. Henry I is indirectly responsible for the Baldwin clan, while Michael Douglas, Jake Gyllenhall, Hilary Duff and Ellen DeGeneres are all descendants of King Edward III. A bit more impressively than that, though, is the fact that this makes Duff 18th cousins with Queen Elizabeth.

This isn’t Ellen Degeneres’ only link to the Royal Family, either. She’s also 15th cousins with Kate Middleton, as the two are both descendants of Sir Thomas Fairfax. No invitation to the royal wedding for her, though.

Queen Elizabeth is also distantly related to Tom Hanks. The two are 24th cousins, as Hanks is a descendant of King John of England. That’s not the full extent of Hanks notable genealogy either; he can also claim Abraham Lincoln as an ancestor.

Nor are those the only royal descendants. Angelina Jolie and Zooey Deschanel are two more celebrities that can count royals amongst their ancestors—French royalty at that. Deschanel shares a family tree with Louis IV and Jolie is a descendant of Philip II.

But when it comes to impressive family trees, Ozzy Osbourne claims the crown. Not only have researchers discovered the singer is a descendant of a Neanderthal man, but they have also drawn connections with the Romans, the famous outlaw Jesse James and Russia’s last Tsar, Nicholas II. Which might go some way to explaining Ozzy