Family Affair: Royals and Their Celebrity Relatives
by Annie Tucker Morgan
I’ve never been one of those lucky people who see celebrities all the time in real life. I could be smack-dab in the middle of Hollywood and I still wouldn’t have a chance encounter with Robert Pattinson, Johnny Depp, or even the ubiquitous Lindsay Lohan (though I’m actually grateful in the last case). I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, considering that no one in my family has ever been famous—we just don’t have that elusive “star quality,” I guess. By the same token, it figures that many of the biggest names in film, music, politics, and business in the United States share bloodlines with European monarchs. American idols may not wear crowns and sit on thrones, but we certainly treat them as if they do. The following is only a small sampling of the many prominent Americans who go way back with royalty.
A Fistful of Scepters
Clint Eastwood has been starring in and directing movies for even longer than his distant relative King Henry I of England reigned. Henry may have been a king of the Western Hemisphere, but Dirty Harry cornered the market on the Western.
Tilda Swinton was disturbingly believable when she played the tyrannical White Witch in the film adaptation of the C. S. Lewis novel, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, perhaps as a result of her genetic connection to King Robert I of Scotland, better known as Robert the Bruce, who ruled his people with a similarly iron fist.
Breakfast at the Castle?
Audrey Hepburn’s turn as a restless princess in the 1953 film Roman Holiday wasn’t the only instance in which she displayed poise, grace, and regal bearing; these qualities were so pronounced in the actress that they must have come from a royal bloodline. Indeed, Hepburn was descended from King Edward III of England.
A Royal Runs Through It
Even before Brad Pitt became one-half of the celebrity tour de force known as Brangelina, his legions of fans considered him the epitome of Hollywood royalty. In fact, he comes from real royalty as well: King Henry II of England. And if Pitt keeps on having kids, he may end up with an even larger dynasty than his ancestor’s.
Don’t You Step on My Blue Suede Crown
Apparently, it’s no coincidence that Elvis Presley was known as “The King”—he’s descended from King Henry I and William the Conqueror (King William I), both of England. Wonder if those guys could gyrate their hips like “Elvis the Pelvis” could.
My Reign Will Go On
She provided a fittingly epic love song for the Titanic soundtrack, appeared onstage five nights a week in a three-year blockbuster concert series in Las Vegas, and has more money than some monarchs. Even her first name rhymes with “the queen.” She’s Céline Dion, and she’s related to Philippe II, king of France.
The Castle Gates
Microsoft founder and CEO Bill Gates is no stranger to having throngs of people hanging on his every move. Leadership must be in his genes—after all, he’s descended from King Henry I of England.
Like a Royal
Guy Ritchie may have been merely carrying on a family tradition when he married Madonna, who’s a queen not only in her own mind but also in the minds of the millions of people all over the world who revere her—the renowned screenwriter and film director is distantly related to the former British king Edward I. Though Ritchie and Madge divorced in 2008 after almost eight years of marriage, his bloodline remained intact.
Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King … All of these Disney movies involve members of one royal family or another. As it turns out, these characters have something in common with Ol’ Walt himself—he’s descended from King Edward I (which also makes him Ritchie’s cousin). Up next: an animated version of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels?
The Royal Cherry Tree
Despite America’s recent liberation from British rule, the very first U.S. president, George Washington, was tied by blood to King Edward III of England. Though he preferred his trademark white wig to a jeweled crown, Washington may have inherited some of his leadership skills from his ancestor.
Is That a Royal Hiding in the Bushes?
Though they’d have you believe they’re 100 percent Texan, George H. W. Bush and his son George W. Bush are from British royal stock: King Edward I. Maybe that explains the younger Bush’s pronunciation of the word “terra.”
You Betcha I’m Royalty
In October 2008, the UK Telegraph announced that Sarah Palin was a tenth cousin of the late Princess Diana. Both women are descendents of a Brit named John Strong and his wife, Abigail Ford, who emigrated to the United States in the early seventeenth century. Palin’s distinguished lineage didn’t stop legendary sex symbol Brigitte Bardot from calling her a “pit bull with lipstick,” though.
Though he doesn’t share a political affiliation with his predecessor Dubya, Barack Obama is also a descendant of King Edward I. If the mass hysteria surrounding his election to the presidency in 2008 is any indication, Obama is literally a born leader.
Line of Succession
It may seem logical that celebrities have royal blood running through their veins, but it turns out that most average Joes do, too. According to a 2006 Associated Press article, virtually every American can trace his or her lineage back to one medieval monarch or another by virtue of the simple fact that, as the article points out, “the longer ago somebody lived, the more descendants that person is likely to have today.” Which, of course, begs the question “Dude, where’s my castle?”
Photo: Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday”