As the old saying goes, maybe the apple really doesn’t fall that far from the tree. Though we’re used to seeing celebs on screen and in the news, what most of us never realize is that a lot of them descend from even more famous historical ancestors. Read on for a surprising list of current-day celebrities with awe-inspiring family trees – How many of them did you already know trace back to some of history’s most influential figures?
It’s undeniable that Queen Bey is music royalty, but did you know that she also has familial ties to one of the most famous queens in the world? That’s right, Beyhive, this music queen shares noble blood with Queen Elizabeth II. The two are 25th cousins (once removed) thanks to their shared ancestor, Henry II.
Now that we know where her royalty stems from, let’s talk about where she gets her musical talent. It turns out that Beyoncé is also distantly related to 19th century Austrian composer and conductor, Gustav Mahler. While not many people can say they share Mahler’s Austrian blood, there is actually another celebrity on this list who is lucky enough to call Queen Elizabeth II an ancestor. Any guesses as to who it might be?
Actress, Zooey Deschanel was both proud and emotionally moved to find out who one of her distant relatives was. After traveling to Pennsylvania as part of the genealogy television show, Who Do You Think You Are?, Deschanel discovered that her fourth great-grandmother was Sarah Henderson Pownall.
Pownall was an abolitionist and revolutionary figure in the Underground Railroad that preceded the Civil War. Her farm was allegedly a stop along the Underground Railroad and it was there that she hid fugitives and helped them safely reach Canada. Self-proclaimed feminsit, Deschanel was admittedly very inspired to hear she was related to such a powerful woman.
Imagine having a real Princess Diaries moment where you suddenly discover you’re part of a royal family. Come on, we can’t be the only ones to ever have envisioned living a lavish life in an ancient castle wearing fancy ball gowns. Well, for Dakota Fanning, this isn’t as big of a stretch as it is for the rest of us.
Fanning’s royal lineage traces back to 14th century English ruler, King Edward III on her mother’s side. Ok, so she might be his 22nd great-granddaughter (which we know is pretty distant) but this makes her distant cousins with Kate Middleton who also happens to be the King’s descendant. These two aren’t the only celebrities on this list who share him as a historical ancestor. More on that to come later.
While she is most recognized for her role as Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City, actress Sarah Jessica Parker actually seems to have more in common with the diabolical witch she played on Hocus Pocus. How, you might ask?
Well, it seems Parker’s family traces all the way back to the time of the Salem Witch Trials. In fact, her tenth great-grandmother, Esther Elwell was charged for witchcraft in 1692 and her arrest was apparently the last of its sort to be formally recorded during the trials. No wonder Parker was able to command her role as a witch so seamlessly.
*Cue Lizzie McGuire’s dramatic entrance from the back of Paolo’s vespa on the cobblestone streets of Rome, Italy.* Though McGuire’s counterpart, Hilary Duff isn’t related to Italian royalty, she does have some other noble ties in her family. The actress of the clumsy, silly blonde who’s on a mission to find her place in the world in The Lizzie McGuire Movie is actually one of the most royal celebrities out there!
This is because of her close familial ties to not just one monarch, but to a few. Not only is Duff the 18th cousin of King Edward II, she’s also the 18th cousin of Queen Elizabeth II. Fancy shmancy, huh? If we’re excited about this news, we can only image how Lizzie McGuire must feel.
Though we’re familiar with seeing the same few faces of the British royal family in the media, there are actually a lot more celebrities who are related to European royalty than commonly known. For example, award-winning actress, Angelina Jolie descends from French royalty thanks to her mother, Marcheline Bertrand. This gives more umph behind her rumored role as Cleopatra, doesn’t it?
Her lineage traces back to Philip II: the 12th century King of France that was the son of famous Louis VII. This connection also means Jolie is related to French princess and countess, Marie of France. And because it seems royalty is all interconnected, Jolie is also apparently the 26th cousin of Queen Elizabeth II. We always thought the actress was a Queen in her own right, but we never knew she actually had royal blood!
Similar to his ex, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt also has some noble lineage. His royal roots trace all the way back to his 12th century historical ancestor, King Henry II who ruled over England for five years. This also makes Pitt the Queen of England’s 25th cousin.
And just to make an interesting lineage even more interesting, King Henry II was apparently the husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was Louis VII’s wife. Angelina Jolie is a descendent of Louis VII. Just let that sink in. Sure gives a funny twist on the lives of the Mr. & Mrs. Smith couple, now doesn’t it?
We have good news for all those normal folk out there like us: just because you didn’t grow up in a huge, fancy castle doesn’t mean you aren’t royalty! Comedian and talk show host, Ellen Degeneres is but one example of a celebrity with royal ancestors that helped us arrive at this very important realization. Thank us later for enlightening you on this matter.
Genealogists apparently claim that Ellen is the 19th cousin twice removed of King Edward III. But that’s not the only regal blood she has in her veins. Ellen also happens to be the 15th cousin of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton through their connection to Sir Thomas Fairfax. Why didn’t this tie secure her an invitation to the royal wedding? We’re wondering the same thing.
If you want any insight into the ancestry of Academy Award-winning actress, Tilda Swinton, turn on Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. The Hollywood icon is related to Scottish King, Robert the Bruce, who battled Edward I (aka ‘Longshanks’) for control over Scotland back in the 1300s.
As a matter of fact, Swinton is a descendent of the King from both her mother and father’s side of the tree. Her parents both have ties to Robert the Bruce’s grandson, Robert II, which makes the actress 19 generations removed from the King himself. Hey Gibson, why don’t you make a sequel with Swinton as her historic ancestor?
It looks like the Twilight actor might actually have more in common with his vampiric alter ego, Edward Cullen than originally expected. Apparently, Robert Pattinson is distantly related to the original inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula: a man by the name of Vlad the Impaler, also known as Vlad III Dracula.
How, you might ask? Well, Pattinson’s ancestors from England actually intermarried with Vlad the Impaler’s descendants. To make a strange relation even stranger, this means he’s a double vampire. Do you think the producers of the film knew this about Pattinson’s ancestry before casting him? Or maybe he landed the role thanks to his pale skin… seriously, the dude is a double vampire, so it’s no wonder!
It turns out infamous Black Sabbath lead singer, Ozzy Osbourne’s family tree gives some insight into his outlandish behavior. For example, he is apparently related to Jesse James – not the country singer, but the notorious western outlaw that robbed banks, trains, and stagecoaches in the Midwest during the American Civil War. Wow.
Still noteworthy but not as well-known as the historical ancestor above is Osbourne’s ties to the Neanderthals. That’s right – a genealogy test apparently proves that the “Prince of Darkness” and legendary bat-head biter has some Neanderthal in him. And suddenly everything makes sense in the world.
While most of us can probably agree that marrying someone we’re related to is cringe worthy at best, it’s not so foreign for England’s royal family. In fact, husband and wife, Kate Middleton and Prince William are said to be kin! And we’re not just talking about through marriage.
The married couple are said to be 14th cousins once removed on the Prince’s mother’s side and 15th cousins through his father’s side. But Middleton’s historical ancestry doesn’t stop there. She is also said to be the 13th cousin twice removed of General George Patton, a WWII commander, and the eighth cousin of George Washington, seven times removed. Talk about a strong lineage!
She’s beauty and she’s grace, she’s miss… Brooke Shields. This famous model and actress is actually related to a few people of noble blood, albeit distantly. On American genealogy television show, Who Do You Think You Are?, Shields uncovers her connection to an emperor, a saint, a pope, a king, and an even bigger king. That’s impressive!
Her royal ties are said to stem from her father, who came from old European money. Most noteworthy is her tie to King Henry IV of France, who was the first French monarch from the House of Bourbon between 1589-1610. We knew she always had a regal air to her!
It seems Prince Harry is not the only prestigious Brit that Meghan Markle has ties to. Ahead of her wedding, genealogists apparently wanted to help the Suits star uncover any English roots she had, if any. What they found was that she is a distant relative of two pretty influential and famous Brits: both Winston Churchill and William Shakespeare.
While Markle is the sixth cousin twice removed of British prime minister, Churchill, she is Shakespeare’s fifth cousin 13 times removed. It looks like the Duchess of Sussex had a connection to powerful English figures before even marrying her Prince. Nice!
Despite growing up as an ‘ordinary’ girl from the Midwest, Cindy Crawford has some pretty extraordinary ancestors. The American model and actress apparently decided to explore her roots further following her child’s family history project, and she was pleased with what she discovered.
Crawford’s grandmother, Ramona Hemingway, happens to be the 8th cousin of writer, Ernest Hemingway, which makes Crawford his 8th cousin twice removed. Her lucky pedigree doesn’t stop there, though. Crawford is also said to be the 41st great-granddaughter of Roman Emperor Charlemagne. In response to her discovery, Crawford said, “To find out I am directly descended from European royalty is incredible. Not too bad for a simple farm girl from Midwest potato-eating folk.” Oh please girl, you’ve always been more than a potato-consuming Midwesterner to us!
When the name Johnny Depp comes to mind, we can almost guarantee you don’t think of someone regal, majestic, and royal. Chances are, if you are anything like us, your mind probably wanders to a rugged, bad-boy persona who said ‘arr!’ one too many times in a past life.
Well, it turns out a regal and royal Depp is not so far fetched after all. That’s right – Depp is a descendant of royal blood, having shared a great-grandfather with her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. This makes the Pirates of the Caribbean star the 20th cousin of the Queen. Who knew?
Can we all agree that Paris Hilton acts like a princess? Well, maybe it has something to do with the fact that she has some royal blood runnin’ through her veins. As an apparent descendant of King Henry II of England from her father’s side, Paris is technically the 20th cousin of Queen Elizabeth II.
This also means she is distantly related to the likes of past US Presidents: Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Warren Harding. And that’s not all. Her ties to King Henry II also connects her to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bette Davis, and Brad Pitt. Now that’s hot.
American actor, Armie Hammer is recognized by many for his portrayal of freedom fighter, John Reid in the 2013 action movie, Lone Ranger. But it turns out he may not actually have to try so hard to embody someone with a passion to advocate for justice, as this characteristic apparently runs in his blood.
According to ancestry.com, Hammer is a direct descendant of a fierce peace advocate from both the French and Indian War and the Seven Years’ War: Cherokee Chief Kanagatucko. In fact, the Chief is one of the first documented Cherokee leaders in history! Do you think the producers of Lone Ranger knew this before casting Hammer for the role? It’s just all too fitting!
Ugly Betty and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants star, America Ferrera has more to her name than just being a successful Hollywood actress. She is also a women’s and immigrants’ rights activist and has spent much of her career standing up for the oppressed.
It seems her desire to break down unjust barriers runs in her bloodline. In fact, Ferrera’s great-grandfather, General Gregorio Ferrera, was an important revolutionary figure in Honduras in the 1920s. As an admired rebel leader, he fought to protect the rights of those in opposition to the country’s corrupt government. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, now does it?
Game of Thrones star, Kit Harington (aka Jon Snow) has a noble ancestor… and we’re not talking about the King of the North. Much like his fictional television character, Harington’s ancestry is actually full of noteworthy people. For starters, the actor’s great-great-great something grandfather is John Harington, the 1596 inventor of the toilet flush. Talk about a game-changing invention to introduce to the world!
What’s more? The actor has royal roots on his father’s side, as his great-grandfather, Sir Richard Harington, was High Sheriff and 12th Baronet of Herefordshire, and his great-uncle, Kenneth Harington was married to Cecilia Bowes-Lyon, aka the Queen’s cousin. We suppose influence and fame just runs in the fam.
Acclaimed actor, George Clooney and former US President, Abraham Lincoln happen to share more than just a penchant for nice suits and black bow ties. Any guesses as to what that might be? Here is a hint: they share a branch on their family trees.
Their connection is all thanks to a woman named Lucy Hanks, who was Lincoln’s grandmother from his mother’s side. This makes Clooney the national hero’s half first cousin five times removed. We know this is a pretty distant relation that the two share… but still, George Clooney for President 2020? Who else is with us?
Imagine you discovered your relative was a Revolutionary War patriot. Knowing your ancestor had in some way contributed to the creation of a new nation would probably set off fireworks of patriotism in your head. Well, that’s what happened with The Terminator actor, Bill Paxton (at least we think so).
Paxton is said to be the 4th great-grandson of Benjamin Sharp, an important Revolutionary War figure. After beginning his military service in 1775, he fought at the 1780 Battle of Kings Mountain. This battle, which took place between Loyalist and Patriot militias in South Carolina, was said to be a turning point of the war. Woah!
Whoever guessed that Celine Dion was the other famous singer related to Camilla (the Duchess of Cornwall), you are correct! Similar to fellow songstress Madonna, Dion is the ninth cousin once removed of the royal baroness. So what does this mean about the relationship between the two singers?
This means that Celine Dion and Madonna are distant cousins. As a matter of fact, they are 10th cousins twice removed from one of Quebec’s first settlers, Jean Guyon, and 10th cousins once removed through New France immigrant, Zacharie Cloutier. Do you think these historical ancestors were also famous singers during their time?
A woman as brilliant and talented as Meryl Streep must have some pretty remarkable roots. Considered by many to be one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood, Streep has a number of historical ancestors. On her mother’s side, she has deep roots in both Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
These roots are deep enough to tie the Academy Award-winning actress to none other than William Penn: the 17th century proponent of religious freedom and democracy and the founder of the English North American colony, Pennsylvania. Aside from Penn, Streep’s eighth great-grandfather was one of the original Europeans to settle in Rhode Island. With such revolutionary people in her family, it’s no wonder Streep is able to command her roles so well!
For a woman as talented as Madonna, it is not easy to know where to accredit her brilliance. But maybe her royal lineage is a step in the right direction. The “Like a Virgin” singer is the ninth cousin once removed of Camilla Parker, the Duchess of Cornwall – also known as Prince Charles’ second wife.
Her connection to the Duchess stems from a common ancestor that the two of them both share: French carpenter, Zacharie Cloutier. And actually, this historical ancestor connects the pop star to another famous singer. Any guesses as to who that might be? We are all ears.
Sources: Parade, Bustle, Buzzfeed, Marie Claire