Thousands of people descend from royalty and don’t know it

Who has not ever fantasized about being descended from a monarch and having a life full of luxuries? Well, that’s what English presenter and comedian Josh Widdicombe has discovered. The comedian has turned out to be a descendant of Edward I, monarch of England between 1272 and 1307, the year in which he died. 700 years later, his genes are still circulating in the British countryside.

However, this is not the only case that has come to light recently. Danny Dyer, the English actor, attended the BBC television program ‘Who do you think you are?’ (‘Who do you think you are?’) and they found that it descends from Edward III. Another actor, Alexander Armstrong, has the blood of William the Conqueror, and broadcaster Matthew Pinsent is ‘relative’ to Widdicombe, as he is also a relative of Edward I.

castle on mountain near body of water

These recent discoveries are no coincidence. It’s not that real genes are building an aristocracy of celebrities. According to genealogy experts, if the family tree of the whole world were studied, a large number of people would discover that their ancestors belonged to royalty.

Is it demonstrable?

Graham Holton, professor of genealogy at the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow), says that “it is not so strange” to find these situations. In fact, he claims to be also a descendant of King Edward I, whose offspring seem to extend endlessly. But for the academic, the problem is that few people will be able to prove that this blood connection is real, since providing evidence is very complicated.

“Probably, many people who are can not prove the relationship with documentary evidence,” he says. Holton estimates that today, there are about two million people through whose veins Edward I’s blood runs. Mind you, the vast majority of people don’t know (and probably never will), as the records of a large percentage of families don’t go back that far in time.

gold and blue crown

Unexpected genetic surprises

Turi King, professor of genetics at the University of Leicester, has focused her research on Richard III, who reigned in England two centuries after Edward I, and says there are “literally millions” of people who descend directly from this monarch. The academic explains that there are a lot of family trees that overlap when you go back so many generations. “I always say we’re all related, it’s a matter of degree,” he says.

But to know if we descend from royalty, “we depend on the survival of the records,” says Else Churchill, who belongs to the Society of Genealogists in London. “We all have the same number of ancestors, but we don’t always know their names,” he adds. Similarly, many people have “a lineage that goes back directly to a group of peasants“.

For this academic, studying her own DNA changed her life, but not to discover that she descended from a king. “Thanks to this I discovered that my father is not my father. For 40 years I have been investigating the Churchills. It was surprising, I had no idea,” he explains. “I know people who have been shocked to discover something like this. Personally, it only made me think about identity,” he confesses.

Churchill’s parents are no longer alive, but that discovery did not change her view of them, nor did it make her lose her passion for the ‘detective’ work of genealogy and genetics. “The family is not necessarily genes or ancestry,” he concludes. DNA can bring many surprises, but it can never determine what each person considers to be their family.

woman holding silver-colored crown

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