Are you descended from royalty? Bridgerton* fans will have noted that Queen Charlotte who features in the show had a lot of children, one of whom was William IV, who inherited the throne after his brother George IV and before Queen Victoria.

William IV did not have any legitimate children, but he had a mistress Dorothea Jordan who gave birth to a daughter Lady Elizabeth FitzClarence (fitz in a name denotes the child of a king), whose descendent, Enid Agnes Maud Levita was the paternal grandmother of one David Cameron, Conservative MP and former British prime minister.

Geneticists and genealogists have calculated that the likelihood of royal descent increases the further back you go. In other words, the longer a monarch has been dead, the higher the chances of unprovable descendants. They also note the number of people who claim royal descent tends to be higher than the number who can actually prove it(!).

Royals marrying commoners

In Europe, there’s a longstanding tradition of royalty marrying only royalty and those from their own class. All present European monarchs are descendants of the 11th century William the Conqueror, for example. From the 16th century, the strictures around royal marriages tightened, meaning it was less likely for royals to marry commoners, which is why descent from royalty is more likely the further back you go.

A monarch’s illegitimate children are the most likely source of royal ancestry from the post 16 century monarchs, as David Cameron’s case proves. Other famous people known to have descended from the illicit relationships of kings and princes (as you might expect in patriarchal societies queens and princesses were far less likely to have physical relationships outside of marriage) include the actor Danny Dyer, who explored the connection in Who Do You Think You Are when he found out his descendant was King Edward III.

Finders International’s Family Tree Verification Service is THE service for private clients needing independent and accurate research on family trees ahead of estate distribution. Contact us for further help and advice.

Another famous actor with royalty in his blood is Benedict Cumberbatch, who can trace his line back to Richard II. He is also related to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which is fitting seeing as he is well known for playing Conan Doyle’s most famous creation, Sherlock Holmes.

* Bridgerton, quite rightly, chose a colour-blind cast for the series. Interestingly enough, claims surfaced in the mid-20th century that Queen Charlotte had African ancestry/ethnicity. You can read about the claims here.