Who do you think You Are? viewers were stunned to discover that comedian Josh Widdicombe is a distant descendant of Henry VIII — but the truth is, historical ties to royalty are more common than you might think.
The comedian, 38, found out last night that he is an ancestor of the royal Tudor, famous for his six wives, in the episode of the BBC genealogy show, and was speechless at every twist and turn.
“To say it has exceeded my expectations is the understatement of a lifetime,” he said. “I was just expecting a few farmers. It’s really blue blood, isn’t it?’
The disbelief on Josh’s face as each new reveal was revealed delighted viewers, who called it the “best ever” episode of the long-running show. It has echoes of Danny Dyer’s popular episode in which he also discovered a link to royalty.
#WhoDoYouThinkYouAre: spectacular start of new series with @joshwiddicombe; no spoilers but would have loved to have been in office when investigators found out what they have,” one viewer tweeted.
Another wrote: ‘The @joshwiddicombe #WhoDoYouThinkYouAre is one of the best there’s ever been. Jaw fall.’
But in reality, studies have shown that if you’re European — or even descended from Europeans — it’s very likely that you’re related to royalty in some way, meaning millions of people have their own connections to the kings and queens of yesteryear. could discover.
Bewildered: who do you think you are? viewers were amazed to find that comedian Josh Widdicombe is a distant descendant of Henry VIII. Pictured, the comedian learns of his connection to the Boleyn family. The reality is that almost everyone is related to royalty
Far Away: Josh’s connection to Henry VIII (left) is through 13x great-grandmother Lady Catherine Knollys. There is some evidence that Lady Catherine is the love child of Henry’s relationship with Mary Boleyn (right), the sister of his second wife, Anne
Astonishing: The disbelief on Josh’s face as each new reveal was revealed delighted viewers, calling it the “best ever” episode of the long-running show. It has echoes of Danny Dyer’s hit episode where he also discovered a link to royalties
Josh’s journey began with a family connection to the powerful banking dynasty the Barings, even though he learned that his 5x great-grandfather, Charles, had been cut from the business.
Through this relative, Josh learned that his ten-time great-grandfather was Henry Rich (1590-1649), the first Earl of Holland and a trusted advisor to King Charles I.
Henry was a member of the powerful Privy Council, as well as “the groom of the stool,” whose responsibility it was to escort the royal family to the toilet.
Professor Tracy Borman explained that the role was one of the most sought after at court, saying, “At that time it was all about getting ahead, but also being with the king… It has a huge influence.”
His life came to an end when he was eventually executed for high treason by order of Parliamentarian Oliver Cromwell after the English Civil War.
Widdicombe is then led to St Nicholas Church, outside Henley-on-Thames, in Oxfordshire, where he learns that Rich was the great-grandson of Lady Catherine Knollys and her husband, Sir Francis Knollys, treasurer of the household of Queen Elizabeth I.
Lady Catherine was principal of Elizabeth I’s bedroom, and as proof of their bond, the monarch paid for her funeral. Lady Catherine was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Josh’s connection to the infamous royal is through 13x great-grandmother Lady Catherine Knollys – as evidence suggests she is the love child of Henry’s relationship with Anne Boleyn’s sister Mary
Next game Josh’s 12x great-grandmother, Lettice Knollys, the daughter of Francis and Catherine, a Tudor lady who looked like a younger, prettier Elizabeth I.
Josh studied the photo, but couldn’t guess its meaning. Lettice turned out to be the monarch’s nephew. Much to the chagrin of the Virgin Queen, she even married Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester – once tipped to marry Queen Elizabeth herself.
When that was explained, Josh was reeling, “My 12-time great-grandmother was in a love triangle with Elizabeth I?”
While visiting Lady Catherine’s grave in Westminster Abbey, Josh discovered that she was the daughter of Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne, Henry VIII’s second wife. Indeed, some historians believe that Lady Catherine was the product of Mary’s affair with the king.
“So Catherine was Queen Elizabeth I’s niece,” he said with a laugh. The revelation left Josh speechless.
Josh learned that his 10x great-grandfather was Henry Rich (1590-1649), the first Earl of Holland and a trusted advisor to King Charles I. Pictured, Rich’s name on a Privy Council list
Rich, pictured, was also ‘the groom of the stool’, whose responsibility it was to escort the royal family to the toilet
Widdicombe was taken to St Nicholas Church, outside Henley-on-Thames, in Oxfordshire, where he learns that Rich was the great-grandson of Lady Catherine Knollys and her husband, Sir Francis Knollys, Treasurer of the Household of Queen Elizabeth I (photo, their grave)
Lady Catherine, who lived from 1524-1569, is believed to have been depicted in this 1562 portrait by Steven van der Meulen. It is suggested that she was the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII
On a visit to Hever Castle – the family seat of the Boleyns – Widdicombe was left open-mouthed when he learned his line stretched back to 13th-century King Philippe of France. . . his 24 times great grandfather. “Good blue blood,” Josh whistled.
Studies have shown how millions are related to royalties. In 1999, Joseph Chang — a Yale statistician — showed that if you look back at least 32 generations or 900 years, you’ll find that everyone alive today will have a common ancestor.
Hundreds of studies conducted in Europe suggest that the ancestor was probably someone who lived just 600 years ago.
Meanwhile, the fact that you don’t have to be royal to have royal blood makes one even more likely to be descended from royalty.
For example, like Prince William and Kate Middleton, it’s not uncommon to see a royal from around the world tie the knot with someone of lower status, resulting in an increase in the number of those with royal claim. .
Overseas: He is not only related to the English upper class, he also discovered that his 24x great-grandfather is the French King Phillip III (pictured)
As reported by The Guardian, Kirill Chashchin, a Russian genealogy researcher, says that “almost royals” – illegitimate children and those (like Princess Diana) who show royal connections but no clear lineage – have “clouded the waters.”
Gregory Clarke, an economics professor at UC Davis, goes on to suggest that if your ancestors came from a region where royals and commoners intermarried, it increases your chances of descending from royalty.
He said, “The noble classes have always been fairly open to taking in wealthy commoners… So much of modern English will be akin to someone in the past who was part of the nobility.”
So it’s not surprising that a slew of celebrities have claimed to be related to a distant relationship – including Tom Hanks.
The Hollywood actor is related to the British royal family through his father’s side of the family. Hanks is a descendant of King John of England, who reigned from 1199 to 1216 – and is also a 24th cousin of the current monarch of England, Queen Elizabeth II.
Elsewhere, Hugh Grant is a descendant of Henry VII through his mother’s family, and he also has King James IV of Scotland as an ancestor.
And according to Nick Barratt of the BBC, Who Do You Think You Are? Johnny Depp is Queen Elizabeth II’s 20th cousin and shares a great-grandfather with her dating back 19 generations.
Meanwhile, Ellen DeGeneres is Kate Middleton’s 15th cousin and is related to the royal family as a direct descendant of Edward III of England. She is also the 19th cousin, twice removed, of Queen Elizabeth II.
One of the most popular episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? with Danny Dyer, who in 2015 discovered he was a distant relative of Edward III and William the Conqueror.