Los Angeles, CA; Thursday, August 23, 2012: Hilary Duff, the actress and singer best known as Disney’s Lizzie McGuire, is America’s “most royal” celebrity, according to a new study which names her the U.S. star most closely related to Queen Elizabeth II.
Duff heads a top 20 of “American Entertainment Royalty”, compiled by the genealogy website, findmypast.com.
As the Queen’s 18th cousin, Duff beats Brooke Shields, the actress, model and Her Majesty’s 18th cousin once removed into second place, followed in third by Maggie and Jake Gyllenhall, the actor siblings and 19th cousins to the Queen.
The findmypast.com ranking of the Queen’s closest relations among U.S. stars also includes Paris Hilton, Beyoncé, Angelina Jolie and Ellen de Generes.
Entertainment Royalty: The Queen’s 10 Closest Celeb Relatives
“These are all folks the Queen should ask to her next family reunion”, says Josh Taylor, the genealogist who analyzed the data for findmypast.com. “They are all related to her, albeit distantly, in documented ways. But we thought it would be fun to work out who actually had the closest kinship to the Queen.”
This is the latest piece of exciting news for Hilary Duff, who has recently given birth to her first child and also revealed plans for a new TV series, developed specially for her.
She and the Queen can both trace their ancestry back to England’s King Edward III (died 1377). The Gyllenhalls, actor Michael Douglas and TV’s Ellen Degeneres (who is also separately related to Kate Middleton) can all do the same but more indirectly.
In fact, Duff is also a descendant of Catherine Cary – a woman thought by some historians to be the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII. The latter can’t be proved but if true, it would make Duff not 18th but 15th cousin to the Queen.
“Millions of Americans, of course, are descended from royalty”, says Taylor. Indeed, the historian Ian Mortimer calculates that most modern Brits descend from Edward III, which in turn means that many Americans of English descent also share a distant kinship with him.
“The truth is that you too could well have royal blood”, says Taylor. “In fact, we’ve just produced a new findmypast.com Facebook app to help you work out the odds that you do.” It’s called “Are You Related to the Queen?” You can find it on findmypast.com’s Facebook page. “Why not try it out. It’s fun. And you might be surprised by what you learn.”
“Americans who have ancestry from colonial New England, particularly Massachusetts and Connecticut are more likely to descend from royalty”, says Taylor. Many who have ancestors from Virginia and other Southern colonies can also often find themselves to be descended from royalty.
These descents are easily determined by links to what genealogists call “gateway ancestors” – known individuals with a long-proven descent from royalty. “So, when someone finds they’re descended from one of these gateway ancestors they know they have a proven connection to royalty”, says Taylor.
Hilary Duff’s gateway ancestor is Alexander Spotswood (1676-1740), an officer in the British Army, a noted Lieutenant Governor of Virginia and 10th great-grandson of Edward III.
Celebrities often share gateway ancestors, says Taylor. So, Uma Thurman (who also shares ancestry with President Obama) and Glenn Close both claim their royal ancestry through Colonel Thomas Ligon (Lygon) of Virginia. The Ligon family descends from Thomas of Brotherton, Earl of Norfolk who was the son of England’s King Edward I (died 1307).
Brooke Shields, Angelina Jolie and Beyoncé are the only three celebrities in the findmypast.com rankings who don’t trace their link to the Queen through one of these “gateway ancestors”. They all do so via French royalty before English.
Shields is a descendant of King Henry IV of France (died 1610). Her common ancestor with the Queen is John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster and son of England’s Edward III. Shields ancestor is Gaunt’s French wife, Blanche.
Beyoncé is (likely) the Queen’s 25th cousin, once removed, via her French roots. Beyoncé’s mother can trace her ancestry to Louisiana, Acadia, then back to France and a link to early French kings. Beyoncé shares a common ancestor with the Queen in England’s King Henry II (died 1169) and his French wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Henry II was the current Queen’s 24th great-grandfather, while his wife Eleanor was an ancestor of France’s King Louis IX.
Angelina Jolie is descended from King Philip II of France (died 1199) via her mother, the actress Marcheline Bertrand. Jolie and the Queen share an ancestor in Philip II, who was himself an ancestor of England’s King Edward II (died 1327). Jolie descends from his daughter Marie, while the Queen descends from his son, Louis XIII.
By the findmypast.com definition, Jolie is fractionally “less royal” than her husband, Brad Pitt. She is a mere 26th cousin to the Queen, while Pitt is 25th cousin, once removed.
American Entertainment Royalty: The Queen’s 20 Closest Relatives
3.= Maggie Gyllenhall: 19th cousin. Shared ancestor: Edward III.
3.= Jake Gyllenhall: 19th cousin. Shared ancestor: Edward III.
5. Michael Douglas: 19th cousin, once removed. Shared ancestor: Edward III.
* The monarchs mentioned above are English, unless stated otherwise.
• Sources: Based on different research by multiple genealogists, including Gary Boyd Roberts, Leo van der Pas and others.