Let’s be honest, it’s not that hard to be related to royalty through some far-distant relation to some far-distant nobleman that happens to be your great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather from hundreds of years ago. All it really takes is a little digging, and the chances are that you will find you were related in some way to some royal family member at some point. Many kings had huge harems of women, a huge number of children, and many daughters of rulers inherited royalty through marriage.
Take Genghis Khan for example. He built and maintained what would become the largest empire in the world, and it is now believed that one in 200 men are direct descendants of the Mongol leader. So it isn’t that uncommon to be descended from royalty, but it is somewhat surprising and amusing to find out that some of our favorite movie stars, actors, and celebrities are pretty closely related to royal cloth. The following are ten of today's most-royally-related celebrities.
10 Tom Hanks
This leading man is true Hollywood royalty, and he’s related to British royalty as well. Through his father’s side of the family, Hanks is a descendent of King John of England, who reigned from 1199 to 1216. He is also a 24th cousin to the current monarch of England, Queen Elizabeth II.
King John was the youngest son of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. He inherited the throne by being his father’s favorite son, after his older brother’s rebellion against Henry II failed. In popular culture, King John is depicted as the villain opposite Robin Hood. In fact, the king did rule poorly and ended up poor. Not so much for Hanks, who rules Hollywood with great success - his films have grossed over $4.5 billion in the US alone.
9 Hugh Grant
This British A-lister actually has two royal connections. He is a descendant of Henry VII through his mother’s side of the family, and he also has King James IV of Scotland as an ancestor. King Henry VII is the more famous of the two, seizing the crown of England from Richard III in 1485 and becoming the first monarch of the Tudor dynasty. He reigned for 24 years and was succeeded by his son, the notorious Henry VIII. Henry VII was also the grandfather of famous queen Elizabeth I - the namesake of the Elizabethan era.
King James IV of Scotland, on the other hand, is regarded as the most successful of the Steward monarchs of Scotland even though his reign ended in disastrous defeat at the Battle of Flodden Field. He was the last monarch in all of Great Britain to be killed in battle, in 1513.
8 Uma Thurman
Uma Thurman certainly looks like the type of woman who would be related to royalty: Tall, regal, blond, gorgeous. And she is, being directly descended from Edward Longshanks, also known as King Edward I of England, who ruled for 35 years from 1272 to 1307. Longshanks was remembered as the 'Hammer of the Scots’ because of his brutal treatment of the Scots.
Besides his faults, Longshanks also made Parliament a permanent fixture. He was of the House of Plantagenet, and was the son of Henry III, who ruled on the English throne for 56 years. Longshanks also fathered many children. Through this connection, Uma Thurman is also the 21st cousin, once removed, of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
7 Johnny Depp
Perpetual “Sexiest Man Alive” winner and Hollywood hotshot Johnny Depp can trace his lineage back 500 years to the point where his ancestors became royal. According to genealogist Nick Barratt of the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? TV program, Depp is 20th cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, sharing a great-grandfather with her that goes back 19 generations.
Depp is a descendant of Sir William Gascoigne and Margaret Percy, who was the daughter of the 3rd Earl of Northumberland, a direct descendant of King Edward III. That isn't the last time you'll hear that name on this list...
6 Paris Hilton
It’s no wonder that Paris Hilton - the girl who fancies herself an actual princess - is actually related to royalty. The hard-partying, toy-dog-loving socialite is the 20th cousin of Queen Elizabeth II through her dad Rick’s side of the family. Their shared ancestor is Henry II, who had several children and was married to Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Henry II had to endure considerable amounts of fighting within the family to see who would inherit his throne. He was well known as a warrior-king, and he ruled vast tracks of the British Isles and much of France. Like Hilton, he was considered quite the socialite, traveling frequently and making a great show of things while he did.
5 Michael Douglas
While his stunning wife Catherine Zeta-Jones looks like she belongs in the royal lineup, it’s actually leading man and husband Michael Douglas who makes the list. Douglas is a 19th cousin, once removed, of Queen Elizabeth II through King Edward III of England. As noted before, Edward III’s name appears quite a lot on this list as the shared ancestor between celebrities and royalty, and there’s quite a valid reason for that.
Edward III is actually the ancestor of many European monarchs because he had eight legitimate sons, each who had their own children who form royal families such as the Tudors, the Lancasters, and the Yorks - you can see how quickly the royalty multiplies. He also had six daughters, many of whom married into other rich and royal families.
4 Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal
This brother-sister acting duo are also related to Edward III, King of England from 1327 until his death in 1377. He is one of only six British monarchs to have ruled England for more than 50 years. The siblings are related through their father’s side of the family, and as such, they are also 19th cousins to the current queen of England, Elizabeth II.
Besides having 14 children, Edward III is also known for restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, and for his competent military commanding. Edward III transformed the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe, and he also saw developments in legislation and government. Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal are also related to royalty on their father's side, who is a descendant of the Swedish house Gyllenhaal.
3 Ellen DeGeneres
It’s interesting that one of the funniest women in Hollywood is also the 15th cousin to Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. She is related to Middleton as a direct descendant of none other than Edward III of England. DeGeneres is also the 19th cousin, twice removed, of Queen Elizabeth II.
Upon learning that she is distantly related to the Duchess of Cambridge, DeGeneres offered up her services to help plan the future queen’s bachelorette party. She also exclaimed her hope of being invited to the royal wedding, which would surely add some comedy and flare to a bland-sounding affair.
2 Brooke Shields
Actress Brooke Shields is one of the most royally-related people in the celebrity kingdom. She is the 18th cousin, once removed, of Elizabeth II as a direct descendant of King Henry IV of France. Shield’s ancestor is Blanche, the French wife of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster and son of England’s Edward III.
She is not only the second-most-related celebrity to the Queen of England, but she is also thought to possibly be related to Catherine de Medici and Lucrezia Borgia, which means her ancestors were even more famous than she is! She apparently found out her noble ancestry on the TV show Who Do You Think You Are? and was very surprised to hear about her royal background.
1 Hilary Duff
According to a study by FindMyPast.com, Hilary Duff is the “most royal” celebrity as the US star who is most closely related to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II - she's the monarch’s 18th cousin. Apparently her gateway ancestor is Alexander Spotswood, who lived from 1676 to 1740. He was an officer in the British Army, a Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, and the 10st great-grandson of (who else?) Edward III. Duff is also a descendant of Catherine Car, a woman who many historians believe is the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII.