‘Sig­nif­i­cant chance most peo­ple in Bri­tain are a de­scen­dant of Edward III’

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - JIM NOR­TON

MANY a celebrity has sought to boost their cre­den­tials by re­veal­ing they are de­scended from kings and queens on ge­neal­ogy pro­grammes.

But ac­cord­ing to a lead­ing ge­neti­cist, their boasts are noth­ing special “be­cause we are all re­lated to roy­alty”.

BBC broad­caster Adam Ruther­ford said shows like BBC1’s Who Do You Think You Are? of­ten try to iden­tify some­one in a celebrity’s fam­ily tree with “fame or in­famy”.

Last year EastEn­ders ac­tor Danny Dyer said he could “not com­pute” it after the show re­vealed he was a de­scen­dant of 14th century king Edward III.

And after fea­tur­ing on a ge­neal­ogy show in the US, Sir Richard Bran­son last year boasted of the “ex­tra­or­di­nary fam­ily fact” that he was re­lated to Charle­magne, who ruled much of Western Europe from 768 to 814.

But yes­ter­day Dr Ruther­ford, who has a PhD in ge­net­ics, said that this was not re­mark­able at all.

Speak­ing at the Chalke Val­ley His­tory Fes­ti­val, he said that “lit­er­ally” ev­ery­one in Europe had a di­rect lin­eage to Charle­magne, while there was a “sig­nif­i­cant” chance most peo­ple in Bri­tain are a de­scen­dant of Edward III.

The only dif­fer­ence be­tween us and celebri­ties is that most of us don’t have the means to prove it.

He said he and a team at Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don had worked on the no­tion that you have two par­ents, who also had two par­ents, and so on, work­ing back­wards to form an ever ex­pand­ing fam­ily tree.

From this, they were able to work out that ev­ery­one liv­ing in Europe in the 10th century, and so be­fore, was some­how re­lated to ev­ery­one who now lives on the same con­ti­nent.

Dr Ruther­ford, who presents BBC Ra­dio 4’s In­side Sci­ence, said: “When you do fam­ily trees and in things like Who Do You Think You Are?… the real key comes in man­ag­ing to iden­tify some­one of fame or in­famy in your fam­ily tree.

“And the rea­son I quip that story is be­cause this is fun­da­men­tally not how ge­net­ics works.

“Richard Bran­son last year an­nounced that he had looked into his fam­ily tree and found he was 40 gen­er­a­tions away from Charle­magne.

“Lit­er­ally ev­ery per­son in Europe is di­rectly de­scended from Charle­magne. Lit­er­ally, not metaphor­i­cally.

You have a di­rect lin­eage which leads to Charle­magne.”

He said: “Look­ing around this room, ev­ery sin­gle one of you… is di­rectly de­scended be­tween 21 and 24 gen­er­a­tions from Edward III.” – Daily Mail

‘Lit­er­ally’ ev­ery­one in Europe has a di­rect lin­eage to Charle­magne


Bri­tish en­tre­pre­neur Richard Bran­son says he is re­lated to Charle­magne, who ruled much of Western Europe from 768 to 814.

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