Royal Descents of famous people
By Mark Humphrys.
1995 to date.
containing the remains of
(born 742 AD).
My aim is to get a vast number of famous people in the West onto one family tree,
all descending ultimately from Charlemagne.
Photo 2007 from
Why a list of Royal Descents?
Because I am interested in showing the common relationship of all humanity.
I wish to get a good sample of humanity on the same family tree,
where every single step
in the descent is proven.
Royal Descents are probably the most convenient way of doing this.
All humanity is interrelated many times over
(contrary to what an endless procession of racists and tribalists
throughout history have claimed or implied).
For any two humans in history or today,
it is not a question of do they have a common ancestor,
it is only a question of when was the most recent one.
If we had full genealogical records for
all of human history and pre-history,
any two living people on earth
could identify their closest relationship to each other.
any two living organisms on earth,
since DNA probably did not evolve twice.
One could also pick any famous person, alive or dead,
and show your closest relationship to them.
For they are all related.
See pre-historical estimates for
Common ancestors of all humans.
Since we don't have such records, we have to make do with what is documented.
As we travel far enough back in time, what is documented continuously is of course only the royalty and nobility -
the ruling elite, if you like.
Lines from major religious figures are also sometimes preserved,
but usually only because the ruling elite ends up descended from them.
Descent from the English Royal family
Showing descents from Western royalty
is probably the most convenient way of tying the West together.
For various reasons, the English or French royal families
are probably the best family trees
to anchor a "western family tree" in.
Here I pick the English Royal line to base the list on,
but the list could easily be re-organised to be based on the French Royal line.
You will be aware, hopefully, that the English, French and other European royal families
are all inter-related,
descend ultimately from
So to give the list some structure,
I organise it around the
and I show short descents from the most recent monarch,
rather than everyone needing a very long descent going all the way back to Charlemagne.
I organise the list in a nested format to make it easy to see how later monarchs
descend from earlier ones.
Every person in my list descends ultimately from Charlemagne.
Descent from other European Royal families
Once you connect to the English Royal family, you connect to the royalty and nobility
of other European countries.
Many other descents of the people below from other royal houses
can easily be worked out.
The French Royal line is an obvious example.
The Irish Royal line is another.
It can easily
be seen that, of the people below,
almost all of them after
(and all of them after Henry VII)
are descendants of the
High Kings of Ireland.
The non-Western world
It would be nice to expand this tree beyond the West, but it does not seem likely.
There have been attempts to construct an Islamic family tree, on which would be famous Muslims
and famous (Christian) westerners.
The Islamic world collects
alleged descents of famous Muslim people from the Prophet Muhammad,
but how solid these are is questioned.
There have also been attempts to show descent of European royal and noble houses
from Muslim lines and ultimately
from the Prophet Muhammad,
but none are proved.
For much of the non-Western world, genealogies are lost.
In many parts of the world, a succession of tyrants have destroyed people's
connection to the past by burning the country's genealogies.
Communists did this deliberately,
as part of their ideology. (*)
Religions also often destroyed the libraries and genealogies of other religions.
(*) Ironically, given communist contempt for genealogy, all the following have proven Royal Descents:
The future "World Family Tree"
So there seems little hope of expanding this tree outside the West - by working backwards at least.
Really unifying the world on one tree now
will have to depend on ongoing marriage
rather than further historical discoveries.
increasing rate of intermarriage between different cultures
(or at least, people with different ancestral cultures)
there will eventually develop a "World Family Tree",
outside of which very few people will lie.
In a few centuries' time, the entire world will be provably descended from Charlemagne
(or perhaps some non-Western common ancestor) at birth.
Everyone will be provably related to everyone else.
exponential growth in our ancestors (going backward).
Consider that you need 2 parents,
4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, and so on.
Assuming an average of about 25 years per generation,
you only need to go back to about 1200 AD, quite within historical times,
to need more separate ancestors than the entire population of the world
The solution to this paradox is of course that
ancestors are duplicated.
All of us descend from a massive amount of intermarriage
even within the last few hundred years.
exponential growth (going backward)
exponential growth (going forward).
See estimates for
Common ancestors of all humans,
which has some surprising findings.
Restricting ourselves just to Europe (and those of European descent abroad)
it is quite likely that
the most recent common ancestor of the West
lies within historical times.
It is possible, for example, that
every single westerner descends from
The list provably descends from Charlemagne
We all (in the West) probably
descend from Charlemagne.
But can you prove it step-by-step?
What makes the people on this list special is that we can prove
of their descent.
Some people think these kind of descents are contrived,
in that, say, Elizabeth II
is the "real"
descendant of William the Conqueror,
and all these are rather artificial descents.
This betrays a lack of understanding of history.
The House of Windsor is an arbitrary subset
of the millions of proven direct descendants of
William the Conqueror.
The Royal line is the product
of a long series of political decisions
over the years, rather than the result of following any
(And arguably there's nothing wrong with that. After all, it
makes it more democratic.)
To make it clear,
everyone in this list is a direct descendant of Charlemagne
in the same sense that any member of modern royalty is.
I only ever
use "ancestor" or "descendant"
to mean "direct ancestor" or "direct descendant".
If someone is a brother or cousin of your direct ancestor,
some people would call them a "collateral ancestor",
or even just an "ancestor".
To me they are not your ancestor
but rather a blood relation.
- I have excluded many royals and nobles:
It can be taken as read that
almost all of European royalty, except the very earliest ones,
could be put on this list.
It can also be taken as read that
much or most of European nobility
could be put on this list.
Basically, anyone with an old title.
If we look at all royalty and nobility,
I am sure that well over 1,000 more people with Wikipedia entries
could be put on the list.
Perhaps several thousand.
- I have excluded many "semi-famous" people:
- The definition of "famous" is also ultimately up to me.
As I said, I could endlessly add royals and nobles to the list.
I am also sent many semi-famous people that could go on the list
- people with Wikipedia entries, say, but who I have never heard of.
Sometimes it is hard to decide who goes on the list,
and I may change my mind later.
Gary Boyd Roberts
has written on this topic:
- Why I Trace the Ancestry of Notable Figures.
He does not focus on biography but rather on large-scale patterns:
"I am sympathetic to genealogists who wish to memorialize their immediate families with lavish detail and documentation - I depend on the collective accuracy of thousands of such efforts - but my own passion is for the skeleton pedigree, 20 or more generations in length, that when combined with other such works suggests something new and interesting about the genealogical evolution of the Western world."
notes that we are all remarkably close cousins:
"Except for some remarkable kinships through the Byzantine marriages of earlier medieval kings, 20th to 25th cousins are probably as distant as traceable European lineages extend. Anthropologists claim everyone on earth is a 40th cousin."
that 100 million Americans can be got onto one family tree,
with relationships to over 500 famous people:
"a large quantity of my research concerns the 'New England family' - probably 100 million contemporary Americans descended from 5000 - 8000 Great Migration immigrants of 1620-50. If you have 50 or more sets (husbands and wives) of Great Migration immigrant forebears, you are probably related to almost all of the 100 million, within the range of 8th-12th cousins. The probability of kinship to notables is fully 100 percent, and the number of such 'household name' distant kin probably surpasses 500, possibly 1000."
apparently estimates 25 percent of the population of Britain
William the Conqueror.
I suspect it is much higher.
apparently claims that
"No people of English descent are more distantly related than 30th cousin".
- Roderick W. Stuart
claims there are tens of millions of descendants of
in America alone.
it has been said that
"All English descend from Edward I and all Scots from
Roderick W. Stuart
claims there are millions of descendants of
in America alone:
"Edward III is the latest king from whom a large
number of Americans and Europeans can claim descent.
His American posterity numbers in the millions."
[Ruvigny, 1911] apparently names 40,000 provable step by step descendants of
and estimates 100,000 could be done.
[Debrett's Guide to Tracing your Ancestry,
Noel Currer-Briggs and Royston Gambier, 3rd edn, 1990]
says there are now over 300,000 provable step by step descendants of
is "often described as the ancestor of the British upper-middle class".
Some of the main contributors to this collection of Royal Descents are:
"To nationalists, shared blood is everything: for them, history is made in bed.
Biology is the test of their ideas, and usually it proves them wrong."
- Steve Jones, in [Jones, 1996].