Turns out, we all come from royalty
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published July 2, 2006
Actor Brooke Shields has a pretty impressive pedigree - her family tree includes Catherine de Medici and Lucrezia Borgia, Charlemagne and El Cid, William the Conquerer and King Harold, vanquished by William at the Battle of Hastings.
Shields also descends from five popes, a whole mess of early New England settlers, and the royal houses of virtually every European country.
What is it about Brooke? Well, nothing - at least genealogically.
Even without a documented connection to a notable forebear, experts say the odds are virtually 100 percent that every person on Earth is descended from one royal personage or another.
"Millions of people have provable descents from medieval monarchs," said Mark Humphrys, a genealogy enthusiast and a professor at Dublin City University in Ireland. "The number of people with unprovable descents must be massive."
Anybody who had children more than a few hundred years ago is likely to have millions of descendants today, and quite a few famous ones.
Take King Edward III, who ruled England during the 14th century and had nine children who survived to adulthood. Among his documented descendants are presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Zachary Taylor, both Roosevelts), authors (Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning), generals (Robert E. Lee), scientists (Charles Darwin) and actors (Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, Brooke Shields). Some experts estimate 80 percent of England's present population descends from Edward III.
Of course, the only reason we're talking about Edward III is that history remembers him. For every medieval monarch there are countless long-dead nobodies whose intrigues, peccadilloes and luck have steered history simply by determining where, when and with whom they reproduced.
The longer ago somebody lived, the more descendants a person is likely to have today. Humphrys estimates that Muhammad, the founder of Islam, appears on the family tree of every person in the Western world.
Some people have tried to establish a documented line between Muhammad, who was born in the 6th century, and the medieval English monarchs, and thus to most if not all people of European descent. Though it runs through several strongly suspicious individuals, one proposed lineage illustrates how lines of descent can wander down through the centuries, connecting famous figures of the past to most of the people living today.
The proposed line runs through Muhammad's daughter Fatima. Her husband Ali, also a cousin of Muhammad, is considered by Shiite Muslims the legitimate heir to leadership of Islam.
Ali and Fatima had a son, al-Hasan, who died in 670. About three centuries later, his ninth great-grandson, Ismail, carried the line to Europe when he became Imam of Seville.
Many genealogists dispute the connection between al-Hasan and Ismail, claiming that it includes fictional characters invented by medieval genealogists trying to link the Abbadid dynasty, founded by Ismail's son, to Muhammad.
The last emir in that dynasty was supposed to have had a daughter named Zaida, who is said to have changed her name to Isabel upon converting to Christianity and marrying Alfonso VI, king of Castile and Leon.
If you give the Zaida/Isabel story the benefit of the doubt, and trace 43 generations from Mohammed, you find Italian princess Marina Torlonia.
Her granddaughter is Brooke Shields.
[Last modified July 2, 2006, 02:39:32]
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