Throughout history, rulers have often married within their own family to keep their bloodlines as pure as possible. This practice is no longer the norm, but it has led to some surprising connections between the members of today’s royal family. A cursory glance at the British royal family tree reveals that Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip themselves are third cousins.
While today’s royal family is free from the medical ailments often associated with royal inbreeding, there are still plenty of shared ancestors among them. In fact, four of the royal marriages from the last century were between couples that were distant cousins. This means some of those who married into the family were already royal by blood.
These relationships are being played out on Netflix’s The Crown, so read and then binge with the in-depth ancestral knowledge this list provides.
It should come as no surprise that the queen has a long royal lineage behind her. Through her father, the late King George VI, Elizabeth is descended from Queen Victoria. More surprising, perhaps, is the historical connection on her mother's side. Through Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon, the Queen is a descendant of Mary Boleyn.
Other than Henry VIII's many wives, Mary might be the most famous woman connected to the infamous king. Some experts believe two of her children actually belonged to Henry. If (and it’s a big if) this is true, it would mean that the Queen is the first monarch to be directly descended from Henry VIII since her namesake, Elizabeth I, sat on the throne four centuries ago.
Questions of paternity aside, the Queen’s connection to Mary is important to note because it’s something she has in common with the late Princess Diana.
When Philip proposed to Elizabeth in 1946, he was already a prince in his own right. He was born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, a title inherited from his father.
Philip’s royal heritage extends even beyond Greece and Denmark. He is a descendant of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia and a distant relation to the Romanovs. So important is this relation that, when the possible remains of Nicholas II and his family were discovered in 2007, Philip's DNA was used to confirm their identities.
Before Philip became the Duke of Edinburgh, he was already British royalty by blood. His mother, Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, was the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, which makes his wife his distant cousin.
Given the extensive royal lineage of both Philip and the Queen, their children - the Prince of Wales, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, and Princess Anne - are related to no less than three separate royal dynasties.
Through their mother, Elizabeth, the Prince of Wales and his siblings are descended from a long line of British royals, including Queen Victoria and George III, who is most famous for losing the American colonies in the Revolutionary War.
From Philip, they are descended from the royal families of Greece and Denmark, as well as Russia and, of course, Queen Victoria again.
Diana’s family has connections to an even older British royal bloodline than her ex-husband, Charles (who is, by the way, her 16th cousin once removed).
Diana's family traces their lineage to at least two English kings of the House of Stuart: Charles II, as well as James II and VII. (During his 17th-century reign, James ruled England and Ireland as James II, and Scotland as James VII). The Stuart royal line ended with Queen Anne in 1714, but Diana's distant - albeit illegitimate - Stuart heritage brought the line back into the royal family.
Even when the Spencers weren’t on the throne, they were extremely close to the royal family. Queen Victoria is said to have been a fan of the 4th Earl of Spencer’s legs, and the daughter of Sarah Churchill (Queen Anne’s closest confidante) married Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland.
Like the Queen, Diana is also a distant descendant of Mary Boleyn, one of Henry VIII’s mistresses (and sister of the ever-famous Anne Boleyn).