If you're bummed out by the British royal family's recent trend of marrying commoners, I've got some good news for you. It seems that the future Duchess of Sussex might have some royal ancestors, after all. Does that mean that Meghan Markle is related to Prince Harry? Well, sort of, but probably not any more closely than she is to most people, to be honest. The Daily Mail did a deep dive on the couple's family trees, and apparently, they share one name in common: Sir Ralph Bowes, High Sheriff of Durham.
Bowes was Markle's great-great-great-great — OK, you know what? I'm not typing that 10 more times, according to the Mail. Bowes, who died in 1516, can be traced back 15 generations on Markle's side of the family, and 16 generations on Harry's side. That means that the soon to be married couple are technically cousins, or to be more precise, they're 13th cousins, once removed. If you're still a little uneasy about the idea of them reproducing, consider the fact that they only have 0.003 percent of their DNA in common. That's literally less than one single gene (humans only have about 24,000 genes, according to the British Science Museum).
This really isn't that big of a deal. Although the number of our ancesters grows exponentially as we go further back in history (two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and so on), there comes a point at which that number will be greater than the number of people alive, so there's already some overlap in everyone's family trees. Better to think of them like ivy, I suppose, tangling up in itself. Literally all Europeans are descended from Charlemagne, according to National Geographic, and according to Scientific American, 0.5 percent of all men worldwide are related to Genghis Khan.
People just love to go digging to figure out how famous people might be related, and it turns out that Markle and Harry are even less closely related than some far more shocking pairings. For example, The New York Times reported back in 2008 that brand-new President Barack Obama's 11th cousin was none other than his White House predecessor, George W. Bush, and he's also 8th cousins with Vice President Dick Cheney. If that's not juicy enough for you, check out this report from the Sun claiming Trump could be related to a "16th Century cannibal serial killer" known as "The Werewolf of Bedburg."
Historically, royal interbreeding was a common way for monarchies to keep their power intact and their bloodlines "pure." According to Gizmodo, up to 80 percent of marriages throughout human history are thought to have been between first or second cousins. Children of first cousins do have about a 6 percent chance of birth defects, compared with 3 percent of those with non-related parents, but the offspring of second cousins are pretty much in the clear. For perspective, that 6 percent risk of birth defects is about the same as that of children born to 40-year-old women, which few bat an eye over anymore.
And a little genetic redundancy actually puts Markle and Harry in good company; his own grandparents, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, are both direct descendants of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, according to Business Insider. This link goes back just 100 years, or four generations, making Elizabeth and Philip the great-great-grandchildren of Victoria and Albert, also known as third cousins. According to Us Weekly, Markle and Harry will marry on May 19, 2018 at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. Harry has previously stated that they hope to "start a family in the near future," according to People, and happily, Anglophiles can rest easy knowing that their prospective kids will be just fine.
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