by Gary Boyd Roberts, Senior Research Scholar Emeritus
Rachel Meghan Markle, the new fiancée of Prince Harry, has much New England ancestry and millions of American cousins.
Her father, Thomas Wayne Markle, through New Hampshire great-grandparents named Ellsworth and Merrill, has colonial ancestors in common with eight presidents – George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford, Richard M. Nixon, Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, Chester A. Arthur, and James A. Garfield and three First Ladies – Frances Cleveland, Ellen Wilson (Woodrow’s 1st wife) and Mamie Eisenhower. Other distant cousins of Ms. Markle through these New England ancestors, include poet John Greenleaf Whittier, writer O. Henry, lawyer Clarence Darrow, actor James Dean, Senator Sam Ervin of the Watergate hearings, singer and actor “Roy Rogers” (L.F. Slye), John Kerry, and Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson. As to the immigrant Christopher Hussey, subject of recent articles in the British press, his English origins are known but noble ancestry seems highly unlikely.
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One ancestor of Ms. Markle, however, is indeed of royal descent. He is Rev. William Skipper, who immigrated to Boston in 1639. A descendant of King Edward III of England (died 1377), Skipper was also a 1st cousin several times removed of Margaret Kerdeston (ca. 1426–after 1485), wife of a French nobleman, grandmother of a queen of Bohemia and Hungary, and an ancestor of most later European kings. Skipper ancestors Sir Philip Wentworth (died 1464) and Mary Clifford are ancestors also, in various lines, of both H.M. the late Queen Mother (and thus H.M. the Queen, the Prince of Wales, and Prince Harry) and of the late Diana, Princess of Wales. Because of royal intermarriage, Prince Harry is descended from Margaret Kerdeston in more than 240 lines, including at least four through King George III and four through Princess Diana. Thus, Margaret’s grandparents, Michael de Pole, 2nd Earl of Suffolk, who died in 1415, and his wife, Katharine Stafford, (died 1419), ancestors also of Rev. Skipper and Ms. Markle, make Prince Harry and his bride-to-be distant cousins in more than 200 ways.
This ancestry and kinships of Ms. Markle reflect much of modern American, British, and European history. Related to millions of Americans and many Britons, including notables in both countries, Ms. Markle is perhaps the newest solidifying figure in Anglo-American kinship and American-British relations.
This research on Ms. Markle’s ancestry was conducted by Gary Boyd Roberts, author of American Ancestors and Cousins of The Princess of Wales (1984), with assistance from Alex Bannerman of Charleston, West Virginia, with some data sourced from the websites famechain.com and AmericanAncestors.org.