Kate Middleton shares traits in common with Austen heroines—and a distant relative with Austen herself.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
So said Jane Austen in her famous novel Pride and Prejudice. And now, as the royal couple settle down into comfortable domesticity, Ancestry.ca has announced that the former Catherine Middleton and Jane Austen, one of the best known and most popular novelists in the English-speaking world, are related.
Catherine, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge, and Austen, best known for her novels focusing on lower gentry or middle-class women and their romantic interactions with men of higher rank and wealth, are related through their common ancestor Henry Percy, the 2nd Earl of Northumberland. Percy, who lived in the first half of the 15th century, is Kate’s 16th great-grandfather and Jane Austen’s 10th great-grandfather, making them 11th cousins, six times removed.
Though her work touched on many topics, from economics to equality, Jane Austen is largely considered to be the pioneer of the romantic fiction genre. Her novels are known for their biting social commentary and romance between classes and her heroines for their spirit, intelligence and wit; they are readers and walkers; they are loyal friends and sisters.
It has been just over 200 years since Jane Austen published her first novel, Sense and Sensibility (1811). Written with both comedy and emotional depth, Sense and Sensibility is considered to be one of the greatest romantic dramas ever written, demonstrating why Jane Austen remains one of our most popular authors almost 200 years after her death. The 1995 film version of the novel earned Emma Thompson, who authored the screenplay and starred in the film, an Academy Award.
Sisters and Friends
Throughout her life, Jane Austen’s best friend and strongest supporter was her elder sister Cassandra. In fact, when Cassandra was sent off to boarding school at age 10 in 1783, eight-year-old Jane refused to be separated from her sister, demanding to go also.
The close relationship between the Austen sisters is easily comparable to the bond Catherine shares with her younger sister Pippa, who served as Catherine’s maid of honor at her wedding, attended the same boarding school as her older sister and then followed her to Scotland to college.
While all her novels conclude with a happy marriage between the heroine and her hero, neither Jane nor Cassandra ever married. There is however every expectation that Pippa will follow her sister’s example and marry her own prince charming.
Fame and Fortune
Born in 1775, Jane Austen is perhaps best known for her works Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, two of six novels she wrote in addition to lesser-known short stories and unfinished works. While her writing brought Austen little fame or fortune during her lifetime, today a cult of “Jane-ites” has emerged around the world. Numerous sequels to her works have been penned, various film adaptations of her novels produced, and a new generation of female readers, often speculating on their romantic endeavors, asks themselves, “What would Jane do?”
Henry Percy, the ancestor who connects Catherine and Jane, was born in 1392 at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England. Percy was a 2nd great-grandson of King Edward III—meaning that King Edward is also a distant great-grandfather of Catherine Middleton.
Spending his youth in Scotland, because his father and grandfather were killed fighting against King Henry IV of England, in his early twenties, Percy reconciled with King Henry V (after Henry IV’s death) and was tasked with protecting the Scottish border. He was killed in 1455 during the first battle of the Wars of the Roses, at St. Albans, England.
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