Aristocratic blood and surprising celebrity connections: Queen Camilla’s intriguing family history
5-6 minute read
By Daisy Goddard
From family members in high places to a history of public scandals, our research into Queen Camilla’s ancestry has uncovered some fascinating stories.
Although Camilla has occupied a spot in the limelight for over three decades, big changes within the British monarchy have once again brought her centre-stage.
With the death of Queen Elizabeth II on 8 September 2022, her son Prince Charles acceded to the throne. The former Prince of Wales became King Charles III of the United Kingdom. This makes Camilla Queen Consort- a symbolic role designated to the wife of a reigning king.
Findmypast’s team of experts has conducted research into Queen Camilla’s family history. From historical scandals to celebrity links, we have made some fascinating discoveries.
Camilla was born Camilla Rosemary Shand on 17 July 1947, to mother Rosalind Cubitt and father Bruce Shand. Camilla grew up with a younger brother, Mark, who passed away in 2014.
On both sides, Camilla’s family history is rich in interesting stories. Her family tree is littered with all sorts of characters, from passionate women to unexpected celebrities.
To learn more about the roots of the British royal family, visit our History Hub.
We all know that Camilla has married into the British monarchy. But did you know that Camilla actually has royal blood herself? Her royal ancestry is distant, but there’s a definite linkage that’s worth mentioning.
The link comes from Camilla’s 2x maternal great-grandfather Lieutenant Colonel William Coutts Keppel, born 1832. This distinguished military figure was the 7th Earl of Albermarle. Through Charles Lennox, he was sixth in the direct line of ascent from Charles II.
And a different kind of royal connection
This isn’t Camilla’s only familial link to the palace. While she doesn’t have any other royal ancestors, our research uncovered an unexpected and fascinating connection on her mother’s side.
Camilla’s mother, Rosalind Maud Cubitt, descended from a line of yeomen with roots in Norfolk stretching back over 500 years. From modest beginnings, Camilla’s 3x great-grandfather, Thomas Cubitt, the son of a carpenter, made his fortune travelling to India and Australia.
In 1810, Thomas Cubitt started his own building firm on the Gray’s Inn Road, London.
Thomas became one of the most accomplished master builders of the period. He was responsible for iconic buildings like the London Institute, Belgravia Square, and others in Pimlico and Bloomsbury.
Now, here’s where the unexpected royal connection comes in. Perhaps Thomas Cubitt’s most impressive accomplishment was his work on none other than Buckingham Palace. He built the east front of the palace, including the famous balcony where Camilla now stands to greet crowds on important occasions.
This article published in The Sphere in 1955 reveals Thomas’ reputation as the nation’s top master builder, even a century on. Indeed, you can’t get more impressive than having built part of Buckingham Palace.
Passion and infidelity
Along with the impressive achievements of the Cubitt family, we also uncovered some scandals in Camilla’s family history. Camilla isn’t the first of her ancestors to cause a stir with their personal life.
The marital life of Camilla’s paternal grandfather Phillip Morton Shand (1888-1960) was highly publicised. He was divorced three times and married four times, and frequently made his private life public. Even the judge who granted his third divorce remarked that ‘maybe a little wholesome publicity will limit this man’s activities a little, at any rate in this country’.
Passion also ran high on Camilla’s maternal side. Alice Frederica Edmonstone, Camilla’s great-grandmother, was the youngest child of the 4th Baronet Sir William Edmonstone.
In her adulthood, Alice Frederica was the longstanding mistress of King Edward VII, despite marrying George Keppel (Camilla’s great-grandfather) in 1891. She had met Edward before he was married, when he was the Prince of Wales. Their affair continued until his death.
There is speculation around the parentage of Alice’s youngest daughter, Sonia, who was born in 1900, after the beginning of the royal affair. Sonia is Camilla’s grandmother.
Both Sonia and Alice’s other daughter Violet had a close relationship with Edward, reportedly referring to him with the pet name ‘Kingy’.
Clearly, Camilla isn’t the first woman in her family to fall for royalty.
There is another interesting figure on this side of Camilla’s family- Alice's daughter and Sonia’s sister, Violet Mary Keppel. She didn’t court royalty like her sister, but rather, made a name as a writer and novelist, publishing books in both English and French.
She also had a love affair with writer Vita Sackville-West, after whom Virginia Woolf wrote the 1928 novel Orlando. Their relationship continued despite both women marrying men- Violet married Denys Trefusis in 1919.
A few decades later, Violet earned a medal of honour for her service in Voluntary Aid Detachment during the Second World War.
From Phillip Morton Shand to Violet Mary Keppel, passions run high on both sides of Camilla’s family tree.
Surprising celebrity links
You’ll probably be surprised to hear that, in addition to royalty and aristocracy, Camilla is also related to some big celebrity names.
She is distantly related to Kit Harington, the actor famous for playing Jon Snow in HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones. Camilla and Kit share an ancestor- John Tufton, the 2nd Earl of Thanet.
This next celebrity link might surprise you even more. On her maternal side, Camilla is related very distantly to none other than Madonna. Upon moving to Canada, Camilla’s 2x great-grandfather Lieutenant Colonel William Coutts Keppel married Sophia Mary MacNab.
Sophia was the daughter of Mary Stuart, whose family tree contains several branches of emigrants from Perche, France. In addition to a Boucher (a distant relation of Camilla), there is a Trottier among these family members. The Trottiers are the family from which Madonna is descended.
A rich and surprising history
From the scandalous Scottish aristocrats on her father’s side to the famous master builder that was her maternal 3x great grandfather, Camilla’s family history is full of interesting discoveries.
Jen Baldwin, Research Specialist at Findmypast, said:
‘Through our research, we’ve found that Queen Camilla has a fascinating family history, full of unique characters and intriguing connections. One of these is a shared ancestor with Game of Thrones actor, Kit Harington, which makes them very distant cousins. Their ancestor in common is seventeenth-century nobleman, John Tufton, 2nd Earl of Thanet, who was a high-profile royalist supporter of Charles I during the English Civil War.
It’s always exciting to find these sorts of connections through time; we’re all much more closely linked than we think. Whether you’re a novice researcher or experienced genealogist, it’s always a thrill to uncover royal, aristocratic or celebrity relations'.
Can’t get enough of royal history? Head to our History Hub for more research into the family history of some of the country’s most influential individuals.
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