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Today’s Master Class is in Genealogy.
         But not just any old genealogy.
         No - today we are going to learn to prove how YOU are related to the Queen.
         This could be quite time-consuming, so we recommend that you take a couple of weeks paid holiday or, if you are a member of the House of Lords, send in a sick note.
         (In the old days, if you were a member of the House of Lords, chances were you could quite easily show how you were related to the Queen anyway, but these days, when any riff raff can get in the Lords for a few bob, it takes a lot longer. If you are interested, I still have copies available of my booklet: “Do We All Have to be Related to Melvyn Bragg?”.)
         STEP ONE
         Buy a copy of my best-selling book, “How the Queen is related to everyone”.
         This explains in detail one of the great misconceptions of modern times, namely that the Royal Family is very exclusive.
         Nothing could be further from the truth.
         The British Royal Family has done MORE intermarrying and had MORE random overseas connections than almost any family in the world. Germans, Danes, Spaniards, French, Scots – all of these have brought foreign blood into the Royal Family.
         Compare a family such as the Withenhalls of Stanton St Mary, a small village in Cambridgeshire. (These are not their real names; I am using pretend names to cover the fact that I have made them up.)
         For two hundred years the Withenhalls have never married anyone living further than ten miles from Stanton St Mary, which is the maximum distance that a swain could walk or bicycle during a day to see his sweetheart. Therefore the family network of the Withenhalls is vastly more limited than that of the Windsors.
         To put it another way, the Withenhalls are much more exclusive than the British Royal Family. Almost anyone can prove they are related, however distantly, to the Queen. But for anyone, even the Queen, to prove that she is related to Edmund Withenhall, present head of the Withenhall family, would take a superhuman effort of research, money and wilfulness.
         ‘And even if she could prove it,’ says Edmund Withenhall, ‘I’m not sure we’d want her coming in here with a damned corgis.’
         STEP TWO
         Buy a copy of my best-selling book: “Royal Bastards The World Over”.
         This shows in some detail how, even when you exclude the legitimate branches of the Royal Family, the world is full of people who have been descended from illegitimate offspring fathered through the years by Henry VIII, Charles II and everyone Queen, and I tend to agree with this, especially as I first said it. Apparently you are never more than ten miles from a person with British royal blood in them, especially in certain areas of Germany, whereas you can traverse thousands of miles of the mainland without encountering a branch of the Withenhall family.
         In Russia it is a little different. There, you are more likely to be adjacent to a relation of Ilyena Vasilievna Mironova.
         Or, as we now know her, Helen Mirren.
         Who, although born in Essex, is directly descended from Russian nobility on her emigre father’s side.
         And, on her mother’s side, from Queen Victoria’s own butcher.
         You may feel that it is quite significant that Helen Mirren, who is famous for acting the part of the Queen, does herself have royal connections on both sides, even if on one side it is more to do with meat than blood.
         Is it possible, perhaps, that Helen Mirren is herself related to the Queen through one of those noble Russian connections which were so unpopular, if not life-threatening, in 1917, but which may be more fashionable now?
         Well, of course it is, as you will know if you have been paying attention at all!
         FURTHER READING:
         “Confessions of a Royal-Watcher” by Norman St John Stevas
         “Watch out, Helen Mirren! They’re Going to Try to Assassinate You!” by Mohammed Al Fayed.
         “Scone-and Crumpet-making the Withenhall Way”, by Mrs Jane Withenhall.

The Independent Mon Mar 5 07

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© Caroline Kington