“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Jane Austen might have written those words but who would have known that all these years later, a distant relative might indeed be able to relate?
Ancestry.com has done some digging and revealed that the newest member of the royal family, Catherine Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, and the legendary author, Jane Austen, are related.
Their common ancestor? That would be a certain Henry Percy, who was the 2nd Earl of Northumberland in the first half of the 15th century. Percy is Kate’s 16th great-grandfather and Austen’s 10th great-grandfather, making them – but of course! – 11th cousins, six times removed.
“Finding this connection between the Duchess of Cambridge and Jane Austen is very exciting since, in many ways, Catherine is the modern Jane Austen heroine: a middle class girl marrying the future King of England,” said Anastasia Harman, Lead Family Historian for Ancestry.com. “Jane Austen may have written about happily-ever-after, but it seems Catherine has found a nonfiction hero to spend her life with – far past the epilogue.”
It’s understandable to see why Ancestry is pushing the literary line: they note that Austen’s “novels are known for their biting social commentary and romance between the classes and her heroines for their spirit, intelligence and wit; they are readers and walkers; they are loyal friends and sisters.”
But Ancestry’s also keen to play up the fact that both women had an incredibly strong bond with their sister. In Austen’s case, they refer to her elder sister Cassandra as “best friend and strongest supporter,” remarking that when Cassandra was sent off to boarding school at the age of 10, the then eight-year-old Jane refused to be separated, demanding to go. In Kate’s case, her sister Pippa was maid of honor at the recent wedding, and they too attended the same boarding school in addition to Pippa following Kate up to Scotland for college.
Will this result in a rush of sales for the likes of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility as Middleton’s legion of fans take in and embrace the news? Probably not. But it might just give Britain’s Queen-in-waiting some ideas for how to while away the hours on the royal couple’s lengthy flight to Canada.
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