With the addition of less than a dozen new people Katharine Hepburn the actress was just connected to more than 4,000 different people that, according to recorded history, she would have called grandmother or grandfather (preceded by some number of “greats”).
As much as it still amazes me to achieve results like this with the addition of so few people, what really caught my attention was a simple question: Did she know?
While Katharine Hepburn was portraying Eleanor of Aquitaine in “The Lion in Winter”, did she know that Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of her own ancestors? Furthermore, she was descended from Eleanor in numerous lines, from both her marriage to Louis VII, King of France (whose son was portrayed by Timothy Dalton in “The Lion in Winter”) and her marriage to Henry II, King of England (portrayed by Peter O’Toole in “The Lion in Winter”).
Did she pause to think that if these colorful figures from history had not lived, Katharine Hepburn would not even have existed?
In her autobiography “Me : Stories of My Life” she makes no mention of any ancestral connection to either Eleanor of Aquitaine or James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell (the ill-fated husband of another historical figure Katharine portrayed, Mary, Queen of Scots). I’m assuming she didn’t know.
What difference might it have made to Katharine Hepburn if she did know?
What difference will it make to most viewers of “The Lion in Winter” when they discover that they too were descended from Eleanor of Aquitaine in numerous lines?
A Lion in Winter Chart showing some descendants of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and some descendants of King Phillip II of France, can be seen here.