Kate Winslet is very, very rich but she doesn’t self-identity as rich. She would much rather you think of her as a poor person who just so happens to have a lot of money. In fact, Kate’s so poor on the inside, she’s practically descended from slaves, a fact she cried upon learning when it was revealed to her on the BBC genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are?.
According to The Times, growing up, people thought Kate might be Scandinavian because of her “shock of white-blonde hair”. Feeling the pull of a distant land, Kate claims she always felt there was “something else in me”. Instead of seeing an exorcist, Kate decided to look into her genealogy. And the truth was apparently a real shock to her system.
As viewers will see next month, the Titanic star breaks down on learning that she is descended from agricultural slave labourers in 19th-century Sweden.
Gasp. But wait, it gets worse.
Her great-great-great-great grandfather Anders Jonsson, a stable groom, was so poor that he resorted to stealing potatoes and beehives to feed his hungry family. Sentenced to 35 lashes for theft, he died of typhoid in prison in 1832 while waiting for his appeal. “I was sobbing my heart out at this point,” Winslet said in an interview with the Radio Times.
So tragic. Never in the history of human existence have I heard of such hardship and injustice.
Winslet, 43, who won the best actress Oscar in 2009 for The Reader, was shocked to discover that her ancestors lived under something like serfdom. They were paid for labour in tokens that could be exchanged for food on the estate where they worked. “It was slavery. Because of course he wasn’t given enough tokens to buy food for his family and they were starving.”
“His wife couldn’t even produce milk for their baby because she was starving. I come from a long line of committed breastfeeders, so the idea of a mother not being able to breastfeed her child destroyed me completely.”
Can you imagine something like that happening to poor people today? Apparently Kate can’t. And to think, just a few generations later, Kate was able to forge ahead despite her family legacy to live “in Sussex with her third husband, Ned Rocknroll, a nephew of Sir Richard Branson”. Kate was raised in Reading by working class parents, so she would have had bitter regrets if it turned out she was descended from rich people.
She joked that she would have been “upset and disgusted” if the Who Do You Think You Are? team had discovered she came from wealth. “My roots are socialist, working class and, in a funny way, my parents frowned upon the wealthy,” she told the magazine.
I wonder if her ancestors are frowning down upon her today (for naming her kid Bear Blaze).