An Australian man, who discovered he is a distant relative of the Princess of Wales through an AncestryDNA test, has said they both have the same “smashing smiles” and “great dress sense”.
David Willis, 54, a union organiser, who lives in Avenel in Victoria, Australia, with his partner of 18 years, Rodney Kendall, 52, found out, in 2017 after doing the DNA test, that he is Kate’s fourth cousin once removed through his mother’s working class family from Durham in the UK.
David, whose friends now call him a “queen”, has also tracked down a fourth cousin in Durham who he speaks to regularly via email – he hopes to one day meet her in person, and joked he might “extend (his) invitation to Kate”.
But, despite the genetic evidence, David’s mum “still won’t believe him”, as she “always understood (their) roots to be working class”, but his cousins “are loving” the royal connection.
On David’s father’s side, he has discovered that “they were a boat full of convicts”, so he now likes to jokingly refer to himself as “Kate’s convict cousin”.
“I thought, what do Kate Middleton and I have in common? We both have smashing smiles, great dress sense and we’re distant cousins,” David said.
“I have blue blood – my friends call me a queen – I truly am!”
David began researching his family history more than 20 years ago, he explained: “I’m a bit of an amateur historian.
“When Ancestry started – I’ve been involved for probably 18 to 19 years – I was able to access materials, resources and documents that in the past I would have had to have travelled to England to gain access to, so I was able to do that all online.
“I researched my family on both sides, and that’s when it came up with an interesting connection.”
In 2017, it appeared as if Kate was on David’s family tree, he said: “No one believed me – I had to double check the paperwork, and I thought what better way of doing it than testing my DNA through Ancestry.
“I was able to just submit my DNA to finally prove and say to everybody that I got my research right.”
It was confirmed that David’s mother’s working class family, from Durham in the UK, had links to Kate – they are fourth cousins once removed.
David explained their connection: “We share a common ancestor, and we’re fourth cousins once removed.
“We go back six generations and Kate goes back seven to our common ancestor, Jane Conyers, who was the daughter of a fellow called Sir Thomas Conyers, the ninth Baronet of Horden.
“But, because he had three girls, the title died off with him and they married the local folk in the town.
“So one of those girls was called Isabella, and her sister was called Jane.
“About six generations ago, when my family sort of fell out of royalty with Sir Thomas, the rest of them were working in the coal mines – I find that fascinating stuff.”
David has also discovered a third cousin, the daughter of his great-grandfather, who lives in Durham.
He said: “We’ve actually been talking by email for probably one and a half years now, every couple of weeks.
“She’s all excited about our family’s story.
“And she did her DNA test too, and she’s definitely also related to Kate.”
David explained how his family in Australia feel about being related to Kate: “My mother just doesn’t want to know – she doesn’t believe it because our family were always understood to be very working class.
“Our family comes from Durham in the north, and my grandfather and his mother emigrated to Australia, after World War One, when my great-grandfather was killed.
“He was a coal miner from Newcastle upon Tyne, so my family escaped poverty by moving to Australia, and we just always understood our roots to be working class.
“So when there was a bit of a royal connection I don’t think we quite knew how to feel.
“Mum still won’t believe me, but my cousins are loving it.”
David explained how it feels to have a link to the current royal family: “I’m not a massive royalist by any means, because, in Australia, we’re a few steps removed.
“But having said that, I still have a fascination with UK culture – I watched every bit of the coronation for example.”
David explained the stark contrast between his mother’s and his father’s side of the family: “On my mum’s side we have sirs and Kate Middleton, but on my dad’s side, on the other side of the world, they were a boat full of convicts, so I joke that I’m Kate’s convict cousin!”
Looking to the future, David hopes to meet some of his closer relatives in the UK, he explained: “I’d love to meet the cousin I’ve been emailing and have a trip to Durham.
“Maybe I’ll also extend my invitation to Kate and see if she fancies joining!”