Kate Winslet on uncovering Swedish roots and tales of poverty and prison in tonight's Who Do You Think You Are?
After looking into her family tree for Who Do You Think You Are? Kate Winslet has dispelled commonly-held assumptions that she comes from well-to-do stock.
“I ain’t posh mate,” laughed the Oscar-winning star. “I was born in Reading and my parents never had money. It was always a struggle. Our family of six lived in a rented home. My dad Roger, an actor, always had to get whatever odd job he could. So I’m not posh at all!”
And, as she explored her ancestry, Kate discovered that those humble roots go back several generations. Looking into her late mother’s Sally’s ancestry, she learnt that her family came from Sweden. When she visited the country for Who Do You Think You Are?, she heard that her maternal four-times great-grandfather Anders Jönsson was caught stealing and died in prison in the 1830s.
“It’s very sad,” she said. “He stole because he was starving and he was doing the right thing for his family. But his son Johan, my great-great-great-grandfather, would only have been five then, the same age as Bear, my youngest child. I couldn’t stand the thought of Bear being without his dad.”
Meanwhile, on her father’s side, Kate found out that her three-times great-grandfather William Colquhoun joined the Grenadier Guards in London as a drummer in 1810, when he was just 11.
“I wondered whether that was even allowed at that age!’” she laughed. “But I loved that he was making something of his life through hard work and musical talent. I can barely play a recorder!”
After delving into her roots, Kate Winslet admitted that she now feels closer to her heritage.
“I felt a connection to the ancestors I learnt about,” she said. “It makes me feel as though I fit somewhere more. Knowing where I came from is wonderful. I always strive to remain grounded and to pass that on to my kids. But maybe because I come from such beginnings, that is actually in my DNA.”
Who Do You Think You Are? airs on Monday 12 August BBC1 9pm