Kate Winslet: Why I am pleased my ancestors were impoverished slaves

Actress Kate Winslet attends a special screening of "Wonder Wheel", hosted by Amazon Studios, at the Museum of Modern Art on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Kate Winslet attends a screening of Wonder Wheel in New York (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Kate Winslet has said she would have been “disgusted” to discover she had wealthy or royal ancestors on Who Do You Think You Are?

The Titanic star - who is worth an estimated £62 million - spoke of her relief that the BBC show’s investigation into her family tree revealed her background was one of impoverishment.

Winslet told the Radio Times: “I would have been upset and disgusted if I had come from wealth or royalty.

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“My roots are socialist, working class and, in a funny way, my parents frowned upon the wealthy.”

She instead learned that her maternal great-great-grandfather came to the UK from Sweden in 1884 to work as a tailor, a fact which, “basically means I’m an immigrant”.

The 43-year-old Oscar-winning actress was born in Reading, one of four children to Roger Winslet, a struggling actor who she has said in the past took labouring jobs to make ends meet. Her mother Sally worked as a nanny and a waitress and her maternal grandparents were also actors.

Winslet attended Redroofs Theatre School but had to leave after sitting her GCSEs because her parents could not afford the fees.

British actress Kate Winslet, center, with her parents Sally Bridges-Winslet, left, and Roger Winslet, right, at the British Academy Film Awards 2009 after party at The Grosvenor Hotel in London, England, Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Kate Winslet with her parents Sally Bridges-Winslet and Roger Winslet at the Bafta Awards in 2009 (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

She said: “Mum and Dad went to Oxford for their honeymoon and we always had holidays out of the back of the van with a tent.

“We had wonderful times camping in Cornwall and France. We never went anywhere as a family that involved getting on a plane, ever, ever, ever.”

In the family history series Winslet learns her great-great-great-great grandparents Anders and Anna were starving slaves in Sweden in the early 1800s.

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The Reader star said coming from a “long line of impoverished people on both sides of my family”, is why she had “tried to instill my parents’ values into my kids.”

Winslet said: “People never believe me, but my children aren’t over privileged. We just don’t live like that. They are very balanced. Humble.

“My ancestors were impoverished but they would do anything for their kids and I’m exactly the same.”

©2010 RAMEY PHOTO English actress Kate Winslet coming out of her house to pick up her children at the school in New York, NY on November 23, 2010.Kate Winslet and Burberry model Louis Dowler have reportedly split following their four month romance. CG (Photo by Philip Ramey/Corbis via Getty Images)
Kate Winslet with her children in New York in 2010 (Photo by Philip Ramey/Corbis via Getty Images)

Winslet is mother to Mia, 18, with her first husband Jim Threapleton, son Joe, 15, with her second husband Sam Mendes and five-year-old Bear with her current husband Edward Abel Smith, formerly known as Ned Rocknroll and the nephew of businessman Sir Richard Branson.

Winslet’s mother died from ovarian cancer in 2017, and Winslet revealed she had always wanted her to appear on the BBC show and find out more about their roots.

She said: “When Mum died, it was like the North Star just dropped out of the sky. It was the hardest part of making Who Do You Think You Are?

“Mum would absolutely have come with me on the journey. She loved travelling when I was in a position to send her and Dad to nice places. She would have been part of WDYTYA, I know she would.

“I cried and cried. I cried every step of the way.”

Daniel Radcliffe delves into his family history on Who Do You Think You Are? (Credit: BBC/Wall to Wall Media Ltd/Stephen Perry)
Daniel Radcliffe delves into his family history on Who Do You Think You Are? (Credit: BBC/Wall to Wall Media Ltd/Stephen Perry)

Daniel Radcliffe also takes part in the new series.

The Harry Potter star breaks down in tears as he reads his great-grandfather's suicide note. Jewish businessman Samuel Gershon had been left destitute and shamed after a robbery at the family's Hatton Garden jewellery business in 1936, which police accused him of faking so he could claim the insurance.

Radcliffe said: "Everything he had worked for and that his father had worked for, has sort of been destroyed.

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"You want to just reach into the past and just go ‘whatever you’re going through, you have so much to offer the people who are around you still . . . you have so much to give to them.

“And, they still would all have loved you’.”

Who Do You Think You Are? begins on Monday July 22 on BBC One at 9pm