A family affair

Workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger, Queen Jane Seymour (1508?-1537). A great-granddaughter of Sir Philip Wentworth and Mary Clifford, she was the third wife of King Henry VIII. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

One of the features of the recently-announced engagement of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry of Wales is the news that they are distant cousins, descendants of Sir Philip Wentworth (d. 1464) and Mary Clifford. It is remarkable to think of this remote pair, who lived 550 years ago, being represented today by the engaged couple, both born as recently as the 1980s. So who were they, Sir Philip and Lady Wentworth?

Philip Wentworth was born about 1424 to Roger Wentworth, Esq. (d. 1462) of Parlington, Yorkshire, and Nettlestead, Suffolk, and his wife Margery le Despencer (widow of John de Ros, 7th Baron de Ros). Philip would become Usher of the King’s Chamber, King’s Sergeant, Esquire of the Body, King’s Carver, and Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk. The Constable of Llansteffann and Clare Castles, Sir Philip was also a Knight of the Shire of Suffolk.

Sadly, Sir Philip Wentworth was beheaded 18 May 1464 at Middleham, Yorkshire, three days after his capture during the Battle of Hexham, Northumberland, which marked the end of the Lancastrian resistance in the north of England during the War of the Roses. He was in the service of House of Lancaster with the Army of King Henry VI. (The king was his wife’s third cousin once removed; the leader of the Yorkists, King Edward IV, was another family connection.)

Mary Clifford was the daughter of John Clifford, 7th Lord Clifford, hereditary Sheriff of Westmorland, who was slain at the Siege of Meaux in France 13 March 1421/22, and supposedly was buried at Bolton Priory, Yorkshire, a great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson of King John I.

Sir Philip and Lady Wentworth had three children, two of whom would become the direct ancestors of Harry and Meghan.

Clifford’s wife was Elizabeth Percy (d. 1437), whom he married between August 1403 and 5 November 1412, a great-great-granddaughter of King Edward III. Elizabeth married (2) by contract dated 7 May 1426 her cousin Ralph Neville, 2nd Earl of Westmorland, who was a Captain in the Marches towards Scotland in 1436.[1] Elizabeth, Countess of Westmorland, was the daughter of Henry “Hotspur” Percy, by courtesy Lord Percy, and Lady Elizabeth Mortimer, daughter of Edmund Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March, by his wife Philippa, Countess of Ulster in her own right, a granddaughter of King Edward III of England. Lady Westmorland died 26 October 1436, and was buried at Staindrop, Durham.

Mary (Clifford), Lady Wentworth, was buried at the (Blackfriars) Friars Minor at Ipswich, Suffolk; however, the gravesite is no longer visible. Sir Philip and Lady Wentworth had three children, two of whom would become the direct ancestors of Harry and Meghan.[2] Perhaps the engaged couple will make a visit to the tombs of their common ancestors, King Edward III and his queen, Philippa of Hainault, at Westminster Abbey before their upcoming wedding in London.


[1] Westmorland’s aunt of the half blood was Lady Cecily Neville, later Duchess of York, mother of King Edward IV and King Richard III, and grandmother of Elizabeth of York, Henry VII’s queen.

[2] Douglas Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study In Colonial and Medieval Families, 2nd ed. (2011), 214, 541, 614.

David Allen Lambert

About David Allen Lambert

David Lambert has been on the staff of NEHGS since 1993 and is the organization’s Chief Genealogist. David is an internationally recognized speaker on the topics of genealogy and history. His genealogical expertise includes New England and Atlantic Canadian records of the 17th through 21st century; military records; DNA research; and Native American and African American genealogical research in New England. Lambert has published many articles in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, the New Hampshire Genealogical Record, Rhode Island Roots, The Mayflower Descendant, and American Ancestors magazine. He has also published A Guide to Massachusetts Cemeteries (NEHGS, 2009). David is an elected Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston, Mass., and a life member of the New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati. He is also the tribal genealogist for the Massachuset-Punkapoag Indians of Massachusetts.View all posts by David Allen Lambert