News / Family histories of the political party leaders – not as different as you might think…

Family histories of the political party leaders – not as different as you might think…

We’ve researched the political party leaders’ family histories, using our family history records and other public records, and found some fascinating details.

The Tory and Labour party leaders are commonly thought to have wildly opposing backgrounds. Genealogical research, however, has found that the family histories of David Cameron and Gordon Brown are not so different after all.

David Cameron – blue blood, ‘White Mischief’ and Scottish lineage

David William Donald Cameron was born in 1966 in London to Ian Cameron and Mary Mount. The well-heeled Tory leader is a fifth cousin twice removed of the Queen and a seventh cousin of Princes William and Harry, and a descendant of William IV.

David’s paternal great-great-great-grandmother, Lady Agnes Hay and her parents, the Earl and Countess of Erroll can be found in the 1841 census. Here you can see Lady Agnes Hay’s 1841 census return:

Lady Agnes Hay 1841 census

The Countess is David’s royal link – Lady Elizabeth FitzClarence, the illegitimate daughter of William IV.

Through Elizabeth, he is also related to Josslyn Victor Hay, 22nd Earl of Errol whose dramatic murder in Kenya in 1941 was depicted in the film ‘White Mischief’.

Perhaps the least known element of Cameron’s background, however, is that he is also a distant cousin of Boris Johnson, the Tory Mayor of London. Both descend from King George II (1683-1760) – albeit by illegitimate lines.

The Scottish Cameron side of the family has also not been commonly explored. While Gordon Brown’s ancestors were farming in Fife in the early 1800s, the Camerons were also tilling the land around Inverness. William Cameron, David’s great-great-great-grandfather was recorded in the 1851 census as a farmer at Upper Muckovy, just outside Inverness. William’s son Ewen then went into finance, and beginning a tradition of financiers that continued until David Cameron entered politics.

Gordon Brown – Scottish farmers and a family secret

The current Labour leader’s background is well-known and often discussed; he descends from a line of hard-working and upwardly mobile Scottish farmers and stonemasons. The prime minister was born James Gordon Brown in 1951 in Renfrewshire, the son of a Minister in the Church of Scotland, John Brown. Before that, the Browns were farmers in Fife for three traceable generations.

There is, however, a little-known family secret in Gordon Brown’s family’s past, discovered by extensive searches through online records. One of Brown’s great-grandfathers was born illegitimate in the late 1840s as a result of a relationship between a farmer’s teenage daughter and a man 20 years her senior – a doctor of medicine who became a wealthy GP.

Francis Troup Manson, a great-grandfather of Gordon Brown on his maternal line, was born illegitimate to Jessie Cruickshank, a farmer’s daughter of about 16 years old. It is quite probable that the affair would have caused people to gossip in their small Highland village.

Gordon’s paternal grandfather was called Ebenezer Brown and his parents, Brown’s great-grandparents, John and Mary Brown are recorded in the 1891 Scottish census living at Brigghills Farm House in Auchterderran, where John was a farmer. Here is Ebenezer Brown’s 1891 census return:

Ebenezer Brown 1891 census

Nick Clegg – an intriguing multi-cultural family

Nicholas William Peter Clegg is the youngest of the three leaders and was born in 1967 at Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire to a Dutch mother and a half-English, half-Russian father. He speaks five languages and has by far the most cosmopolitan background of the three, with a Russian baroness as a grandmother and a Dutch mother who was once a Japanese prisoner of war in WWII. He is also currently married to a Spanish lawyer.

Nick Clegg’s paternal grandfather is Hugh Clegg, whose 1911 census return you can see here:

Hugh Clegg 1911 census

Hugh Clegg married a baroness who was the granddaughter of the Russian nobleman Ignaty Zakrevsky. This nobleman had a daughter called Maria Ignatievna Zakrevskaya, born in St Petersburg in 1891, and Nick Clegg’s great-great-aunt. She became a countess through her first marriage and then a baroness through her second.

She was suspected of being a double agent, spying for both the Soviet Union and British Intelligence, leading to her being called the Russian Mata Hari. She was known to be a heavy drinker, and also had affairs with the writer HG Wells and the Russian literary giant, Maxim Gorky. She also wrote books and film scripts, including ‘Three Sisters’ directed by Laurence Olivier in 1970.

Like both Brown and Cameron, Clegg also has a more ordinary side to his family tree. In his direct paternal line, his great-grandfather was a schoolteacher and clergyman from Leeds who married a master mariner’s daughter from Hull called Gertrude. John Clegg ran schools in Suffolk and Huntingdonshire.

Nick’s paternal great-great-grandparents, Simeon and Mary Clegg, can also be found in the 1871 census. The couple were living at 3 Grange Street in Leeds and Simeon was employed as a butcher.