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Kate Winslet: I would have been disgusted if my ancestry had shown I came from wealth

Anita Singh
Winslet said she 'comes from a long line of impoverished people' - PA

Kate Winslet has told of her relief at discovering that her ancestors were peasants, saying she would have been “upset and disgusted” to have come from wealth.

The actress contacted the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? programme and asked to be featured because she wanted to know more about her heritage.

She 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 most heartbreaking discovery for Winslet was that her great-great-great-great-grandfather, Anders Jonsson, was imprisoned in Sweden for stealing potatoes and honey to feed his family; one of his five children died from malnutrition. He died in prison from typhoid.

He was kept as a “slave” in Sweden, where he worked as a groom and was paid not in money but in tokens which could only be exchanged on the estate owned by his employer.

Winslet wanted to explore the Swedish roots of her mother, Sally, who died in 2017 Credit: Dave Hogan/Getty Images

Winslet said that she “would have been upset and disgusted if I had come from wealth or royalty”, and explained: “Mr roots are socialist, working class and, in a funny way, my parents frowned upon the wealthy.

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

She told Radio Times that discovering how poor her ancestors were made sense of her life. “I come from a long line of impoverished people on both sides of my family, which perhaps explains why I’ve tried to instil my parents’ values into my kids.

“People never believe me, but my children aren’t over-privileged. We just don’t live like that. They are very balanced. Humble.” Winslet has three children, the youngest with Edward Abel Smith, nephew of Sir Richard Branson and previously known as Ned Rocknroll.

Winslet and her sister now plan to celebrate “Anders Day” each year on the date of their ancestor's death.

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