The Duchess of Cambridge revealed she has been researching her family tree as she met with researchers launching a ‘landmark’ study into children’s development.
Kate Middleton is descended from coal miners, a road sweeper and a prisoner, previous research has shown.
But the mum-of-three can also count earls, countesses and even a prime minister in her ancestors.
She is said to be related to William Petty FitzMaurice, the 1st Marquess of Lansdowne, who led Britain in 1782 but was driven out of office the year after.
He’s remembered for negotiating the peace settlement that ended the American War of Independence.
Kate disclosed she was doing her own research while speaking to academics from University College London’s (UCL) Centre for Longitudinal Studies.
The group is tracking the development of children from the age of nine months to five years across England.
The Children of the 2020s study will look at factors affecting development and education – from home environment and community, to early years services and the broader social and economic circumstances of families.
Factors like parental mental health, trauma, life events, stressors and regional and neighbourhood characteristics will be considered.
Kate, who wore a £16 recycled Zara dress to the event, said she had noticed the impact of social issues closer to home after looking back at the past four generations of her own family.
During a roundtable discussion, she was shown graphs showing how higher socio-economic status correlates to a greater amount of grey matter in a young child’s brain.
Grey matter is linked to regions involved in muscle control, and sensory perception, such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control.
The duchess was also was shown archive material of historic research into early childhood dating back to the 1940s, including a birth questionnaire given to new mothers in 1958.
Professor Alissa Goodman, the study’s co-investigator told her: ‘We had answers to questions around who looked after the husband while the woman went into hospital.’
The royal replied: ‘Oh, it was different, then.’
Professor Pasco Fearon, UCL’s Chair in Developmental Psychopathology and principal investigator of the new study, said: ‘Intergenerational patterns of inequality are very rigid and hard to hack.
‘We were talking in the meeting about what are the key points of opportunity where you can disrupt those generational patterns and get to a better outcome that might have had a history of really difficult experiences.’
Kate launched the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood in 2021, which aims to ‘drive awareness of and action on the extraordinary impact of the early years, in order to transform society for generations to come’.
Professor Goodman said researchers were ‘very impressed with her interest and knowledge’, adding that it would be ‘amazing’ to have her back.
Kate said: ‘Our early childhoods shape our adult lives and knowing more about what impacts this critical time is fundamental to understanding what we as a society can do to improve our future health and happiness.
‘The landmark Children of the 2020s study will illustrate the importance of the first five years and provide insights into the most critical aspects of early childhood, as well as the factors which support or hinder positive lifelong outcomes.
‘I am committed to supporting greater in-depth research in this vital area and I’m delighted to be meeting all those behind the study at this early stage.’
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