Genealogists have recently traced a bloodline dating back 32 generations from George W. Bush to Dermot McMurrough, king of Leinster, one of the four provinces of Ireland. Now let’s be clear about one thing to begin with—we are not at all anxious to claim George as Irish and we certainly don’t want him claiming his rightful throne in four years’ time. You are welcome to him! We are free enough, thank you very much.

Not that this particular relationship would earn George very many Irish votes, as Dermot McMurragh was the Benedict Arnold of Irish history. Dermot was in deep shit as a result of abducting Dervorgilla, the wife of Tiernan O’Rourke, king of Breifne, in 1153, and a bitter war ensued. He was eventually banished by Rory O’Connor, the High King of Ireland, in 1166 but went to France and Wales and persuaded the Normans to invade Ireland in an attempt to get his kingdom back. The successful invasion took place in 1169, led by Richard De Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke and better known in Irish history as Strongbow, from whom the Bushes are also descended. Strongbow married Aoife, Dermot’s daughter, and became Lord of Leinster and governor of Ireland on behalf of King Henry II of England. We had to endure 750 years of English rule before we got rid of them from most of Ireland in 1921, and indeed they still today control six of the northern counties. Let’s hope it doesn’t take George that long to get out of Iraq!

But enough about George W. Bush, how about you? The number of ancestors you have at any particular level is multiplied by two each time you go back a generation, and 32 generations ago you would appear to have had 2 32 ancient ancestors. Now this comes to a whopping 4,295 million. Impossible you say, and of course you are right, because the population of the entire world then only came to about 400 million. Nevertheless, you did have that number of slots on your family tree at that time. The answer to this particular conundrum is that the same people crop up many times across the tree because of the couplings of cousins, even far-out ones.

It seems to me, however, that, even making all due allowance for inbreeding, almost all the inhabitants of your country or countries of origin over 1,000 years ago must have been ancestors of yours provided they had children, their lines survived on either the male or female side, and there was a reasonable degree of population movement within the country. This applies even more so to royalty, as kings and princes were very generous with their sperm. If, for instance, you had any ancestor who came from France or Germany, you can, with a fair degree of certainty, claim to be descended from Charlemagne. He was in his prime in the eighth century, about 40 generations ago. As you should have had 2 40, or 1,099,512 million, ancestors at that time, when the population of Europe was about 36 million, he is bound to appear many times on your family tree.

It does not matter where your ancestors came from; there were kings of one sort or another everywhere and you have lots of them in your family tree! But don’t let it go to your head. There are lots of pimps and whores there, too.