Audrey Hepburn and Katharine Hepburn are two of the most celebrated actresses of all time. They both have won multiple awards, starred in iconic films, and left a lasting legacy in the film industry and beyond. But are they related to each other? Many people have wondered if these two legends share a family connection, or if they just happen to have the same surname. In this article, we will explore the truth behind this Hollywood myth and reveal if Audrey Hepburn is related to Katharine Hepburn.
The Origin of the Hepburn Name
One of the reasons why people might think that Audrey Hepburn and Katharine Hepburn are related is because of their last name. Hepburn is not a very common surname, and it has a distinct origin. According to Ancestry.com, Hepburn is a Scottish name that derives from a place called Hebron or Hebburn in Northumberland, England. The name means “high place by the water”.
The first recorded Hepburn was Adam de Hibburne, who lived in the 13th century and was a tenant of the Earl of Dunbar in Scotland. The Hepburns became a powerful clan in the Scottish Borders, and some of them were involved in the wars of independence against England. One of the most famous Hepburns was James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, who was the third husband of Mary, Queen of Scots.
The Family Backgrounds of Audrey and Katharine
Despite these similarities in their last name and achievements in acting, Audrey Hepburn and Katharine Hepburn were not related. Their respective family backgrounds, birthplaces, and personal histories were distinct from one another.
Audrey Hepburn was born as Audrey Kathleen Ruston on May 4, 1929, in Ixelles, Brussels, Belgium. She was the only child of Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston, an English banker, and Baroness Ella van Heemstra, a Dutch aristocrat. Her father claimed to be descended from James Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell, but this was never proven. He also added the surname Hepburn to his own name without legal authority. Audrey adopted the name Hepburn-Ruston when she became a British citizen in 1948, and later shortened it to Hepburn for her stage name.
Katharine Hepburn was born as Katharine Houghton Hepburn on May 12, 1907, in Hartford, Connecticut, USA. She was the second of six children of Thomas Norval Hepburn, a prominent urologist, and Katharine Martha Houghton, a feminist activist and suffragist. Her paternal grandfather was Sewell Tappan Hepburn, a businessman and politician who served as mayor of Buffalo, New York. Her maternal grandfather was Alfred Augustus Houghton, a wealthy industrialist who co-founded the Corning Glass Works company.
The Relationship Between Audrey and Katharine
Audrey Hepburn and Katharine Hepburn never met in person, but they did have some indirect connections through their work and mutual acquaintances. They both starred in films with some of the same leading men, such as Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy, and Gregory Peck. They also shared some of the same directors, such as George Cukor, Stanley Donen, and Billy Wilder.
Audrey once said that she admired Katharine as an actress and as a woman. She said: “She’s always been an example for me because she’s always done exactly what she wanted to do.” She also revealed that she watched Katharine’s films to prepare for her role as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady (1964), which was originally played by Katharine on Broadway.
Katharine also expressed her respect for Audrey as an actress and as a humanitarian. She said: “She’s a lovely person. She’s done so much good for people all over the world.” She also praised Audrey’s performance in Roman Holiday (1953), which earned her an Oscar for Best Actress. She said: “She was absolutely enchanting.”
Audrey Hepburn and Katharine Hepburn were not related by blood or by marriage. They had different family origins and backgrounds that did not intersect. However, they did have some commonalities in their careers and personalities that made them both remarkable women of their time. They were both trailblazers who defied conventions and expectations, and inspired millions of people with their talent, grace, and courage. They were more than just stars; they were legends.