Royal Constellations

1000 years of ancestral connections in the European Royal families

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Royal Constellations


October 2016


data sketches’ October month


R & D3.js


The Royal92.ged file with ±150 people added (mainly for newborns after 1992)


Royal & aristocratic families are known for their fondness of marrying within their own clique. This leads to very interesting & entangled family trees which the “Royal Constellations” visual tries to convey. Dive into the web of family relations to see how all 10 of the current hereditary royal leaders of Europe can be connected to each other through their ancestors.

By hovering and clicking on one of the 3000 “stars”, each of which represent a person, the web reveals aspects such as “6-degrees of separation” and shortest paths between two royals.


The Royal Constellations is my October visualization for data sketches, my year long collaboration with Shirley Wu. We had chosen the topic of “Presidents & Royals” and the first thing that came to mind was looking into the family trees of the current royal houses. You always hear that a lot of intermarriage happened, especially in the past, so I was wondering how connected the royals really were. How many hops between relatives would it take to go from King Willem Alexander of the Netherlands to Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom for example?

I only had about 1-2 weeks to create this visual in my spare time due to being on vacation in the 2nd half of October. Luckily, I found a sort-of structured dataset about connections in the European royal families from 1992. We’re almost 25 years later now, so I had to manually add quite a few new additions to the families. The dataset definitely wasn’t perfect either, but more in case of missing links, not in the wrong people being connected, which was good enough for me.

Because of all the connections between people in a family tree, a network seemed to make more sense than a straight tree-like visualization. Nevertheless, it still took me a very long time before I was able to “pull” this family tree apart to make the insights visible. Going to a dark design to represent the idea of stars and constellations came quite late in the creation, and I was actually a bit surprised how well it fitted the design.

Getting the hover and clicks to work took quite a lot of time. Mostly because the underlying algorithms to highlight the correct people was taking up far more resources than needed. I therefore had to find ways to make the search more efficient. It performs best in Chrome and less well in the other browsers. However, there was no more time to try and convert the entire visual to HTML5 Canvas. Ah well, if you have a little patience & are interested in the subject, you can get a lot of interesting insights from the end result :)

You can read a more elaborate account of the data preparation, the “sketching” and the coding in data sketches’ October write-up.

The final result of the Royal Constellations data visualization