Boris Johnson’s sister Rachel reveals her great-great grandmother was a Circassian teenager sold to an ‘older Turkish man’ by her father – but believes white slavery left her ‘better off’
British journalist Rachel Johnson has admitted she didn’t cry upon discovering her great-great-grandmother was a victim of white slavery during the Circassian genocide, as she believes it gave the woman ‘better chances’.
Boris Johnson‘s sister, 56, uncovered their family history while researching Channel 5’s TV programme 1000 Years a Slave, which revealed that their ancestor Hanife Feride was as young as 13 when she was sold to Ahmed Hamdi, 43, in Istanbul.
Fleeing Circassia to seek refuge in Turkey alongside other Circassian exiles being perpetrated by Russia, Feride married Ahmed before welcoming son Ali, Rachel and Boris’ great-grandfather.
Arguing that the marriage gave Hanife ‘better chances and that she ‘gave birth to a future politician whose great-grandson became a world leader’, she said the discovery made her ‘pensive rather than sad’.
British journalist Rachel Johnson has admitted she didn’t cry upon discovering her great-great-grandmother was a victim of white slavery during the Circassian genocide, as she believes it gave the woman ‘better chances’
Writing for The Times, Rachel said: ‘I’m sure the crew wanted me to cry, but I didn’t.
‘How could I cry, when this girl’s life chances, as judged by her father, were far better if she married a rich merchant in Istanbul than if she stayed in a poor village by the Black Sea — and he was right? She gave birth to a future politician, whose great-grandson became a world leader.
‘After all, if my forebear hadn’t been sold, she would have probably entered an arranged marriage anyway. And, just as poverty and occupation forced fathers in the Caucasus to flog their daughters in the 19th century, after the Taliban takeover of 2021 and economic collapse of the country Afghan fathers are selling girls as young as three today. ‘
Contemplating her journey to Istanbul, Rachel concluded: ‘It did not make me cry. But it made me pensive; made me question the foundations of marriage as well as slavery.’
Rachel Johnson’s great-great grandmother, Hanife Feride, is seen far right, alongside her granddaughter Durer (centre) and daughter Munevver (far left), who was Ali Kemal’s sister. Ali is Boris and Rachel’s great-grandfather
Pictured: Rachel and Boris Johnson’s fascinating family tree
In 2008 Boris Johnson discovered his paternal great grandfather was a journalist and liberal politician who was killed after being kidnapped on a charge of treason as the Ottoman Empire entered its final days.
At the time, the Tory heavyweight took part in the BBC‘s Who Do You Think You Are? Programme which shed light on exactly where Mr Johnson had come from.
It revealed Ali Kemal, Mr Johnson’s great grandfather, was born in Constantinople, now Istanbul, in 1867. He was a prominent journalist, poet and politician who became known for his strong liberal democratic political views.
But such views saw him exiled under Abdul Hamid II, the 34th Sultan, who reigned from 1876 to 1909.
Boris Johnson (right), pictured as a child with his family (from left: mum Charlotte, sister Jo, father Stanley, and siblings Rachel, Leo and Boris)
Boris’ great-grandfather Ali Kemal was a prominent figure in the Ottoman Empire at the start of the 20th Century. A prominent journalist, poet and politician he met a grisly end in 1922 as he was lynched by a mob
In 2019 Boris Johnson (pictured leaving his London home att the time) referred to his ‘Muslim great grandfather’ during a Tory leadership debate as he responded to accusations of Islamophobia
Increasing instability within the Empire in the years before the First World War prompted Kemal to flee for his life to England where his wife Winifred gave birth to a son, Osman Wilfred Kemal, in Bournemouth, with the pair having already had a daughter called Selma.
His wife died after giving birth and Kemal then stayed with his mother in law, Margaret Brun, whose maiden name was Johnson.
He subsequently returned to the Ottoman Empire where he remarried and had another son.
It was then that he rose to great political prominence as he became Minister for the Interior in 1919 in the government of Damat Ferid Pasha, who at the time was the de facto prime minister.
However, Kemal only held the job for three months before reportedly resigning.
His life was then brought to a grisly end in 1922 as he was kidnapped from a barber shop in Istanbul in November and was to face a charge of treason.
Ali Kemal (pictured with his first wife Winifred) fled to England in the years before the First World War. The pair had a son called Osman who is the father of Stanley Johnson, Boris’ father
Seen: Stanley Johnson, Boris’ father, whose own father changed his name from Osman Wilfred Kemal to Wilfred Johnson
He was due to be taken to Ankara for trial but on the way the group was attacked by a mob and he was lynched and stoned to death as the Turkish War of Independence raged.
His son and daughter, who remained living in London, took the name Johnson, potentially to avoid being bullied at school.
His son Osman also switched his first and middle names so that he became known as Wilfred Johnson.
Wilfred would marry Irene Williams and the pair had a son: Stanley Johnson, Boris’s father, who was born in 1940.
At the time the Tory leader remarked in the BBC show that he was of a ‘completely mongrel composition’, according to The Telegraph.
‘It is interesting to look at how British I can feel and yet, actually, what a completely mongrel composition I really am,’ he said.
‘What it really teaches me is that our genes pulse down our lives and we don’t really know where they have come from and where they are going.’
The programme also revealed that Mr Johnson is a very distant relative of the Queen.
His paternal grandmother was a descendent of German aristocrat Prince Paul Von Wurttemberg who was linked to King George II.
Mr Johnson was shocked by the revelation and said at the time: ‘If you had told me that I was related to George II, I would have thought you were absolutely crackers.’
Channel 5’s TV programme 1000 Years a Slave is on Tuesdays.
In 2008 Boris Johnson (seen this weekend during the G20 summit) discovered his paternal great grandfather was a Turkish journalist and liberal politician who was killed after being kidnapped on a charge of treason as the Ottoman Empire entered its final days