Helena Bonham Carter Family History


Helena Bonham Carter was born on May 26th, 1966 to Raymond and Elena Bonham Carter in Islington, London.

When she was five, her mother had a nervous breakdown from which it took her three years to recover.  Her mother’s experience in therapy would lead to her becoming a psychotherapist.  Five years after her mother’s recovery, her father had a stroke which resulted in him being half-paralysed and using a wheelchair.  With her brothers at college, she was left to help her mother cope.

Helena had no formal training in acting, but burst her way in.  Her breakthrough film was A Room With A View in 1985.  Afterwards she tended to be typecast as the English rose in period dramas.

Later she played more quirky roles – such as Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter films and the Red Queen opposite Johnny Depp in Alice in Wonderland.  More recently she has been Princess Margaret in Netflix’s The Crown.

Portsmouth and Later Bonham Carters

Helena Bonham Carter’s ancestry is a very good example of a provincial family in England that made good.

Sir John Carter, born around 1740 and the son of a Portsmouth merchant, became part of “the Whig oligopoly which dominated Portsmouth” and was elected its mayor nine times in a row.

His son John was the Whig MP for Portsmouth from 1816 to 1838.  He assumed the name of Bonham Carter when he inherited the estates of his cousin Thomas Bonham in 1827.

The Carters held onto their power in Portsmouth with tenacity.  Lady Violet Bonham Carter of a later generation had the following to say in their defense:

“They had to make themselves and the law look foolish if they were not to submit to endless frustration and, at times, real persecution.  As men of strong character and a long tradition of independence behind them, they were not the kind to stand for that.  Indeed, had they not acted as they did, it is unlikely that the battle for toleration and reform would have been won so roundly and convincingly as it was.”

John and his family were members of the Unitarian church and this gave them a wider circle than Portsmouth.  He himself married Joanna, the wife of William Smith the abolitionist MP.  Joanna’s sister Frances was the mother of Florence Nightingale; and John’s son John married into the Baring family, two other sons married Normans.

There followed Bonham Carter sportsmen, judges, army and naval officers and empire builders.

The Bonham Carters and the Liberal Party

Sir Maurice Bonham Carter was the youngest of the five sons of Henry Bonham Carter.

He was Herbert Asquith’s prinicipal Private Secretary during Asquith’s time as Prime Minister from 1910 to 1916.  In 1915 he married Asquith’s daughter Lady Violet who would become a matriarch for the Liberal party.  From that time on, this side of the Bonham Carters was inextricably linked with the fortunes of the party and vice versa for the party.

Sir Maurice’s daughter Laura married Jo Grimond who became the leader of the Liberal party in 1956.  And his son Mark stood as a Liberal party candidate at Torrington in 1958 and had a stunning by-election victory over the Tories.

However, time passed and there was no second coming for a party that had been so strong and powerful during the 19th and early 20th centuries.  The Liberal surge faded and the Bonham Carters declined in inflluence.

And Later

Raymond Bonham Carter, born in 1929, was much younger than his Liberal party siblings and followed a different path.  He became a banker of the traditional sort.  But he did one thing different.  In 1958 he married Elena Propper de Callejón, daughter of the Spanish diplomat Eduardo Propper de Callejon and his Austrian-French Jewish wife Hélène Fould-Springer.

He and Elena had three children in London in the 1960’s – Edward a fund manager, Thomas involved in corporate governance, and later Helena the actress.

Helena Bonham Carter’s Family Tree

  • Sir John Carter, mayor of Portsmouth (1741-1808) m. Dorothy Cuthbert (b. 1750) in Portsmouth in 1770
  • – Susannah Carter (b. 1775) m. John Giffard
  • – Mary Carter (b. 1786) m. Edward Carter
  • – John Carter (1788-1838), became John Bonham Carter in 1827.
  • John Bonham Carter m. Joanna Smith (1791-1884) in London in 1816
  • – John Bonham Carter (1817-1884) m. Mary Baring
  • – Hilary Bonham Carter (1821-1865), artist
  • – Alfred Bonham Carter (1825-1910) m. Mary Norman
  • – Henry Bonham Carter (1827-1921)
  • – Hugh Bonham Carter (1832-1896) m. Jane MacDonald
  • Henry Bonham Carter m. Sibella Norman (1837-1916)  in 1860
  • – Walter Bonham Carter (1866-1947)
  • – Norman Bonham Carter (1868-1917)
  • – Edgar Bonham Carter (1870-1956)
  • – Charles Bonham Carter (1876 -1955) m. Gabriele Fisher
  • – Maurice Bonham Carter (1880-1960)
  • Sir Maurice Bonham Carter m. Lady Violet Asquith (1887-1969) in 1915
  • – Cressida Bonham Carter (1917-1997) m. Jasper Ridley
  • – Laura Bonham Carter (1918-1994) m. Jo Grimond
  • – Mark Bonham Carter (1922-1994) m. Leslie Grenfell
  • – Raymond Bonham Carter (1929-2004)
  • Raymond Bonham Carter m. Elena Propper (b. 1935) in 1958
  • – Edward Bonham Carter (b. 1960)
  • – Thomas Bonham Carter (b. 1961)
  • – Helena Bonham Carter (b. 1966)
  • Helena Bonham Carter had relationships with Kenneth Branagh (1994-1999) and with Tim Burton (2001-2014)
  • – Billy Ray Burton (b. 2003)
  • – Nell Burton (b. 2007)



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Written by Colin Shelley

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