What the Descendants of 8 Controversial Historical Figures Are Doing Today

Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of Benito Mussolini.
Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of Benito Mussolini.
Marco Di Lauro / Stringer, Getty Images

The joy of genealogy is in finding unexpected twists and turns in your family’s past. For some, it’s a reason to celebrate—the direct descendants of the frontiersman Davy Crockett and author Leo Tolstoy, for example, assemble every few years for a jolly reunion. For others, well, having a link to a certain lineage might be something they'd want to hide. And being a descendant (a term we use loosely here to also include non-direct descendants) of any notable figure from history can bring plenty of baggage along with it. Here’s what the descendants of eight controversial historical figures are doing right now.

1. Aaron Burr’s descendant is boating buddies with Alexander Hamilton's great-great-great-great-granddaughter.

For the 200th anniversary of the Burr-Hamilton duel, Antonio Burr and Douglas Hamilton, a fifth-great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton, reenacted the scene in Weehawken, New Jersey.Mario Tama/Getty Images

In 1804, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr were embroiled in a venomous feud and decided to “take it outside,” engaging in a duel that, ultimately, led to Hamilton’s death. More than 200 years later, there’s no bad blood between the two families anymore: In fact, members from both sides go kayaking together. Antonio Burr—a descendant of one of Aaron Burr's cousins who portrayed the third vice president in a reenactment of the duel for its 200th anniversary in 2004—once served as Commodore of the Inwood Canoe Club in New York. Fittingly, Alexandra Hamilton Woods, the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of the first secretary of the U.S. Treasury, served as the club’s treasurer for a time and worked alongside Burr. The two originally met at a party and only put together their familial connection (and their passion for canoeing) after some small talk.

“I used to tease him about our respective history,” Hamilton Woods told the New York Post in 2015. “We’ve had a number of interesting conversations. But I have great fondness and respect for Antonio.” Though each defends their respective family member's actions surrounding the duel, when they had to deal with club matters, Hamilton Woods said, "[Antonio] and I find ourselves usually on the same side.”

2. Adolf Hitler’s great-nephews are proud Americans in Long Island.

William Patrick Hitler and his mother outside the Astor Hotel in New York City in June 1941.Keystone/Getty Images

Descendants from Adolf Hitler's paternal side of the family currently reside in Long Island, New York, and, if you ever visit, you’re likely to find them proudly flying the American flag. Their father, William Patrick Hitler, was the son of the dictator’s half-brother Alois, who had the same father as Adolf. William moved to the United States in 1939 shortly after having a falling-out with his uncle, and would famously write an article for the July 4, 1939 edition of Look magazine called “Why I Hate My Uncle." As you'd expect, the Führer was no fan of Willy, either, calling him “my loathsome nephew.”

During World War II, William would join the United States Navy and earned a Purple Heart while serving his new country. After the war, he changed his name and had four sons, three of whom continue to live quietly in Long Island and rarely speak to reporters. The scattered anecdotes that do exist from neighbors describe a perfectly normal childhood in the town of Patchogue, and their adulthood has been similarly unassuming: One brother became a social worker, while the other two run a landscaping company together. None are married; none have children.

3. Benito Mussolini has a Political Playboy Model granddaughter.

Italian Senator Alessandra Mussolini holds a political rally in 2014.Laura Lezza/Getty Images

On April 1, 2019, the following words actually appeared in the Washington Post: "Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, is engaged in a bitter feud with Jim Carrey, the actor best known for the likes of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Dumb and Dumber. No, this is not an April Fools’ Day joke, and yes, the Internet is to blame."

Unlike Hitler’s descendants, Alessandra Mussolini has no problem calling attention to herself, nor is she ashamed of defending her ancestor’s past. So when Carrey insulted her grandfather on Twitter, Mussolini started tossing verbal tomatoes at the funnyman and his defenders. It’s no surprise: According to the New York Times, Mussolini ran for office as a member of the "neo-fascist" Italian Social Movement in 1992, before more recently serving in the European Parliament as a member of the Forza Italia party. In addition to embracing her grandfather’s legacy and far-right politics over the years, Mussolini has posed as a Playboy cover model, acted in a dozen Italian films, and even released an album of pop music (in Japan, no less).

4. Christopher Columbus’s Spanish Naval Admiral great-great [...] grandson.

It’s not uncommon for a child to follow in his or her parent’s footsteps. Sometimes, a grandchild might even join the business. But it’s not often you hear about a descendant 500 years removed taking on the family job and the titles that go along with them. That is reportedly the case with Cristóbal Colón de Carvajal y Gorosábel, a direct descendant 18 generations removed from Christopher Columbus. Not only did Cristóbal join the Spanish Navy, sail around the world, and command his own ship in his younger days, but he also holds onto many of the ceremonial titles that have been in his family for generations: He's technically still Admiral and Adelantado Mayor of the Indies, the 18th Duke of Veragua, and the 16th Marquis of Jamaica, but he told the BBC these titles are merely "honorific" now.

Though the 70-year-old Colón doesn't have much business in the United States, he famously made headlines after he was named grand marshal of the 1992 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California, which gained the ire of many Native American groups; it was later announced he would be the co-marshal with U.S. Representative Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Native American politician from Colorado. Today, he'll occasionally pop up in the news to defend the most controversial member of his family tree.

5. Josef Stalin’s granddaughter is a Buddhism-Practicing Punkster.

Josef Stalin with his son Vasily and daughter Svetlana.Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

In 1967, Stalin’s only daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, embarrassed the Soviet Union by defecting to the United States. Her daughter Olga Peters—a.k.a. Chrese Evans— is now decidedly American. According to the most recent reports, Evans lives in Oregon, practices Buddhism, and works as an antiques dealer. Sporting some wicked tattoos and punk-rock hair, she’s been photographed carrying a toy Kalashnikov rifle, prompting the New York Post to claim: “Stalin’s granddaughter is an all-American badass.”

6. Napoleon Bonaparte’s descendant married Napoleon's second wife's great-great-great-niece.

Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon and his wife, Olympia Von Arco-Zinneberg, on their wedding day, with a statue of Napoleon fittingly watching over them.Luc Castel/Getty Images

Napoleon Bonaparte wrote some seriously mushy love letters to his first wife, Josephine, during the late 18th century. (Take this doozy: “I hope before long to crush you in my arms and cover you with a million kisses burning as though beneath the equator.”) Apparently, the talent for saccharine prose was passed down to his descendants.

In 2019, Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon—an investment banker and great-great-great-great-nephew to Napoleon—married Austria’s Countess Olympia von und zu Arco-Zinneberg, the great-great-great-niece of Napoleon’s second wife, Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria. Remarking on the connection, he said: “When I met Olympia, I plunged into her eyes and not into her family tree.” Proof, if anything, that he inherited his great-great-great-great-uncle’s silver tongue.

7 and 8. Hideki Tojo’s great-grandson and Harry S. Truman's grandson are looking to atone.

Hideki Tojo was Japan’s Prime Minister during much of World War II, before being executed as a Class-A war criminal in 1948. Today, his great-grandson, Hidetoshi Tojo, an entrepreneur, is interested in making amends. According to The Associated Press, “[he’s] reached out to Clifton Truman Daniel, grandson of wartime U.S. President Harry S. Truman” and has discussed working together on different projects to bring people together.

“Reaching full reconciliation all at once would be difficult,” Tojo said in 2015, according to the Miami Herald. “But I’m sure we can build understanding, if we can respect each other, and that would be a first step.”

For his part, Clifton Truman Daniel, the descendant of a controversial figure in his own right, currently advocates for the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and is a vocal supporter of nuclear disarmament.

The 10 Best Air Fryers on Amazon

Cosori/Amazon
Cosori/Amazon

When it comes to making food that’s delicious, quick, and easy, you can’t go wrong with an air fryer. They require only a fraction of the oil that traditional fryers do, so you get that same delicious, crispy texture of the fried foods you love while avoiding the extra calories and fat you don’t.

But with so many air fryers out there, it can be tough to choose the one that’ll work best for you. To make your life easier—and get you closer to that tasty piece of fried chicken—we’ve put together a list of some of Amazon’s top-rated air frying gadgets. Each of the products below has at least a 4.5-star rating and over 1200 user reviews, so you can stop dreaming about the perfect dinner and start eating it instead.

1. Ultrean Air Fryer; $76

Ultrean/Amazon

Around 84 percent of reviewers awarded the Ultrean Air Fryer five stars on Amazon, making it one of the most popular models on the site. This 4.2-quart oven doesn't just fry, either—it also grills, roasts, and bakes via its innovative rapid air technology heating system. It's available in four different colors (red, light blue, black, and white), making it the perfect accent piece for any kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Cosori Air Fryer; $120

Cosori/Amazon

This highly celebrated air fryer from Cosori will quickly become your favorite sous chef. With 11 one-touch presets for frying favorites, like bacon, veggies, and fries, you can take the guesswork out of cooking and let the Cosori do the work instead. One reviewer who “absolutely hates cooking” said, after using it, “I'm actually excited to cook for the first time ever.” You’ll feel the same way!

Buy it: Amazon

3. Innsky Air Fryer; $90

Innsky/Amazon

With its streamlined design and the ability to cook with little to no oil, the Innsky air fryer will make you feel like the picture of elegance as you chow down on a piece of fried shrimp. You can set a timer on the fryer so it starts cooking when you want it to, and it automatically shuts off when the cooking time is done (a great safety feature for chefs who get easily distracted).

Buy it: Amazon

4. Secura Air Fryer; $62

Secura/Amazon

This air fryer from Secura uses a combination of heating techniques—hot air and high-speed air circulation—for fast and easy food prep. And, as one reviewer remarked, with an extra-large 4.2-quart basket “[it’s] good for feeding a crowd, which makes it a great option for large families.” This fryer even comes with a toaster rack and skewers, making it a great addition to a neighborhood barbecue or family glamping trip.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Chefman Turbo Fry; $60

Chefman/Amazon

For those of you really looking to cut back, the Chefman Turbo Fry uses 98 percent less oil than traditional fryers, according to the manufacturer. And with its two-in-one tank basket that allows you to cook multiple items at the same time, you can finally stop using so many pots and pans when you’re making dinner.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Ninja Air Fryer; $100

Ninja/Amazon

The Ninja Air Fryer is a multipurpose gadget that allows you to do far more than crisp up your favorite foods. This air fryer’s one-touch control panel lets you air fry, roast, reheat, or even dehydrate meats, fruits, and veggies, whether your ingredients are fresh or frozen. And the simple interface means that you're only a couple buttons away from a homemade dinner.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Instant Pot Air Fryer + Electronic Pressure Cooker; $180

Instant Pot/Amazon

Enjoy all the perks of an Instant Pot—the ability to serve as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, and more—with a lid that turns the whole thing into an air fryer as well. The multi-level fryer basket has a broiling tray to ensure even crisping throughout, and it’s big enough to cook a meal for up to eight. If you’re more into a traditional air fryer, check out Instant Pot’s new Instant Vortex Pro ($140) air fryer, which gives you the ability to bake, proof, toast, and more.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Omorc Habor Air Fryer; $100

Omorc Habor/Amazon

With a 5.8-quart capacity, this air fryer from Omorc Habor is larger than most, giving you the flexibility of cooking dinner for two or a spread for a party. To give you a clearer picture of the size, its square fryer basket, built to maximize cooking capacity, can handle a five-pound chicken (or all the fries you could possibly eat). Plus, with a non-stick coating and dishwasher-safe basket and frying pot, this handy appliance practically cleans itself.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Dash Deluxe Air Fryer; $100

Dash/Amazon

Dash’s air fryer might look retro, but its high-tech cooking ability is anything but. Its generously sized frying basket can fry up to two pounds of French fries or two dozen wings, and its cool touch handle makes it easy (and safe) to use. And if you're still stumped on what to actually cook once you get your Dash fryer, you'll get a free recipe guide in the box filled with tips and tricks to get the most out of your meal.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Bella Air Fryer; $52

Bella/Amazon

This petite air fryer from Bella may be on the smaller side, but it still packs a powerful punch. Its 2.6-quart frying basket makes it an ideal choice for couples or smaller families—all you have to do is set the temperature and timer, and throw your food inside. Once the meal is ready, its indicator light will ding to let you know that it’s time to eat.

Buy it: Amazon

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15 Facts About Babe On Its 25th Anniversary

James Cromwell in Babe (1995).
James Cromwell in Babe (1995).
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

It's hard to believe that it has been 25 years since a tiny pink piglet named Babe stole the heart of audiences around the world, and turned many of them into lifelong vegetarians (more on that later). What’s almost even harder to believe is that the heartwarming story of a pig who wants to be a sheepdog was partially ushered into existence by George Miller, the same man who brought us the Mad Max franchise. Here are 15 things you might not know about the little piggy that could.

1. James Cromwell thought the original idea for Babe was silly.

When actor James Cromwell first heard about Babe, which is based on Dick King-Smith's novel, “I thought it sounded silly,” he told Vegetarian Times. “I was mostly counting the lines to see how much of a role the farmer had.”

2. Farmer Hoggett has just 16 lines in Babe.

But by that point, Cromwell was already sold on the script, intrigued by what he called the “sophisticated yet pure-of-heart piglet.” And he clearly made the right call: The part earned Cromwell an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

3. It took 48 different pigs to play the role of Babe.

Because pigs grow quickly, the crew utilized four dozen Large White Yorkshire piglets throughout the course of filming, shooting six at a time over a three-week period. A total of 48 pigs were filmed, though only 46 of them made it to the screen.

4. Babe also featured one animatronic pig.

Animal trainer Karl Lewis Miller seemed almost embarrassed to admit that they did have one animatronic pig play Babe, too. This is the pig they used for wide shots—when there was at least 15 feet surrounding Babe all the way around, and no place for Miller to hide.

5. Babe is a girl.

While this is never explicitly stated in the movie, because a male pig’s private parts would have been visible on film, all of the pigs used for filming were females.

6. In all, there were 970 animals on the set of Babe.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Karl Lewis Miller—who had 59 people assisting him—said that, all told, there were 970 animals used for the film, though only 500 of them actually made it into the movie. This included pigs and dogs, of course, plus cats, cows, horses, ducks, goats, mice, pigeons, and sheep, too. Baa-ram-ewe indeed!

7. Babe is also Dexter from Dexter's Laboratory.

In addition to voicing Babe, voice actor Christine Cavanaugh—who passed away in December 2014—lent her vocal chords to more than 75 projects over the years, including the title role in Dexter’s Laboratory, Chuckie Finster on Rugrats, and Gosalyn Mallard on Darkwing Duck.

8. Babe was banned in Malaysia.

Not wanting to upset its Muslim community, to whom pigs are haram, Malaysia banned the family flick from screening in its theaters. But its proscription didn’t stick; the film was released on VHS about a year later.

9. Pork product sales dropped in 1995.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

In December 1995, just four months after Babe hit theaters, Vegetarian Times ran a story about the problems facing the pork industry. Among the factors contributing to the industry’s slump, according to writer Amy O’Connor, was “the motion picture Babe, featuring an adorable porcine protagonist and a strong vegetarian message.” She went on to note that, “This year, the U.S. Department Agriculture showed stagnant demand for pork, while retail sales of canned meats such as Spam hit a five-year low.”

10. Sales of pet pigs increased following the release of Babe.

In The Apocalyptic Animal of Late Capitalism, author Laura Elaine Hudson is unable to substantiate claims that pork sales dropped a full 25 percent in the U.S. following the release of Babe, as some sources claimed, but she did find that sales of pet pigs increased—as did, eventually, the number of abandoned pigs.

11. Babe turned many viewers into vegetarians.

Babe’s popularity—and its main character’s adorableness—led to many fans of the movie (particularly young viewers) adopting a vegetarian lifestyle. The practice became so widespread that it was dubbed “The Babe Effect,” and fans of the film who went meatless became known as “Babe vegetarians.”

12. James Cromwell is a "Babe vegan."

Among those individuals whose eating habits were altered by Babe was the movie’s human star. Though he had been a vegetarian decades before, Cromwell “decided that to be able to speak about this [movie] with conviction, I needed to become a vegetarian again.”

13. Mrs. Hoggett was aged up for Babe.

Magda Szubanski stars in Babe (1995).Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Magda Szubanski, who plays the farmer’s wife Esme, was only 34 years old at the time of the film’s release. She logged lots of time in the makeup chair in order to pass as the wife of her then-55-year-old co-star.

14. Jerry Goldsmith was hired to score Babe, but was replaced.

Jerry Goldsmith wrote a good deal of the music for Babe, but he and George Miller’s ideas for what it should sound like did not mesh. So Goldsmith was replaced by Nigel Westlake.

15. Babe earned a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

Among Babe's seven Academy Award nominations (yes, seven) was a nod for Best Picture, which pit the pig film against an impressive lineup that included Sense and Sensibility, Il Postino, Apollo 13, and Braveheart (which took home the award). The film did win one Oscar: it beat out Apollo 13 for Best Visual Effects.

This story has been updated for 2020.