When news emerged on Wednesday night that Kate Winslet had married her longtime boyfriend Ned Rocknroll, everybody had just one question: Where on Earth did he get that name? It's a funny story really. Born Ned Abel Smith, Mr. Rocknroll has had a pretty lucky life, in large part because multibillionaire Richard Branson happens to be his uncle. It was surely thanks to Uncle Richard that he got his job at Virgin Galactic, where he's the "Head of Marketing Promotion and Astronaut Experience." (According to his ex-wife Eliza Pearson, Rocknroll "made that title up himself.") It was also thanks to Uncle Richard that he met Kate Winslet, but we'll get back to that in a second.
If you give yourself a job title like Head of Astronaut Experience, chances are you're pretty fun. And evidently, Rocknroll is super fun. "He likes to have fun with his clothes but it’s not about looking good," Pearson told the Daily Mail after their divorce. "He'll wear a top hat, or a pink frilly shirt and a pair of jeans." This is where the name comes in. Fun-loving Ned thinks that "people take themselves too seriously" so he legally changed his last name to "Rocknroll" in 2008. Pearson explains:
To many, it might have seemed a tad immature. But Eliza says it was not an impromptu decision, but one which had philosophical intentions.
‘It was hysterical. We had discussed him doing this many times before, but I wasn’t sure whether he’d do it. The whole thing was about having fun with your name. He thought we all took ourselves too seriously so it was about reacting against it. He looked into just being ‘Ned’, with no surname at all but, apparently, that’s illegal so we couldn’t do it.’
Three years later, Rocknroll and Pearson were separated, and Kate Winslet entered the picture. She first met Rocknroll when they were both hanging out on Richard Branson's private Caribbean Island -- rich people are just like us -- and quite tragically the house caught on fire. Winslet ended up saving Branson's 90-year-old mother and started dating Rocknroll when they got back to the mainland. The couple got engaged this past summer and married earlier this month in a tiny top secret ceremony. Leonardo DiCaprio gave away the bride. Seriously.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.