We all have a little part of us that wants to shake the family tree and have a royal fall out. Just for laughs of course since it’s clear we’re not in a line of succession much less heir to a crumbling estate. We’d know by now thus making any royal of ours either low in the birth order, or not power-hungry enough to have made a grab for the throne.
Therefore, it is a dubious boast if you really think about it and when you’re talking about 10 or more generations back, are those laurels one should be resting on today? Such a boast is really only of personal value since most people’s eyes glaze over when we start spouting our genealogical discoveries anyway. Mostly our audience hears our enthusiasm and appreciates that rather than our words. I’ve done it and so have you.
The first time I went to Westminster Abbey, in the North Transept I found a monument to William Cavendish, 1 st Duke of Newcastle and his wife Margaret the daughter of Sir Thomas Lucas of Colchester. Obviously, the name Lucas jumped out at me. I took a note as this was long before iPhones and kept the scrap of paper for years. The likelihood that Margaret and I were related was remote. I first read some of Margaret’s writing in college in a class on Women in Literature and wanted a connection all the more.
However, as these things often do, it took until last week—so many years after my first thought of it—to see if indeed there was a link. As one can, I piggy-backed on others’ research making an unsourced but clear line of descent between me and Margaret’s eldest brother making her grandfather Sir Thomas Lucas, the High Sheriff of Essex, my 10th g-grandfather and Margaret my 8 great-grand aunt. See, no crumbling estate for me to inherit but a fun connection.
Out of interest, today I decided to continue going as far back as people had collected information and found the name Blanche Plantagenet! Oh holy Toledo, this is it, I thought. For a dizzying moment or two I had myself connected to John of Gaunt through his illegitimate daughter Blanche born when he was just 19 and not yet married. Blanche Plantagenet married Thomas Morieux and had a daughter Elizabeth Morieux who it appeared married a Lucas. OMG I’m related to my crush The Black Prince. Hell, I’m related to the Beauforts ergo the Windsors! This is so cool, this is amazing, this is… a lie.
Piggy backing is a lovely way to get somewhere fast but make damn sure the back you're on is strong enough to take the weight of scrutiny. So many Lucas trees joyfully connect our family to John of Gaunt through Blanche however, sometimes it’s his daughter, sometimes it’s through his wife Blanche of Lancaster, and sometimes it’s through Blanche Plantagenet of unknown origins. I couldn’t sort it no matter how I came at it but I finally had to conclude that my Elizabeth Morieux could not be Blanche’s because my Elizabeth Morieux would have to have been born before her mother. People wanted the bragging to rights to John of Gaunt so badly that they claimed him again and again without actually seeing math and logic prevented it from being so. Why do we want such connections anyway? I clearly wanted it when I thought I had it but I never liked John of Gaunt from what I’ve read so I don’t get it. Good miss, if you ask me.
The upshot is I’m as far back as I’m going for now becasuse I won’t claim that which is not mine. It’s lying to yourself. Even if the knighthoods stopped rolling in and our innate commonness eventually swamped the titled connections and sons and daughters emigrated to change their fortunes, I’m still standing on the shoulders of giants.