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Dear Reader #99

Dear Reader,

On 15 May 2021 we will publish Stormy Weather, book eighteen in my Sam Smith Mystery Series. Meanwhile, I’m working on Damaged, book nineteen in the series. We will publish this book in the autumn. Meanwhile, here’s the cover.

Chester, 1590, den of iniquity.

The Brereton’s are on my family tree. One generation were involved in a murder plot and an attempt to alter a will. The case reached the Star Chamber.

My latest translations, Ann’s War: Victory in Afrikaans and Eve’s War: Operation Broadsword in Portuguese.

The May 2021 issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads.

In this month’s issue…

Am I a Real Mum?

The Benefits of Journaling

International Nurses Day

Discovering Your Eighteenth Century Ancestors 

Things to Celebrate in May

Plus, travel, photography, puzzles, poems, short stories and so much more!

Colourised image of Fleet Street, London, 1888.

Just discovered that my 5 x great grandfather James Noulton served in the Napoleonic Wars, receiving a decoration in 1811 for his participation in the Invasion of Java.

Picture: A plan of the Cornelia, 1808, one of the two ships James Noulton served on.

More about James in future posts.

My 2 x great grandfather Albert Charles Bick was born on 3 September 1879 in Battersea, Surrey, the youngest of William Bick and Fanny Brereton’s eleven children.

William and Fanny moved to Battersea from Gloucestershire. The family also had connections in Hampshire and over several generations moved between these counties. William was a labourer so money for the family was always tight.

Albert started school at a young age, three. He attended Sleaford Street School, one of the new board schools created to give working class children an education.

Albert at school

After school, Albert found a job as a car man at the coal wharf, transporting coal on a horse and cart. He was still in this form of employment when he married Annie Noulton on 22 March 1902 in Lambeth, London. In thirteen years the couple had seven children.

In 1911, Albert was still a car man, now working at Doulton’s Pipe Works in Lambeth. The birth records of Albert and Annie’s children reveal that he worked as a car man throughout his married life. On 7 April 1911 there was a mass baptism when four Bick children from various strands of the family were baptised.

When the First World War broke out in 1914 Albert and Annie had six children with another on the way. During the summer of 1915, after the birth of his seventh child, Albert volunteered to serve in the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment. Why did he volunteer? 

Albert’s brothers William, John and Frederick also volunteered, Frederick for the Red Cross. It would appear that the brothers volunteered together, and that it was a family decision. In 1911, the  family baptised four children together, so obviously they were a tight-knit family. By this time, the war had been raging for a year so unlike the first wave of volunteers who set off with naive optimism, the Bicks volunteered in the knowledge that they were entering hell.

The hell Albert entered had a name, the Battle of Loos. He departed for France on 31 August 1915 and engaged in the battle less than a month later, on 25 September 1915. 

The Battle of Loos was the biggest British attack of 1915, and the first time that the British used poisoned gas. The plan was for the French and British forces to break through the German defences in Artois and Champagne, and disrupt the pattern of trench warfare. 

At a conference on 6 September 1915 British commander Douglas Haig suggested that the extensive use of chlorine gas might facilitate an advance as long as the French and British were able to keep the attack secret.

Royal Engineers dug under no-man’s-land and planted mines under the parapets of the German front line trenches, ready to be detonated at zero hour.

Insufficient ammunition hampered the initial bombardment. Also, the British commanders did not fully appreciate the defensive formation of the German machine guns.

Prior to the attack, the British released 140 long tons of chlorine gas. The wind favoured no side and the gas affected both British and German troops.

British infantry advancing at Loos 25 September 1915

The gas masks were inefficient so many soldiers removed them to obtain clear vision and, ironically, to catch their breath. At 6.30 am on 25 September 1915 Albert engaged in battle, charging across open ground, the air full of gas and bullets.

In many places the British artillery had failed to cut the German barbed wire before the attack. Furthermore, the engineers manning the poison gas cylinders warned against their use, because of the unpredictability of the wind. However, they were overruled by General Sir Hubert Gough. 

As the battle developed, the gas claimed more British than German casualties. Despite that disaster, the British did capture the village of Loos-en-Gohelle. Bad planning meant that the breakthrough could not be exploited. A contemporary account stated, ‘From what I can ascertain, some of the divisions did actually reach the enemy’s trenches, for their bodies can now be seen on the barbed wire.’

Major-General Richard Hilton, a Forward Observation Officer, said of the battle, ‘A great deal of nonsense has been written about Loos. The real tragedy of that battle was its nearness to complete success. Most of us who reached the crest of Hill 70, and survived, were firmly convinced that we had broken through on that Sunday, 26 September 1915. There seemed to be nothing ahead of us, but an unoccupied and incomplete trench system. The only two things that prevented our advancing into the suburbs of Lens were, firstly, the exhaustion of the “Jocks” themselves (for they had undergone a bellyfull of marching and fighting that day) and, secondly, the flanking fire of numerous German machine-guns, which swept that bare hill from some factory buildings in Cite St. Auguste to the south of us. All that we needed was more artillery ammunition to blast those clearly-located machine-guns, plus some fresh infantry to take over from the weary and depleted “Jocks.” But, alas, neither ammunition nor reinforcements were immediately available, and the great opportunity passed.’

Twelve attacking battalions suffered 8,000 casualties out of 10,000 men in four hours. In total, the British suffered 48,367 casualties in the main attack and 10,880 more in the second attack, a total of 59,247 losses, a high percentage of the 285,107 British casualties on the Western Front in 1915. Though Haig and Gough were culpable for this disaster, they escaped much of the blame. 

Albert Charles Bick died at Loos on 25 September 1915, whether through gas poisoning, a machine gun bullet or a mortar bomb is not known, for his body was not recovered. In the official files he is listed as ‘presumed dead’.

Annie received a widow’s pension. She did not remarry and died in 1963. Her eldest daughter and my direct ancestor, also Annie, survived her. As a child, I met daughter Annie several times during her later years, although I was too young to appreciate what the family had been through.

Loos War Memorial

The poet Robert Graves featured in the Battle of Loos and wrote about his experiences in Goodbye to All That while the Loos Memorial commemorates over 20,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who fell in the battle and have no known grave, including Albert Charles Bick.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #98

Dear Reader,

Through Joyce Alneto and Robert Mansell I have traced my family tree back to Alfred the Great, he who burned the cakes. At least I now know where my gene for burning the family dinner comes from 😄

Currently in production and available soon, Operation Broadsword the third audiobook in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series, all narrated by Paula Branch.

America, 1930s. Not a competition for ‘Miss Ku Klux Klan’, but contestants for a ‘Miss Lovely Eyes’ pageant.

Horse-drawn and motorised traffic at the junction of Holborn and Kingsway in London, 1912. My 2 x great grandfather Albert Charles Bick was a car man, a person who drove a horse and cart in this area during this period. Albert transported coal and pipes.

A colourised version of the same picture.

Continuing the story of the Preston branch of my family.

Sir Richard had a son, Sir Richard, whose son Sir John also served in Edward III’s parliament. Sir John was the last of the Prestons to hold Preston Richard and Preston Patrick. Sir John’s daughter, Margaret, married Alan Pennington and he inherited Preston Richard.

Sir John’s son, Sir John, was a judge at the Court of Common Pleas under Henry IV and Henry V. Sir John retired in 1427 due to old age.

The Court of Common Pleas was a common law court in the English legal system that dealt with actions between individuals, actions that did not concern the king. Created at the end of the 12th century, the Court of Common Pleas remained as a mainstay of the legal system for around 600 years. 

Sir John had three children: John, who became a priest; Richard, my direct ancestor; and a daughter who married Thomas de Ros. The de Ros’ feature on another branch of my family tree and they produced Catherine Parr, wife of Henry VIII.

The Court of Common Pleas

Richard Preston married Jacobina Middleton, daughter of John Middleton of Middleton Hall. He added the manor of Under Levins Hall to the family estate and the couple produced my direct ancestor, Thomas.

Thomas married Miss Redmayne, adding Twistleton to the family estate. They produced a son, John, who also married into the Redmayne family. John married Margaret, daughter of Richard, of Harewood Castle and Over Levins Hall.

John and Margaret’s son, Sir Thomas, married Ann Thornburgh, daughter of William Thornburgh, of Hampsfield in Lancashire. Through the Musgrave, FitzWilliam, Plantagenet and de Warren families, Ann’s branch leads to William the Conqueror. Many noble families intermarried so I have several branches that lead to William the Conqueror.

Sir Thomas further enriched the family estate by adding Furness Abbey and Holker Park in Lancashire. Furness Abbey was the second richest Cistercian abbey in England, after Fountains Abbey.

Sir Thomas acquired Furness Abbey thanks to Henry VIII and his dissolution of the monasteries. Sir Thomas’ estates generated an income of £3,000 a year, approximately £2 million a year in today’s money.

Furness Abbey, c1895.

Sir Thomas had three sons and six daughters, including my direct ancestor, Christopher who founded the powerful Preston branch at Holker Hall. The line of Ellen, Christopher’s sister, led to William Morley who discovered the Gunpowder Plot in 1605.

Christopher married three times: Miss Pickering, Margaret Southworth and Anne Jepson. The union with Margaret Southworth produced my direct ancestor, John Preston of Holker Hall. Christopher had a further son and two daughters, and died on 27 May 1594. 

Holker Hall

John Preston married Mabel Benson, daughter of William Benson Esq of Hughill. This marriage brought part of the Preston Richard manor back into the Preston family’s hands. John’s successor and only child was George Preston, my direct ancestor. John died three years after his father, on 11 September 1597, aged 48.

George Preston was a great benefactor of the stately church at Cartmel, Lancashire where the remains of his grandfather, Christopher, and of his father, John, lay buried. He also supported the poor people of Cartmel by arranging apprenticeships. Furthermore, he established a foundation for scholars so that they could attend St John’s College, Oxford.

George died on 5 April 1640, and was buried at Cartmel. His marriage to Margaret Strickland, daughter of Sir Thomas Strickland of Sizergh Castle, Westmoreland, produced my direct ancestor, Elizabeth. Elizabeth married John Sayer, uniting the Preston and Sayer branches of my family.

Memorial to the Preston family, Cartmel Priory

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #97

Dear Reader,

My home overlooks Margam Park and I just discovered that my 15 x great grandfather Sir Rice (Rhys) Mansell bought the park, and Margam Abbey, when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1536. Sir Rice demolished the monastery and built Margam House, pictured. 

This line dates back to Philip Mansell, born 1040 in Normandy. Philip was cup bearer to William the Conqueror, a highly responsible position. Philip served William his wine and made sure it wasn’t poisoned.

View of Margam House, Glamorgan, Looking North, c.1700 Attributed to Thomas Smith (fl.1680s-1719)

Oil on canvas

A baptismal record for my 4 x great grandmother Ann Locock has led to sixteen new branches on my family tree. My DNA revealed Dutch ancestors and one of these branches is Dutch, a family from Amsterdam. My 8 x great grandfather, Melgior Rosewel, worked for the Dutch East India Company, which offers scope for a lot more research.

My direct ancestor Sir John Mansell, 1188 – 1264, was a busy man.

  • Privy Counsellor 
  • Constable of Dover Castle, pictured (Wikipedia)
  • Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
  • Lord of the manor in Berkshire, Suffolk, Sussex, Lancashire, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Kent
  • Cup Bearer to Henry III
  • Founder of a priory in Bilsington
  • Provost of Beverley
  • Treasurer of York
  • Lord Justiciary of England
  • Member of the Council of Fifteen
  • Constable of the Tower of London
  • Chancellor to Henry III
  • England’s first Secretary of State

I think I inherited my multi-tasking from him 😉

An article about Sir John Mansell will follow in a future post.

From my research, a lobby card for The City That Never Sleeps, a 1924 silent movie directed by James Cruze.

Many thanks to everyone who has placed my forthcoming Eve’s War story, Operation Sherlock, at #32 on the Hot New Releases chart.

One of modern life’s great imponderables…

I never expected to discover ancestors in Kiev, so I double-checked this line and established that it is correct. 

This is an image of my direct ancestor Olga ‘the beauty’ a Pskov woman of Varangian extraction who married Igor of Kiev. After Igor’s death, she ruled Kievan Rus as regent, c945-963, for their son, Svyatoslav.

Only joking 😉

I’ve traced the Preston branch of my family tree back to Leolphus de Preston, who lived during the reign of William the Lion of Scotland, floruit 1165 – 1214. 

Leolphus’ son, also Leolphus, made donations to Newbattle Abbey while his grandson, William de Preston, was one of the twenty-four Scottish nobles chosen by Edward I of England to arbitrate between John Balliol and Robert the Bruce, the main disputants for the crown of Scotland after the death of Margaret Maid of Norway, Queen of Scots.

The nobles met on 3 June 1291 to debate the succession. Debates and adjournments continued until 14 October 1292 when William de Preston and his fellow nobles decided that ‘succession by one degree from the eldest sister was preferable to succession nearer in degree from the second.’

Thus informed, on 17 November 1292 Edward I decided in favour of Balliol who ruled for four years, mainly as Edward I puppet. In 1296 the Scottish nobility deposed Balliol and appointed a Council of Twelve to rule instead. In retaliation, Edward I invaded Scotland, triggering the Wars of Scottish Independence.

Meanwhile, William de Preston’s role of arbiter set a family trend, which resulted in later generations of arbiters and judges.

John Balliol, his crown and sceptre symbolically broken, as depicted in the 1562 Forman Armorial, produced for Mary Queen of Scots.

Sir William’s son, Nichol de Preston, was one of the Scottish barons who signed the Ragman Roll in 1296, swearing his allegiance to Edward I.

The Preston line continued with Laurence and his son, Richard. With these generations the Prestons moved south, into Northern England where they owned vast estates in Westmorland, founding the towns of Preston Richard and Preston Patrick.

More Richards followed: Sir Richard Preston, his son Richard, and his son Sir Richard. The latter was called as one of the jurors to settle a dispute between the King of England and the Abbot of St Mary convent, Yorkshire. The dispute centred on the rights to make appointments to the two churches at Appleby. 

Yet another Richard followed and he married Annabella. They produced a son – you’ve guessed it – Richard, later knighted. Sir Richard represented Westmorland in Edward III’s parliament in the mid-1300s, the height of chivalry.

During Edward III’s reign membership of the English baronage was restricted to those who received a personal summons to parliament. At this point parliament developed into a House of Lords and a House of Commons, with the Commons gaining the ascendancy, thus marking a watershed in English political history.

Parliament, 13th century.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #92

Dear Reader,

Book five in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series, Operation Sherlock is now available for pre-order 🙂

“Arthur is concerned about the Nazis’ latest terror weapon,” Guy said. “Rockets; they have the potential to cause death, destruction and chaos in Britain. He wants us to locate the launch site so that the RAF can bomb it.”

“How do we achieve that?” I asked.

“The Resistance in Paris think that they have identified the site,” Guy said. “Arthur wants us to confirm their suspicions.”

“Why doesn’t the local Sherlock network deal with this?” Mimi asked.

“Recently,” Guy said, “the Gestapo captured their wireless operator. Their network is in chaos. Trust is at a low ebb.”

I glanced at Mimi and noticed her pale, drawn features. As our wireless operator, she lived under constant stress; each transmission represented a moment of potential capture.

A trip to Paris sounded sublime. However, Mimi’s troubled expression reminded me that we were travelling into danger, potentially to our deaths.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Operation-Sherlock-Eves-Heroines-Book-ebook/dp/B08Y978SM6/

Electric cars are nothing new. Here’s one being charged in 1912.

From April 1807, Freedom of the City Admission Papers signed by my 4 x great grandfather James Richard Brereton of Shoe Lane, Fleet Street, London. Several of my ancestors signed these papers and entered into apprenticeships, in this case as a cutler. 

The text on this document is difficult to read, but basically it says that the apprentice was not allowed to visit taverns, gamble with cards or dice, fornicate or marry. Basically, he had to work for his master for seven years and not have any fun.

Later, James took his trade on the road as a tinker, marrying and establishing a family in Bristol. Sadly, he died shortly before his daughter, my 3 x great grandmother, Fanny, was born.

From our family archive, my great aunt Joan, 1924. I’ve studied this picture for years and still can’t decide if that’s her brother Roy at her side or a doll. What do you think?

My latest translations, Betrayal into French and The Devil and Ms Devlin into Spanish.

This week I discovered that my 12 x great grandfather, Rev Peter James Dent (1600 – 1671), was an apothecary 🙂

“Give me an ounce of civit, good apothecary, to sweeten my imagination.” – King Lear.

Picture: Italian pharmacy, 17th century (detail).

My 8 x great grandmother, Mary Troutbeck nee Ollyer, was the licensee at the Queen’s Head Inn, Gray’s Inn Lane, London. A young widow, she was a party to this case, heard at the Old Bailey on 22 May 1776.

Eighteenth century trial at the Old Bailey

The full trial account taken from the records at https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/

JAMES LECORES and WILLIAM GODFREY were indicted for stealing twenty-nine guineas, a half guinea, and eight shillings and six-pence in money numbered, the property of Daniel Dance , and a bank note for 20 l. the property of the said Daniel in the dwelling house of Mary Troutbeck, widow, May the 6th. (Approximately £3,000 in today’s money).

DANIEL DANCE sworn.

I live at Camberwell: I lost a 20 l. bank note, twenty-nine guineas, a half guinea, and eight shillings and six-pence at Mrs. Troutbeck’s, the Queen’s Head Inn, Gray’s-inn-lane ; I took the money to Mr. Child’s at Temple-bar; the office was shut up; I came away, and while I was looking up at a house near Temple-bar, Godfrey came up and said, Farmer, what are you looking at? I told him I came to pay my rent to my landlord, and the office was shut up; he said he came out of Kent to a lawyer, and he supposed he was too late to meet with him; we walked together and he talked of some people in Kent; he mentioned the names of several I was well acquainted with; I said I would carry the money to Mr. Silway’s chambers, for I would not carry it back again; he said he would go with me and shew me his chambers; we went up Chancery-lane and crossed Holborn into Gray’s-inn-lane; we went about two hundred yards up and down, and then he said, if I would go into a public house we might have intelligence; we went into a public house, and he called for six-penny worth of Crank, and he asked me if I would sit down; I sat down, and in came the other prisoner and pulled out a purse of money, and said he had drank fourteen glasses of brandy that morning standing; he said he was a captain just come home: we went out from there, and he said he would shew me the way to Mr. Silway’s chambers; then we went into Mrs. Troutbeck’s and called for a bottle of wine; they hit my knuckles with a half-penny, and then asked me to put the half-penny under a bottle; while I was doing it they took the money out of my pocket; I saw the money in their hand, but they ran away so fast I could not speak; they broke a glass in their hurry in running out; the money was in a bag in my coat pocket.

When they run out you felt in your pocket? – Yes, it was gone; I saw the bag in their hands, and the note was in the bag.

Cross Examination.

Whose hands did you see the money in? – Godfrey’s.

Did you ever see these people before? – Never before; he appeared like a country farmer; I know them as well as any man in the parish I live in; I know Godfrey by his backside; I took him by the tail; I have been always positive to him; he was taken the Tuesday after the Duchess of Kingston’s trial. 

Elizabeth Chudleigh, Duchess of Kingston (8 March 1721 – 26 August 1788), sometimes called Countess of Bristol, was an English noble and courtier, known by her contemporaries for her adventurous lifestyle. She was found guilty of bigamy at a trial at Westminster Hall that attracted 4,000 spectators.

Was that a week or a fortnight after you was plundered? – I believe it was about a fortnight.

You knew the man immediately? – Yes; I pursued him every day; he owned he had the money; his friends offered me thirty pounds.

WILLIAM SWAN sworn.

I live with Mrs. Troutbeck: the prosecutor and three more came into our house on Easter Monday, and asked for a pot of beer; I told them we did not sell beer; then they called for a bottle of wine; I stood in the passage to watch them, lest they should go away and not pay the reckoning; three of them came out very sharp, and put two shillings in my hand; I asked my mistress how much it was, she said two shillings; I went in to see if there were any glasses broke, and met the old farmer coming out; a glass was broke; I asked him if he was to pay for the glass, he said he had lost enough: I know the prisoners are two of the men; they owned before the justice they had the money, but said they got it by gambling.

LECORES’ DEFENCE.

A parcel of people about me desired me to say so, and they would clear me; I was in liquor and did not know what I did.

GODFREY’s DEFENCE.

I leave it to my counsel.

Godfrey called four witnesses, who gave him a good character.

From the Jury to DANCE. Whether they used any other means besides that of the bottle to divert you? – Nothing in the world; there was no gaming.

How long might it be from the time you went in to the time they ran away? – Not above ten minutes.

BOTH GUILTY. Death .

Tried by the First Middlesex Jury before Mr. RECORDER.

The judge sentenced both men to death. However, their cases were respited. On 13 September 1776, after the respite, Lecores and Godfrey came before the court again. This time the judge sentenced them to three years on a hulk. 

The beached convict ship HMS Discovery, at Depford.

The Old Bailey case revealed that the Queen’s Head Inn did not sell beer, but it did sell ‘Crack’ and wine. The inn was situated in Gray’s Inn Lane the road by which Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones entered London. The lane was a popular hub for scholarly, legal and literary people. James Shirley the dramatist resided there and it was the favourite haunt of the poet John Langhorne.

Baptised on 14 November 1717 in Holborn, London, Mary Ollyer was the daughter of Richard Ollyer and Mary Thomas. She married William Troutbeck on 17 August 1739. Their marriage was recorded in the Clandestine Marriages Register, which suggests an air of secrecy. This pattern was often repeated on this branch of my family tree due to religious nonconformity.

William and Mary produced eight children in fourteen years. When William died on 24 March 1753 Mary became the sole owner of the Queen’s Head and with the aid of servants ran the inn, rubbing shoulders with and serving drinks to some of the leading literary figures of the age. No doubt, she talked with these people and discussed their literary projects.

Gray’s Inn Lane, c1878.
(c) Royal Academy of Arts / Photographer credit: Prudence Cuming Associates Limited /

In her autumn years, Mary bequeathed the Queen’s Head Inn to my direct ancestors, Daniel Cottrell and Mary Troutbeck who ensured that the public house prospered into the nineteenth century.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #87

Dear Reader,

Starlings in duck formation.

This week, we published Operation Treasure and it’s always great when readers anticipate and enjoy your stories. A review from Amazon.

“Hanna Howe was a great treasure discovered in 2020, and she continues to deliver in 2021 with the Eve’s War series, in this #4 of an anticipated 12 volume set. A quick read novella, it continues the series intent to deliver stories of many female (and male) SOE agents operating in France during WWII, helping recruit, equip and train local resistance groups to sabotage Hitler’s war machine. While the characters are fictional, they and their actions are based upon real people and events. Howe is a gifted writer with many other books as well (most of which I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed) and I look forward with great anticipation to Eve’s War #5!”

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08L9G7V4Z/

Wales, Christmas Day, 2010.

Humphrey Llwyd’s ‘Cambriae Typus’ is the earliest printed map to show Wales as a separate nation. Published in 1573.

Found this while searching for my Gloucestershire ancestors. A sad note from 1733.

Theft from my ancestor, Thomas Thompson Dent. In 1842, Isabella Hutchinson, aged 22, stole oats from his field. Verdict: guilt, one month hard labour. Thomas was a wealthy man so I’m sure he could have spared those oats. However, Isabella was a serial offender. Three years earlier she was convicted for larceny and sentenced to three months in prison.

Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine February 2021

In this month’s bumper issue…

Our Ever Changing Language, Short Stories, Mediation, Poetry, Nature, Humour, Bestsellers, Photography, Puzzles, Genealogy, Recipes and so much more!

On 1 January 2021, to my great surprise, I discovered that I was directly related to William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders.

William, also known as William the Bastard, was the first Norman King of England reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087. 

William the Conqueror

In 1060, secure as Duke of Normandy, William plotted the Norman conquest of England, which culminated on 14 October 1066 in the Battle of Hastings and the defeat of Harold Godwinson.

William was the son of the unmarried Robert I, Duke of Normandy, by his mistress Herleva. His illegitimate status led to many struggles as he sought to establish his authority. Marriage to Matilda of Flanders, c1051, allowed him to consolidate his power in Normandy.

William’s genealogy

On his deathbed, Edward the Confessor, the childless King of England, named Harold Godwinson as his successor. However, William disputed this succession and with a large fleet sailed for England where he engaged Harold in battle.

Bayeux Tapestry. Scene 57: the death of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. Titulus: HIC HAROLD REX INTERFECTUS EST (Here King Harold is slain).

After the Battle of Hastings, further military victories ensured that William was crowned king on Christmas Day, 1066, in London. In 1067, he made arrangements for the governance of England then returned to Normandy. 

Rebellions followed, all unsuccessful, and by 1075 William had established a secure hold on England, which allowed him to spend the majority of his reign in Europe.

In 1086, William ordered the compilation of the Doomsday Book, a survey listing all the land-holdings in England. This great administrative feat went unmatched until the compilation of the Return of Owners of Land in 1873.

William died in September 1087 while leading a campaign in northern France. He was buried in Caen.

Matilda of Flanders was Queen of England and Duchess of Normandy by marriage to William the Conqueror. She was the mother of nine children (some sources list ten) including two kings, William II and my direct ancestor Henry I.

Nineteenth-century depiction of Matilda in the Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris (Wikipedia).

In 1031, Matilda was born into the House of Flanders as the second daughter of Baldwin V of Flanders and Adela of France. Strategically placed, Flanders served as an important centre for European trade and political expansion.

As granddaughter of Robert II of France, Matilda boasted a greater lineage than William. Like many royal marriages of the period, their union breached the rules of consanguinity. She was about 20 when the marriage took place in 1051, while William was some four years older. 

The marriage appears to have been successful in that William is not recorded to have fathered any bastards. Matilda was about 35 and had already borne most of her children when William embarked on his conquest of England, sailing on his flagship, Mora, a gift from his wife.

The Bayeux Tapestry’s depiction of the Norman invasion fleet, with the Mora in front, marked by the papal banner on the masthead.

Matilda governed the Duchy of Normandy in her husband’s absence. Occasionally, she travelled to England, but spent most of her life in Normandy where she oversaw her children’s education. Indeed, Matilda’s children were unusually well educated for contemporary royalty with the boys tutored by Lanfranc, who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1070, while the girls learned Latin in Sainte-Trinité Abbey, Caen, an abbey founded by William and Matilda as part of the papal dispensation that allowed their marriage.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx