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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #111

Dear Reader,

My latest translation, the Portuguese version of Operation Locksmith in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series. Ana is already hard at work on two new translations: Snow in August in my Sam Smith Mystery Series and Branches in my Olive Tree Spanish Civil War series. It‘s always a privilege to work with talented translators.

Tabard Inn, Talbot Yard, Southwark before demolition in 1875, a familiar landmark for my London-based ancestors.

To date, I haven’t discovered any pictures of my 3 x great grandfather Thomas Jones, but here is his brother and my grand uncle Richard Morgan Jones 1874 – 1954. Bilingual, Richard was a coal hewer in the Rhondda Valley. I love the pride in his pose.

William Axe, my 6 x great-grandfather, was a Waterman to the Preventive Officers, overseeing the trade and potential smuggling that occurred on the River Thames. Here he features in The Times on 19 August 1789 in regard to a change in a by-law to allow a parcel of gold, rupees and dollars into the city.

The Mansell branch of my family tree begins with Philip Mansell, born c1040 in Normandy. Philip arrived in Britain with William the Conqueror in 1066 and established a manor in Buckinghamshire. 

In 1067, Philip married Demoiselle de Mountsorrell, whose family had settled in Leicestershire. The marriage increased Philip’s lands and also blessed him with five sons, including my direct ancestor Henry.

Philip was cup-bearer to William the Conqueror, a responsible position – Philip had to ensure that no one poisoned the Conquerer. His name was recorded on the Roll of Battle Abbey, confirming his participation in the Conquest. Indeed, Wace in his Chronicles of the Conquest wrote: ‘Then the Duke called in his good neighbours, the Britons, the Mansells, and Angevins, and those of Pontif and Boulogne.’

The surname Mansell originates from La Manche or Le Mans, with arguments in favour of either option. From Normandy, the name and family spread and within 200 years they reached my corner of Wales.

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).

The Mansell branch of my family continued with Henry born in Buckinghamshire, c1068, who married Emma de Lucy. Emma’s brother, Sir Richard de Lucy, was Chief Justice of the Realm. Henry and Emma produced John Mansell who married Elaine de Lutterell. Their son Ralph married Cecilia Pagnell and they produced my direct ancestor, Sir Robert Mansell.

At this time, 1136, the family were still based in Buckinghamshire with estates in various corners of the country. In 1163, Sir Robert attacked and defeated Sultan Nouradin at La Bochen near Tripoli. On his return from the Crusade he married Joyce de Alneto.

The Alneto branch of my family connects with Charles Carolingian – Charles III King of Western France – Godefrid of Denmark and Arnulf of Flanders, c890 – 28 March 965.

The son of Count Baldwin II of Flanders and Ælfthryth of Wessex, daughter of Alfred the Great, Arnulf, also known as the Great, was the third Count of Flanders. He ruled the County of Flanders, an area now in northwestern Belgium and southwestern Netherlands.

Arnulf, Count of Flanders

Through his mother, Arnulf was a descendant of the Anglo-Saxon kings of England, and through his father, he was a descendant of Charlemagne. Presumably Arnulf was named after Saint Arnulf of Metz, a progenitor of the Carolingian dynasty.

At the death of their father in 918, Arnulf became Count of Flanders while his brother Adeloft or Adelolf succeeded to the County of Boulogne. However, after Adeloft’s death in 933, Arnulf took the countship of Boulogne for himself, although later he conveyed it to his nephew, Arnulf II.

Arnulf greatly expanded Flemish rule in the south, taking all or part of Artois, Ponthieu, Amiens, and Ostrevent. He exploited the conflicts between Charles the Simple and Robert I of France, and later between Louis IV and his barons.

The southern expansion resulted in conflict with the Normans who were trying to secure their northern frontier. In 942 this led to the murder of William Longsword, the Duke of Normandy, at the hands of Arnulf’s men. With William Longsword’s death, the Norman/Viking threat receded and during the later years of his life Arnulf focused on reforming the Flemish government.

In genealogy, a question arises: how far back is relevant to the people we are today? In some respects you could argue that there is no relevance, yet these people are our ancestors and we are only here because of them. Relatives we enjoyed direct contact with nurtured us. However, through our DNA our natures and personalities are formed and I feel that all our ancestors are relevant to the people we become.

The Mansell branch of my family continued with Walter who married Hawise de Somerie. Walter held the sergeantry of Little Missenden as Napkin Bearer to the King, Henry III. You might recall that Philip, the progenitor of the Mansell line, performed a similar duty for William the Conquerer, which underlines the long and close association this branch of my family enjoyed with the rulers of England.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #109

Dear Reader,

Betrayal at #1 in America this week and #4 in the Netherlands.

The ‘Welsh Tree of the Year’ at my local park, Margam.

My article about the amazing Nancy Wake appears in this month’s issue of the Seaside News.

A map of all reported UFO sightings, 1906-2014. (Image: ESRI). Is there anybody out there…

Just discovered that my splendidly named ancestors Zephaniah Thorpe and Mary Discipline emigrated to New York City, arriving on 11 April 1838. Zephaniah was a sculptor specialising in marble. Maybe he worked on the pillars in this picture 🤔

A DNA test I took at Christmas 2020 established a link between a Morgan branch of my family and a Bevan branch. This in turn led to Barbara Aubrey, a gateway ancestor. A gateway ancestor is someone descended from royalty, the aristocracy, or landed gentry. Through Barbara Aubrey, and other gateway ancestors, I have discovered links to many of the noble households in Wales, especially in my home county of Glamorgan.

My direct ancestor, Gwladys ferch Dafydd Gam ‘the star of Abergavenny’ (1378 – 1454), was the daughter of Gwenllian ferch Gwilym and Dafydd ap Llewelyn ap Hywel, otherwise known as Dafydd Gam a man immortalised by William Shakespeare as Fluellen in Henry V.

Fluellen: “If your Majesty is remembered of it, the Welshmen did good service in a garden where leeks did grow, wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps, which your Majesty knows, to this hour is an honourable badge of the service, and I do believe, your Majesty takes no scorn to wear the leek upon St David’s Day.”

King Henry: “I wear it for a memorable honour; for I am Welsh, you know, good my countryman.”

The Battle of Agincourt, 1415. The Bridgeman Art Library.

Due to her discretion and influence, the poets compared Gwladys to the legendary Queen Marcia who was ‘one of the most illustrious and praiseworthy of women in early British history.’ Indeed, the poets sang Gwladys’ praises. ‘Gwladys the happy and the faultless. Like the sun – the pavilion of light,’ wrote Lewys Glyn Cothi. They also noted her beauty and luxurious dark hair.

Lewys Glyn Cothi (c1420 – 1490) was a prominent 15th century poet who composed numerous poems in Welsh. He was one of the most important representatives of the Beirdd yr Uchelwyr, ‘Poets of the Nobility.’ 

Lewys was a prolific poet, writing many celebratory poems and elegies. He was responsible for compiling much, if not all, of Llyfr Gwyn Hergest, the White Book of Hergest, which disappeared in the 19th century. He also added several poems to Llyfr Coch Hergest, the Red Book of Hergest, which is now in the National Library of Wales.

During Owain Glyndwr’s War of Independence, Gwladys served as Maid of Honour to Mary de Bohun (c1368–1394), wife of Henry IV, and afterwards she served Henry’s second wife, Queen Joan (c1370–1437). On her return to Wales, Gwladys married Sir Roger Vaughan of Bredwardine and from that day on she remained in her homeland.

Raglan Castle. Engraving, 1798.

The battlefield and royal politics proved tragic for Gwladys. At Agincourt, 1415, she lost her father, Dafydd Gam, and her husband, Sir Roger Vaughan. Later, at Easter 1456, her son Watkin was murdered at his home, Bredwardine Castle, while in 1469 two sons, Thomas and Richard (my direct ancestor) died at the Battle of Edgecote. In May 1472 a fourth son, Sir Roger Vaughan, was captured by Jasper Tudor and beheaded at Chepstow.

Gwladys’ second husband, Sir William ap Thomas of Raglan Castle, known as Sir William Herbert, also fought at Agincourt. Due to the colour of his armour, Sir William was nicknamed ‘The Blue Knight of Gwent.’

Gwladys’ first marriage produced five children, three boys and two girls, while her second marriage produced four children, two boys and two girls. All married into Welsh and English noble families: the Stradlings, Wogans, Vaughans, Devereauxs and Audleys. They also established the Herbert line, a branch of my family, one of the most influential families in medieval and post-medieval Wales.

In the Middle Ages, noble women were expected to obey their husbands, guard their virtue, produce offspring, and oversee the smooth running of their household. Good management skills were essential. Moreover, when her husband was away a wife’s role would increase substantially to the extent that she would assume control of her husband’s domain and even bear arms.

As Lady of Raglan Castle, Gwladys entertained her guests. She also assisted the needy and afflicted, and supported Welsh culture, especially the bards and minstrels. In Lewys Glyn Cothi’s elegy, he stated that Gwladys was ‘the strength and support of Gwentland the land of Brychan.’ 

Abergavenny Priory. Artist unknown.

Gwladys died in 1454. Along with her husband, Sir William ap Thomas, she was a great patron of Abergavenny Priory and an alabaster tomb along with effigies of the couple can still be found there.

According to legend, Gwladys was so beloved by her people that 3,000 knights, nobles and weeping peasantry followed her body from Coldbrook House (her son Richard’s manor) to the Herbert Chapel of St. Mary’s Priory Church where she was buried.

Born into privilege, Gwladys used her position to support the poor and vulnerable, and the arts. And for that she earned her people’s eternal love and respect.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #102

Dear Reader,

A busy time preparing my books for the next nine months. Projects include: Damaged, book nineteen in my Sam Smith Mystery Series; Leaves, book three in The Olive Tree, my Spanish Civil War saga; Operation Cameo, book six in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series and Colette, A Schoolteacher’s War, book one in a new series about various women and their participation in the French Resistance.

My latest translation, the Portuguese version of Operation Treasure. I’m delighted that Dilaine will continue to translate my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series.

Mapping my ancestors over the past thousand years.

Maps Three and Four: 1800 – 1850

These maps highlight the changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution. My Welsh ancestors remained fairly settled, mainly working on the land. Ancestors moved from Cardiganshire to Glamorgan, but the rest remained in their native communities.

In England, the story was different. Ancestors moved from Berkshire, Limerick, Lincolnshire and Hertfordshire taking their trades as carpenters, nurses and stone masons to London. Other branches, in Durham, Somerset and Essex intermarried with London ancestors while branches of my Durham and Yorkshire family emigrated to Ontario in Canada.

This speaks for itself 👇

I have discovered many fascinating stories while researching my ancestors this week. These include: marriages in London’s Fleet Prison, pictured, people in a debtors prison, slave owners in Barbados, a medal won during the Napoleonic Wars, Old Bailey trials, transportations to the penal colonies of Australia, and ancestors who ran an inn, which possibly doubled as a brothel. I look forward to sharing details of these stories with you in future weeks.

My 20 x great grandmother Isabella of Castile, Duchess of York, was born in 1355, the daughter of Pedro Alfónsez (Pedro I) “Rey de Castilla y León, el Cruel” and his favourite mistress Maria de Padilla.

Isabella accompanied her elder sister Constance to England after Constance’s marriage to John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and on 11 July 1372 married Gaunt’s younger brother, Edmund Langley, 1st Duke of York, a man fourteen years her senior. The marriage was a political alliance to further the Plantagenet claim to the crown of Castile.

Chroniclers described Isabella and Edmund as ‘an ill-matched pair’. Isabella was flirtatious and committed many indiscretions, including an affair with Richard II’s half-brother, John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter, a ‘violent and lawless’ man. 

Isabella of Castile

The chroniclers didn’t like Isabella and tarnished her reputation, taking exception to her ‘loose morals’. Of course, their comments must be seen within the context of the political intrigues of the day, which were numerous in Richard II’s court. It seems certain that Isabella did have affairs, no doubt looking for the love and affection that might have been absent in her marriage.

Officially, Isabella and Edmund produced three children: Edward, Constance (my direct ancestor) and Richard, although there is a suggestion that John Holland fathered Richard.

Isabella died on 23 December 1392, aged thirty-seven and was buried on 14 January 1393 at the church of the Dominicans at King’s Langley.  Shakespeare, however, brought Isabella back to life when he featured her in Act V of his play, Richard II, set in December 1399.

Coat of Arms of Castile, adopted by Isabella.

There are no records of the King’s Langley tombs. The priory surrendered to the Crown in 1536, but was not dissolved until 1559, when the estate passed into private hands. It’s assumed that the heraldic tomb-chest now standing in the north chapel of King’s Langley parish church originated from the priory. It was moved in 1877 and opened to reveal the disturbed remains of a sixty year old male and a forty year old female, thought to be Edmund and Isabella.

In her Will, Isabella bequeathed to the Duke of Lancaster, a tablet of Armenian jasper; to her son Edward, her crown; to Constance Despenser, her daughter, a fret of pearls; to the Duchess of Gloucester, her tablet of gold with images; and to Richard II her heart of pearls and the residue of her goods, in trust that he should allow his godson Richard, Isabella’s younger son, an annuity of 500 marks for life, a trust which Richard II, out of the great respect he bore for her, accepted.

Richard II loved pomp and pageantry, and it’s clear that Isabella had more in common with him than with her husband, Edmund. While Isabella’s marriage was no bed of roses, in Richard II’s flamboyant court I sense that she was at home, even though that home was a long way from her native Castile.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Bestselling psychological and historical mysteries from £0.99. Paperbacks, brand new in mint condition 🙂
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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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Sam Smith Mystery Series

Dear Reader #96

Dear Reader,

Amazing how one record can unlock the past. This baptism record from 14 February 1801 for my 4 x great grandmother Ann Locock has led to eight new branches on my family tree.

It looks like the Battle of Bosworth was a family gathering. I’ve discovered another ancestor there, my 15 x great grandfather Nicholas Wilder, a military leader in the army of the Earl of Richmond. Nicholas supported the victor, Henry Tudor, crowned Henry VII.

Trouble with the neighbours. In 1294 Lady Hornby accused my direct ancestor John de Tunstall of shooting an arrow at her steward because he wanted to seize a wagon laden with corn to make distraint.

A colourised version of a picture taken one hundred years ago, of my great grandmother Edith.

SOE heroine Pippa Latour, was 100 on 9 April 2021.

Available soon, the audiobook version of Mind Games, Sam Smith Mystery Series book eleven.

My 12 x great grandfather Thomas Strickland was born on 6 June 1564 in Kendal, Westmorland, the eldest son of Walter Strickland Esq and Alice Tempest, both the products of gentry families. Thomas lacked Walter’s parental guidance for much of his childhood because his father died in 1569.

On 24 July 1603 Thomas was made a Knight of the Bath, a special knighthood conferred on important royal occasions such as coronations. This practice died out after the reign of Charles II. Later, George I introduced the Order of the Bath.

Sir Thomas Strickland, 1600, aged 36.

At a date unknown, probably during 1596, Thomas married Elizabeth Symon aka Seymour of Bristol, the daughter of John Seymour of Frampton Cotterell, Gloucestershire. The marriage produced a daughter, Alice, who married Sir William Webb, Equerry to Henry, Prince of Wales.

After Elizabeth’s death, Thomas married, c1599, Margaret Curwen, daughter of Sir Nicholas Curwen of Workington Hall, Cumbria, and Anne Musgrave. This marriage produced five children:

  1. Robert, who succeeded his father
  2. Thomas, who left no mark on history
  3. Walter, who married Anne Crofts of East Appleton, Yorkshire
  4. Dorothy, who married John Fleming of Rydal as his third wife
  5. Margaret, my direct ancestor, who married George Preston Esq of Holker Hall 

Through his birth and marriages, Thomas enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge and in 1584 was made a Justice of the Peace. In 1603 he became a Sheriff and a member of the Council in the North. His roles included overseeing gaols, sewers and charities. 

Thomas’ ancestors acquired the estate at Sizergh by marriage in 1239. The family regularly represented Westmorland in parliament from 1307 and Thomas was appointed custos rotulorum as soon as he came of age. 

Margaret Curwen, Thomas’ second wife, was a strong Catholic. However, Thomas remained a supporter of Elizabeth I and her Protestant beliefs. Like his father before him, Thomas served as junior knight of the shire in Elizabeth’s last Parliament, and moved up to the first seat when re-elected in 1604. 

Sizergh, castle and grounds. Wikipedia.

In parliament, Thomas was among those named to consider bills to preserve coppices, to reform informers’ abuses and to annex certain property indissolubly to the Crown. He also proffered a bill to extend alnage to narrow draperies, but it made no progress beyond a first reading.

In the second parliamentary session, Thomas sat on five legislative committees including three concerned with the cloth trade, granting customs allowances to the merchants of York, Hull and Newcastle. Another of Thomas’ committees regulated the wages of spinners and weavers while the fifth dealt with Welsh cottons in the statute of 1604.

As Thomas’ parliamentary career progressed, he considered bills to confirm the endowment of St. Bees grammar school in Cumberland and to strengthen the enforcement of the penal laws. On 19 March 1604, he was granted privilege as a defendant in a trial at York assizes.

Outwardly successful, the above trial offers a clue as to a flaw in Thomas’ character: he was a compulsive gambler. Even at the time of his first marriage, Thomas was raising substantial loans. Gambling in the Elizabethan era centred on cards, dice, backgammon and draughts, and often took place in gambling houses and gambling dens.

Elizabethans gambling at cards.

At Easter 1607, Thomas invited his wife’s cousin Anthony Curwen to supper where arguments and attempted arrests flared up over debt. However, before Curwen ‘could get any to serve the said Sir Thomas with a subpoena, he being a Parliament man’, Thomas abstracted the lease of Sherburn rectory from his study in New Inn and obtained judgment against him.

Thomas died intestate on 19 June 1612, leaving acknowledged debts of £9,500, which equates to approximately £1,274,000 in today’s money. His widow, Margaret, bought the wardship of her eldest son Robert and managed to preserve the Sizergh estate from creditors’ demands until the latter’s majority. 

Margaret, born c1560, survived Thomas by eighteen years and died in 1630. She did not remarry, but her fortitude held her family and its estates together. In 1629, Margaret’s son, Sir Robert Strickland, sent her a letter advising her how she should proceed with the Commissioners before the President at York, ‘so as to save her estate from sequestration.’

During 1623-4, while a young man, Robert Strickland was summond to parliament as a Knight of the Shire for Westmorland. A colonel in the army of Charles I, Robert commanded a troop of horse at the battle of Edgehill, while his son, Sir Thomas Strickland, led the regiment of foot. 

Because of Sir Thomas Strickland’s gambling, his family had to fight many battles. However, for them a bigger battle lay ahead in the shape of the English Civil War.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx