You may remember a few weeks ago I considered that even if you don’t have an interest in the monarch the history of the Kings and Queens will give you an insight into the lives of your ancestors. I looked at the Monarchs of England and Scotland from 1066 until 1603 and now I’m going to look from 1603 to the present day with the monarchs of Great Britain which began after the death of Elizabeth I.
James I of England VI of Scotland. Reigned 24th March 1603 – 27th March 1625. Successor: Charles I, son of James I.
Charles I. Reigned 27th March 1625 – 30 January 1649 (executed for treason). Successor: Oliver Cromwell and the commonwealth.
Charles II. Reigned 29th May 1660 – 6th February 1685. Successor: James II, son of Charles I.
James II. Reigned 6th February 1685 – 23rd December 1688. Successor: William III, grandson of Charles II and Mary II, daughter of James II.
William III and Mary II
William III. Reigned 23rd December 1688 – 8th March 1702. Successor: Anne, daughter of James II.
Mary II. Reigned 23rd December 1688 –28th December 1694. Successor: Anne, daughter of James II.
Anne. Reigned 8th March 1702 – 1st August 1714. Successor: George I, great grandson of James I.
George I. Reigned 1st August 1714 – 11th June 1727. Successor: George II, son of George I.
George II. Reigned 11th June 1727 – 25th October 1760. Successor: George III, grandson of George II.
George III. Reigned 25th October 1760 – 29th January 1820. Successor: George IV, son of George III.
George IV. Reigned 29th January 1820 – 26th June 1830. Successor: William IV, son of George III.
William IV. Reigned 26th June 1830 – 20th June 1837. Successor: Victoria, granddaughter of George III.
Victoria. Reigned 20th June 1837 – 22 January 1901. Successor: Edward VII, son of Victoria.
Edward VII. Reigned 22 January 1901 – 6th May 1910. Successor: George V, son of Edward VII.
George V. Reigned 6th May 1910 – 20th January 1936. Successor: Edward VIII, son of George V.
Edward VIII. Reigned 20th January 1836 – 11th December 1836 (abdicated). Successor: George VI, son of George V.
George VI. Reigned 11th December 1836 – 6th February 1952. Successor: Elizabeth II, daughter of George VI.
Elizabeth II. Reign 6th February 1952 to present.
So now you have a comprehensive list of the monarchs from 1066 until the present. You can now use this information to gather more information about your ancestors.
So for example if your ancestor was alive in 1703 you now know Queen Anne was on the throne. From here you can find out more about the country they lived in. In 1703 England was struck by a storm which caused 100’s of boat to wash ashore on the south coast and 1000’s of sailors died, 1000’s of homes were damaged and many areas were severely flooded including parts of the West Midlands. From here if you know your ancestor was a sailor on the south coast you may find they were affected by the storm. They may have lost their boat or the boat they sailed on may have been lost. They may also have lost their relatives if they were at sea at the time of the storm. They could have lost fathers, brothers, husbands or sons. Entire male lines of families may have been wiped out as a family boat could have been lost. This could have left the women of the family destitute. It could also help you to understand why you can’t find the grave of a family member. They may have been lost at sea in the storm and their body was never found for burial. It could also mean you may be able to discover the grave for a female family member you couldn’t find. If a woman lost her husband in the storm she may have remarried and thus be buried under the name of her second husband.
Hopefully this will relationship between the knowledge of when the monarchs were on the throne and what was going on in the country while your ancestors were alive.
We’ve all heard of the Jack the Ripper and his reign of terror in London in 1888 but still to this day we have no idea who he was or why he did what he did. It’s though he killed 5 women but many believe he was responsible for many more deaths.
The killings attributed to Jack began in August 1888 when he killed his first victim. She was Mary Ann Nichols, nee Walker. She was found on the 31 August 1888 in Buck’s Row (now Durwand Street) in London. Mary was born in 1845 and was the estranged wife of William Nichols and the mother of 3 children.
Jack’s second victim was Annie Chapman who was born Eliza Ann Smith. She was born in 1841 and was the estranged wife of John Chapman and the mother of 3 children. On the night of the 8 September 1888 she was found dead at 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields.
Victim three was Elizabeth Stride nee Gustafsdoffer. She was born in Sweden in 1843 where her career as a prostitute was thought to have begun. She was the widow of John Stride. She was found on the night of the 30th September 1888 on Berner Street (now Henriques Street), Whitechapel.
The fourth victim was Catherine Eddowes. She was the common law wife of Thomas Conway and the mother of 3 children. She was born in Wolverhampton in 1842. Her body was found on the 30 September 1888, the same night as Elizabeth Stride, in Mitre Square, Whitechapel.
The final confirmed victim of Jack was Mary Jane Kelly who was killed on the 9th November 1888 in Miller’s Court, Spitalfield.
All the murders had much in common. All were gruesome and involved the removal of organs. The attacks must have been brutal and terrifying for the women. They were investigated at the time by the Whitechapel division of the Metropolitan police and Scotland Yard. The lead investigators were:
Detective Inspector Edmund Reid from Whitechapel
Detective Inspector Frederick Abberline from Scotland Yard
Detective Inspector Henry Moore from Scotland Yard
Detective Inspector Walter Andrews from Scotland Yard
Now I personally have an interest in the murders as I believe they may have impacted upon my Ancestors. My great, great Grandfather was George Dow who was born in Pollockshaw, Glasgow in 1842. He moved to Sunderland to work in the ship yards and it was here in 1867 that he married Eleanor Easton (born in 1844) the daughter of a local blacksmith. The couple had four children including my great Grandma Elizabeth Dow. To this day we don’t know why but between 1878 and 1880 the family moved to the Whitechapel area of London and started using the surname Smith. I know this as in 1880 the couple had another child named George Smith and my great Grandma was born in 1878. On the 1881 census the family was living on Sander Street in Whitechapel, which if you look at the map above you will see linked to Henriques Street where Elizabeth Stride was killed. We know that by 1891 the family was living in Walthamstow in Essex. The question is did they move because of the murders or had they already decided to move on? If they were still living in Whitechapel then the murders would have been a good enough incentive to move especially since Eleanor was of a similar age to the victims. It would have been no place to raise the 3 surviving of their 4 children.
When I started researching my family tree I knew nothing about this. I knew Elizabeth was born in Sunderland and raised in Woodford but I had no idea about the Whitechapel link. I have had an interest in the Ripper murders since I saw at TV drama called Jack the Ripper starring Michael Caine and Lewis Collins, also on the Two Ronnies Show they did a sketch called the Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town which was a skit on the ripper case in which a raspberry was blow and the victim died. These both lead to an interest which was only boosted by my family connection.
So who was the Ripper? Several names have been connected to the case but there seems to be no chance of the Ripper being identified. So the mystery many never be revealed, but in my case the interest continues due to my own family’s connection.
Now we’ve all heard of the great fire of London which happened in 1666, but have you ever considered how it would affect your family history research?
I’ll start with some background. The fire started on the 2nd September 1666 in Pudding Lane, London which was only a few streets north of the river Thames. The fire started in a bakery and raged within the old city walls of the city from the Strand to the Tower of London and as far north as the Guildhall until the 6th September. During this time hundreds of people were made homeless and had to flee the city. Surprisingly only 6 people are reported to have died in the fire. Also in the fire the plague rats died!
Now here is where the fire impacts of family history research. 89 parish churches were lost in the fire including St Pauls. 35 of these churches were never rebuilt.
So what does this mean to family historians? Well it means you have to readjust what you know. The fire resulted in people having to move from the area they lived in. So if you have been happily tracing your family back through one church in London and then you can’t find anymore ancestors it may be because they were new to the church just after 1666.
So what do you do? Well the best place to start is probably to find out which parish churches were lost in the fire and find out which ones were closest to where your ancestors lived after 1666. Although this will not give you an accurate indication of where they moved from, it may help. Families may have wanted to stay as close as possible to where they lived and worshiped before as they worked in the area. On the other hand they may have move away as they needed housing and where they worked may have been destroyed in the fire.
So how do you overcome this? Well don’t just focus on the immediate area. If you can’t find what you’re looking for expand your search. Also focus on what you know. If you ancestors were having children baptised at a church from a certain date but you haven’t found the couple’s marriage there then maybe they had to move church because it was lost in the fire. So from here you need to look around the other churches. Also make a note of any occupations listed on the children’s baptisms. This can help you if you find a couple with the same names in another church. If the man has the same occupation then there is a chance it is your ancestors. This may not always follow though as they may have had to change job after the fire. If your ancestors have an unusual surname then it is relatively easy to find where they came from. Sorry to anyone with the name Smith as this will be difficult, but congratulation if you have got back this far, you are a genealogy hero.
It has not been only the great fire of London that has caused problems like this. There have been many disasters over the years that may have resulted in your family having to move. If you have ancestors from Sheffield you may suddenly find them disappearing as you go back. What may people don’t know is that in 1864 Sheffield had a “great flood” when a newly built dam wall cracked and the town was flooded. 240 people died and over 600 homes were lost. If your ancestors seem to suddenly appear in say north Sheffield it could be they came from west Sheffield where the destruction occurred.
The same moving of your ancestors could also have happened if they were miners. Over the years they have been many mining disasters which may have led to the closures of the pit. Your ancestors may have had to move to new coal filed to get new jobs and so all of a sudden the Northumberland family you thought you had is now in Yorkshire.
So although we don’t like to think about disasters such as the great fire they do have an influence on our research as they change the lives of our ancestors. So remember it may not be a brick wall you’ve hit, it may be relocation.
They say that our homes are our castles, but what do we really know about the history of our homes. Just by looking at them we can take a rough guess about when they were built but that’s about it. Can you find out more about the actual building and those who have lived in it?
Well the answer is yes, up to a point. You see it depends on the age of the house and where it is. And for the record it doesn’t matter if your home is a stately home, although that would be so much easier as there are probably records already existing within the building.
The best place to start is by looking at the age of the house. In most cases you can make a good guess by looking at the architecture of the building. If there are art deco features to the property then there is a chance you house was built in the 1920’s.
You should also consider the deeds of the house. Most people don’t actually have the deeds in their house, but the solicitor who assisted in the purchase of the house may have them. These may potentially give you an exact date for the building of the house. If you haven’t got access to the deeds you can always search the land registry for them.
The next place to look is on the census. You can search by address to find your house. From here the amount of information you can find is huge and frustrating. Your house may be on the census under a different number as more houses were built later, no house numbers may be given and streets can also change name as the road I grew up on but luckily the roadside said the old name.
The census can help you find out who used to live in the house. This can give you an insight into how many people may have lived in the house at one time. You may be surprised how many people were crammed into the space. In my parents first home on the 1911 census there were 6 adults living there. There were 2 adults and a baby when my parents were there. If you follow the census back you can find out when the property first showed up and thus this can help you establish at least a decade for when the house was built if previous research through the deeds hasn’t helped.
The census can also give you an insight into how the house’s fortunes may have changed. It may be that when the house was built it was lived in by a working class family but over the years the family may have become middle class or it may have stayed the same.
If we consider the Victorian house I grew up in built around the 1880’s, in 1901 the owner was the owner of a stay manufacturing company and lived with his wife and 2 grown up daughters. By 1936 (as found from a death notice) the house was in the hands of the 1901 owners Son in Law. On the 1939 census the house was owned by a steelworks engineer who lived there with his wife and 3 children. When my grandparents purchased the house in 1960 it became owned by an Officer of Her Majesty’s Custom and Excise and had 4 occupants. By the end of the 1970’s there were 5 of us spread over 3 generations.
Another way to find out information about your house is the newspaper archive. You can search for the street name and town and see what you can find out. This is how I found out who owned my childhood home in 1936.
If you live in a more modern house don’t despair. You can still research the area your house was built in. Old maps will show you what was there before you house was built. Where I live now and as a child would have been fields, but you may find there used to be mines or some other form of industry.
So it doesn’t matter whether you live in a stately home or a small terrace house, there is a chance you can find out about the families who lived there before you and how the area has changed. But remember it’s not always that easy and some people make researching a property their lives work and others make a living out of doing this.
Last week I looked at the link between how knowing which monarch was on the throne and can help you discover more about the lives of your ancestors by showing you what was happening in the world around them. Even though the lives of your ancestors may have been completely different from the monarchs major events may have impacted upon them.
This week I’m looking at the monarchs of Scotland from 1066 to 1603 (I’m starting at 1066 to be in line with the English). You need to remember that the succession in Scotland for the throne is different from England in that war and murder were often ways to trigger a change of monarch. Also the English sometimes influenced the succession with Edward I (1272-1307) placing pressure on the Scots.
Malcolm III. Reigned 1058 – 13th November 1093. Successor: Donald III his brother.
Donald III. Reigned 13th November 1093 – May 1094. Successor: Duncan II, son of Malcolm III.
Duncan II. Reigned 1094 – 12th November 1094 (murdered). Successor: Donald III, son of Malcolm III.
Donald III. Reigned 12th November 1094 – 1097. Successor: Edgar, son of Malcolm III.
Edgar. Reigned 1097 – 8th January 1107 (Murdered?). Successor: Alexander I, son of Malcolm III.
Alexander I. Reigned 8th January 1107 – 23rd April 1124. Successor: David I, son of Malcolm III.
David I. Reigned 23rd April 1124 – 24th May 1153. Successor: Malcolm IV, grandson of David I.
Malcolm IV. Reigned 24th May 1153 – 9th December 1165. Successor: William I, grandson of David I.
William I. Reigned 9th December 1165 – 4th December 1214. Successor: Alexander II, son of William I.
Alexander II. Reigned 4th December 1214 – 6th July 1249. Successor: Alexander III, son of Alexander II.
Alexander III. Reigned 6th July 1249 – 19th March 1286. Successor: Margaret, granddaughter of Alexander III.
Margaret. Reigned 25th November 1286 – 26th September 1290. Successor: John who was chosen by claim.
John. Reigned 17th November 1292 – 10th July 1296 (abdicated). Successor: Robert I through battle and claim.
Robert I (the Bruce). Reigned 25th March 1306 – 7th June 1329. Successor: David II, son of Robert I.
David II. Reigned 7th June 1329 – 22 February 1371. Successor: Robert II, grandson of Robert I.
Robert II. Reigned 22 February 1371 – 19th April 1390. Successor: Robert III, son of Robert II.
Robert III. Reigned 19th April 1390 – 4th April 1406. Successor: James I, son of Robert III.
James I. Reigned 4th April 1406 – 21st February 1437. Successor: James II, son of James I.
James II. Reigned 21st February 1437 – 3rd August 1460. Successor: James III, son of James II.
James III. Reigned 3rd August 1460 – 11th June 1488. Successor: James IV, son of James III.
James IV. Reigned 11th June 1488 – 9th September 1513 (died in battle). Successor: James V, son of James IV.
James V. Reigned 9th September 1513 – 14th December 1542. Successor: Mary, daughter of James V.
Mary (Queen of Scots). Reigned 14th December 1542 – 24th July 1567 (abdicated. Executed by Queen Elizabeth I of England 8th February 1587). Successor: James VI, son of Queen Mary.
James VI. Reigned 24th July 1567 – 27th March 1625. To Monarchy of Great Britain.
After the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England the throne passed to her 1st cousin twice removed James VI of Scotland and he became James I of Great Britain.
James VI was the great, great grandson of King Henry VII of England. Henry’s eldest daughter Margaret Tudor was married to James IV of Scotland thus combining the Stuart house of Scotland with the Tudor house of England and giving us the royal family we have today.
Many of you will know that I am fascinated with the monarch, but many of you may not realise how much of an impact knowledge of the monarchy can have on your research. If you know who was monarch when your ancestors were alive you can read about what was happening in the country and thus how it may have been affecting your ancestors. So in this vein here is my list of the Monarch of England.
Edward the Confessor. Reigned 8th June 1042 to 1st May 1066. Successor: Harold Godwinson, brother in law of Edward who claimed Edward named him heir.
Harold Godwinson. Reigned 6th January 1066 to 14th October 1066 died in battle. Successor: William the Conqueror who claimed to be Edward the Confessors names heir and William defeated Harold at the Battle of Hastings.
William I, the Conqueror. Reigned 14th October 1066 – 9th September 1087. Successor: William II his son.
William II. Reigned 9th September 1087 – 2nd August 1100 possibly murdered. Successor: Henry I his brother.
Henry I. Reigned 2nd August 1100 – 1st December 1135. Successor: Stephen the grandson of William I who may have usurped the throne.
Stephen. Reigned 22nd December 1135 – 7th April 1141. Successor: Matilda, daughter of Henry I.
Matilda. Reigned 7th April 1141 – 1st November 1141. Successor: Stephen.
Stephen. Reigned 1st November 1141 – 25th October 1154. Successor: Henry II son of Matilda.
Henry II. Reigned 25th October 1154 – 6th July 1189. Successor: Richard I the Lionheart, son of Henry II.
Richard I. Reigned 6th July 1189 – 6th April 1199. Successor: John, brother of Richard I.
John. Reigned 6th April 1199 – 19th October 1216. Successor: Henry III, John’s son.
Henry III. Reigned 19th October 1216 – 16th November 1272. Successor: Edward I, son of Henry III.
Edward I. Reigned 16th November 1272 – 7th July 1307. Successor: Edward II, son of Edward I.
Edward II. Reigned 7th July 1307 – 24th January 1327. Successor: Edward III, son of Edward II.
Edward III. Reigned 24th January 1327 – 21st June 1377. Successor: Richard II, grandson of Edward III.
Richard II. Reigned 21st June 1377 – 29th September 1399. Successor: Henry IV, grandson of Edward III.
Henry IV. Reigned 30th September 1399 – 20th March 1413. Successor: Henry V, son of Henry IV.
Henry V. Reigned 20th March 1413 – 31st August 1422. Successor: Henry VI, son of Henry V.
Henry VI. Reigned 31st August 1422 – 4th March 1461. Successor: Edward IV, great grandson of Edward III by usurpation.
Edward IV. Reigned 4th March 1461 – 3rd October 1470. Henry VI, son of Henry V.
Henry VI. Reigned 3rd October 1470 – 11th April 1471. Successor: Edward IV, great grandson of Edward III, by usurpation.
Edward IV. Reigned 11th April 1471 – 9th April 1483. Successor: Henry VI, son of Henry V.
Edward V. Reigned 9th April 1483 – 25th June 1483 (disappeared possibly murdered). Successor: Richard III brother of Edward IV.
Richard III. Reigned 25th June 1483 – 22 August 1485 (died at the Battle of Bosworth). Successor: Henry VII, great, great, great grandson of Edward III, by usurpation.
Henry VII. Reigned 22 August 1485 – 21 September 1509. Successor: Henry VIII, son of Henry VII.
Henry VIII. Reigned 21st September 1509 – 28th January 1547. Successor: Edward VI, son of Henry VIII.
Edward VI. Reigned 28th January 1547 – 6th July 1553. Successor: Lady Jane Grey, granddaughter of Henry VII.
Jane Grey. Reigned 10th July 1553 - 19th July 1553 (deposed). Successor: Mary I, daughter of Henry VIII.
Mary I. Reigned 19th July 1553 – 17th November 1558. Successor: Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII.
Elizabeth I. Reigned 17th November 1558 – 24th March 1603. Successor: James I and VI, great, great grandson of Henry VII.
This brings to an end the walk through the English monarch from 1066 until 1603. After this period the monarchies of England and Scotland combined to become the monarchs of Great Britain.
Coming soon I’ll do the same for the Monarchs of Great Britain from 1603 to the present.
Many of us will be familiar with the fantastic TV show Dads Army which celebrates its 50th anniversary this month. For those that don’t well the show is set during WW2 in the fictitious sleepy seaside town of Walmington on Sea which is on the south coast. The show is based around the Home Guard unit which was established after the announcement by the government that they needed man under and over the age of enlistment to protect the home front. The show follows the platoon as they attempt to protect the town from the German’s, who they only come across once. In reality they town usually needs protecting from the platoon and Captain Mainwarings idea. It stared such acting greats as Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier, Clive Dunn, John Laurie, Arnold Ridley, James Beck, Ian Lavender and Bill Pertwee, many of who were well know actors who took on rolls in Shakespeare and even wrote plays (Arnold Ridley wrote the Ghost Train).
The home guard was a genuine branch of the army and was established in July 1940 when the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV) changed their name to the Home Guard.
So when did the LDV begin? On the 14th May 1940 the war secretary Anthony Eden made a broadcast calling for men not in military service between the ages of 17 and 65 to take up arms to protect their town from the threat from German paratroopers and a possible invasion of the home front. By July 1940 over 1.5 million men had signed up.
In the beginning the LDV were poorly equipped with whatever they could get their hands on. They really did have carving knives tied to broom handles and pitch forks. In the episode of Dad’s Army called museum piece the platoon go to the local museum to requisition weapons but only end up with a Chinese rocket launcher from the Boxer rebellion as the guns have been taken by Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) who went about entertaining the troops. Needless to say the rocket launcher goes off and bring some of the roof of the church hall (where the platoon meets) down. The reason I mention this is because it really did happen. The LDV were getting weapons from anywhere. They were even using guns the members had brought back from WW1.
They were also patrolling the area without uniforms. Over the years the LDV, which became the Home Guard in July 1940, were drip fed uniform. They started out with just an LDV armband and gradually gained more uniform until they eventually had a full recognisable military uniform.
After 1943 the Home guard began to get formal training from the military and they were given weapons the army no longer needed or had taken from the enemy. If you want to see how Dad’s Army portrayed the training the Home Guard received then the original Dad’s Army film and the series 3 episode called Battle School are the ones to watch.
The Home Guard continued until the 3rd December 1944 when they were stood down and they were finally disbanded on the 31st December 1945. During this time over 1200 of the Home Guard members died as a result of the war. They were mainly killed as a result of air raids, although some did die in training exercises.
They were portrayed in a comedy way through Dad’s Army, and one of the writers Jimmy Perry based it on his experience as a young lad in the Home Guard. They really were a bunch of men from all walks of life who came together in the country’s hour of need. Yes there were men for who the Home Guard became their life and sole focus. Men like Captain Mainwaring and Captain Square probably did exist, and there were certainly plenty of the Home Guard who had served in WW1, but they did make a difference. They watched out for air raids and did fire watching.
They really did make a difference to the country, and through the TV show introduced me to a branch of the army I may never know existed, and gave me great memories of watch the show with my Grandpa.
Whenever we watch any period drama on TV we see all the actors in the fine clothes of the day. But have you ever considered what this really meant for our ancestors.
It doesn’t really matter what class our ancestors are from the clothes they wore would be so much more uncomfortable than we’re used to. As I write this blog its 28o C outside and 25 inside. I like most of the country have shorts and a thin top on trying to keep cool, but how would our ancestors have coped.
Let’s start by considering the working class.
They would have been working in the factories, mills and farms whilst wearing a wool dress or suit with a hat. This must have been so hot. Imagine being in the fields with the sun blazing down on the tending the fields and the animal or being in the mills with the machinery running and all the heat they were producing. The men would probably be in shirt sleeves but the women would have had dresses, aprons and hats on which would probably be their only set of clothes which they had had for years. It would have been unbearable for them. It wasn’t just at work though. Women would be expected to carry out all daily tasks dressed like this. How on earth they scrubbed floors and washed clothes in these clothes is beyond me. In this weather it’s bad enough having to push the vacuum cleaner round or load the washer without having to wear heavy clothes. The only good thing going for them was the fact the clothing could be looser and less tight fitting so maybe they would get some air to them. I don’t know for certain but I would imagine it was much more dangerous working in the mills and factories on hot days. If the workers became overheated or dehydrated they could pass out and near machinery they could be fatal. What if they were weavers and got pulled under the machines and crushed. It wouldn’t have been much safer on the farm as they could pass out and get trampled by a heard of cows or the farm machinery.
Spare a though also for your ancestors who were in service. They would have been in starched uniforms having to do their job without fainting! It would have been even worse for the kitchen staff. Imagine having a range burning day in day out, it would only have been worse for the men who worked in the foundries.
As you rise up the classes it wouldn’t have been much better. They had to consider what they wore. Ladies and gentlemen must be seen in the latest fashions without exception. Society wouldn’t care if it was hot, full corsets and bustles must be worn with massive hats. They may get a parasol if outside. The men would be in full suit with hat and starched collars. The ladies passed out at the best of times from the corsets but in the summer it must have been unbearable. No wonder those who had country estates went to them to avoid the heat of the city, or was it so they could wear thinner clothes without their circle of friends and acquaintances finding out about the falling standards of their attire?
Let’s not forget the children. They would have been in formal clothes as well no matter if they were playing, doing school work or even enjoying a day at the beach.
So all in all I’m much happier being able to wear thin clothing suited to the weather outside and not having to be constricted by the constraints of what clothes our ancestors had or what society stated they should have to wear. I say denim short and t shirts all the way!
I want to consider my favourite of King Henry VII wives today. Everyone’s heard of Anne of Cleves, King Henry VIII 4th wife, but probably you don’t know much about her.
Anne was born in Dusseldorf in the Duchy of Cleves in September 1515. She was the 2nd of 4 children born to Duke John III of Cleves, Julich and Berg and his wife Maria Duchess of Julich-Berg. When she was just 11 she was betrothed to 10 year old Francis of Lorraine the son of the Duke of Lorraine. This betrothal was later declared void due to Francis being so young.
After the death of Queen Jane in 1537 the king’s adviser Oliver Cromwell began to look for a new queen and looked to Cleves as the new Duke (Anne’s brother) was a protestant, although Anne was a Catholic like her devote mother. Hans Holbein the younger was despatched to paint portraits of Anne and her sister. It was from these pictures Henry decided on Anne. In October 1539 a treaty was drawn up between King Henry and Duke William for Henry to marry Anne.
Anne was described by contemporary sources as being tall, slim, fair haired and having a lovely face and being of a gentle and docile. She was not well educated although she could read and write in German. She was very skilled at needlework.
Anne arrived in England in December 1539 and she first met the King on 1st January 1540. Henry entered her chambers in disguise and embraced her. Anne was alarmed and thanked the man and then turned away. It is alleged that it was Katherine Howard who pointed out to Anne that it was the King. Henry was enraged and immediately demanded that a way be found to stop the wedding. Oliver Cromwell was all for the wedding taking place and persuaded the king to go through with the wedding as the alliance with another protestant nation was vital to the defence of the country against Spain, France and the Holy Roman Empire. In the end this decision cost Cromwell his life.
Anne and Henry were married by the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cramner at the Palace of Placentia on the 6th January 1540. After the marriage Henry made many complaints about Anne from her being ugly and smelly to her being so undesirable that he could not consummate the marriage. Anne is believed to have believed the marriage was consummated as Henry slept beside her every night. The King decided he wanted out of the marriage and used the fact that she had been betrothed to Francis of Lorraine and the non consummation of the marriage as the main reasons. We all know he was besotted with Anne’s lady in waiting Katherine Howard and she was the main reason.
Anne was ordered to leave court in June 1540 and on the 6th July she was told the King wished to annul the marriage. Anne sensibly agreed to the annulment and thus probably saved her life. She inherited many houses as part of the annulment including Richmond Palace and Hever Castle. She was also given the title of Beloved Sister and she thus ranked higher than all ladies of the court except the Queen and the Kings daughters. She was a regular at court and had a strong friendship with Princess Mary and Elizabeth.
After the execution of Katherine Howard it is believed Anne’s brother Duke William of Cleves was pushing for Henry to remarry Anne. Whether Anne was for this or not is not really known as no evidence survives.
After Henry’s death Anne lived mainly away from court and was not seen much but she was by Queen Mary’s side along with Princess Elizabeth when Mary entered London to take the crown. Anne was also at Mary’s coronation in 1553. Anne converted back to Catholicism when Mary took the throne.
Anne came under scrutiny during the Wyatt rebellion against Queen Mary as Anne was very close to Princess Elizabeth who was protestant and was removed form court in 1554.
Anne lived at her estate for the rest of her life where she was a described as a good and kind mistress. Many say she suffered from periods of homesickness but she never left England after her arrival in 1539.
In June 1557 Anne became so unwell she wrote her will in which she asked Queen Mary and Princess Elizabeth to look after her servants who she also left some money to. On the 16th July 1557 Anne of Cleves died at her home in Chelsea from cancer and was buried by the high alter in Westminster Abbey. She was the last of King Henry VIII wives to die.
Music has an impact on all our lives whether we like it or not but how did it affect the lives of our ancestors?
Well music has always been around in one form or another for thousands of years. In Germany a flute was found which using carbon dating was aged at between 42,000 and 43,000 years old. So music has really always been around even if just through the tweet of a bird or the roar of a dinosaur. Maybe the T-Rex’s had a roar band! Wonder if they sang we love to boogie, sorry.
Church organs would probably be the music most of our ancestors were most exposed to. Every Sunday since the first organs appeared since the 900’s they would have heard them played.
Most churches wouldn’t have had an organ on such a grand scale but most of the larger churches would have had one of some form. So our ancestors would have been mainly exposed to religious music. In later years the organists may have started playing no religious music as well. I have an article from the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent in 1867 which mentions a concert my Great Great Grandfather Frederick Staton and his brother William played a piano recital in. Frederick was 17 years old and went on to become the organist at Worksop Priory.
Over the years those of the higher classes or those who were servants would have been exposed to music from the lute and flute to drums and harp.
By the Victorian era most people would have had access to a music hall as most large towns had them. They would be vast halls where travelling groups would play. These music hall developed in the 19th century and soon the songs became more risky and there would have been more of a celebration/fun feel to them than in the previous years when you would have worn your Sunday best and sat quietly and listened.
Everything changed in 1877 when Thomas Edison invented the phonograph which meant people could have purchased music in their own home. They could buy a record and play what they wanted. It was still probably classical music, but at least you could stay at home. From here music when through a revolution. Musicians could be in one country but sell their music worldwide. Not only that but singers could record their songs and they could gain worldwide popularity. It was in 1895 when the Australian opera singer Dame Nellie Melba had her first recorded album.
Music stay either classical or easy listening until the 1950’s with the likes of Elvis Presley releasing his first hit Heartbreak hotel and by 1957 he had released Jailhouse Rock which was so different from anything that had be around before. Can you imagine what it was like for the different generations of our ancestors? The older family members would have been appalled at the music whereas the younger one would have been so relieved that a musical revolution was starting.
So from here the music changed drastically. There was the Beatles, the Who and the Rolling Stones in the 1960’s. The 1970’s gave use Black Sabbath, Bob Seager and Alice Cooper. The 1980’s gave use the best music ever with everything from Bryan Adams, Jonny Hates Jazz, Duran Duran and so many others and music has just kept on developing to where it is today.
It’s not all pop and rock though. Classical is still around but in different ways. Most films have fantastic music scores from the likes of the great John Williams with the Indian Jones film and Jurassic Park to John Barry with the theme to James Bond. Also pop groups use orchestras in their hits. One of my favourites is Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol. The use of the orchestra just lifts the song to another level.
So I’ll leave you with this comment from a member of my family to the younger members when they asked for Olly Murs to be played and the reply was “What is an Olly Murs?” So nothing changes, each generation feels their music is better than the one before, but all are relevant as they have had an impact on our ancestors and help you get a feel for what the heard and we can listen to the same music as they did.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!