This was unexpected.
In the process of trying to reduce 83 years of photographic memories onto tiny cards for a digital frame, I discovered I am the descendent of kings and queens.
My father asked me to add names to the hundreds of family photos I scanned for him, since his failing memory was the main reason for him to leave his house and move into a senior’s Lodge. He conceded that it was time to voluntarily give up some his independence, but not at the expense of memories. Trying to condense the contents of a house belonging to a man who survived the Great Depression to a collection that would fit into two small rooms was a daunting task.
The tendency to carry a camera around with me all the time is an inherited one, so I spent many, many hours sorting and labelling old photos. The most precious went into albums, the rest I squeezed onto miraculously tiny memory cards.
One evening, I impulsively googled Dad’s grandmother’s name to see if I could find a birthplace for her. Her story is a fascinating one. As a young girl she escaped virtual slavery in a foster home in New York and was found wandering in the woods in Ontario by First Nations people. They took her into their tribe and raised her. Later she married a Scottish trapper and raised ten children thirty miles from the nearest road in the area now known as Algonquin National Park. I didn’t expect to find much, but what I discovered about her family line shocked me.
Her name showed up on an ancestry site, as did her father’s and his father’s and his father’s right back to the first Puritans to arrive in Massachusetts. This same family had three daughters found guilty of being witches in the Salem witch trials. When I continued to click on the names of ancestors the trail led me back through generations of aristocratic families to William the Conqueror’s cousin, Geoff, who apparently came along for the ride when Bill decided to take over England. I clicked on Geoff’s Dad and the page lit up with heraldic signs and listed Kings and Queens of every country in Europe.
By three a.m. I learned I had sprung from the loins of some pretty powerful people including Charlemagne himself.
I was so amazed at this finding that I went on Facebook to gloat. Every time I made another connection to a famous person I posted –the patron saint of beer, a Jewish banker, a sheriff of Nottingham, a Roman proconsul….
Then I ran across an article by a mathematician. He said he traced his family lines back to Charlemagne four different ways and began to wonder what the chances were than any European was descended from The Holy Roman Emperor. He worked out that the odds were one in 17 million of not being a descendant of any one person living in that time, including Charlemagne himself.
I felt deflated and embarrassed that I had not considered how many great grandparents one would have going back that far. It turns out to be a much greater number than the estimated population of the entire continent.
But then I got to thinking. Does this mean I am not the descendant of royalty? Well, actually no; it pretty much confirms that I am. I’m just upset that my position is not unique and that most of the people I know are also of royal blood.
Recently a long lost cousin contacted me with information he has discovered about our mutual great grandfather’s line. He broke through the secrecy barrier when he learned that our first ancestor to land in Canada was the bastard son of a member of a noble house, the descendant of an Earl –and the Prince of Wales and the Chancellor of England and propertied people going back through William the Conqueror all the way back to guess who? Charlemagne!
I haven’t the heart to explain the math to him. There is comfort amid this daily eking out a living stuff, to know that had King Edward or Prince Owain, or the 10th Earl of Oxford stayed out shooting quail (or each other) one day longer, or if Queen Matilda, or one of Charlemagne’s wives had feigned a headache that night we would not be here.
I also discovered some Jewish ancestors and since my mother’s parents came from a part of the world where east meets west and north meets south (my maternal grandfather spoke several languages including Turkish), and my husband is racially mixed, whole other branches probably reach out to the rest of the world for our children. (Although getting past the secrecy barrier there is more difficult.)
The big C Church is like this. 1 Peter 2:9 says “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
Those of us belonging to the household of faith can feel like merely one of millions of princes and princesses sometimes, yet in God’s eyes we are all royalty and each a divinely planned miracle. He is infinitely wealthy and infinitely powerful. He does not limit inheritance to the eldest son, in fact history proves he likes to choose younger children and “illegitimate” offspring for special favour, just because he can.
I’m a much-loved child of the King. I am who I am, and I am blessed.
And so are you.