Kate Middleton and the Fairfaxes
A Welcome Addition To Our Family.
At Westminster Abbey, on Friday 29 April 2011, His Royal Highness Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales will marry Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, and change the genealogy of the Fairfax family forever.
The immediate reason is not obvious: Kate is not a Fairfax, and the name does not appear amongst her great – or even great great grandparents. Yet the speculative work of William Addams Reitwiesner and Michael J. Wood, published on ww.wargs.comiother/middleton.html, revealed several years ago that Fairfax blood does flow in Kate’s veins, so my Fairfax pedigree, and no doubt many of yours as well, now includes a very special line coming down to her, and on 29 April, I will be very happily inking in an equals sign, and the name of H.R.H. Prince William.
The link comes through the East Anglian branch of the Fairfaxes.
I remember working on this line about 12 years ago, in order to trace back the ancestry of my paternal grandmother, Beryl Waters. Her great great grandfather was the Suffolk landscape painter Perry Nursey (1771-1840), whose mother was Catherine Fairfax, daughter of John Fairfax (c. 1710-1758), a draper and grocer at Coddenham, Suffolk.
The East Anglian Fairfaxes go back to William Fairfax of Bury and Walsingham, Norfolk (d. 1588), who is shown in the heralds’ visitation pedigrees to have been a younger son of Sir Thomas Fairfax of Walton, Yorkshire, by his wife Anne Gascoigne. I spent some time studying the visitation pedigrees and Norfolk wills to prove this exciting connection, and in the course of it I found out about and contacted this society, where I learned that others had already traced the same line, and confirmed it to be correct.
The connection to Kate comes half way down the line between William and John: William’s son William had a son John Fairfax (d. 1614), who settled in Norwich, where he became Master of the Great Hospital there, and married Mary Birch, daughter of the city’s mayor. They had a son Benjamin Fairfax (d. 1676), who became Anglican minister of Rumburgh, Suffolk, and here the line divided: his elder son John, who became Presbyterian minister of Barking, Suffolk, was the grandfather of John the Coddenham grocer, and thus of my grandmother’s family. The younger son, Benjamin, meanwhile, married Bridget Stringer and had a daughter Sarah Fairfax (1654-1687), who married John Meadows. Sarah is one of Kate’s 8 x great grandparents.
Kate’s recent ancestry is a broad cross-section of British society, and thus rather ideal for a monarchy that is keen to keep pace with our changing times. Her recent forebears include carpenters, sailors, miners and charwomen, as well as tobacco merchant and glove makers. Yet Prince William did not chose his bride-to-be from a council estate: the Middletons were Leeds solicitors, who married into the Luptons, who were wealthy Yorkshire industrialists. Kate’s great great grandfather
Francis Lupton (1848-1921), woollen manufacturer, married Harriet Albina Davis, the daughter of a vicar, whose ancestry had been traced back, tentatively, to Sir Thomas Leighton, an Elizabethan governor of Guernsey, and his wife Elizabeth Knollys, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth I, but there are some question marks over the line. Francis Lupton’s mother, Frances Greenhow, however, has undisputed Fairfax ancestry: her mother Elizabeth Martineau, sister of the famous social reformer Harriet Martineau, was the daughter of Thomas Martineau, a Norwich clothier, whose mother Sarah Meadows was granddaughter of John Meadows and Sarah Fairfax, mentioned above.
The Martineau family provides a very peculiar cousinship for Kate, and for the rest of us who have Fairfax blood: Thomas Martineau’s brother Peter was a great grandfather of Edith Martineau, whose daughter Doris married into the Ritchie family, and was grandmother of Guy Ritchie, the actor and director, who was married to the pop singer Madonna, and is father of her son Rocco: Rocco Ritchie is one of Kate’s direct 7th cousins.
Much more importantly, it is through our Fairfax pedigree that Kate has her most certain connection to royal blood, for her ancestor Sir Thomas Fairfax of Walton’s wife Anne Gascoigne was a 6 x great granddaughter of Edward III, making Kate one of that monarch’s many 21 x great grandchildren.
Sir Thomas and Anne were ancestors of the Viscounts Fairfaxes of Emmeley, who are ancestors of Prince William at least twice over: depending on which line one chooses, William is Kate’s 15th cousin, 3 x removed, or direct 16th cousin.
The next development, for which we must all hope, or pray, depending on our religious inclinations, is that William and Kate will produce an heir to the throne. Such a child would have Fairfax blood through both its father, and its mother, a circumstance about which all Fairfax descendants the world over will be able to feel, justly, very proud indeed.