Biographical Non-Fiction posted August 28, 2022 Chapters:  ...14 15 -16- 17... 


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When digging for roots, what you learn may surprise you.

A chapter in the book Pioneers of My People

A Questionable Royal Connection

by BethShelby


When going about tracing lines of my ancestors, I found some who came to this country were poor, and some were very rich.  Some had royal blood, and others were indentured servants. It didn’t really matter, because we don’t have a class system in this country. It is a land of opportunity, and the chips fall either way. Those with nothing can become quite wealthy, or those with great wealth can lose it all.

By the time things had filtered down to my generation, all the lines were pretty much equal. Most of my ancestors started out as farmers. Whether they owned small tracts granted by the government or huge plantations which they paid for themselves, they worked with the soil this new land allowed them to have.

Most of my family lines arrived in America in the 1600 or 1700's. Many left Europe to escape religious persecution. This was a time of turmoil in the old country. It wasn’t a safe time even for the very wealthy. The kings and queens in Europe seemed to have no problem putting to death those they saw as a political threat. If people of royal descent were fleeing Europe, who could blame them?

From what I had learned about the history of Europe, one king, who seemed to be more brutal than most, was Henry VIII. He wanted a male heir so badly he was willing to behead any wife who couldn’t provide him with one. I saw no reason why I would have any desire to learn more about this man. Imagine my surprise when I discovered one of my lines went right back into the palace of this evil king.

The wealthiest of my ancestors to come to America were those of the West line. By the time this line involved my immediate family, needless to say, it was no longer any more prominent than any of the other lines. Still, I discovered some of my distant West relatives held titles, and had been wealthy enough to own a plantation large enough to later become West Point, Virginia.

Digging deeper into this family’s past, I learned that my direct ancestor, Thomas Leighton West, was married to Lady Anne Knollys, Baroness De La Warr, Lady at the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Her Father, Sir Francis Knollys, was married to Lady Catherine Carey, who was known as the “Illegitimate Tudor”. Why was she illegitimate? Because she was the daughter of the other Boleyn, and she was conceived and born while Mary was the mistress to, none other than, Henry VIII himself.

I was aware that Anne Boleyn was the second wife of Henry VIII, and that she lost her head because Henry wanted to move on to the next wife, but I didn’t know anything about the other Boleyn children, Mary and Henry, nor about their father Thomas. I’ve since learned there have been many books written and movies made about this family, and much of what has been written is not historically accurate.

Henry was attempting to rid himself of his wife Catherine who had given birth to a daughter but no sons. He wanted the marriage annulled on the grounds Catherine had been married to his brother. England’s religion was Catholic and the church was against divorce. Since the church refused to grant the annulment, Henry decided to start his own church and make England protestant.

Mary Boleyn had recently married William Carey, and she was serving in the court of Henry’s present wife, Catherine. Henry had lost interest in his wife and decided he wanted Mary as his mistress. Some sources say one couldn’t refuse, even though married, if the king decided he wanted you for a mistress. I’m not so sure, because her sister, Anne, refused his advances until the king made her his wife. Maybe Mary’s husband didn’t object because William Carey was serving the King himself and was at the time one of the King’s favorites.

Because Mary gave birth to two children while she was the mistress of Henry, most people assumed Catherine Carey to be the king’s daughter, even though she took the name Carey from Mary’s husband. By that time, Henry had gotten rid of his wife, Catherine, and had decided to marry Mary’s sister, Anne, hoping a son might come from a legitimate union.

Anne gave birth to a daughter and a stillborn son, and after several miscarries, Jane Seymour, another of the ladies of the court was gaining favor with Henry. Anne was falsely accused of adultery and other crimes and sent to the tower of London to be beheaded.

I’ve never been interested in the royal family, but I have to admit, I’d like to learn more about the Boleyns. I’d like to learn what is true and what has been fictionalized. I’m not impressed with their morals nor their political ambitions by what I’ve learned so far. I’ve never understood the reason countries  would choose to have a ruling family. There was a time when the ruling family had a lot more power than it has today. That is a good thing. There is a saying that states, “Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I think it certainly applies here.

There is a PBS on television running weekly called, “The Boleyns: a Scandalous Family” which I'm watching, since this is the direction one of my lines has taken me. There is a movie called, “The Other Boleyn Girl” and a book called “Mary Boleyn” written by a historical novelist, Alison Weir. Hey, Weir is my maiden name. Maybe I need to do more research on that line. I might find another English cousin.

 

 


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