Historical connections

8 May 2012

Here’s another thing that I love love LOVE about writing historical fiction – those little serendipitous snippets of research that all come together in the most delicious bundle of WOW and also slightly creepy coincidence.

For example:

I had to do a bit of research into Frances Stuart, who is most famous for completely blowing out the amorous Charles II and making off with James Weasley Stuart, Duke of Richmond instead. I just wanted a few facts and figures to play with before I let her trip in and out of my book (she would have known Henrietta Stuart as a little girl as her father was Henrietta Maria’s physician and her mother was one of her dressers).

The first thing I discovered was that she had a sister, Sophia who was also a bit of a looker. Crikey. Sophia doesn’t appear to have had the same taste for DRAMA! as her elder sister and settled into marriage with Henry Bulkeley, who wasn’t even the eldest son of Viscount Bulkeley. The Honourable Mrs Bulkeley would become a lady in waiting to Mary of Modena, the second wife of James II and is believed to have been present at the controversial birth of Mary and James’ son, who was alleged to have been smuggled into the bedchamber inside a warming pan.

Sophia and her husband had six children, only three of whom appear to have survived childhood. Their eldest daughter, Anne, was to marry James FitzJames, Duke of Berwick-on-Tweed and illegitimate son of James II and Arabella Churchill on the 18th of April 1700 while they were exiled in Paris.

He was quite handsome for a Duke. A bit smug looking, maybe but, hey, if you like that sort of thing…

The FitzJames couple had ten children and THEIR eldest daughter, Henriette (born 16th September 1705) was to marry Louis de Clermont d’Amboise, Marquis de Reynel on the 7th of November 1722. They had four children before her premature death at the age of thirty three.

This is where it gets just too creepy, as their eldest son, Jacques Louis Georges de Clermont d’Amboise, Marquis de Reynel had just one child, a daughter called Thomase Thérèse, who was born in September 1746 and would marry the Comte de Stainville and eventually become mother to Françoise de Choiseul-Stainville, Princesse Joseph de Monaco, one of the very last victims of the Terror in 1794, whom I am a bit obsessed with.

Here’s another one of Anne’s descendants – Laure-Auguste de Fitz-James, Princesse de Chimay, who was lady in waiting to Marie Antoinette.

My husband is extremely unimpressed by all this but I’m really quite excited in a weird sort of way. I mean, I had no idea until literally twenty minutes ago that my heroine, Françoise was actually the ancestral niece of the famous Frances Stuart and now there’s this big family tree and lots of interesting stuff and connections going on. How completely mad is that? I love history.

Okay, maybe I’m the mad one…

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