Friday, 23 September 2016

Out Of Their Trees : Shared Genes For Jeans Day

There are two commemorative days today and I didn’t know which to celebrate with an article. Should it be Bi Visibility Day? Or Jeans for Genes Day? In the end I decided to celebrate both by writing about the ancestry of bisexual model Cara Delevingne and her shared genes with Michelle Dumaresq.

Jeans for Genes Day was created to raise awareness and funds for research into genetic conditions in children. Cara Delevingne has spoken of her own struggles with psoriasis, a skin condition which has some genetic component and effects many youngsters.

Cara has a varied ancestry, quite a lot of it from privileged backgrounds. This ranges from the British aristocracy to working class entrepreneurs who made a fortune manufacturing soap. But today I want to concentrate on one specific line of descent because it links to my “Queer Achievement” article on Michelle Dumaresq.

Cara Delevingne and Michelle Dumaresq are 7th-cousins. Both descend from John Dumaresq (1732-1814) of Jersey in the Channel Islands. In the heraldic article on Michelle I gave an illustration of her family coat of arms which were created by the marriage of John Dumaresq to Rachel Bandinel. Below is a family tree showing how Cara and Michelle are both descended from John.

Today I though I’d look at the two people in red on the family tree. Lt.-Col. Henry Dumaresq and his cousin Lt. Perry Dumaresq laid the foundations of the family which still live in Australia and Canada respectively.

Henry Dumaresq (1792-1838) was a highly respected soldier. He fought in many battles, including the Battle of Waterloo where he was shot by a musket ball which became permanently lodged in his lung. Undaunted he carried on with his order to pass a message personally to the Duke of Wellington, whereupon he collapsed. Two years later, at the age of 25, he reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

On leaving active service Henry went to New South Wales, Australia, as private secretary to his brother-in-law Lt.-Gen. Ralph Darling who had been appointed governor. Darling was an efficient governor but unpopular. He was accused of nepotism and Henry Dumaresq suffered attacks in the press because of his family connection. One article led to Henry fighting a pistol duel with the newspaper’s editor. In 1829 Henry sold his military commission and settled permanently in Australia. He owned a large estate and bred race horses. His health, however, was never great due to the musket ball in his lung. This was to be the cause of his death at the age of 45.

Henry Dumaresq’s cousin, Michelle’s ancestor, was a naval officer, Lt. Perry Dumaresq (1788-1839). While his cousin was fighting in the Battle of Waterloo Perry was stationed in what is now Canada patrolling the east coast of North America on the look-out for ships carrying supplies and money destined for the US government, who were at war with the UK at that time. After the war his naval background helped him to get a job in the customs office of Nova Scotia, a post previously held by his father which also helped.

Perry was ambitious and sought civic office. He continued to service in the customs office, but twice he persuaded the colonial government to divide an existing county into two and he took up a senior judicial posts in the new counties each time. By the second time, though, he was becoming ill and he died two years later at the age of 51.

Both Henry and Perry Dumaresq served their communities in senior positions. Both helped to establish their family’s connections in the countries in which they settled, and their descendants continued to serve their communities with distinction. Michelle Dumaresq’s ancestors continued Perry’s service right down to her own father who was a member of the Cariboo Regional District council. Cara Delevingne’s ancestors continued Henry Dumaresq’s military service in Australia and married into influential British political dynasties right down to today – through the Sheffield family she shares a set of great-grandparents with Samantha Cameron, wife of the ex-UK Prime Minister.

Cara Delevingne and Michelle Dumaresq carry on the service to the community begun by their ancestral cousins and both continue to speak on various causes. As well as her support of psoriasis sufferers Cara has developed a range of sweaters for Girl Up, a charity which supports the health and education of girls in developing countries. Michelle campaigns for inclusion of transgendered people in sport.

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