Thursday 3 November 2011

Out of Their Trees 3

Will Young (b.1979) – Part 1

Having watched every UK episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” I find it remarkable that 2 of England’s most popular gay entertainers, Stephen Fry and Julian Clary, have Germanic ancestry. But my own research has uncovered another gay entertainer with Germanic blood – singer Will Young.

Last night Will Young performed here in Nottingham on his latest national tour. His ancestry is one of the most varied and fascinating that I have researched. It could easily fill 2 episodes of “WDYTUR?” It’ll be difficult to squash it all into one blog entry so I’ll split it into 2. I’ll begin with his German roots.

Way back in the mid-18th century an impoverished German aristocrat, Friedrich von Geyer, emigrated to Boston, New England. There he met and married a colonist, Susannah Ingraham. She is descended from several early settler families of America going back to about 1630.

Charlotte von Geyer, Friedrich’s daughter, married Joseph Marryat in Boston in 1789. Joseph’s father Thomas was a real eccentric. After following his own father into the Presbyterian ministry in Sussex Thomas suddenly dropped his congregation and family for the life of a travelling doctor, going around Europe, America and Ireland. His eccentric treatments included giving paper boiled in milk to dysentery patients.

Dr. Marryat’s son Joseph was an English merchant who had business interests in New York and the Caribbean. As a colonial agent he was also responsible for the supply of African slaves to plantation owners. It is probably no surprise to learn that Joseph Marryat actively petitioned against the abolition of slavery.

The Marryats settled in England after the Norman Conquest but never lost their connection with France. In the 16th century they fought with the French Protestant Huguenots against the Catholic French monarchy. They escaped the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of 1572 by hiding in the English ambassador’s home. In 1590 they fought in the Battle of Ivry which defeated the Catholic faction. For their part in this victory the Marryats were granted an addition to their coat of arms of a French fleur-de-lys.

In 1790 Joseph Marryat’s son Charles married Caroline Short, a lady of solid West Country ancestry. The Short family had lived in Devon for several hundred years, but Caroline’s mother’s family have lived in Cornwall for considerably many more. Among her most ancient ancestors were the Polwhele family. They had been in Cornwall since Saxon times.

John Polwhele was MP in 1640, and through his wife Anne Will Young is descended from King Edward III. It also gives Will a descent from a Catholic Cardinal. Henry Beaufort (grandson of Edward III) was appointed Bishop of Lincoln in 1398, Winchester in 1405, and cardinal in 1426. His illegitimate daughter married Sir Edward Stradling and it’s from this couple that Will Young inherits his English royal blood and a direct line to that well-known “queen” of England, Edward II.

Another religious link appears in the Short family - Caroline’s brother was the first Anglican Bishop of Adelaide. But that’s not the only Aussie connection, because Augusta, the daughter of Caroline and her husband Charles Marryat, lifted the family status up a notch in 1848 by marrying Sir Henry Young who in the following year became a colonial governor, first of South Australia, then of Tasmania (his father was Sir Aretas Young, Governor of Prince Edward Island, Canada). Their standing in the colony is reflected in the fact that Port Augusta in South Australia was named after Will Young’s ancestor Lady Augusta (Marryat) Young. Will Young is Sir Henry’s great-great-great-grandson.

Will’s grandmother Mrs. Patricia Young has real ale in her blood (not literally, of course). Her mother was a member of the Brakspear brewing family. It may be a name familiar to some (I was raised as a teetotal Rechabite, so wouldn’t have a clue). But perhaps the surname rings another bell. I’ve already mentioned a Presbyterian minister, a Catholic cardinal and an Anglican archbishop in Will’s family. Through the Brakspear’s Will may even be related to Nicholas Brakespear who, as Adrian IV, was the only Englishman to become Pope in 1154.

We’ve seen Will’s colonial ancestry in Australia and New England. Through the Brakspears he also has colonial ancestry in India through the marriage in Delhi in 1805 of Dr. Henry Young (a different Young family) to Elizabeth Oliver. Their daughter Ann was born in Calcutta and the family returned to England shortly afterwards. Through the Olivers Will Young is descended from most of the great Scottish dynasties – Hamilton, Douglas, Drummond, Campbell, and the Royal Stewarts themselves. Will’s most recent royal ancestor is King James IV Stewart of Scotland (1473-1513). This gives Will a line of Celtic ancestors way back into the Dark Ages.

I mentioned above that John Polwhele’s wife Ann was descended from King Edward III. What I didn’t mention was the name of her family, an old family going back to the Norman Conquest – the Baskervilles.

I’ll continue the search for Will Young’s ancestry on his next birthday, 20th January 2012, when we’ll discover his family links to the Hound of the Baskervilles, the gay origins of Robin Hood, and even Old King Cole!

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