“The power of the powerful relies on the powerlessness of the powerless” (unknown).
How then can Kings of France turn into convicts? How can the most powerful families of Europe evolve, over time, into the ordinary family of Lancashire that includes a 13 year old child forced onto a convict ship and transported half way around the world as a message to others that ‘crime does not pay’. That’s an almighty fall from grace! That is what happened to my family.
I have just spent a few (too many) hours on ancestry.com and, with a few hints from my aunty, traced my family from a 13 year old convict transported to Van Dieman’s Land back to the Kings of France. There are a few other notable figures along the way of course (eg. the pioneer of slavery in England).
In 939, Hugh the Great of France and his wife Hedwige had a son, Hugh Capet. Hugh would become the first in a direct line of Kings of France that reigned (with a few hiccups) until 1848 – over 900 years! Apparently he was my 35th Great Grandfather.
In 1833, 15 years before the end of the reign of the last descendent of Hugh Capet (Louis-Phillippe I), Robert and Rebecca Airey had a son, Allen, who would be convicted of larceny at the age of 13 and transported as a convict for a term of 7 years to Van Dieman’s Land. He was my 3rd Great Grandfather.
My first reaction was awe that I could be related, in some highly non-relevant way, to interesting people that have shaped the history of the world. My second reaction was intrigue – how could the ‘most powerful’ be transformed over time into the ‘most powerless’. My third reaction was a bit of pride that my family has come from a place of nothing (as a convict) to where we are today.
This blog and website is dedicated to my search to understand this transformation. Is it true? Is my family truly linked through a convict to the Kings of France? How did it happen? Was it a mistake that tore a child from a life of privilege or did the family line slowly descend from privilege into despair? Was it something in between? Whatever the truth, it’s an interesting story.
I have no idea how long this story will take or where it will go. All I know is that it is a story worth exploring. This is the start….