I LEARNED THIS WEEK that I’m related to Lady Godiva (born about 1040). She was a noblewoman who, naked, rode a horse through the British village of Coventry to protest the high taxes that her husband had imposed on his tenants.
The gene link to the lady who wore no jeans comes courtesy of my Mom’s mother, whom I called Granny.
My wife and I are hoping to spend a little time in England this year.
It occurred to me to check on the price of renting a horse for her.
But she’d say I’m the one related to Lady Godiva. That brings painful images to mind.
The news started when I called my mom a few days ago. She had talked with her sis in Colorado, my aunt. One of my aunt’s daughters—my cousin—has been shinnying up the family tree, looking to see what she could see.
I wouldn’t have expected much.
My Granny married a coalminer and lived in poverty, or nearly so, alongside a dirt road in a holler of West Virginia hills.
I wouldn’t have been surprised if my cuz turned up some moonshiners, beaver trappers, and circuit-riding preachers—little-known workaday grunts trying to survive. Like me.
To my surprise, her ancestry software says we’re related to:
- England’s King Richard the Lionheart (1157-1199), our 31st great grand uncle
- Empress Matilda (1102-1167), wife of the Holy Roman Emperor, 31st great grandmother
- Captain Christopher Martin (1582-1620), who fled England to escape religious persecution and who signed the Mayflower Compact, died in Plymouth, MA—11th great-grandfather
After Grandpap died, Granny moved in with us. She didn’t have any money but Social Security and the few-acre farm with almost no flatland.
She was there in our home as I grew through my teens, commuted to college, and started working as a newspaper reporter.
Mom told me something Granny said about me.
Granny told her: “One day that boy’s going to hobnob with the elite.”
I still chuckle at the thought.
I guess she figured that my work would put me out there with the cream of humanity’s crop.
From time to time, it has.
From the looks of our family tree, some of our ancestors did their share of hobnobbing, too.
Let me tell you what I think about whenever I remember Granny’s words.
I think about the last thing she did.
She did it for me.
She was out shopping for a pair of white walking shorts. She said that it was hot where I was moving, and I’d need them. She bought the shorts, trimmed in blue.
She had a stroke before she got home.
I wore those shorts every year for about a decade—just one day a year after they began to wear out.
I did that as a way of spending the day remembering her.
“One day that boy’s going to hobnob with the elite.”
Granny was right.
What she didn’t know is that I did that every day I spent with her.
If I had a day I could spend with anyone in her family tree—from the dynasty of English kings to the bar owner and Lord Mayor of London, Sir Thomas Cooke (1422-1478) 19th great grandfather, who got impeached for high treason for loaning money to Queen Margaret, wife of King Henry VI—I’d spend my day with Granny.
Even over Lady Godiva on a windy day.