There’s nothing like hitting a point in genealogy studies where you are chunking right along and you trip over a historical event you actually know or actors with whom you are familiar.
Sure, there are the big things like wars and immigrations. I have ancestors who fought in every single major American conflict over the last 300 years. I have had ancestors who have immigrated from Ireland, England, Germany, and others. I have ancestors who invaded England from France in 1066.
None of it compares to the feeling I had the other night when I traced one of my father’s ancestors up through Wales to a fellow known as The Blue Knight of Gwent. Catchy name, right? He sounds like a protagonist to me. Sir William ap Thomas.
There were plenty of details talking about where he lived, who he married, which castle he built, and so on. I scroll down and a line catches my eye:
“William served King Henry V of England during his first French campaign and in numerous subsequent capacities and was knighted in 1426. He fought in the Battle of Agincourt.”
THE BATTLE OF AGINCOURT? Okay, so maybe I’m a bit of a Shakespeare fangirl. Maybe I squealed like a twelve-year-old girl when I got the Hollow Crown trilogy for Christmas the other year. And… possibly… I teared up a bit when my brother and sister-in-law returned from their honeymoon with a leatherbound copy of Shakespeare’s Histories.
Me? I’m descended from a man who spilled his blood in the vasty fields of France?
Back it up! Who was this guy, William, and why was he blue? William ap Thomas was born in Wales around 1380. He was a minor member of Welsh gentry and was responsible for starting construction on Raglan Castle.
William ap Thomas was born in Wales around 1380. He was a minor member of Welsh gentry and was responsible for starting construction on Raglan Castle.
This Raglan Castle:
He acquired this property during his first marriage. His second marriage was to yet another heiress, who was yet another daughter of yet another veteran of Agincourt.
So the battle of Agincourt was in 1415. Upon returning to his inherited county seat, William became the steward of Abergavenny in 1421. William was knighted by Henry VI in 1426. Side note: I’m descended from a man who was called, “Y marchog glas o Went” – The Blue Knight of Gwent – on account of the color of his armor.
He was appointed High Sheriff of Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire in 1435. In 1440, he was appointed the position High Sheriff of Glamorgan. In 1442 or 1443, William became Chief Steward of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York’s estates in Wales. He was a member of the Duke of York’s military council. While William played an active role for the Duke of York, his sphere of influence was generally limited to South Wales. A fairly successful career chappie, in all. He croaked in London in 1445, but was brought back to Wales and buried in a Benedictine priory in Abergavenny. He was succeeded by his eldest son, who went by Herbert… for no apparent reason. Welcome to Genealogy.
But this area of my genealogy is littered with references to those who fought for our beloved Hal – and we shall be returning to the frightful fields of Agincourt with another genealogical tale soon.
O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
Leash’d in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire
Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
Seriously, though, that castle!