Surprising Connections

After a while, if you study medieval history as you struggle to untangle who is who it’s perfectly possible to believe two things: first, that all the leading families in the land were related and second, that there were only a hand full of names available. Take Matilda for example. Most famously there’s the Empress Matilda – also known as Maud – there’s even room for confusion there. And then it’s worth taking a look at her mother, also a Matilda- Matilda of Scotland. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that Matilda was a good Norman name while the Scottish princess who King Henry I married was baptised by the name Edith. It’s no wonder that I sometimes get very confused about who was who. I know some people study the medieval history of the English monarchy with a family tree at their side. I can see why.

I’m going off track. My surprising connection is much more recent and doesn’t involve anyone royal. Did you know that Josiah Wedgewood -the fine china maker- was the grandfather of Charles Darwin? So the sale of tea services and dinner plates funded the theory of evolution. How wonderful is that?

I should point out that I discovered this surprising fact whilst watching an interesting programme about the River Trent.

It’s set me thinking about other unexpected connections- a sort of historical six degrees of separation. That’s the theory that everyone is a maximum of six steps away from any other person in the world. Obviously once you’re outside six generations it wouldn’t count and monarchs would be a bit of a cheat on the grounds that there are any number of verses to help people remember their links- I resorted to a wooden ruler with the rulers on when I was at school as an aide memoire. I still have it.

I am going to add surprising connections as a category to this blog because I love the unexspectedness of the link. I can’t add a picture at the moment because I’m typing on my iPad and apparently I need another app for that. I will tackle that learning curve tomorrow.

3 thoughts on “Surprising Connections

  1. Hi Julia, like you I get confused with names – all those Mauds, Isabels and Eva’s and then the men, Roger, Richard, Gilbert …
    The most serendipidous connection I discovered is the number of people with land holdings in Herefordshire and the Wye Valley who headed the Norman occupation of Ireland. I’ve had a good browse through your blog (originally drawn by the piece on Strongbow!) and find it both informative and enjoyable. Keep up the good work.

    • It always amazes me how much people actually travelled. I suppose I tend to think of folk being lost ten miles from home but of course the great and perhaps not so good held extensive land holdings. I always admire Eleanor of Aquitaine who seemed to have spent most of her years after captivity gallivanting around Europe and Eleanor of Castille who travelled extensively with Edward I. Thank you for your comments and now I have discovered your blog as well. I must admit I don’t know much about Herefordshire – or Shropshire for that matter. I’m looking forward to finding out more!

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