Saturday, 4 August 2018

#52Ancestors, Week 31, Oldest

Oldest what ? or oldest who ?

I thought about “oldest child” but that would be me and didn’t feel right. So instead, I looked to see who was born the longest time ago – the “oldest” person in my tree.

The “actual” oldest person I found that I have added to the tree was Elizabeth Delebere 1338-1428 who is really only in my tree by association. Her husband was Oliver St John 1346-1437. Their grandson Oliver reputedly married Margaret Beauchamp when she was about 14. She later married John Beaufort and then Lionel de Welles. The only child from her second marriage was Margaret Beaufort; the Red Queen (if you are a Philippa Gregory fan) – mother to Henry VII.  Anyway, one of the descendants of the first marriage (to Oliver St John) is a direct ancestor of my mother’s first cousin on her mother’s line. Confused ?

The next eldest people are Christophe Du Prie 1570-1657 and his wife Marie Boutelie 1570-? I am fairly confident that they are my 11xgreat grandparents in my mother’s paternal line. I don’t know too much about them. But I am pretty sure they were Huguenot refugees who left France seeking refuge in Spitalfields, London and becoming part of the silk industry there.

They were from Valenciennes, in the north of France, close to what is now the Belgian border. Valenciennes was known for its wool, fine linens and lace. It was also a religious hotspot and for many years under Spanish rule. The 16th century was a time of turmoil religiously. Protestantism was challenging the Catholic church in Europe and in Britain. Protestants attacked Catholics, and were massacred in retaliation; there were up to EIGHT civil wars between 1562-1598.  Some sources estimate that the Huguenot population in France fell from 2 million to 856, 000 between 1562 and the mid-1660’s.

Christophe and Marie left France in the early 1600s after the Edict of Nantes was issued in 1598. This edict reaffirmed Roman Catholicism as the state religion in France but granted Protestants equality and a degree of religious and political freedom. Although initially enforcement of the Edict alleviated the persecution and pressure to leave France, it became more irregular over time with life becoming so intolerable that many fled the country.

The “strangers” were welcomed to London and permitted to worship by thirteen year old Edward VI (coincidentally a descendant of Margaret Beaufort – above) who as a Protestant himself supported the reformation in Europe and saw the need to provide for the refugees fleeing to London. He granted a Royal Charter in 1550 giving them this freedom. Anyone who knows their English history will know that the pendulum swung back after Edward’s death and the persecution began again in their new homeland under the rule of Mary Tudor, until her sister Elizabeth I assumed the throne.

Christophe and Marie’s first child Daniel was born in Valenciennes in 1598, but their subsequent children all appear to have been born and baptised in London in one of the French Protestant Churches in Spitalfields.

Over time the spelling of their name changed, becoming Dupree by the mid-late 1600’s when their great grandson married. Many of their descendants were still recorded as weavers in the mid 1700’s and still living close to Spitalfields.

Maybe I should try my hand at lacemaking – it could still be in my DNA.

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