Links between the St John family of Lydiard Park and both William, Duke of Cambridge and his wife, the former Kate Middleton – pictured by Richard Wintle of Calyx, – has come under under the spotlight in the Spring edition of Swindon Heritage, writes Fran Bevan.
It’s not just through his royal lineage that William can trace his ancestry. He is also descended, through 14 generations, to Thomas Leighton, a swashbuckling Elizabethan knight.
Leighton’s military career included an active role in suppressing the 1569 Northern Rebellion, an unsuccessful attempt by Catholic nobles to depose the Queen.
As a reward for his services, Elizabeth I appointed Leighton Governor of Guernsey, and around 1587, he married Elizabeth Knollys, one of the Queen’s ladies in waiting.
With her red hair and dark eyes Elizabeth bore a strong resemblance to the queen with whom she shared a Boleyn ancestry – and maybe more.
Elizabeth Knollys was the granddaughter of that other Boleyn girl, Mary, whose children are believed to have been fathered by Henry VIII. Thomas and Elizabeth had three children, a son Thomas and two daughters, Elizabeth and Anne.
Ten years later, back at the St John’s family home in Lydiard, the future of the eight orphaned children of John and his wife Lucy was being decided.
The younger daughters were despatched to their Uncle Oliver St John, at Battersea, while the two sons, heirs to the considerable St John fortune, became royal wards of court and up for grabs by any interested aristocratic party.
Sir Thomas Leighton put in his claim and took over guardianship of the two boys.
Eldest brother Walter was drowned while swimming off the coast of the Channel Islands, so Walter’s assets passed to John, as did Sir Thomas’s aspirations for his younger daughter.
In 1604 ,13 year old Anne Leighton was married to John St John at St John’s Church, Hackney.
Anne’s elder sister Elizabeth married Sherrington Talbot of Salwarp and Lacock in or about 1599, and it is from this branch of the family that the Duchess of Cambridge is said to descend.
The full story of Lydiard’s royal connections will be told in the next edition of Swindon Heritage when it is published at the end of February.
Visit the magazine’s website at www.swindonheritage.com for a list of local stockists and details of how to subscribe online.
Follow Fran Bevan’s Swindon in the Past Lane blog
Discover the treasures of St Mary’s Lydiard Park on selected Sundays until the end of June
Paul Gardner and members of the St Mary’s congregation will be provided guided tours and talks to the treasures of the church between 2pm and 4.30pm on 27 April and 25 May.
The artwork will be open each Sunday afternoon in June, as well as during the church flower festival on 27, 28 and 29 June.
Pictured: the usually hidden section of the unique multi-panel St John family genealogical table in the church. Photo: Richard Wintle www.calyxpix.com
Read more about the Red Queen panel, pictured right by Calyxpix, at St Mary’s