Interesting Ancestors of Simon Simpson : Part 1
As has been related in earlier episodes, Simpson has many interesting relatives and is a descendant of a long line of intriguing ancestors. Simpsons have played an important - occasionally crucial - part in British history down the ages. By way of an indication of this often unreported - if not intentionally obfuscated - chronology, herewith a brief synopsis of just a few of the more outstanding and noteworthy of this great family.
Saint Simon the Simpleton ( 963 (?) - 1010)
The earliest traceable ancestor of the Simpson family, St. Simon was born in Herefordshire in the reign of Edgar the Peaceable. At the age of sixteen he became intrigued by the cultus of St. Simeon the Stylite and decided to emulate his hero by living the rest of his life atop a pole. Unfortunately Simon kept falling off due to a chronic inability to balance coupled with shoddy pole construction. After six years on and off the pole, having broken nearly every bone in his body, he decided to become a hermit instead. Living in a cave near Ludlow for the remainder of his life he became widely known for the amazing predictions that he made, none of which ever came true*. Unusually for a saint, he fathered twenty seven children by a variety of different women who had called at his cave for guidance.
*NOTE: St.Simon's prediction ( made when he was just 6 years old, and much scoffed at ) that:
"One thousand years from today, an eagle will alight on the moon"
came uncannily true on 21st July 1969 when the Apollo XI Lunar Module named "Eagle" did just that.
Maud the Malign (988 - ?)
Eldest daughter of St. Simon, Margaret could hardly have suffered a more different fate at the hands of history. Possibly due to her predilection for bats, rats and cats - possibly due to her long pointed warty nose and extensive aural hair that she was wont to plait - Maud was accused of being a witch. She was made to suffer "trial by water" - wherein her survival would be proof of her being a witch - drowning of course would prove her innocence. However Maud managed to slip her bonds, swim underwater through the murky lake and make her escape. She fled to Scotland where she was last observed living with two like-minded crones on a blasted heath near Forres.
Simpleson the Unfortunate (999 - 1034)
The only son of St. Simon (see above) to make a name for himself, Simpleson distinguished himself as a patriotic firebrand who waged non-stop war against the occupying Danish forces of the time. Sadly inheriting some of his father's dimness he often accidentally fought on the wrong side in battles - once famously, valiantly charging down and fatally skewering the Earl of Cambridge, his own Commander in Chief. He died when he tripped over his own spurs and impaled himself on his own sword.
Edwy Simpleson (1020 - 1066)
Nephew of the above, Edwy lived in obscurity until the very day he died when he suddenly became famous for being the last person ever to speak to King Harold. "What's that up there, Sire ?" he was heard to say to his monarch. The king raised his visor the better to see what Edwy was pointing to - sadly allowing the flying arrow to penetrate his eyeball. Edwy fell down Senlac hill to his death.
Baron Hubert de Sympson (1054 - 1138)
Hubert, a direct descendant of St.Simon, changed the family name in order to curry favour with the ruling Norman class. He rose to the rank of Lord Privy Slythe Warden when created first Baron Hucclecote by King Henry I in 1124. Part of his duties as Slythe Warden were to look after the dietary requirements of the King. The recommendation that "Ye Kinge shoulde feasten upon a grande platte of freshe lampreyes" led to the untimely death of said monarch and the incarceration of Hubert for the last three years of his life.
Edward "Blacktongue" Sympson (1486 - 1563)
Edward's father (also called Edward) a staunch supporter of Richard III was beheaded for being on the wrong side at Bosworth Field. Young Edward was born six months later and the Barony having been forfeited by his father, he set about getting the family re-ennobled. By enthusiastically supporting King Henry VIII's various marital ambitions, and for personally kicking the Abbot of Glastonbury, he was made Earl Upton-cum-Kexby in 1434. For his continued unswerving devotion to King Hal he was made Marquess of The New Forest on the king's deathbed in 1547. The last sixteen years of his life were spent creating a vast fortune from extortion, bribery and the funding of piracy.
Sir Francis Simpson (1517 - 1553)
Third cousin of the above, Sir Francis had the misfortune to suggest that "Our good Lady Jane" would make a better monarch than Mary Tudor. An usher at Lady Jane's marriage to Lord Guildford Dudley, Francis saw the possibilities of great advancement should her cause be successful. For nine days things seemed to go well for Sir Francis - but on Mary's accession he quickly advanced to the scaffold.
James Simpson, Fourth Marquess (1581 - 1649)
An out-and-out Royalist, James had none of the machiavellian characteristics that had allowed his great-grandfather to survive and flourish under the turbulent Tudor monarchs. James fought valiantly for the King in the Civil War. Captured by the Roundhead army he attempted single-handedly (literally as he had lost an arm at Tewkesbury) to slay Cromwell - but was restrained with the loss of a leg.
On witnessing the execution of King Charles he denounced Cromwell as "That pustulous toad vomited forth from the hawking maw of the Devil" charged the scaffold and decapitated himself on the spot with the axe that had just removed his beloved monarch's head.
Alexander Simpson, Fifth Marquess (1618 - 1666)
James having no issue, his nephew Alexander succeeded to the Marquessate on his demise. Although also an ardent royalist, Alexander managed to avoid the wrath of Cromwell by dashing off to France at any hint of trouble. On the restoration of Charles II in 1660 Alexander returned to Britain. Six years later whilst shopping he went to buy some bread from one Thomas Farriner, detaining the said baker for so long with stories of his exploits in France that his shop in Pudding Lane caught fire. Alexander perished in the ensuing conflagration.
Jayne Simpson (1643 - 1717)
A fifth cousin three times removed of the above, Jayne was not from a wealthy strand of the family. Forced to provide for herself by commerce she became a trader in the liquid metal mercury, supplying it for use by many of the famous scientists of the age. She struck up a lifelong friendship with Nell Gwynn, sadly contaminating some of the latter's oranges with her poisonous wares - with resultant unforeseen tragic consequences for some of Nell's best friends - including a certain Merry Monarch.
Charles Simpson, Seventh Marquess (1664 - 1741)
Great Nephew of Alexander, Charles helped to increase the wealth of the Simpson family. He founded a rope-making business that made a fortune by using substandard (and therefore much cheaper) materials. He was exceedingly lucky to escape punishment in 1703 however when the rope he had supplied for hanging the infamous pirate Captain Kidd snapped twice. Had Kidd survived the third execution attempt he would by law have had to be released. This episode so amused Queen Anne's husband (Prince George) however, that he persuaded the Queen to grant Charles a dukedom - he therefore became the First Duke of Hampshire in 1704.
Frederic Simpson, Second Duke (1700 - 1747)
Son of Charles, Frederic was a remarkable dilettante. On one famous occasion he ate an entire wild boar during a two day non-stop feast; he washed this down with six magnums of madeira and an unspecified (but enormous) quantity of strong ale. He followed this extravaganza by sleeping for five days. Frederic exploded spontaneously on August 4th 1747.
George Simpson, Third Duke (1708 - 1803)
On his brother's explosion, George became the third duke in 1747. Five years later he had an apoplectic fit brought on by losing his birthday (9th September) in the eleven days removed that year when Britain finally adopted the Gregorian calendar. Never the same man again, he spent the rest of his long life pretending to be a tree in Windsor Great Park, once famously confusing George III. Despite - or possibly because of - his madness he managed to marry five times and father eleven sons and thirteen daughters, ensuring the perpetuation of the family.
Sir Everard Simpson. (1743 - 1783)
A second cousin of the above, Sir Everard also spent a great deal of time in France. Something of a dandy he became firm friends with the young prince George, (later to be Regent and King George IV).
On the 21st November 1783 whilst a spectator at the Montgolfier Brother's famous inaugural balloon flight, one of the mooring ropes became entangled with a piece of Everard's elaborate jewellery and he was swept into the air suspended beneath the balloon. Sadly no-one noticed his predicament and as the clasp broke he plummeted to his death, the first ever air fatality.
Arthur Simpson, Fourth Duke (1785 - 1835)
Great Grandson of the previous Duke, Arthur made his name as an amateur naturalist, collecting many unusual creatures in his travels around the globe - and unfortunately contracting many unusual diseases on the way. His voyage of 1820 was perhaps his most dramatic, when shipwrecked on a hitherto unknown uninhabited pacific island he managed with the help of the other survivors to build an enormous boat almost entirely from leaves. The boat sank when just 300 yards out to sea but luckily it formed a dense mat of vegetation that then floated for forty miles at which point a passing Tea Clipper spotted the castaways and rescued them. Arthur was eaten on his final voyage in 1835.