Tales from the St. Andrew’s Archives
The old graveyard at St. Andrew’s contains several interesting ‘celebrity’ graves. Did you know that the great great great grandson of King James II of England is buried at St. Andrew’s?
When we look at the burial register covering 1813-81, we find William, the 8th Earl Waldegrave, R.N., C.B. buried in the churchyard on 2nd November 1859.
The Earls of Waldegrave, a current line of the peerage of the United Kingdom, are a well documented family with clear, interesting lineage. Indeed, the current Earl Waldegrave, the 13th man to bear the title, today lives in Somerset at Chewton Mendip.
The great grandfather of William the 8th Earl Waldegrave was James, the 1st Earl Waldegrave. (William’s father was the 4th Earl and his father the 3rd Earl, such was the law of succession of hereditary titles!). James the 1st Earl Waldegrave, was born in 1684, the son of Henry, the 1st Baron Waldegrave and his wife Henrietta FitzJames.
Henrietta is the important link in this story – she was born in 1667, one of four recognised illegitimate children of King James II of England and his mistress, Arabella Churchill. King James II actually had two wives, Anne Hyde and Mary of Modena and they produced multiple children by James II, the majority of whom died at birth or in infancy. The Royal line continued with Mary II, Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland and then later, Anne, Queen of Great Britain. (This was the period of William of Orange and the Battle of the Boyne.)
However, the Fairlight interest stems from the illegitimate line. Arabella herself was a daughter of the first Sir Winston Churchill and her family line led down to the eponymous British hero of the twentieth century. However, James II did not marry Arabella.
Returning to our celebrity grave, William the 8th Earl was widowed when his first wife, Elizabeth and the mother of his eight children, died on 1st March 1843. He then re-married a widow, Sarah Milward, on 8th December 1846 at Marylebone, London. This is the Sarah Milward who, in April 1845, laid the foundation stone for the new St. Andrew’s church. Indeed to demonstrate the importance of this timing for St. Andrew’s, a statement was produced in 1848 to list how the funds were raised to rebuild the church and it lists ‘The Countess Waldegrave’ as the main contributor. Of the total £2,940 building costs, the lion’s share, namely £1,000, was donated by Sarah.
Sarah outlived the 8th Earl by thirteen years and died in 1873. She was buried on 25th April 1873 with the 8th Earl at Fairlight. Here is her entry from the burial register:
Below is a photograph of the memorial taken in 2016 following clearance of the grave:
The engraving is in two separate bands that circumnavigate the grave. The inscription is as follows:
Upper band: “Here rest in the hope of a / joyful resurrection the bodies of William 8th Earl Waldegrave, C.B., Vice Admiral / Lord of Radstock / Hall Essex 27th October 1788 Died at Hastings 24th October 1859”
Lower band: “Also of Sarah his 2nd wife / first of Edward Milward Esq. of Hastings and Daughter of the Revd Prebendary Whitear / born of Hastings 17th / January 1787 Died 18th April 1873. Jesus said I am the resurrection and the life John XI 25”
The Royal story does not end with James II. In fact, if we trace back his bloodline, one generation at a time, for another seventeen generations it leads to William I, better known as William the Conqueror! We will not list all of the seventeen steps in this article, but can tell you a few:
James II’s father was King Charles I – we all know what happened to him!
James II’s grandfather was King James I of England and VI of Scotland.
James II’s great grandmother was Mary, Queen of Scots – again we know what happened to her!
Going further back in his bloodline we find another eight Kings of England – King Edward the IV, the III, the II and the I, together with King Henry the VII, the II and the I and the one and only King John.
The list reads like a who’s who of our monarchy with a few notable exceptions.
Therefore, in the current year of 2016 when we are celebrating the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, we can claim that we, in Fairlight, have the grave of a direct descendant of William the Conqueror.
A pamphlet detailing the more notable graves at St. Andrew’s is available on request or from inside the church.
(If anyone has any further information or wants to discuss matters in greater detail, please contact me on telephone number 01424 814154. Email available on request)