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January 29, 2013

BEAM: When the princess is really a pauper

(Continued)

Hoosiers, especially ones who love IU basketball, feel some conflict when confronted with reality of bluegrass blossoming around the family stump. I reminded myself of that Christian Watford buzzer beater and, with a reassured smile, I moved forward in my search for the past.

And what a past I’ve found. Stories of American Revolutionaries, two of which were German immigrants fighting for independence of a new, unfamiliar nation. Tales about European grandfathers helping to found the New Amsterdam colony. French and Irish and Norwegian settlers traversing the turbulent seas during the 1600s, looking for better opportunities and a freer existence. History reads like a storybook, and even we unknowingly continue to write its pages.

Looking through the centuries, I came upon my gallant lineage quite by accident. Through my paternal grandmother’s line, going back 14 generations, my distant grandfather was King James the IV of Scotland. In fact, two of my direct ancestors were actually cousins, so the branches of my family tree twist and intertwine, bad for genetic variance but a blessing for lazy genealogical researchers. 

But here’s the rub. Great-to-the-14th grandma wasn’t married to the king. Isabel was his mistress, one of four. My old Scottish papa liked to spread enough seed to germinate a family forest. His illegitimate daughter and my great-to-the-zillionth grandmother, Lady Jane Stewart, married Lord Malcom Fleming, the line from which I descended. While accompanying her half niece, Mary Queen of Scots, she also sparked a relationship with Henry II of France and bore him an illegitimate son. 

That apple obviously didn’t fall far from the sultry tree.

Most Americans who claim royal pedigree actually are predominantly descended from these imperial affairs. Illegitimate children were not of high enough status to marry other princes and princesses, so they wedded lesser nobles instead. Through the years, the line flourished until eventually it produced stellar girls like me who grew up wearing off-brand sneakers and working at fast-food joints. 

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