I went to London not to see the queen, but to find the Dutch baronet from whom we were all descended. I went as my father and forefathers and foremothers had done, to turn the crackling pages of a parish register and put my finger on our name. I went with an image of Gualter de Raedt, a young Dutchman in 1660, boarding a ship to accompany Charles the Second back to England, where monarchy would be restored. The fleet of thirteen ships sailed from Schevinengen on a flat gray sea as fifty thousand people stood on the beach to watch. Our man, our first identifiable forefather, our target of international inquiry, entered London with Charles on a Tuesday in May, the streets lined with observers, the horses plumed with French feathers, and was created (and here our family springs into being) Baronet the very next day.
Charles owed rather a lot of favors, having raised an army which he could not pay, an ill-disciplined hungry army of 2,500 men, and so when he triumphally entered London, with a detailed contract for his employ ment as king, called elegantly the Declaration of Breda, and having ordered such household necessities as a velvet bed, he felt the urgency of dispens ing honors, in some cases instead of money, and so our man became Sir Gualter de Raedt, of the Hague. Sir Walter, the family bible-keepers called him, anglicizing his name, Sir Walter Rhett. We come down from Sir Walter Rhett, who was Dutch, wrote a family historian, who was (and this part is underlined) of the oldest and purest nobility that Europe can boast.
Thus my introduction to the fantasies of genealogists. [excerpt]
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Rhett, Kathryn. Our So-Called Illustrious Past. Harvard Review (2006) 20:84-89.
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The original version of this essay is available from the publisher at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27569150