From the 8th Earl Waldegrave back to King James II and then back to William the Conqueror
By Paul Draper
Did you know that the great x3 grandson of King James II of England is buried at St. Andrew’s, Fairlight?
When we look at the burial register covering 1813-1881, we find William, the 8th Earl Waldegrave, R.N., C.B. buried at St. Andrew’s 2nd November 1859:-
William, the 8th Earl Waldegrave
The Earls of Waldegrave, a current line of the peerage of the United Kingdom, are a well documented family with clear lineage and the Waldegraves themselves are worthy of a full study :
Williams’s great grandfather 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 Waldegrave, was born was in 1684, the son of Henry, the 1st Baron Waldegrave and his wife Henrietta FitzJames. The new honorary title of Earl Waldegrave was thus created.
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 in childbirth or 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, our interest is from the illegitimate line. Arabella herself was part of the family line of Sir Winston Churchill, but she did not marry James – indeed her father was also actually named Sir Winston Churchill.
Returning to our celebrity grave, William the 8th Earl Waldegrave was widowed when his first wife, Elizabeth (nee Whitbread) and the mother of his eight children, died on 1st March 1843.
He then re-married a widow, Mrs. Sarah Milward (nee Whitear), on 8th December 1846 at Marylebone, London.
This is the Sarah Milward who in April 1845 had 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, donating £1,000 (although she was still the wealthy widow, Mrs Sarah Milward in 1845).
Sarah, who had inherited the Milward Estate from her first husband, Edward Milward, made many donations to local churches in the Hastings area, including, Halton, St. Mary Magdalen, Holy Trinity, Christ Church Ore, St. Matthew Silverhill, St. John Hollington, St. Helen Ore and others. Truly a very generous lady dedicated to the churches of Hastings and the neighbouring areas.
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.
See her burial entry from the registers below:-
Below is a photograph of their grave taken in 2016 clearance of their 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. There are several generations where the male was not a King, but the lineage returns to the monarchy.
The list reads like a who’s who of our monarchy with a few notable exceptions. In fact, the current Queen of England, Elizabeth II, is also a descendant of King James I. As a result, the current Earl Waldegrave, James, the 13th Earl is the 10th cousin, once removed of our Queen.
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)
By Paul Draper (April 2016)