A very unlikely story about William the Conqueror's mother, c.1020.....
"Edmund Ironside, says a Saxon genealogist, had two sons, Edwin and Edward, and an only daughter, whose name does not appear in history because of her wilful conduct, seeing that she formed a most imprudent alliance with the King's Skinner, ie., the Master of the Robes. The King in his anger banished the Skinner from England, together with his daughter. They both went to Normandy, where they lived on public charity, and had successively three daughters. Having one day come to Falaise to beg at Duke Richard's door, the Duke, struck with the beauty of the woman and her children, asked who she was. "I am," she said, “an Englishwoman of the Royal Blood." The Duke on this answer treated her with honour, took the Skinner into his service, and had one of his daughters brought up in the Palace. She was Arlotte, or Charlotte, the mother of the Conqueror." (From 'A Short Account of the Families of Chaplin and Skinner and connected families'.)
....... and a more likely sequel, c.1070.
"The name of Skinner is of Danish origin, from the
word Sken. At Herald’s College is to be found at the
28th page of the 23rd Volume of MS. pedigrees in the handwriting of Robert Dale, from 1703 to 1713 -
Blanch Lion, Poursuivant Extraordinary, afterwards Richmond Herald, the following pedigree: -
Transcribed from an ill-written, rude draft or pedigree, in eight sheets of paper pasted together, at the top whereof is joined another sheet with an archievement of two coats and crest in colours. Ita Testor, Robert Dale, Blanch Lion
In the eighth year of Edward 1st, it appears by
an Inquisito post mortem that the name was spelled 'Le Skynnere'. (From ‘Sketch of the
Military Services of Lieutenant-General Skinner and his sons’ by Allan Maclean Skinner, 1863)
The MS pedigree was furnished to Mr Dale, at the Heralds College, in 1703, by the Rev William Skynner, Vicar of Sunbury, who died July 21, 1717; he was an elder brother of Captain Samuel Skynner, on whose monument, in Ledbury Church, it is quaintly stated that he was "no mean proficient in maritime affairs, having been conversant therein near forty years."
The Pyne family came from Upton Pyne, near Exeter, c.1100:
Edith Elizabeth Pyne married Ayrton Chaplin, so the Pynes are related by marriage.
"The first Pyne of whom there is any
mention was a 'Herbert de Pine' who, in the time of Henry I, held land at Upton Pyne, near Exeter.
He proved a vigorous stock, handing down Upton Pyne for some 400 years in lineal male descendants
and sending numerous shoots branching out from the district where Devon, Dorset and Somerset meet.
His descendants still own the property of 'Pynes', which has been carried by a succession of
heiresses into the Northcote family. The first of these heiresses was Constance Pyne, who married
William Larder about the end of the fifteenth century; the last was Bridget Stafford, whose name
reappears in that of the late Sir Stafford Northcote, who quarter the Pyne arms - Gules, a chevron
argent between three pinecones, or - with those of the Northcotes.
The Pynes seem to have been for some
centuries a prolific and successful family; they gave their name to the villages of Upton Pyne, Comb
or Culm Pyne and Washford Pyne. The name occurs in various lists and rolls; Ralph Pine held the
Manor of Ilrington by Knight's fee in the time of
Edward II, Thomas d'Pyne is mentioned in R. Glover's Roll of Arms
of the reign of Henry III, as bearing the same arms as
those taken by Constance Pyne into the Northcote
In the 16th and 17th centuries, there
were several families of Pyne settled in the West Country and so far differentiated from the
original stock as to have slight modifications in their coats of arms, at any rate in their
descriptions of them. The parent family at Upton Pyne retain the expression 'pine-cones', the term
'pine-apples' being substituted for it in several of the other branches. Among these branches was
Andrew Pine of Stawell in Somerset, son of George Pine
of East Down. George Pine was the ancestor of the Pine-Coffin
family, settled for many generations at East Down in Comwall.
Celebration in Whitehall for Charles I on becoming Prince of Wales, 1616:
"The date of the pedigree (above) is more than a hundred years older, for Sir Thomas Skynner, who died while Lord Mayor of London, in 1596, is there mentioned as Aldermen Skynner, and Richard Skynner of Pycksley, born 1577, is one of the last recorded in it.
The Lincolnshire or original stem [of the Skinner family] seems to have died out by the transfer of the estate through heiresses to other families. Sir Vincent Skynner, MP for Preston, of Thornton College, died November 1613, and his only son, William, who married July 22, 1618, Bridget, the favourite daughter of that great Judge, Lord Coke, and having been admitted at Lincoln's Inn, November 6, 1613, he took an active part in a pageant at Whitehall, as appears by Middleton's account of the Triumphe shown in honour of Charles I, when created Prince of Wales, on Monday, November 4, 1616 -- 'At night, to crowne it with more heroical honour, fortie worthie gentlemen of the noble societies of Innes of Courte, being tenne of each House, every one appointed, in way of honourable combate, to break three staves, three swords, and exchange ten blows apeece (whose names for their worthiness I commend to fame) beganne thus each to encounter the other. The first two presented to his Majestie, from Lincoln's Inn, were Master Skynner and Master Wyndham'. Then follow the other names"..... (From ‘Sketch of the Military Services of Lieutenant-General Skinner and his sons’ by Allan Maclean Skinner, 1863)
Bishop Skinner in the Tower of London, 1641:
The Bishop of Oxford, and later Worcester, was Robert Skinner. He was one of the bishops who subscribed the protest of 17 December of 1641, declaring themselves prevented from attendance in parliament, and was consequently committed by the lords to the Tower of London, where he remained eighteen weeks.
"When Robert Skinner, Bishop of Oxford, was deprived during the usurpation, the Parliament allowed him the revenues of his rectory of Launton, near Bicester, for the support of himself and his family. Being released upon bail from the Tower, to which he had been committed, as one of the twelve protesting Bishops, he retired to this living, and when occasion offered, privately ordained such students of Oxford, as desired episcopal ordination. On this business, in which it was dangerous to be concerned, Bathurst frequently and readily assisted his friend the Bishop. Bathurst was now in priest's orders, and whenever any candidate solicited to be ordained, he privately applied to Bathurst, who examined him, and appointed a day for meeting him at the Bishop's house. At the time appointed, under pretence of visiting patients, he attended the solemnity at Launton, in which he officiated as archdeacon. This service he executed with the utmost fidelity and punctuality, till the Restoration. The ceremony was sometimes performed in the chapel of' Trinity College, where John Martin, afterwards prebendary of Sarum, and others where ordained, 21st Dec, 1645, by Skinner". (From 'A Few Memorials of the Right Reverend Robert Skinner D.D by Allan Maclean Skinner, 1866)
The beheading of Charles I in 1649, and the rebellion of 1745:
"I remember my great-grandmother, who told me some particulars she remembered of the army of the Pretender coming to Ross, to which place she was riding on a pillion behind her father when she saw the red coats of the rebels, and her father turned round and galloped back to Monmouth, where he lived, calling out, "The rebels are at Ross!" and the church bells rang to call everyone, the yeomanry were called out, and a man and a horse were despatched to summon troops from Bristol, so the rebels were turned back. This was in 1745. This great-grandmother [who was probably Frances, wife of Thomas Probyn, who lived at Monmouth] told me that she remembered her great-grandfather telling her that he had been present as a child at the beheading of Charles I., so that takes you 242 years through three narrators". (From a letter written to her grandson Nugent Chaplin by Mrs Caroline Emily Skinner, on 3 January 1891)
A battle at sea, 1810
An account of the start of the action of the 3rd July 1810, between the Ceylon,
Windham, and Astell, East Indiamen; and two large French Frigates and a Corvette: copied from the
Log by George Chaplin Holroyd, (son of Sarah, née Chaplin), who was a Cadet at the time.
"At daylight three strange sail in sight bearing N.E. close hauled on the larboard tack. Called the hands out, beat to quarters, and cleared ship for action. At four minutes past seven signalled to prepare for battle, shortened sale, Commodore (Ceylon) under top sails;
7.18 Signal to keep in the Commodore wake, bore up to get in the Commodore wake;
7.30 Signal to haul the wind on the starboard tack;
7.35 Land bearing E. half N, the three strangers on the larboard tack bearing N.E by N. distant seven miles;
8.20 Ceylon made the private signal;
8.35 Signal to number strange sail seen;
8.40 Signal to wait the attack of the enemy;
8.45 Signal that the strangers are enemies;
9.16 Two of the strangers were bearing W. by N. distant six or seven miles;
9.30 The third stranger wore and loosed top gallant sails;
9.55 Blowing fresh, took in main top gallant sail, and made signal to Ceylon that we were over-pressed with sail and not able to keep company on that account;
10.15 Signal to continue our course under easy sail;
10.35 Took in main sail;
10.37 The Commodore telegraphed.........[set of numbers]
11.15 In third reefs blowing;
11.25 The Windham telegraphed the Commodore, .... [set of numbers]
12.00 Two of the strangers astern on the starboard tack coming up, the smallest a Corvette, about three miles distant, carrying 22 guns, reconnoitering the fleet, the other six or seven astern a very heavy frigate, and the third stranger bearing N. by E., nine or 10 miles, to appearance a frigate of the same description;
12.10 The Ceylon telegraphed in the following numbers....[set of numbers]
12.30 The Ceylon bore up to come near us, at the same time the Corvette about one mile distance wore to join the frigate that was astern, the frigate about five miles off;
12.35 Signal to hoist same covers as the Commodore with a pendant;
1.05 The Corvette, three or four miles astern, wore again;
1.15 The frigate, on the starboard tack, bearing N.E. half N. nine or 10 miles distant, tacked and stood towards us under all sail;
1.30 The Commodore hoisted the red ensign and pendant, which we did also, the largest Frigate and Corvette nearly two miles astern;
1.45 The Ceylon made signal to keep in close order closing towards the leading ship or van;
1.55 The Frigate on the larboard tack bearing N. N. E. hoisted English colours, and when she bore S.S.W. tacked again to join her Consort
2.10 The largest Frigate and Corvette, on our weather quarter, distant half a mile. The Frigate, after firing a gun to leeward, hoisted French colours, and immediately opened fire upon us (the Ceylon and Wyndham ahead), which we returned, and continued in close action. The Commodore and Wyndham firing upon her at the same time......" (The whole battle is described in the family file under George Chaplin Holroyd)
Captain James Skinner was buried in a ruined fort above the river of Jugdulluk, Afghanistan, 1842:
The British invaded Afghanistan in 1838 to restore to his throne Shah Soojah, for fear of the Russian collaboration with the then Chief of Chiefs, Dost Mohammed, but the British Army of 5000 was destroyed. Only 2 men escaped. James Skinner was a member of the Commisariat in Cabul. This is part of the story of his final days:
"His horses being stolen, he dressed as an Affghan, and rushing into the street, was received into the house of an opposite neighbour, who, out of regard for him, and gratitude for disinterested services previously rendered to members of his family, protected him. The aged mother of this Affghan friend, rushing from the house, in defiance of the danger, and taking Captain Skinner by the hand, called him her son, drew him into the house, and gave him sanctuary in the Harem, where he remained concealed for a month, undergoing many adventures in the dress of a female and seeking shelter occasionally in a cavity under the floor, over the opening of which clothes were thrown, when strangers entered. Two of his host’s wives quarrelled, and the Affghan taking part with one, the other flew out and vociferated there was a Feringee hid in the house, that she would give information, and have both him and her husband taken away together.
On hearing this, Captain Skinner resolved to be no longer a source of anxiety and danger to his protectors. That night, December 10th, his friendly host provided himself and servant with Affghan dresses and swords, and about midnight let them out. They had reached in safety the gates near the cantonments, when they were met by a crowd returning from some festival or religious meeting, without the walls. They recognized him, raised the cry of "There goes a Feringee," and commenced pursuit. Captain Skinner made a rush for the cantonments, but was intercepted. He defended himself till he broke his sword, but still kept the mob at bay, when an Affghan rode up and said, "Come on my horse, and I will save you." He answered, " No, but give me your horse and I will pay you handsomely, it cannot carry two." The Affghan replied," By my soul I will save you, and take you to cantonments; get up behind, there is not a moment to be lost." Skinner mounted, and the Affghan immediately galloped to the quarters of Ameen Oolah Khan, our chief enemy, and the leader of the revolt. To him he presented his prisoner, saying, " Sahib, I make you a present of a Feringee." (From ‘Sketch of the Military Services of Lieutenant-General Skinner and his sons’ by Allan Maclean Skinner, 1863).
The Strozzi millions and the forged will, 1982:
March 1986, under the headline "Cousin inherits marquis's millions", The Times announced
that a letter allegedly by Uberto Strozzi, owner of the Strozzi Palace in the centre of Florence,
leaving his fortune of £18m to a friend, was a forgery, and that the money would be divided between
the dead man's nearest cousins, Mrs Rosalind Varley in England and two Steward families in New
Zealand. My Uncle Jack, whose mother was also a cousin of Uberto Strozzi, told me what had
"When Uberto died in 1982 a great problem arose. There appeared to be no will of any sort, although every corner of the great palace behind the cathedral was diligently searched several times over and no doubt all the other villas too -- but there was no trace of a will. It therefore appeared that an intestacy had occurred, so administrators were appointed to deal with the situation. After some months however a claimant to the estate appeared in the person of Signor Sorri, who was following an Italian tradition of forging wills, made possible by the fact that providing a will is a holograph document in the testator's handwriting, it does not need witnessing. In English law, except in extreme circumstances as in a battle or a shipwreck, every will must be witnessed by two witnesses in a formal manner. This so-called will was very cleverly written by Sorri or his agent, and stated that Uberto, in the recollection of a youthful attachment, had left all his property to a certain lady, although the relationship must have been decidedly platonic. Sorri found out about this relationship and adopted the lady as his mother - as one can do in Italy - and she agreed to proceed as far "as the law permitted". The forgery was very cleverly done, as shown by a photograph of the will published in the Florentine papers, carefully written in an elderly scrawl.
Sorri had apparently already done several deals of a dubious nature, and the idea of forging a will is not uncommon, partly because of this defect in the law. A famous example is given in Puccini's delightful opera Gianni Schicchi, itself based on the story of a famous mediaeval rascal to whom Dante gave an honoured place in the Inferno. The chief problem faced by Sorri was how to plant his will, and his solution seemed almost unbelievable. He made friends with an unscrupulous policeman, and together they made an appointment to visit the Strozzi Palace on some pretext. The housekeeper, who had been living in the palace since Uberto died, and had no doubt accompanied many search parties looking for the will, let them in, but also became suspicious, and telephoned my cousin Maurizio Burlamacchi about the visit. Sorri was apparently wearing blue spectacles and a false beard. Maurizio immediately got on his bicycle and raced over to the Palace about half a mile away, then joined the procession of Sorri, the policeman, and the housekeeper, going up and down the numerous galleries and corridors. After some minutes Sorri halted and said "I think I see an envelope lying under that cupboard. I wonder if it is the will." He picked up the envelope, and sure enough the word 'Testamento' was written on it, whereupon Maurizio exclaimed "That is a forgery," and insisted that the envelope be handed over to the police".
(Gwendoline, née Steward, mother of Uberto, was the daughter of Florance Marion Skinner)
The Dancing Faun, 1989:
"No dealer around at the time will ever forget the momentous happenings at Sotheby's on the morning of 7th December 1989. On that day a 32-inch-high bronze Renaissance sculpture of a dancing faun broke all auction records and made £6.82 million; unbelievably, six months earlier, the same piece of sculpture had been rescued from Sotheby's sale of garden statuary in Sussex, where it was about to be sold as a 19th-century copy after the antique, with an estimate of £l,200-£l,800."
The Sunday Telegraph July 7, 1991 reported, under
the headline "How Lord Pearce made £6 million":
"Even close friends of Lord Pearce, the former Lord of Appeal in Ordinary who died last November in his 90th year, were astounded to read his recently published will. He left almost £5 1/2 million gross, £4 million net. The son of a schoolmaster, Edward Holroyd Pearce was born to no great inheritance, and married a lady of modest means: Erica, daughter of the landscape painter Bertram Priestman RA. Nor did he earn exorbitant fees at the Bar, much less as a talented amateur painter who exhibited regularly at Burlington House.
Where then did the money come from? The answer could well be the theme of a barely credible novel. Pearce, who liked to dabble in works of art, bought a 3ft bronze of a dancing boy in 1951 for £7. It was much admired by visitors to his garden. In the last year of his life he anonymously put it up for sale at Sotheby's. Identified as an Adriaen de Vries of about 1610 and estimated to fetch between £1 million and £1.5 million, it was knocked down to a London dealer for an unprecedented £6.82 million, then sold to the Getty Museum, Malibu. England now has only one known de Vries. It is in the V & A: a sculpture of the artist's patron, the Emperor Rudolf II, who allowed him to install his workshop inside Prague Castle."
[My cousin Bruce and I used to play hide and seek in Uncle Edward and Aunt Erica’s’s garden, and I remember the bronze statue very well. Alan Ray-Jones]