Thursday, April 28, 2011

Of royal nuptials and distant cousins

So, there’s a wedding tomorrow in England, and it seems there’s nothing better than a blue-blooded bride to get genealogists going. In fact, the New England Historic Genealogical Society already has a book on the subject, and, as you may have heard, dear Kate is related to a certain farmer from Virginia who also did well for himself.

Yes, Kate is a cousin (a rather distant on, presumably) to none other than George Washington.

In working on Carla McClafferty’s The Many Faces of George Washington (which, I must say, SLJ called “a stellar addition to most libraries” in a starred review), I spent quite a bit of time staring into Washington's face—or as accurate a reproduction of his face as is technological possible at this time. And I think I see the resemblance.

Another thing that made me think of George Washington and the royal wedding at once is the discussion of the rules for dress and comportment surrounding the ceremony. The English have always been renowned for tailoring. General Washington ordered most his clothes from English tailors right up to the point where doing so would have been, shall we say, politically incorrect. He did this despite the fact that English tailors refused to believe he was actually over six feet tall. (Read the book. Washington’s correspondence with his tailors is hilarious.) And it appears that the English still take tailoring their troops’ uniforms very seriously (click to see). (Hopefully the rather tall soldier in the picture has better luck with the tailor than George did.)

Washington also knew how to handle himself in polite society, and I dare say he would have been right at home in Westminster Abbey on his cousin’s big day (I bet he was a crier)—I mean, had things gone differently with the whole war and all. One of my favorite images in the whole book is that of the “Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior In Company and Conversation” that young George copied out when he was a schoolboy. At least, we could have counted on him not to be Tweeting during the ceremony.image