Photo by Susie Lawrence

A French Tale

One of the things I always promised myself is that when my son turned 18 I would change my surname to Morency.

The feminist in me didn’t want to change it when I got married – and I dragged my heels in doing so. The mother in me never wanted my (mixed-race) children to be stopped at border control and questioned as to whether we were related. Once on a bus in Mexico was bad enough. And the novelist in me wants to take on the name that was decided upon, one cozy evening spent sitting by the fire with my parents; my mother’s health already miserably failing as my father told me a story…

Once upon another time entirely, there lived a man called Anne, duc de Montmorency, Constable of France, who accompanied King Francis 1st to the Field of the Cloth of Gold summit with Henry VIII in 1520. According to family lore, three centuries later one of his descendants fled from France to England where, upon his deathbed, he bequeathed his beautiful 17-year-old daughter, Jeanne Montmorency, to the care of a young English barrister. They subsequently married – by all accounts happily – until she died aged forty-five; no doubt worn out from having produced 17 children, of whom only three were girls.

Miller, the widowed barrister went on to become a judge, and one of his daughters married one of my ancestors, a Pennefeather-Evans. My father originally discovered this when reading a hand-bound memoir written by Lt. Col. G.P. Evans C.B.E; my grandmother’s uncle. I particularly like the Colonel’s recollection of his grandfather’s next wife: ‘a disastrous second choice.’

“She was a doctor’s widow, an ill-bred and flamboyant Irish woman, with not even good looks to recommend her. She presented my grandfather with one child, a girl, thus bringing his total bag to 18.”

Anne, duc de Montmorency

And so in the year of 2020, I changed my name. Simple as. (Although I’ve not done all the legal bits yet.)

email: jess@happyshed.com

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