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Friday, 3 August 2018

Zombie Barnacles

We live in an era of fake news, though it may be more accurately termed ‘Pick-and-Mix’ news. Facts are omitted, others given undue prominence, but all interpreted and glossed to appeal to our separate and vociferous tribes.

In this beautifully produced book, William Cross does a scholarly hatchet job on the National Trust, the present guardians of Tredegar House. He is concerned with facts and demolishing the myths that have encrusted themselves around the now defunct Morgan dynasty like barnacles—Zombie barnacles—for they have an unholy life of their own. It’s part and parcel of human nature, I suppose, for it is also fake news that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction often trumps truth.  We love a good story, and sometimes truth just gets in the way. In this respect, Will Cross has done an heroic job. Time will see if the zombie barnacles are truly dead.

For the curious, these are just some of the myths explored and demolished.
The Morgans were descended from Welsh princes
Tredegar House has 365 windows, one for every day of the year. (It has seventy-three)
Henry Morgan the pirate was an ancestor of the Morgans of Tredegar House.

In 1758, Charles Gould married Jane Morgan for love
Few married for love in that day and age. We have a contemporary account of the union:
“I have,” answered he (Mr Thomas Morgan of Ruperra) “two girls. One is handsome; the other, not so well endowed by nature. In order to repair that deficiency, I mean to give her fifteen hundred pounds as a marriage portion. To her sister I shall only give one thousands. Which of them would you wish to have?”
Gould replied: “Allow me to enquire, which is the eldest?”
“The plain girl,” Morgan replied.
“Then if you please, sir, I’ll have her.”
Both sides were satisfied, especially when Charles changed his name from Gould to Morgan in order to preserve the family line. 

A tale that is not a myth but an interesting story nevertheless concerns the two sons of Charles and Jane—John Morgan and Charles Morgan. Both fought in the American revolutionary wars, John killed in action at sea, and Charles captured by the Americans at York Town. Before the surrender, an American soldier, Captain Huddy was captured and executed without trial. Hardly surprising. As Captain in the Monmouth militia he murdered those who remained loyal to the Crown. Even so, it was a bad call by a CaptainLippincott. It is, though, worth bearing in mind that Huddy had murdered several of Lippincott's relatives.

In consequence George Washington ordered thirteen British officers to draw lots for who would be executed in retaliation for Captain Huddy’s death. They were each handed a folded paper—twelve blank and one with one just one word, Unfortunate. Charles Morgan was fortunate. Captain Asgill of the Coldstream Guards less so, opening up his death sentence. All ended well however when he was reprieved after an intervention by the Queen of France. A different age.

But back to the myths:
Sir Briggs was buried standing up. To explain, Sir Briggs was a Morgan horse that survived the Crimean war and the Charge of the Light Brigade. Named after a servant of that name ‘Briggs’ the horse was unnoficially knighted and was buried standing up. There is no evidence at all for those last two claims.  
A golden gondola on Tredegar Park lake
Evan Morgan’s parrot bit Herman Goering’s nose.
After Evan’s death, a  black box of secrets was buried in the grounds of Tredegar House
The myths are first class and you want them to be true, but all are beautifully debunked in this readable and lavishly produced book.


Maria Zannini said...

re: Facts are omitted, others given undue prominence, but all interpreted and glossed to appeal to our separate and vociferous tribes.

Never have I read a better synopsis of the news today.

Mike Keyton said...

Thank you, Maria. I like to think I have my moments :)