Jane Austen's Welsh Ancestry.

In 2007 Professor Claire Lamont, of Newcastle University, gave an excellent lecture, 'Living in Ruins: Jane Austen and the Monasteries', to the Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society. As I listened, I recalled coming across a reference to an ancestor of Jane's who had enriched himself as one of Henry VIII's agents for the disposal of monastic fabric. John Scudamore of Holm Lacy, Herefordshire (d.1571) was Jane's 8-greats-grandfather, in the Brydges line. In a recently-published work, 'Tudor Political Culture' (CUP, editor Dale Hoak), WJ Tighe in the chapter 'Country into Court, Court into Country' writes:
'As a receiver of the court of augmentations he was active in the task of surveying, valuing, and managing the monastic lands in the west country which came into the Crown's hands in the last decade of Henry VIII's reign; his eldest son William served as his deputy in these tasks, and the elder Scudamore secured notable additions to his estate in these years.' I then remembered while verifying this that a venerable book in my library, 'Three Chapters of Letters Relating to the Suppression of Monasteries' (Camden Society, 1843), devotes an entire chapter to his correspondence and inventories.

Being a naturally-curious genealogist, I investigated John Scudamore's family connections to see how far back they could be traced, and discovered a very surprising twist to that branch of the tree. His grandson, also a John, married Eleanor Croft, daughter of James Croft of Croft Castle. The Crofts were a distinguished Herefordshire family (James was a Lord Deputy of Ireland) and can be traced back for many generations. Now for the twist - I had long known that, through the Brydges, Jane's pedigree included English, French, and Scottish aristocrats and, indeed, royalty. But following James Croft's ancestry back to his 3-greats-grandparents revealed that John de Croft had married Janet Glyndwr, the daughter of Owain Glyndwr, the Welsh patriot and rebel, and last Welsh-born Prince of Wales.

He was possibly the last person whom I expected to find in Jane's ancestry as one of her 13-greats-grandfathers. It does make sense, since the Welsh gentry were keen to marry off their daughters to neighbouring English lords' sons. Glyndwr himself (better known as Shakespeare's Owen Glendower) in his earlier life was anglicized, having studied in London and served in an English army. A great irony, at least in the context of Jane's pedigree, is that it was the unsatisfactory resolution of a territorial dispute with Roger de Grey, another of Jane's ancestors in the Brydges line, that drove Glyndwr to rebel against the English overlords.

An earlier version of this article was printed in the Jane Austen Society's News Letter.

© Ronald Dunning