Thursday, January 27, 2005

Scott Burgess points to this story in The Guardian which revels in the faint connection that some genealogist has apparently discovered between Bush and an Irish warlord known as Strongbow, the Earl of Clare. The ultra-liberal Guardian would like to find some innate quality of a fierce warlord that they can trace from Strongbow to Bush.
The US president's now apparent ancestor, Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke - known as Strongbow for his arrow skills - is remembered as a desperate, land-grabbing warlord whose calamitous foreign adventure led to the suffering of generations. Shunned by Henry II, he offered his services as a mercenary in the 12th-century invasion of Wexford in exchange for power and land. When he eventually died of a festering ulcer in his foot, his enemies said it was the revenge of Irish saints whose shrines he had violated.

As the Guardian coyly remarks,
The jury is out on whether Strongbow had a "conquering" gene that drove him to invade.
Oh, yeah. That famous "conquering gene" that all geneticists have researched and now recognize.

What the Guardian is missing, perhaps due to their lack of historical knowledge, are the truly remarkable people that this genealogist reveals are on Bush's family tree.

The first is William Marshal, one of the greatest and most respected nobles of medieval England.
On the death of John, October 19,1216, William Marshal was chosen by his peers in England as regent for the nine year old Henry III. Henry was knighted and then crowned under the seal of the Earl of Pembroke. William Marshal was the main force and impetus for the defeat of Philip II of France, even leading the attack to relieve Lincoln castle in May 1217 though he was seventy years old. On September 11, 1217, Marshal negotiated the Treaty of Lambeth that ended the war. By his wise treatment of those English barons who had supported Philip II against King John, Marshal ensured the restoration of peace and order in England. This undefeated knight had become a great statesman in the last years of his life. William Marshal died May 14, 1219 at Caversham and was buried as a Knight Templar in the Temple Church in London.

The qualities that Marshal was known for was his honor and loyalty. Even though King John had turned against Marshal and confiscated his land, Marshal kept his oath of loyalty to the King and did not join the barons' rebellion against the King.
It is during King John's reign that the character of William Marshal is clearly revealed. John's character has been drawn by countless historians, and none have been able to erase the ineptitude that King John displayed when dealing with his English barons. Whatever his motives were, John inevitably alienated his greatest barons despite the fact that he needed their support and loyalty to rule England. William Marshal was a powerful, respected, wise and loyal knight and baron who had already served two Angevin kings. King John, however, accused Marshal of being a traitor, took all of Marshal's English and Welsh castles, took Marshal's two older sons as hostages, tried to take Marshal's lands in Leinster, and even tried to get his own household knights to challenge Marshal to trial by combat. Despite all of this, William Marshal remained loyal to his feudal lord. He did not rebel when John took his castles; he gave up his two sons as hostages; he supported John against the Papal Interdict; and he supported John in the baronial rebellion. Of all the bonds of feudalism, the greatest and the most important bond was the one of fealty, of loyalty to one's lord. To break this bond and oath was treason, and this was the greatest of crimes. William Marshal was the epitome of knighthood and chivalry. He did not simply espouse it. Marshal's entire life was governed by his oaths of fealty and by his own innate sense of honour. If Marshal had taken his lands, castles, and knights to the side of the rebellion, King John would have lost his crown and perhaps his life.
Now, while England might not have missed much in losing King John, they would have undergone yet another terrible civil war such as torn apart the country before Henry II's reign. Instead of rebelling, Marshal remained loyal to the King and helped to negotiate the Magna Carta. Perhaps the trait that many have noted in Bush - his loyalty to those who have been loyal to him is the true genetic inheritance from William Marshal. And isn't it remarkable that this supposed ancestor of the Bushes would be a key contributor to what is regarded as a foundational document on the road to democracy. Could there have been a "liberty gene" that Bush inherited from William Marshal? As the Guardian would say, the jury is still out.

And the we find out that Bush is also somehow related to Anne Hutchinson, the woman who is now featured in all history books as the first feminist in American history and the fiery spokeswoman for religious freedom. Here is what PBS for Kids says about Hutchinson.
Anne Hutchinson stood trial alone, with no lawyer to defend her. She faced a panel of 49 powerful and well-educated men. She was accused of sedition, or trying to overthrow the government. And she faced banishment if convicted.

Hutchinson's "crime" was expressing religious beliefs that were different from the colony's rulers. In the year 1637, in Massachusetts Bay Colony, that was against the law--especially for a woman.

Hutchinson, a Puritan, came to America in search of a place where she could worship freely. But when she arrived, she found the Bay Colony's religious rules very intolerant. The ideas she brought with her from England quickly landed her in trouble.

Hutchinson believed that people could communicate directly with God--without the help of ministers or the Bible. This was in direct contradiction with the established religion. Local ministers taught that people could only find God by following the teachings of the Bible. And that only they could interpret the Bible correctly. At meetings she held in her Boston home, Hutchinson criticized the teachings of the colony's ministers.

In Massachusetts Bay, as was the custom at the time, all ministers were men. The Church controlled the political power. There was no Constitution or Bill of Rights. Only those who belonged to "approved" churches could vote. Magistrates, or government officials, used the Bible as their legal textbook. And people who broke the law could be punished severely--jailed, whipped, or even executed. Many considered Hutchinson's teachings illegal.

Every history textbook features Anne Hutchinson since it is, of course, de rigueur to feature any woman who did anything notable in history. And there just aren't all that many in colonial America. What is often left out is the exact theology of Hutchinson. She was an antinomian who believed that good works were not necessary for salvation since salvation was God's gift and could not be earned. Thus, the sermons she objected to were the one exhorting the faithful to a life of good works. That has never struck me as a theology that really appeals to modern students. My kids agree but they love the story of her standing up in trial to her Puritan interrogators while being nine months pregnant. She was a woman of strong faith and deep courage.

So, could Bush have inherited his deep religious convictions and his stubborn resistance to that which he believes is wrong from this famous ancestress? I'm sure the jury is still out on whether or not there is a gene for faith and courage.

If we're going to play games trying to analyze Bush through the prism of his famous forebears, by all means let us have a complete analysis.