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Posts Tagged "Welby genealogy":

The Chronicles of the Welbys (part the first)


The desire to know more about the antecedents of our spiritual leaders has a respectable history: much of the First Book of Chronicles is taken up with genealogies of the Israelites, the first ten verses of which are as follows:

1 Chronicles 1-1: From Adam to Abraham

Adam, Seth, Enosh; Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared; Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech; Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  The descendants of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. The descendants of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Diphath, and Togarmah. The descendants of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Rodanim. The descendants of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. The descendants of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabta, Raama, and Sabteca. The descendants of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. Cush became the father of Nimrod; he was the first to be a mighty one on the earth.

Like the rest of the human race, the future Archbishop of  Canterbury is descended from Adam. However, Giles Fraser, writing on the day Bishop Justin’s appointment was announced, wrote:

The CofE … like many religious organisations, it still thinks in terms of “Papa”… Which is why no guide to surviving the church is complete without a serious study of Freud. .. Freud was not wrong when he explained the need for God in terms of the child’s need for a father figure. Not, I would argue, that God is simply a product of this need. But it’s certainly the case that the whole knotted ambivalence of the Oedipal imagination bears down on the relationship between a priest and his parish – and even more so on that between the church and its top man. Man being the operative word…But as Mr Welby is now going to find out to his cost, this Reformation remains a work in progress. Progressives like me did it to Rowan Williams. And his own evangelical tribe will do it to him. We still project all sorts of needs and fantasies upon the man with the big mitre. And then we despise them for not giving us what we want. The church is where adults revert to children.

These two extracts begin to explain why I, along with thousands of others, feel a strong desire to know the lineage of the new head of the Church of England.


A mystery to be solved

Although it is obviously desirable to tell a story by beginning at the beginning, going on to the end and then stopping, it is not possible to do this in the case of the new Archbishop because his father’s line is clouded by the mists of time and recollection. I therefore propose to proceed backwards in time from the known to the unknown, and then outline some of  the various elements handed down by family members over the years. I will then suggest a hypothetical lineage which, most suitably, leads us back to the second Bishop of St Helena, formerly Archdeacon of Cape Town, in the middle of the nineteenth century, and hence to the known tree of the Lincolnshire Welby family. But before joining me on this speculative narrative journey, I must stress again that I have no proof, only a trail of clues. I have come to the conclusion that the balance of probability favours my explanation, but look forward to hearing the views of anyone else with a detective bent who has followed the trail.


 What do we already know?

(+)+Justin Welby was born in London on 6 January 1956 to Gavin Bramhall Welby and his wife, Jane Gillian Portal. He is definitely related by marriage to the present Welby baronet, Sir Bruno. It works as follows: Sir Bruno (7th baronet) is the son of Oliver (6th), and grandson of Charles (5th baronet). Sir Charles’s daughter Joan (ie aunt of the present baronet) married ‘Peter’ Portal, the 1st Viscount Portal, whose half-brother Gervas was the father of Jane Portal, mother of (+)+ Justin. (If you think that is complicated, wait until we get to the paternal line!).


So who are the Portals?

According to Burkes, the family of Portal, or de Portal, originally Spanish, established itself in Languedoc at the end of the 11th  century, and subsequently occupied a prominent position in the  South of France. ‘Oldric de Poitou, Capitoul de Toulouse 1204′, is one of the earliest of this family mentioned. Jean Francois de Portal (of whom more later) of Poitiers, was forced to fly from France on  the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.  He took refuge in Holland under the protection of William of Orange and subsequently settled in London. He was born (or more likely baptised) on 3 November1642; married Marie, daughter of Jacques Gousett, the pastor of Poitiers, and died about 1705 (will dated 26 May, 1704  proved in London 23 April, 1705), leaving a son, the Revd William, who married on 2 January 1733-4 Mary Magdalene Findlater Meure (1704 – 1754) and was buried 25 September 1768, leaving issue, from whom descend the Portals of Daventry, Northamptonshire and London.


Thus Oldric, of Poitou , (fl 1204), begat several generations of Portals until Jean,( fl 1530), begat Francois (who made his will in 1570), who begat his second son, Guillaume (who made his will in 1591), who begat Etienne, (who died before 1672) , who begat Jean Francois, who married the daughter of the Protestant pastor of Poitiers and, with her, fled France because of the persecution of the Protestants.

Their second son, the Revd William Portal, was a priest in the Church of England from 1720-1769, serving as Rector of Grindon, Staffordshire from 1720-1722, and then from 1722-1734 as Rector simultaneously in Thorpe and Clowne in Derbyshire. (Source: the clergy database).

Their third son, Henri, “having settled in Hampshire, acquired the privilege in 1724 of manufacturing the notes of the Bank of England’ (Burke‘s).


The Revd William Portal begat Abraham Portal, a playwright, who named his son Richard Brinsley, after Sheridan, the great playwright of the day. Richard Brinsley (1785-1859) begat William Thomas (1820-1889, who begat Edward Robert (1854-), who begat Gervas Edward (1890-1961), who begat Jane, who married Gavin Welby and together they begat the future Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Portal Welby.


Nature or nurture? What makes us who we are? I remember this forming part of our university course, and we all agreed that nurture was responsible for our views, inclinations and character. But when I started looking into genealogy, I changed my mind. I now think that our genes are also responsible for a great deal.

Archbishop-designate Justin is descended from a long line of Protestants, unwilling enough to convert to Catholicism that they fled their native France, seeking asylum in first Holland and then England. They seem to have blended seamlessly into English life, to the point of being entrusted with the manufacture of English banknotes, in other words our currency. So there you have it, a long line of interest in religion and money. And in the present generation….?





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