Source The Daily Mirror
A dark and deliciously murky secret hovers over the continuing relationship
between Prince William and his girlfriend Kate Middleton – a skeleton so large
that even a vast royal closet would struggle to contain it.
For the Mail can reveal that William and Kate are distant cousins. Not only
that, the common ancestor who links the two lovers is a murderous despot whose
bloody deeds have been deliberately forgotten by history. Until now.
A despot and a dictator, Leighton brooked no argument and made life hell for
those he ruled.
‘He disregarded civil liberties and kept the people down by main force,’
reads a rare account of his life.
This hard-nosed figure was, however, a gentleman; which will come as a timely
snub to those critics of Kate Middleton who dismiss her antecedents as being
working-class and – extraordinary in this day and age – therefore deem her
unsuitable as a future princess.
So Kate may be relieved to learn of her posh ancestor. On the other hand, she
might not be too keen to boast over the dinner table about his bloody modus
So hated was Leighton, that on his death in 1610, the official report on his
demise was defaced by angry Guernsey residents. And uniquely for such an
important figure in the Elizabethan court – his wife was the Queen’s cousin
– no portrait of him survives. All were destroyed or lost.
So what makes this gruesome fellow, whose blood courses through the veins of
our future king and queen, into such a figure of hatred? Why do historians
prefer to ignore his existence?
Leighton had been a hugely successful soldier, serving with distinction in
France and Ireland, and lustily enjoying the quelling of a revolt in northern
England in 1569.
Some said he enjoyed the sight and smell of blood just a little too much. An
enthusiastic supporter of hanging, drawing and quartering, Leighton never shied
away from the meting out of justice, and the bloodier the better.
To reward him, or perhaps just to get this gentleman thug out of her way,
Queen Elizabeth gave him Guernsey to govern in 1570 – and so his reign of
From the moment he landed at St Peter Port on a blustery May day, he took a
hearty dislike to the locals.
For a century or more, the Channel Islands had determinedly maintained
international neutrality, but this inspired in the warlike Leighton a deep
contempt: ‘a people cowardly in their courage and somewhat too kind to the
French,’ he snorted.
And, in an early warning of what was to follow, he added menacingly: ‘I will
keep them Her Highness’s subjects maugre [despite] the instinct of their
With the threat of Spanish invasion just around the corner, and discovering
that the island’s defences were paper-thin, Leighton started out as he meant to
go along – lavishly spending Guernsey’s revenues on fortifications without
reference to the locals.
Within a year, sensing a growing well of resentment to his profligacy, he
used his contacts in London to secure a royal Warrant to endorse his
Voices raised against him were silenced. Civil liberties were curtailed,
people were arrested and riots broke out: he responded with gusto, locking his
opponents up without trial.
Word got back to London that the gout-ridden governor was out of control. The
Bailiff and Jurats – distinguished elders of the community – complained to a
visiting Royal Commission that Leighton alone was to blame for the riots.
The root of the problem was his misappropriation of funds, his tyranny, his
taste for imprisonment without trial, and his press-ganging of Guernseymen to go
to sea against their will to fight pirates (during which many lost their lives).
In fact, the Royal Commission – dispatched by the Queen to answer the
locals’ complaints – was a fix. The moment its members arrived, Leighton
announced he would join their number, thereby sitting in judgment on his own
It came as no surprise to the hard-pressed islanders that when the Commission
reported, it exonerated their dictator.
Leighton’s intransigence flourished: he dismissed local laws and democracy,
turfing out the Bailiff and installing his nephew Thomas Wigmore as a puppet
Years later, he made his son a Lieutenant of the island, too.
Surrounded by allies, Leighton felt emboldened to seize four French ships
tied up in St Peter Port – even though Guernsey was supposed to be neutral.
The Royal Court in London, embarrassed by this act of brigandry, declared the
seizure invalid: Leighton airily ignored their judgment. This was too much for
his nephew Wigmore, who accused him of tyranny.
‘In 1587 Leighton sailed to England to advise
Sir Walter Raleigh on defence. In gratitude, the Queen gave him a knighthood,
and her cousin Elizabeth Knollys’ hand in marriage’
But Wigmore had miscalculated the power Leighton still wielded – and found
himself being hauled back to London to explain himself.
Fearful for his life, Wigmore responded by hiring two hitmen to murder the
prosecutor – just the kind of behaviour Leighton himself was capable of –
and was jailed for his pains.
Later, Leighton was to dispatch further senior Guernseymen to London for
disagreeing with him, their price usually being a spell in jail. Rough justice
was the order of the day in Elizabethan times, and to the victor came the
Exonerated from the successive charges against him, in 1587 Leighton sailed
to England to advise Sir Walter Raleigh on defence strategy in the face of the
threat from the Armada. In gratitude, Elizabeth gave him a knighthood, and her
cousin Elizabeth Knollys’ hand in marriage.
Elizabeth Knollys had important connections: not only was she a cousin of the
Queen, but also a relation of Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII. In
her Tudor ruff, she rather resembled an early Kate Middleton, and soon became
Sir Thomas Leighton’s most valuable conquest, on or off the battlefield.
Together the couple had three children – their son Thomas, and daughters
Elizabeth and Anne.
It is from Elizabeth Leighton’s side that Kate descends, while William’s
ancestor is her sister Anne. Curiously, there is not a single titled person on
Kate’s side of the family tree, yet on William’s side he can count the earls of
Rochester, Lords Lisburne, and a few baronets among his ancestors before his
forbears marry into the Spencer family.
In fact, Kate’s family slid decidedly downmarket for a few generations before
picking itself up and becoming respectable again.
Sir Thomas and Elizabeth’s daughter married one Sherrington Talbot, a member
of an ancient and respectable family of landowners, but in a couple of
generations’ time, things were beginning to look decidedly iffy.
Sherrington and Elizabeth’s granddaughter wed Henry Davenport, after which
the bloodline began to sink slowly down society’s totem pole until they reached
the point at which Henry’s great-granddaughter Sarah Davenport married Tom
Ashford of Stratford-on-Avon – a lowly ironmonger and ‘saddler’s bridle
The whole family lived in stables in the town – the only legacy Tom could
leave his daughter Elizabeth when she married Robert Hobbes in 1800.
Hobbes, who described himself as a gentleman (others might not) was, in fact,
an early property developer, buying up properties around Stratford; but the
couple’s daughter moved things upmarket again when she married an
Oxford-educated clergyman, the Rev Thomas Davis.
Their daughter, Harriet, married into the Luptons, a rich upper-middle-class
family of merchants and property owners around Leeds – and Harriet’s daughter,
Olive, married a successful Leeds lawyer, Richard Middleton. Richard’s son Peter
was a pilot, so too was his grandson Michael – the father of Kate.
For the heralds whose job it will be to come up with a convincing coat of
arms for Kate when the Palace finally announces her engagement to William, this
latest revelation of near-royalty in the family will come as a relief, given
that so many of her ancestors were working men without, as they say, escutcheon.
On the other hand, not everyone would wish to be associated with an ancestor
who cared so little for the sanctity of life.
The short official record of Sir Thomas, who is after all the blood-tie
between our future king and queen, could hardly be more dismissive: ‘Leighton is
recalled in Guernsey with . . . rancour. In England, he is barely remembered at
Perhaps that’s about to change.