Or, how I started to investigate my family’s big claim to fame.
I’m pretty sure that it is a truth universally acknowledged that every family has a story or two (or in the case of the more interesting ones, maybe even three) that harkens back to a glorious moment in the history of the clan. My uncles have been investigating my paternal line and some interesting things have come up.
It seems that one of our ancestors made part of a Royal Wedding Dress. Exactly which Royal robe is something of a contested issue and changes depending on which member of the family you speak to; some claim it was Queen Victoria’s nuptial gown, but the most common assertion is that a Princess Alexandra wore the fabled dress.
Just as tantalising, especially for a museum adventurer like myself, is the rumour that the family name is on the label in a museum somewhere…
(Perhaps it would be helpful at this juncture to reveal that my family were historically in the silk trade; weavers specifically, based in the East End.)
But where do I start? Well, first I checked the dates of the various royal weddings, starting with Queen Victoria’s (1840)and then I investigated the dresses. But did any of the detective work bear fruit?
Well, there was one thing that flagged up. In 1863 Princess Alexandra of Denmark married the future Edward VII in a dress made from silk woven at Spitalfields. It just so happens that there was a clutch of silk weaving Shoulders living in Shoreditch, Tower Hamlets and Bethnal Green at the this time…
I admit that this is nowhere near compelling evidence that neither proves nor disproves the story but the smoky threads of family-folktale are starting to become more substantial silky strands which I might be able to weave into a solid story.
Get your shovel, we’re going to dig deeper.