Family Lessons 69: Noble Descent


Thomas Verty fathered my 7x great-grandmother, Mary, in 1727 in Allendale in Cumberland. This struck me as an unusual surname, so I looked it up. One online source suggests it is indeed common to Cumbria and is Norman, originating in the Barony of La Ferte, in Normandy. This is a little surprising as Cumberland was not conquered in 1066 with the rest of England, but its eventual settling by Norman lords is likely. Sure enough, a rather unconvincing Verty coat of arms is available to buy for $10.85. I can even have it printed onto a t-shirt and a hoodie, as well as mugs, hip flasks and mouse mats. I can imagine our cousins across the pond truly lapping up this nonsense, perhaps resolving to come over during their annual ten days’ leave to inspect the family castle. To be told one descends from a noble house is music to many ears; crested paraphernalia helps us prove our aristocratic credentials.

In reality, most of us are descended from Joe Meatball and Sally Housecoat, ordinary folk who worked hard and died young. No shields and crests for them, no castles or armour or jousts and all the rest. Workaday people whose comings and goings history never bothered to record. And yet each one of us is truly descended from a glorious prince, Adam the First. He was God’s own viceregent on earth: beautiful to behold, powerful in limb, intelligent, witty, wise and uncorrupted. Sadly, he fell, and we with him. His inheritance was lost, his riches squandered, his status very much reduced. In Christ, however, we are redeemed and restored. As Watts wrote:

In Him (Christ) the tribes of Adam boast more blessings than their father lost.

Peter advises his readers that they are

…a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light. (1:2:9)

Nobility comes not from some betitled ancestor, much less a questionable coat of arms printed on to a mouse mat, but from being found in Christ. Onesimus the slave now walks among the seraphim, while King Herod Agrippa likely wallows in the darkness. It is Christ’s blood that bestows honour and glory, not our ancestors’, much less our own. If Thomas Verty was descended from a Norman baron, it did not show in the lives of his children. If he called on the name of the Lord Jesus, we shall together cast our crowns before the throne of the King.