|Rev. Lawrence Washington,|
Brasenose Coll., Oxford
Long Story Short: Lawrence Washington (1602-1653), the great-great-grandfather of George Washington, became a Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford in 1623. He resigned his Fellowship in 1632 or 1633 to marry (his wife-to-be was already pregnant with her first child) and become the rector of the established church (Church of England) at Purleigh, Essex.
In 1643, Rev. Washington was one of more than 100 ministers whose livings were curtailed or ended by the Puritan ("Roundhead") Parliament under Oliver Cromwell. Their specific crime was refusal to renounce allegiance to Charles II. Lawrence's subsequent impecunity led to his son John and other children migrating to the colony of Virginia - John's grandson Augustine was George Washington's father. So Cromwell's moves against the Church of England helped give birth to the United States of America.
George Washington was an officer in the war against the French, with resources drummed up in Britain by Oxonian William Pitt the Elder. Washington later commanded colonial troops fighting with the help of the French against the British during the Prime Ministership (1770-1782) of Oxonian Lord North. The origin of the Stars and Stripes may be found in Durham County, England, where the Washington coat of arms was created, because the five-pointed mullet first appears there; the oldest surviving example of this coat of arms may be in the Old Library of Trinity College, Oxford.
Oxford in Britain's Religious Wars
Religious wars raged from the time of Henry VIII, whose break with Rome over its reluctance in 1529 to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon had huge repercussions. Henry seized Catholic lands and created the Church of England. Roman Catholic institutions were seized. The impact on Oxford and the Washington family of Henry VIII's action was multiple.
- He took control of Christ Church from his one-time high-flying adviser (whom the Pope named Bishop of Durham in 1523) Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a Magdalen College, Oxford alum. In 1530, summoned from York to London to be tried for treason, Wolsey died en route.
- He abolished the study of canon law at Oxford, a major shift from its monastic origins - including Benedictines in Durham to which Lawrence Washington's family, and Trinity College, Oxford (originally created as a place for Durham Abbey monks to study) were closely connected.
- He seized Durham College. The man who handled this matter, Sir Thomas Pope, must have had a crisis of conscience, because he founded a new college on the spot, Trinity College, and required that forever after the college should pray for him. This request has been honored.
- He gave to Lawrence Washington, son of London Alderman John Washington, the property that is known as Sulgrave Manor, where the Washington family lived for many generations. His grandson was Rev. Lawrence Washington, M.A., George Washington's grandfather.
Religious rivalries returned as the monarchy came under attack from Parliament and the Church of England attracted a new opponent, the Puritan dissenters. During the Civil War, Oxford served as the home base for Charles I, as the University was staunchly royalist ("Cavalier"). In 1642 the Oxford colleges donated most of their plate to Charles. In 1642-1646, Charles held court at Christ Church, while Queen Henrietta Maria was at Merton College. Other colleges hosted the rest of the court.
Eventually, Oxford was besieged by Oliver Cromwell and his "Roundheads" (Puritans) and they prevailed. The consequences were again multiple:
- In 1649 Charles I was beheaded, the only British monarch to meet that fate.
- During the Parliamentary interregnum, Oxford was punished for its support of the king, as Oliver Cromwell - former MP from Cambridge (1640-1649) - became Chancellor of Oxford University in 1650 and systematically replaced some unfriendly college masters with Roundhead academics.
- Clerics with "livings" (established churches) who refused to renounce allegiance to Charles II were demoted, either losing their livings or being switched to a less comfortable one. (Hoppin, p. 123.)
Impact on Oxford Alum Rev. Lawrence Washington
The see-sawing political environment took its toll on Lawrence Washington's career. He was the fifth son of Lawrence Washington (1565-1616) of Sulgrave Manor, Northamptonshire, son of Robert Washington (1544-1619) of Sulgrave by his first wife Elizabeth Lyte. Sulgrave Manor, incidentally, is a delightful place to visit and, as one might expect, is extremely welcoming to Americans.
|Brasenose College Coat of Arms|
showing a Bishop's miter and other
One can surmise that Lawrence Washington left Oxford to take up the rectorship of Purleigh. But different stories are told about his departure. One is that he married Amphilis (also spelled in some places Amphillis or Amphyllis) Twigden in December 1633 after she was pregnant with their first child, John, and Brasenose required its Fellows to remain unmarried. He was 33 when he married. Amphilis was the daughter of John and Anne Twigden of Little Creaton, Northamptonshire. (One source says her maiden name was Amphillis Roades; possibly Roades was her middle maiden name.) John Washington (great-grandfather of George Washington) was born shortly after his parents' marriage - Lawrence and Amphilis subsequently had two more sons and three daughters. Three of their children went to Virginia; one of them returned later in life.
Brasenose Colleges records show that Lawrence Washington left the college owing 17/10 (17 shillings, 10 pence) personally and £9-5/9 uncollected from one of his students. In today's dollars that would be about $200 in personal debt and $2,000 owed by a student, accounting for inflation but not interest. The college's records note that "Mr. Washington to be sued", but there is no record of a suit. In 1924 some visiting attorneys from North America jocularly produced a pound note to pay Washington's personal debt. However, some defenders of the Washington family wrote a letter to the Daily Express denying that the debt was truly owed, and an article making the same point ensued in the New York Herald.
Washington was appointed rector of Purleigh, Essex, in 1632. He lost this appointment in 1643 during the Civil War along with more than 100 other English ministers, for alleged treason directed against Parliament. He was given a smaller parish, Little Braxted, Essex. His wife, Amphylis, did not go with him. Instead, she and her many children lived with her mother and stepfather, Andrew Knowling, in Tring, Herts. Lawrence Washington died in poverty.
Seeing too little opportunity in England, John emigrated to Virginia in 1656 (other sources say 1657 or 1658). John married, in 1656, Anne (also spelled Ann in some places) Pope (d. 1668), daughter of Nathaniel Pope of Virginia, by whom he had two sons, Lawrence (grandfather of George Washington) and John, and a daughter, Anne. John Washington's son Lawrence married Mildred Warner, daughter of Col. Augustine Warner, and their had two sons, the younger one named Augustine, born 1715 and died 1743. Augustine was George Washington's father.
George Washington and Oxonians Pitt and North
Instead, at 16, Washington joined the staff of Lord Fairfax, surveying land in Virginia and what later became West Virginia. In 1753, the British governor appointed George Washington a major in the militia. Accompanied by a guide, Washington went to Fort Le Boeuf, Penn. to give an ultimatum to French authorities to cease fortification in English territory. In 1754, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and then colonel, and Washington led a force to challenge French control of the Ohio River Valley. However, the force was defeated at Fort Necessity, Penn. The French and Indian War (1754-63) was under way.
In this war, the support of Trinity College, Oxford alum William Pitt the Elder, later the 1st Earl of Chatham, was crucial. Pitt was an implacable foe of France and helped drive the French from the colonies, making possible independence of the colonies from Britain.
After a few months as a civilian, in 1755, Washington reentered the militia with the courtesy title of colonel, as an aide to Scotland-born Gen. Edward Braddock. Washington barely survived when the French defeated the general in the Battle of the Monongahela, Penn.; Braddock gave Washington his military sash, which Washington wore proudly in some portraits. Washington's bravery earned him back his colonel title and command of the Virginia militia forces.
Early in 1759, again he resigned and headed back to Mount Vernon, where he wed Martha Dandridge Custis, a widow and mother of two children, whom he reared as his own. During 1759-74, he managed his farms and sat in the Virginia House of Burgesses. He supported initial protests against British policies and became a Whig leader, aligning himself with Pitt's party.
The problem with the French and Indian war was that it was expensive for Britain to send troops and ships to fight the French. Another Trinity College, Oxford alumnus, Lord North decided it was only fair for the colonies to help pay down the debts that Britain incurred for the war, through taxes on imports... such as tea.
The independence for the colonies that Pitt made possible by scattering the French became a fervent goal of George Washington when he represented Virginia at the First and Second Continental Congresses. In 1775, after skirmishes with the British at Lexington and Concord, Congress appointed him as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. Overcoming major supply problems, he developed a well-trained fighting force that continually harassed British forces Scottish-style while major confrontations.
Finally, with the aid of the French fleet and army, he won a key victory over the British at Yorktown, Va., in 1781. During the next two years, he denounced proposals that the military take over the government, including the idea of appointing him king. He was then elected the country's first president.
Washington took the presidential oath of office at Federal Hall, New York City. He tried to maintain harmony between his Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, whose differences reflected party politics. When the French Revolution created war between France and Britain, he ignored the pleas of Jefferson for France and Hamilton for England and the United States stayed out of the war until the British sent soldiers in 1812. Washington did not live to see this; he died at 67 in 1799. The outcome of the war of 1812 was a peace that has formally lasted to this day although Britain was surreptitiously involved in taking sides in the American Civil War, as Oxonian Amanda Foreman has shown in a new book.
Oxford Connections with the Washington Coat of Arms and the American Flag
|Washington Coat of Arms in the|
Trinity College Old Library.
Photo by JT Marlin.
Trinity College, Oxford has the coat of arms of the Washington family in a window in the Old Library, showing three stars (in heraldry, "mullets"), since they signify that the original knight wore spurs; the older versions of the coat of arms have a hole in the center indicating the axis around which the spur rotated. I have looked at some actual spurs, and I have counted in the range of 24 points, so bringing the number down from eight to six and then to five is a big departure from the spurs I have seen.
Below the stars are three stripes (in heraldic language, "bars") - two red, separated by one white. The Wikipedia entry for "Washington Coat of Arms" suggests that the Trinity window is the oldest surviving version of the coat of arms and the entry does not appear to have been challenged.
Trinity College was created out of Durham College when it was disestablished by Henry VIII. Durham County is where the Washington family originated. The Bishop of Durham sent students to Durham College to study to become Benedictine monks. The connections between Durham and Trinity are numerous.
The Washington coat of arms has been cited as an inspiration for the American flag, the Stars and Stripes. The people who designed the American flag were certainly "informed" by the Washington coat of arms, since it was widely used by George Washington in his correspondence and in items of furniture and decoration in his house. Heraldry experts pooh-pooh the possible influence of the Washington mullets and bars on the Stars and Stripes, for lack of evidence of a connection. But maybe, just maybe, they haven't looked hard enough.
1. Patric FitzDolfin de Offerton, c. 1145-1182 2. William FitzPatric de Hertburn, c. 1165-1194 3. William de Washington, c. 1180-1239 4. Walter de Washington, c. 1212-1264 5. William de Washington, c. 1240-1288 6. Robert de Washington, 1265-1324 7. Robert de Washington, c. 1296-1348 8. John de Washington, c. 1346-1408 9. John de Washington, c. 1380-1423 10. Robert Washington, 1404-1483 11. Robert Washington, 1455-1528 12. John Washington, 1478-1528 13. Lawrence Washington, 1500-1583 14. Robert Washington, c. 1544-1623 15. Lawrence Washington, c. 1567-1616 16. Rev. Lawrence Washington, 1602-1653 17. John Washington, c. 1631-1677, emigrated to Virginia. 18. Lawrence Washington, 1659-1698 19. Augustine Washington, 1694-1743 20. George Washington, 1732-1799Durham County records show that the Washington coat of arms originally had six points on the mullet and at some point they were reduced to five points ("rayons"). Since German heraldry traditionally used eight points and French heraldry used six, the switch from six to five points in the Washington coat of arms has been described in a French heraldry book as "truly revolutionary".
George Washington refused to be considered as a third term as President, was opposed to the establishment of a monarchy in the United States, and thought little of the trappings of power. But he was fiercely family-proud. I believe the reason that the United States has a flag with five-pointed stars is that a British ancestor of George Washington changed the number of points on the mullets of his coat of arms, and those around George Washington knew how he liked to put his family coat of arms on his books and letters. Only one coat of arms of the many related to the family has the five-pointed mullets (see chart facing p. 54 in Charles Arthur Hoppin, The Washington Ancestry (Greenfield, Ohio: Privately printed for Edward Lee McClain, 1932). The history of Trinity College, Oxford and its Washington window are links to this origin.