In one of those museum shops you have to pass through before leaving the place, I found a fridge magnet that portrayed the Brown family Coat of Arms. I had to buy two, one for us and one for our son, as a joke souvenir. With a name like Brown you do not overly concern yourself about your presumed ancestors unlike many people with less popular identifiers. I have always been lightly amused by the antics of the amateur genealogist, and suspect of the professional. DNA studies in some of the less salubrious parts of a few English cities have shown that 20% of the kids are calling the wrong guy Daddy. The same percentage has been demonstrated in the Broker Belt of the Home Counties. Just goes to show that all men are randy and “The colonel’s lady and Judy O’Grady, are sisters under the skin.”
Then there is the oft repeated case you can see when trooping through many of the stately homes. The walls of the Long Gallery are festooned with oil paintings of the tenant’s ancestors, most of whom are no oil paintings. “This” says the guide “is the fifth Duke and his family. He married her when he was 56 and she was 16, and they had 7 children.” Oh Yeah? They probably had one, maybe two, but the rest were more likely to have been sired by the third footman, the second groom, or some other young buck more appealing than the smelly old sod Her Grace was shackled to. It was also equally likely that His Grace was out ensuring the perpetuation of his genes with pulchritudinous peasants.
Getting back to the fridge magnet. The accompanying flyer gave a brief history of that particular, and probably unrelated, tribe of Browns. It appeared the first member of this lot in Britain was one of the Norman thugs that came over with William the Bastard---that was one of his titles--- and took over subjugating the serfs from the previous bunch of thugs in Harold’s mob. They continued the tradition down the generations, slightly changing the methods of control from outright bullying to more subtle brainwashing; that is instilling into all from their earliest years that “Some are noble, some may become noble, and the rest have nobility sitting on top of them”. As the majority of the population could not read, lurid, showy badges were created so that these medieval Mafiosi could be recognised by the lesser beings.
So now I have one of those badges, and it is not much to write about. Three fleurs-de-lis on a blue background. Why? They weren’t Frogs; they were Bloody Normans, in the full meaning of the word. If I had to design a coat of arms for my tribe today I think I could do a whole lot better. First I would choose a symbol of the fecundity and proliferation of our clan. A rabbit? Don’t think so. Got to be something that breeds well, is a survivor and widely distributed. I think the fox would be appropriate. Been persecuted for centuries, but is well entrenched. Nice looking and eats just about anything. Smart. Just like me. So a fox is the choice. I can see the emblazoned shield in my imagination. A brown fox with its hind leg raised anointing a crown. And the motto? “Attain Turgidity”. Work it out for yourself.