‘But history, real solemn history, I cannot be interested in. Can you?’
‘Yes, I am fond of history.’
‘I wish I were too. I read it a little as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all – it is very tiresome.’
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
There is a book, published in 1892, written by the Hon. Lady Inglis, entitled The Siege of Lucknow. It is a first-hand account of the defence of the Indian town of Lucknow, written by the wife of the general in command of the Residency when the fort was attacked. She speaks of the sterling defence by the tiny white force, supported by Indian soldiers of the British Army, against the mutinous rebels who had the temerity to attack the British Empire. On several occasions Lady Inglis’ life was saved by her loyal servants. In the end the siege was lifted when reinforcements arrived from Calcutta.
It is not a good book. But it has a place in the Goddard canon; the book was given to me by my father, who had it because Lady Inglis was his grandmother. My father had a deep and passionate interest in his family history, tracing his line and that of my mother back as far as he could in every direction.
I was ordained a priest in the Church of England in September 1995, and on my ordination, he made a gift for me: a photo montage of all my illustrious ancestors on both sides, back to the beginning of the nineteenth century. They were: the first Bishop of Barbados; the Rector of Holy Trinity Wall Street who went on to become the first Colonial Bishop of Nova Scotia; the second Bishop of Perth, Western Australia; Sir William Pepperell, first Governor of New England (who came back to England after the Unpleasantness of 1776); the aforementioned Major-General Sir John Inglis; a couple of mid-ranking clergy in this country; and my grandfather, Air Marshal Sir Victor Goddard.