The Family Tree of Sir Differel

Defending Sovereign, Church, and Country from the Forces of Darkness

Sir Differel Van Helsing is descended from four prominent families. Three — the Van Helsings, the Churchills, and the Spencers — make up the paternal branches of her family tree, while the Pendragons are the sole maternal branch. She can also count among her ancestors various famous people, while others are her cousins, if very distant.

Find out about Sir Differel's family heraldry.

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What many people find surprising is that, despite her aristocratic heritage, Sir Differel was a commoner until she married Victor Plunkett, Viscount Dunwich, as was the rest of her family going back generations. In Great Britain, legally a commoner is anyone who is not the Sovereign or a Peer (the British term for a hereditary noble). That would include all members of the Royal Family not elevated to the Peerage and the children and relatives of a Peer. For example, Prince William was a commoner until he married Catherine "Kate" Middleton, at which point he was made Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn, and Baron Carrickfergus. Meanwhile, his brother, Prince Harry, is still a commoner (as of 2012). And while a number of her ancestors had been made knights, the only hereditary title anyone in her family possessed was the Baronetcy of Denver. A Baronet is not part of the Peerage; rather, it is a form of hereditary knighthood and the highest rank a commoner can obtain.

It should be noted that three of these families, the Van Helsings, the Churchills, and the Spencers, were rather large families in and of themselves, with many branches descending from younger as well as older sons. The branches that formed part of Sir Differel's extended family were themselves cadet branches, descended from younger sons who inherited little if anything of the family wealth.

The Spencers

The Spencers are neither the oldest of the paternal branches nor the most prestigious, but they are the most remote. They were also the original owners of Sir Differel's ancestral estate. They are all descended from Robert le Dispenser, a knight who fought with William the Conqueror and was given substantial land grants in various counties. One small parcel of land in the county of Norfolk near the village of Denver passed to a cadet branch, and a couple of generations later Giles Spencer built the first manor house on that property. The house was destroyed and rebuilt twice, first by Edward Spencer, then by Maurice Spencer, but a later descendent acquired additional lands and moved away from Denver. The estate was subsequently given as part of a dowry when a daughter of a descendent, Arabella Spencer, married into the Churchill family. Sir Differel can claim to be related to the following individuals of the Spencer family:

  • Winston Churchill, Prime Minister during World War II, who was actually descended from the Dukes of Marlborough, who were mostly Spencers; the 5th Duke changed his surname to Spencer-Churchill, and by the time of his father, Lord Randolph Churchill, the hyphenation had been dropped
  • Lady Diana Spencer, the Princess of Wales

The Churchills

The Churchills were also descended from a Norman knight. One of his younger sons, Geoffrey Churchell, formed the cadet branch that became one of Sir Differel's paternal families. Not much is known of his descendents, who seem to be obscure, until Sir Sebastian Churchill, who was made the 1st Baronet of Denver in 1616 by James I after his marriage to Arabella Spencer, in which he acquired the estate outside of Denver in Norfolk. From there the line descended to Sir Mortimer Churchill, the 11th Baronet, whose sons were killed in various accidents without issue. The Baronetcy had originally been set up to be inherited only through the eldest male heir. Mortimer's only remaining child, Beatrice, was a friend of Queen Victoria, and she used her Royal Prerogative to change the nature of the grant so that it could be inherited by anyone. Thus Beatrice became the 12th Baronetess. After she married Abraham Van Helsing, she passed her title on to her son, George. Sir Differel is the 16th Baronetess, and her son Henry will become the 17th Baronet upon her death. Churchills that Sir Differel can claim as cousins are:

  • Sir Winston Churchill, the ancestor and namesake of the Prime Minister during World War II
  • John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, whose title passed through his second daughter to his grandson, Charles Spencer
  • Opal Paley Lady Churchill, the wife of Sir Mortimer Churchill, who was a niece of Frederick Apthorp Paley, the classical scholar

The Van Helsings

Helsing is the Anglicized form of Hælsing, which later became Hällsing, and finally gave its name to an entire province of Sweden, Hälsingland. Anyone from Hälsingland was called a "Hällsing" or "Helsing". The earliest known ancestor of the paternal branch of Sir Differel's family tree was Esbjorn Nils Hælsing, a younger son of a chieftain who became a mercenary and later a personal retainer of Erik Segersäll, also known as Eric the Victorious, the first historically recognized king of Sweden. From there, however, Sir Differel has had trouble tracing his convoluted descent to her most famous ancestor, her great-great-grandfather Abraham Van Helsing. He married Dame Beatrice Churchill and had five children, four of whom survived into adulthood. Sir Differel traces her personal descent from Abraham through her great-grandfather George, her grandfather Miles, and finally her father Henry, who married Gwendolyn Pendragon, her mother. The other women who married her male ancestors were:

  • Katherine Frances Wingates, Sir Differel's great-grandmother and cousin to Major-General Orde Charles Wingates, DSO, a celebrated British Army officer
  • Victoria Constance Fairbrook, Sir Differel's grandmother and granddaughter of the explorer Josiah Fairbrook

The Pendragons

The maternal Pendragon family is the oldest of the four branches of Sir Differel's family tree. It can trace a direct line of matrilineal descent all the way back to the 5th century CE, though she doesn't know all the names. Its progenitor was Aurelius Ambrosius, who was called Pen Draig, meaning "chief dragon". His son, Uthyr, took that title as his surname, and he passed it to his son, Artur, known to legend and literature as King Arthur. His only legitimate child to survive his death at the Battle of Camlann was a daughter born of Guinevere after Arthur's death. Her name is unknown, but after she became an adult, she was captured by Saxons and threatened with rape and murder. She called upon her father's sword, Caliburn, also known as Excalibur, and it appeared in her hand, whereupon she slew her captors and escaped. From that time on she was able to summon the sword into existence whenever she needed it. She taught this talent to her daughter, whose name is also unknown, but when the mother was killed by a barrow wight, the daughter slew it using Caliburn, then embarked on a vendetta against all paranormal beings. She passed both legacies on to her daughter, who passed them to her daughter, and so on down the generations by direct matrilineal descent to Sir Differel's mother, Gwendolyn. She in turn inherited them herself, and hopes to pass on the tradition to a granddaughter, if any.

Though few names are known up until the 18th century, three stand out. Gwyar Pen Draig and her daughter Eleirch Pen Draig in the 8th century were the first to offer their monster-hunting services to a king, in this case the kings of Gwynedd, Rhodri Molwynog ap Idwal and his successor Caradog ap Meirion. Both agreed, though Caradog would later rescind that permission when Eleirch refused his advances to be his mistress. From that time forward the Pendragons would seek royal patronage, sometimes receiving it, but continuing their vendetta without it as necessary. The third significant name was Branwen Aeron Pen Draig, who in the first half of the 12th century joined the forces of Henry I against the Welsh for the murder of her mother. She was given land in Shropshire near Shrewsbury and later she sided with Stephen in his civil war against Empress Matilda. In gratitude Stephen named her Sheriff of Shropshire, a position she retained when Henry II took the throne after Stephen's death. The English called her "Briane Ermine Pendragon", and her descendents took the Anglicized form as their surname from that time on.

The children of the Pendragons were always daughters, and they never had more than one child. None of the women ever married, but at some point they either selected a man to impregnate them or became pregnant by accident. Because of this, they trace their lineage through their mothers, and the names of the fathers are almost never remembered. Some names, however have been preserved:

  • "Robin Hood", late 12th century folk hero; family lore holds that the Pendragon who mated with him was the inspiration for Little John
  • Sir William Wallace, late 13th century-early 14th century leader of Scottish independence; known colloquially but incorrectly as "Braveheart"
  • Dr. Peter Blood, late 17th century physician wrongfully convicted of treason against James II and sentenced to transport to the West Indies, where he became the notorious pirate Captain Blood; the Pendragon who mated with him did so earlier in his life when he served as a captain under the Dutch admiral Michiel De Ruyter

The virtually exclusive Celtic heritage of the Pendragons (Welsh, Scots, Cornish, and some Irish) also means that they are distant cousins to some famous or infamous people:

  • Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, who fought against the conquest of Wales by Edward I
  • Thomas Flamank, who led the Cornish Rebellion
  • Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, who fought the English for the independence of Ireland in the Nine Years War
  • Charles Edward Stuart, known as "Bonnie Prince Charlie" and "The Young Pretender", who led the Jacobite uprising against George II

As a final note, sometime around the early 17th century, the Pendragons began naming their daughters after women who appear in the Arthurian legends.

Plunketts

Though technically not a branch of Sir Differel's family tree, they are the paternal family of her son, Henry Abraham Vlad Helsing-Plunkett through his father, Lord Victor Edward Plunkett, 26th Viscount Dunwich. The Plunketts are another quite old and extensive family, though it is difficult to say exactly how old. Family tradition states the family was founded in the 9th century by a Norse adventurer with the settling of Dublin in Ireland. It is also a rather prestigious family, with branches holding such hereditary titles as Baron Plunket, Baron Dunsany, Baron Louth, Baron Killeen, Baron Fingall, and Earl of Fingall. Victor's family line began in the 14th century when Harold Plunkett saved the life of an important and powerful English lord, and guided him safely back to the Pale, the area of Ireland under direct English control. The "lord" turned out to be the Prince of Wales, Edward of Woodstock, known as the Black Prince. He petitioned his father Edward III to reward Harold, and the Viscountcy of Dunwich was created along with the Barony of Ipswich. The Barony was given as a dowry a couple of centuries later and soon fell into abeyance, but the Viscountcy continued down to Victor's father, Lord Edward Tiberius Plunkett, 25th Viscount Dunwich. Victor in turn inherited the title at 19 when Edward died, and it passed to his son Henry when he was killed in 2004.

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