Saturday 2 December 2017

Who Does John Simpson Think He Is?

I've seen quite a few comments in various places noting the irony of Miss Markle telling the BBC how "disheartening" she finds it that race has been made such a "focus" thanks to "the climate in this world" while the BBC itself seemed to be banging on about little else (like an obsessive-compulsive hammer collector). 

And John Simpson, reporting on this morning's Today, kept on hammering away at the race issue too, despite using that very clip of Meghan regretting such a focus. 

Did he not spot the irony?

Anyhow, as you'll see if you read the following transcript, John had some important points to make about his own family history and the Royal Family's family history - and your and my family history too.

Can you guess what his point is likely to be (if he didn't hear his report that is)? (Clue: He's very 'BBC', so what point would he be making?)

Well it essentially boils down to this familiar BBC trope: We're a mongrel nation. 

But there was more. Anyone whose interested in genealogy and genetics will know that most of us are indeed, in some way, linked genetically ('descended') from William the Conqueror, Julius Caesar and - the one usually cited - Genghis Khan. John's example, however, was very a 'BBC' one. He told us that the Queen is descended from the Prophet Muhammad. And we're all descended from the Prophet Muhammad too. (And that includes you!)

BBC One's Who Do You Think You Are? had researched his family tree and found that his ancestry is 'mongrel nation' ancestry. He seemed to assume that this was typical. I've researched my own ancestry (not being as lazy as him) and found that my ancestry is quite different. I've gone down about three hundred years on some lines and found not a single ancestor who ever lived south of Preston. Many were "clod-hopping" farmers. And our family names, wherever I look and however many new names I come across as I go back in time, are all very local (and mostly Anglo-Saxon). Essentially, my ancestors never went anywhere. So speak for yourself, John! 

The detail in John Simpson's report that particularly tickled my hideously northern English funny bone was where he effortlessly exemplified the mindset of someone David Goodhart would call an 'anywhere' (as opposed to a 'somewhere' like me) - the kind of people described in the New Statesman as "the liberal Europhile establishment, comfortable about immigration and globalisation"...

...yes, John Simpson of the BBC has a "cleaning lady". (Of course he does!). And she's Brazilian. (Of course she is!)

That was a 'beyond satire' moment, reinforcing every stereotype people have of metropolitan liberals.

(I bet he wouldn't even understand that if he read this post).

In summary, who else but someone like John Simpson of the BBC would use a piece about the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan to push the 'the UK is a mongrel nation' angle and the 'Muslims R Us' angle simultaneously?

Anyhow, here's the transcript:

John Simpson: Social attitudes change really fast nowadays. Not long ago no member of the Royal Family would have thought of marrying anyone who wasn't, frankly, white. Public opinion would have ruled it out, just as, in the 1950s, Group Captain Peter Townsend was ruled out as a husband for Princess Margaret because he was divorced. And before the First World War it would have been really hard for a prince of the blood (as they used to say) to marry a commoner. Meghan Markle's mother is African-American and her father is white, and her mixed-race heritage has been scrutinised in some of the press. It even led to Prince Harry issuing a statement last year saying his then girlfriend had been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Earlier this week, sitting beside Prince Harry, Meghan Markle discussed her ethnicity with Mishal Husain. 
Meghan Markle: Of course it's disheartening. You know, it's a shame that that is the climate in this world to focus that much on that, that would be discriminatory in that sense, but I think, you know, the end of the day I'm really just proud of who I am and where I come from, and we have never put any focus on that. We just focused on who we are as a couple, and so when you take all those extra layers away and all of that noise I think it makes it really easy to just enjoy being together and tune all the rest of that out.
Yet the fact is just about all of us have some pretty unexpected ancestors. According to Debrett's Peerage the Queen is descended from the Prophet Muhammad through her 15th century ancestor King Edward the Fourth. When I talked to an academic expert on ethnicity, Dr Daniel Falush of Bath University's Milner Centre for Evolution, it didn't surprise him.
Dr Daniel Falush: Absolutely not at all. So you go back a thousand years, you have a billion ancestors. So everyone who lived then who has left descendants will essentially, to a first approximation, have left descendants to everyone living in Europe. So, and since Muhammad had children and grandchildren it's sure to include him. John Simpson: Sure? Dr Daniel Falush: Sure, yes. Absolutely sure. John Simpson: And me? Dr Daniel Falush: Yes, absolutely. The further back you go the more interleaved it becomes and the more similar we all are in our underlying ancestry.
My wife comes from South Africa and her maiden name is Kruger. Our cleaning lady, who's Brazilian, is also called Kruger. And a historian of the family says everyone with that name has the same German ancestor. As for me I've always assumed I was simply the product of clod-hopping Suffolk farmers. Then I was invited onto a familiar slightly nerve-wracking programme Who Do You Think You Are? 
BBC announcer: Now, the last in the series, BBC reporter John Simpson uncovers his adventurous ancestors now on BBC One.
It turned out I had Portuguese and Spanish ancestors and my great grandmother eloped with a Texan cowboy, Samuel Franklin Cody. He ran a Wild West show and in 1908 became the first man to fly in Britain. And my great-grandmother was the second woman in the world to fly. So in my case the cocktail shaker contain some pretty unpredictable ingredients  The same with Meghan Markle - and Prince Harry, the descendant of the Prophet. And the same, I'd guess, with you - and with everyone else who happens to be listening. 


  1. I think I’ve found the bbc emphasis on the race of the new bride to be one of the most racist things I’ve heard in a long time.

    For two reasons; the continuous references to her race, and the assumption that somewhere there’s a large proportion of people who will be agaisnt the prince marrying her and therefore they need to be preached too!

    When I’m sure the majority didn’t even notice, and most probably think - good on ya lad you’ve punched well above your weight!!

    Thanks for spotting it too.

    1. Well said. I've heard a lot of conversations about the royal engagement (at home, with friends and at work) and 'race' has never once came up. The BBC (and their like) are race-obsessed.

      P.S. Yes, Harry had done well for himself!

  2. Just as an afterthought I can imagine the conversation in the BBC editors office going like this;

    “Well done lads, because of our efforts those nasty, old, uneducated, white, racist, bigoted, far right, Zionist leave voters haven’t kicked off that Prince Harry is marrying a foreigner of mixed race. It must be because of us telling them it’s ok! High fives all round!”

  3. *lads, lasses, gender neutrals, trans etc sorry for my inadvertent hate crime.

  4. Is this prophet Mohammed any relation to the Muslim prophet Mohammed?

    1. I'm not sure, but John Simpson is apparently related to at least one of them!

    2. Nah! Dark Ages scribes just couldn't cope with homophones - Simpson's one was qualified, not as 'prophet,' but as 'profit' - he ran a corner stall on the Khan al Kalili in Cairo.

  5. In my family tree I have an ancestor whose parents had the same surname so perhaps they were related to each other rather than coming from ever-spreading roots?
    There is also a case of a brother and sister marrying a sister and brother so any children would have been cousins twice over and have both grandparents in common. I am sure this would not be unusual in farming families.
    However for political reasons the children of kings married the children of other kings so they will have widespread geographic roots, but from a very restricted pool.
    I suspect the common rural plebs have a better pedigree than the royals, no mongrels there!

  6. There is comedy to be found in the PC BBC's obsessions,for sure. Do BBC presenters have vivid dreams of Donald Trump at night? Probably.

    Would Simpson observe the niceties when it comes to Christianity and refer carefully to "the Lord Jesus Christ"? Or would it just be a throwaway Jesus? I think we know the answer! :)

    Megan Markle sounds like a sensible lass and her mixed race heritage is not an obsession for the vast majority of British people.

    Are we sure Dr Falush is a real expert and not just some purveyor of Fake Facts? He claims if someone from the 7th century has children and grandchildren then their descendants will be found in the 21st century. Think about it - if you have grandchildren none of whom have a child, then your "line" does not continue. End of story. If Dr. Falush can't see that, then there is something wrong. Perhaps he wanted to say that the guy in question had so many consorts there would be no doubt of his line continuing somewhere...true of many a warlord.

    My own theory is that John Simpson is probably descended from a the unnatural union of a gourd-wearing Papuan cannibal and an Anglican missionary's wife.

    Also, I smell more Fake BBC Programming in that "It turned out..." Does anyone seriously believe that Simpson didn't know about Cody and his great grandmother being a pioneer of female aviation...?
    Such remarkable feats tend to persist in family lore.

    Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia women have just been told they will be allowed to drive. Piloting planes can only be another 100 years away.

  7. Funny, I could have sworn I voted Leave yet I don't give a damn about Ms Markle's racial background - and have zero interest in the royals in general for that matter.

    And the idea that Muhammad raped his way through many of our ancestors is supposed to endear him and his death cult to us in what way precisely?

    1. Of course for male slaves of a certain ethnicity there was no way they would have any descendants - radical removal of all parts involved in procreation was standard procedure. Not something I've ever heard mentioned in all the extensive appeasement programming on the BBC.

  8. If I'd known this prophet stuff back in November 2004 I would have suggested to Theo Van Gogh that instead of saying "we can talk about this" seconds before a shank was shoved into his chest with a skewered ironic love letter to Ayan Hirsi Ali on it, he could have said
    "we can talk about this, cuz.".
    It could have made all the difference.
    If only I'd known.

    1. It wouldn't have worked - descendants of a muslim are deemed to be muslim; muslims who fail to practise the faith are deemed to be apostates; the penalty for apostasy is death. So don't tell Daesh about our ancestry or they'll want to blow us all up...

    2. Interesting theological - or should I say protection racket question: does the sin of apostasy carry on down through the generations?

  9. Do not despair, Craig. If you have anyone surnamed Moore in your family tree, you have links to the Maghreb. (Bet you thought Moore meant a dweller by or on a moor, as the common or garden family name books have it, didn't you?) Nobody on your tree named Moore? Well, you have plenty of other chances to claim that essential non-Little Englander link: "[I]t's interesting that Blackmore, Morys, Moris, Morris, Morice, Morrice, Maurice, Moorish and Mountmorris are themselves all further forms of Moore."
    How do I know this?
    The BBC told me so:


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