What if…

We’ve all, from time to time, looked back on certain events and thought how they might have changed the course of our lives…wondered whether it was fate or how things might have turned out if we had been in a different place at a different time, or made a different decision. It’s interesting to see this crop up in a family tree; I have an ancestor who was born into a relatively well-to-do family in France. His father and grandfathers were surgeons, judges, royal notaries, and had been landowners near to La Rochelle. My ancestor was the youngest son and at the age of about 18 served as a midshipman with the French Navy. He fought at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and when his ship came under attack, was captured by the English and taken to Devon as a prisoner-of-war. Fortunately for me, for reasons that will always remain unknown, he chose to remain in England after his release. By the mid 1800s, the census and other records show him living in a less than salubrious part of Woolwich (then part of Kent), occupied as a ‘professor of the French language’. He married twice in London (his first wife died) and of his five sons, one returned to France and remained there for the rest of his life. But it is intriguing as to why my ancestor, Louis, never returned. Why did he not head back to what was presumably a fairly comfortable home amongst his family? If he had – or if the British Navy had made different decisions during that famous battle – I guess I wouldn’t be here today!


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