08 June 2023
Actor Claire Foy is best known for playing the young Queen Elizabeth in The Crown. Having enjoyed researching the lives of her onscreen characters she’s now looking forward to delving into the lives of her own ancestors in the latest series of Who Do You Think You Are?
Here's a preview of the episode featuring Claire Foy…
Claire starts with a visit to see her mum and her 93-year-old grandad. After reminiscing about their Irish roots, her grandad tells Claire the tragic story of his father, Claire’s great grandfather, Charles Stimpson, who was killed on his motorbike.
Curiously, Claire’s great grandad Charles’ place of birth is marked as the rather posh sounding ‘The Castle’ in Carlisle - so that’s where Claire heads next.
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A tragic story
This rather grand place turns out to be a military barracks where her great great grandparents Henry and Maria Stimpson lived.
It’s Henry’s life as a soldier that leads to another tragic story – a drowning during an off-duty cross-country race. Claire visits the river where he died and is saddened by an incident that also left a widow with 5 children who were now homeless and without an income. Claire is heartened to read how the local community reacted to the tragedy, raising money to help them continue their lives.
Adoption and reunion
Next Claire investigates her paternal side. Her dad David was adopted but was reunited with his birth mother Joyce later in life. Despite having got to know Joyce, he knows nothing of her ancestors, so Claire sets out to find out more.
With help from a genealogist, Claire takes her paternal line back to her 3 x great grandparents John and Eliza Martin and is pleased to see that, just like her maternal family, her dad’s line also has Irish roots: John was born in Dublin.
Claire is shocked to read a local newspaper story about her 3 x great grandfather John. Further investigation reveals that John and his brother William are accused of being present at a fatal shooting and if found guilty of the charge of joint enterprise, they would be sentenced to death.
Despite protesting their innocence, eyewitnesses placed them at the scene.
Their trial was national news, and with the help of historian Rose Wallis, Claire slowly pieces together the story of a riveting court case.
In a tense courtroom with the odds stacked against them – the lives of Claire’s 3 x great grandfather John and her 4-x great uncle William, hang in the balance until the stand is taken by witnesses called by the defence - including Claire’s 3-x great grandmother Eliza. Claire finds out their fate.
As she comes to the end of her journey Claire can’t help but be grateful to the communities that have rallied and supported her family in times of need.