To my rightful heir, inheritor and darling daughter:
If you are reading this then it’s the end of the line for me. You will weep at your pitiful inheritance and I am afraid that I cannot offer you any valuable life lessons as compensation because you are a better student than me. My legacy, such as it is, is my name. Thus, let me end, or rather begin, with a question:
What’s in a name? Quite a lot as it happens.
Now, let me, Percival Elvis Thomas Selwyn XII/XIII explain:
Percival: its rather old fashioned as names go. Even Percy is not that much of an improvement. Sounds Arthurian, I’ll grant you, and it’s been rattling around the family tree for almost as long. Every cascade of our genealogy has contained a Percival. It is the onomastic sacrifice demanded of each new generation. Apparently, we are a pretty lugubrious lot and self-selecting. When mum cradled me in her arms for the first time she knew instantly – and the rest of the family agreed – that I was to be the next Percival. This made me XII or XIII. There was some debate over this as there is more than a whiff of ancient scandal floating about the family tree. Somewhere out of sight apparently was an earlier Percival, and possibly the first. My uncle was of the firm belief that this Percival now lost to the mists of time was next in line to the English throne, but was done away with because he was a Catholic. Me, I don’t really care but I would have liked to meet the original pessimist. I reckon us Percivals are what Catholic guilt looks like – English style.
Elvis: what can you say about this name? Dad couldn’t help himself. Maybe it was a statement of hope that I would one day fill the big man’s shoes. Apparently mum hit the roof when she heard. That wasn’t the plan at all. Well, dad was responsible for registering the name and once the deed was done it was done.
Thomas: this one was no secret. The name of my mother’s beloved uncle. The man who stepped up when her real father ‘stepped out’ as granny put it. So you see your great grandad is in fact your great great uncle and I would have been named after him were it not for the ghosts of Percivals past demanding their due. It was to be a daughter’s revenge against the first man who really let her down and having him shunted to third place was apparently grounds for divorce. But uncle Thomas was the bigger man and declared firmly that ‘there will be no more of that talk’. Mum’s smouldering resentment was finally put to bed when my sister, Thomasina, was born. She bore the great man’s name and in first place no less.
Selwyn: the omega to my story. Who knows where this name comes from. Wikipedia is no help. The Selwyn origin story is peppered with so many maybes: maybe Middle English, maybe Norman French, maybe Roman that they may as well have declared that they had no idea. Me, I’ve got a theory. It’s not our name at all. Selwyn is a clue to the murderer of the original Percival the rightful Catholic King of England. Selwyn or ‘Sad William’ was the name of his killer. You see it is no small thing to kill a king, even a Catholic king and that makes a man sad. Over time ‘Sad William’ became Selwyn and with it the family’s secret lay hiding in plain sight.
So, there you have it my girl. The answer to my question and your legacy.
Your loving dad signing off once and for all.
© Tropical Writers Inc 2024