1: Birth         
                                         William Warner Major

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Jill C. Major, Author 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Richard Major and Frances Constance Warner bore their first son in 1802. The young couple named the baby after Frances’s Father, William Warner. Unfortunately, the baby lived only 10 months.  As often happened in 19th Century England, when an older child died another sibling was given the name of the dead child; thus, William Warner Major, the second child, was born in Bristol, England on the gloomy winter day of January 27, 1804.

 St. James Church, City of Bristol

The History and Antiquities of Bristol,  printed abt 1788.

 

It was a fearful, unsettling time to rear a family. The British people received a brief fourteen-month respite from the Napoleonic Wars from March 1802 to May 1803, and then Napoleon Bonaparte violated the peace treaty and threatened to invade England. George III, the king who ruled throughout the rebellion of the American colonies, still reigned, but suffered from bouts of madness. The Major family lived in west England near the Frome River and within walking distance of the massive Avon River. (Consider picture in Antiquities of Bristol, 87 showing a view of Bristol from South side of the River Avon.) They observed the renewed preparations for war as Bristol’s fishermen and boatmen trained for local service to defend their country against a French invasion. The men were organized into groups, called Sea Fencibles. No doubt the Major family were anxious as they watched their neighbors patrolling and guarding the rivers. 

 

Even amid all the preparations for war, the customary celebrations of life continued. On May 20, 1804, the four-month old son of Richard Major and Frances Constance Warner was carried to St. James, an ancient church in the city of Bristol. (Include map at the beginning of History and Antiquities of the City of Bristol, Vol 1 and picture of St. James, Vol 2 383. ) The baby was dressed in the traditional white "christening robe" the embroidered skirt flowing over his mother’s arms almost to the ground. A white cap tied securely under his chin.  Eight musical bells chimed the faithful to mass as a clock on the high stone tower reminded the Major family of the lateness of the hour. Their steps tapped against the cold stone floors that served as grave coverings for those buried inside the Church. William’s mother and father proudly carried their second son to the old altar of St. James. Perhaps, they took a moment to gaze upon the16th century statue of a warrior on the south side of the altar. Dressed in full armor, he knelt in prayer with his wife and daughter. A shield, engraved with the family arms, bore the inscription:

"Life was but lent conditional to dye,

Death made the period of mortalitye,

And gave entrance to eternitye"7

 

A white robed priest cradled the baby boy in his hands and performed the religious ceremony. After, the quill was dipped into the ink well and under the column of baptisms, "William Warner, Son of Rich & Frances Constantine Major" was scratched on the parish register.  It was a tranquil scene, belying the turmoil less than two hundred miles to the southeast at Dover where British troops were amassed. From the White Cliffs of Dover, Napoleon’s tents were clearly visible. More than 100,000 trained French troops stood ready to board 2,000 landing craft, cross the English Channel, and invade the Major family’s homeland.