Saturday, September 03, 2005

My Family

At Kentwell, I am known as Peronel Hawkins. Hawkins is a significant name, because it connects me with the convoluted heart of one of the largest families on the manor. The Hawkins clan – and I don’t think any of us truly know our numbers – sprawl somewhat chaotically across most of the barnsward area. I have at least two brothers – Harry and Robin - a number of aunts, and innumerable cousins. I’m related by blood or marriage to nearly everyone in the barns, and am linked to a number more by the vowed ties of god-parentage.

Kentwell families are strange things. Relationships are created lightly enough, by mutual agreement, often to serve the needs of a station. It’s easier, after all, to justify working with someone if you’re related to them in role. Why would I – new participant and single woman – be working in an apothecary’s shop? Why, I’m working for my brother, one Harry Hawkins.

In-spite of how easily they’re created, Kentwell families have real emotive significance; I greet Harry as brother when I meet him, whether it’s on or off the manor, and was honoured to pose for a Kentwell family portrait at his real-life wedding. It was thus with great sadness that, for a summer at least, I stepped away from my Kentwell family in order to join the gentry. The gentry – unlike nearly everyone else on the manor – take on the roles of real, historical figures, and thus have a different, assigned, name and back-story every year. As Ursula Crane – sister to the Mistress of Kentwell Hall – I could no longer be a Hawkins.

Strange as it sounds, for the first time it felt as if I was acting. This summer, at Kentwell, I was being Peronel Hawkins playing Ursula Crane.

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