Now, you may wonder why I’ve taken this sideways spin into English-Irish history. Well, patient reader, here’s why you’ve stuck it out this long.
The Flemish, being the loyalists they were, answered Henry II’s call to arms for the invasion of Ireland. The reward for their loyalty and lives was land grants across Ireland, and indeed, there are Flemings in nearly every county of that fine land to this day. However, my particular branch of the family was loyal to Baron Lacy and set about helping him attempt to pacify Meath.
Other branches of the Flemish clans stayed in England, and still others migrated to Scotland over the years. As the centuries progressed, Flanders became a center of European textile technology and manufacture, with Flemish weavers in high demand across the continent – and especially in England, Scotland and Ireland, leading to a wave of people named Fleming coming to England. Of course, they didn’t get the name Fleming until they got there, because once the King of England established the Poll Tax (a kind of income tax), everybody had to have a last name.
The Flemings loyal to Baron Lacy found themselves on the outs, royal-favor-wise, when they backed James II in his bid to unseat William (of William and Mary) in 1690, but by then the Flemings were well entrenched in Ireland.
It was at this point that my daughter – remember why I started telling this story in the first place? – declared that she is going to tell people she is “Irish with a little Mexican thrown in.” I told her I can live with that.
Now, besides me, you may have heard of a number of Flemings. My clansmen and women have made great contributions to the world. Here’s a rundown of Flemings You Should Know.
- Peggy Fleming – figure skater who won Olympic gold in 1968, but perhaps most well-known as the object of Snoopy’s love from the late 1960s through the early 1970s.
- Ian Fleming – creator of James Bond. Duh.
- Valentine Fleming – Ian’s father and a casualty of World War One; the major was a close friend of Winston Churchill and died as a result of German action at Gillemont Farm in May 1917. He was a Member of Parliament at the time, and Churchill wrote his obituary.
- Alexander Fleming – Scottish scientist who discovered penicillin.
- Renée Fleming – opera singer (and a damn good one).
- Thomas Fleming – the Archbishop of Dublin from 1623 until his death in 1655.
- Valerie Fleming – two-time Olympic gold-medal winner in the 2-person bobsled in 2006; she also earned 8 silver medals and 8 bronzes over the years.
- Richard Fleming – USMC/USN Captain, KIA in his Vindicator dive bomber in action against the Japanese heavy cruiser Mikuma during the Battle of Midway and subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor.
- Williamina Fleming – astronomer who discovered the Horsehead Nebula in 1888 (we claim her even though she married into the clan).
- Lord David Fleming – a prominent Scottish judge and author of the Fleming Report, which led to public funding for elementary schools.
- John Fleming, the 2nd Lord Fleming – killed in a duel by a guy called Tweedie in 1524.
- Michael Anthony Fleming – a Franciscan monk born in Ireland who became the first Catholic bishop in Newfoundland.
- Dave Fleming – contender for rookie of the year for the Seattle Mariners in 1992.
- Victor Fleming – directed Treasure Island, Captains Courageous, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Joan of Arc, The Wizard of Oz and won an Oscar for Best Director for Gone With the Wind.
- Nancy Fleming – Miss America 1961.