THE nation is overwhelmed with joy. The country is consumed by happiness. A warm, mushy glow is seeping into even the hardest heart: there is to be a royal wedding.

And the union of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle can be traced back through the generations to its starting point in Teesdale – in fact, it all began at the lost castle of Streatlam which, by happy coincidence, Memories only featured last week.

Both Harry and Meghan are descended from Sir Ralph Bowes 17 generations ago. He lived in the lost castle which was between Barnard Castle and Staindrop until it was blown up in March 1959.

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So let’s have a romp through the generations and try and explain…

The Bowes family of landowners and soldiers acquired Streatlam through marriage in 1310 – in fact, they preferred their new castle to their chilly old castle in the village of Bowes, near the Stainmore summit of the A66, and so made it their home.

A handful of generations later, Sir Ralph Bowes (1468-1512) is ensconced in the castle with his wife Marjery, who came from the Conyers family of South Cowton castle – now a castellated farmhouse next to a wonderful old church midway between Darlington and Northallerton.

Sir Ralph’s eldest son was another Sir Ralph (1480-1516) who passed Streatlam on to his eldest son, Sir George (1517-45), a fierce soldier who regularly thrashed the Scots but who died without producing a legitimate male heir.

So, let’s return to the first Sir Ralph whose youngest son was Richard (1497-1558). He, too, was a fierce soldier who liked nothing better than thrashing Scots. In 1521, he married Elizabeth Aske, of Aske Hall near Richmond, and they had five sons and ten daughters before their marriage collapsed and Elizabeth ran off with fiery Scottish Protestant preacher, John Knox.

She had met Knox when Richard was commander of Norham Castle, near Berwick, and had had a long relationship with him before their fifth daughter, Marjory, became betrothed to him. When “Bloody” Mary became queen of England and started killing anyone who wasn’t Catholic, Richard realised having a Protestant preacher in the family wasn’t a good career move and so banned Marjory’s marriage to Knox. Marjory, Knox and Elizabeth then ran off to Scotland and then Geneva, and were never reconciled with Richard.

Among Richard’s other children was Bridget, born at Aske Hall in 1526. She married John Hussey of Dorking in Surrey, and her grandson, Captain Christopher Hussey, was one of the founders of Nantucket in Massachusetts, where he settled. Twelve generations later, his descendant Meghan Markle was still living in the US and became an actress until she met a British prince…

Meanwhile, another of Richard’s children was another Sir George (1527-80), who took on Streatlam.

He was knighted by Catholic Mary, but when Protestant Elizabeth became queen, he was loyal to her. In fact, so loyal to her was he in those troubled times that when the North rose up in favour of Catholicism in the autumn of 1569, Sir George barricaded himself inside Barnard Castle.

The Catholic rebels surrounded the castle, fired their superior weaponry at Sir George and taunted him with a playground rhyme: "A coward, a coward of Barney Castell, Dare not come out to fight a battell".

By December 14, 1569, Sir George had had enough of such bad rhymes, and he surrendered. But rather than kill him, the Catholics sent him packing with a flea in his ear. Three days later, he met up with Queen Elizabeth I’s 20,000-strong army on Croft Bridge, and faced with such a show of strength, the Catholics melted away – although as they melted, they trashed Streatlam Castle, even ripping out Sir George’s 40 featherbeds.

The Queen was in no mood for mercy, and at least 600 men were executed for their parts in the rebellion, with Sir George in charge of executions. It is said that 66 were hanged in Durham, and 99 were hanged in Darlington, their bodies being suspended from trees along Coniscliffe Road for all to see.

In the orchard at Streatlam, Sir George hanged a rebel named Harrison, of Barnard Castle, and as he watched the body swinging, he said: "The best fruit a tree can bear is a dead traitor".

Harrison’s ghost is said to still haunt the Streatlam as is that of Sir George because he died broken-hearted at not being able afford to restore the castle.

Perhaps Sir George need not have worried because down his family tree can be found John Bowes, who created the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle. A little bit further down is Elizabeth Bowes Lyon who we knew as “The Queen Mother”, and so three generations down from her is Prince Harry.

So Harry and Meghan are something like 15th cousins descended from the Bowes family of Streatlam Castle. Which is extremely opportune for the Bowes Museum, where a splendid exhibition about the lost castle has just opened. It runs until March 11.

STAYING in Teesdale, Memories 349 reported on the 50th anniversary of the creation of Cow Green Reservoir, and mentioned that just below it is Cauldron Snout – England’s longest waterfall; perhaps England’s only haunted waterfall.

Michael Rudd, of Darlington, has got in touch to point out that this famous natural feature was a real tourist attraction in centuries gone by – especially as it had a terrifyingly narrow bridge thrown across it by leadminers. The plank took them from the Durham side over to the Westmoreland side.

Michael’s 2007 book, The Discovery of Teesdale, tells how early tourists and artists fell in love with the romantic wildness of the dale.

The Barnard Castle lawyer William Hutchinson published accounts of his tours in the north in the 1770s, and he described Cauldron Snout by saying that the water was “tossed from rock to rock and making a prodigious noise, hurries forward in sheets of foam”.

He said the fearless leadminers had thrown a 40ft “single piece of timber” over “the deepest and most awful part of the gulph...where only passengers who have a brain befitted to aerial flight, may go without horror”.

The Tees Valley Railway, which opened in 1868 connecting Barnard Castle with Middleton-in-Teesdale, enabled visitors to flock easily into the heart of the dale, many of them coming with the first cycling machines. From Middleton station, “commodious open conveyances” ran to High Force (fare: one shilling) and Langdon Beck Hotel (fare: 1s 6d). From the hotel, they were guideposts across the fells leading the way to Cauldron Snout – although many bands of explorers engaged local people to act as Sherpas to help them reach the waterfall where the plank bridge required “nerve and intrepidity to pass”.

As well as sight-seers, the unique landscape around Cauldron Snout attracted botanists to look for rare plants like bog whortleberry and bog sandwort. But so many botanists took home souvenir specimens that by the end of the 19th Century, the rare fern woodsia ilvensis had become extinct and even the whortleberry was struggling.

In 1968, Alfred Wainwright, the great walker, described Cauldron Snout as “a tremendous spectacle, a torrent of angry, cascading waves, white with rage”, but he didn’t mention the bridge, so by then it must have gone.

Despite its danger, that’s a shame – although the awe-inspiring grandeur of Cauldron Snout as it churns the tea-brown waters of the Tees into a foamy, frothy lather is still free for all to see.

MICHAEL’S book, The Discovery of Teesdale, published by The History Press, is still available. Many thanks to everyone who gets in touch with Memories – for example, a titbit from David Oliver launched us into the royal love story, although any genealogical mis-countings in the article are our own.

Last week’s mention of “riding the stang” has excited a lot of comment and explanation, and other popular topics that are still in the pipeline are cruck houses, Brusselton folly and the first passenger railway fatality.

In the meantime, next Saturday, Chris Lloyd is giving a little talk to commemorate the publication of his latest book, Darlington in 50 Buildings, in Darlington library. There’ll be five minutes each on five buildings from the 50, plus an exhibition of pictures of all 50 from the library collection. The talk will last about 25 minutes and will start at 11am, noon and 1pm so please drop in and have a break from Christmas shopping and a mincepie.