Daphne du Maurierís French Ancestry and her novel The Glass Blowers
Daphne du Maurier (Copyright - United Press Photo/AFP)
Yesterday (Sunday 3rd July 2022), the BBC Radio 4
programme, Broadcasting House, included a fascinating five-minute piece about Daphne du
Maurier's French ancestry. On
the same day, the BBC News website published an article on the subject.
Until Daphne du Maurier began researching her French
ancestry, the family had believed they were descended from the French
aristocracy and that their ancestor Mathurin Robert (1759-1811) had fled France
and the threat of the guillotine during the French Revolution. The truth was known by his sister Sophie and
partly documented in her letters held by the family and now lodged with many
other du Maurier papers in the Special Collections archive at the University of
Exeter. Daphne's grandfather, George, is
said to have had some idea that these family stories were false, and this is
credible because he was a child when his Great Aunt Sophie was still alive and
is said to have met her, so she could have told him the truth of the case. However, he continued to perpetuate the story
of the aristocratic ancestors when he told his children family stories. George's son Gerald, Daphne's father, absolutely
believed that his ancestors were aristocratic owners of glassblowing businesses,
not workers in them, and told his daughters the family story.
Daphne's research and the letters that her three times great
aunt Sophie had written confirm that far from being an aristocrat, Mathurin
Robert Busson was a failed glassmaker who had escaped to England to avoid a
French debtors' prison. He added the
name du Maurier to his own to give him status, becoming Mathurin Robert Busson
du Maurier. The du Maurier part came
from the name of the farmhouse where his family had lived and worked Ė Le Maurier. Mathurin Robert was a thorough rogue, and
this is just one of many things he did that do him no credit at all!
Le Maurier, a small farmhouse where Maturan Robert Busson was born. The property still exhists today. (Copyright - James O'Mara)
Hugh Schofield presented Sunday's broadcast and also wrote
the article. He travelled to the Perche
region of France, where he followed in the footsteps that Daphne had journeyed
when she carried out her research during several visits to the area between 1955 and 1961. Hugh was
accompanied on his visit to the various locations by Anne Hall, an American academic
living in the Perche region and an expert on Daphne du Maurier's French
The ruins of
the old glass foundry at Ch‚teau de La Pierre
Both the broadcast and the article are fascinating
and bring lots of lesser-known information to light.
Broadcasting House is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 9am each Sunday
morning. This particular piece can be found,
about twenty minutes into the programme, at this link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0018wwc
To read the article, please click
Daphne du Maurier wrote two books set in France
in which she references the knowledge she gained while carrying out her family
history research. The first was The
Scapegoat, a novel with a plot that takes place against
the background of a family glassblowing foundry, published in the UK in 1957. The second was The Glass Blowers, based on her research into her glassblowing ancestors, published in
the UK in 1963.
Anne Hall has written two books on the history
of the du Maurier family.
Sur Les Pas De Daphne du Maurier: Au pays des souffleurs de verre, published by Editions du Cherche-Lune, France, in 2010.
The du Mauriers: Just as They Were, published by Unicorn Publishing Group, London, in 2018 and reviewed
on our website at the time of its publication.
To read our review, please click here.