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An Elizabethan country squire, a gentleman of some local prestige in the north of Leicestershire, married twice and had nine children. He died in 1606, three years after his great Queen. Much of the time since then descendants of his have managed — occasionally they have bungled — the affairs of England, and he, not Elizabeth I (who was unmarried and childless), was the ancestor of Elizabeth II. Sir Winston Churchill was the twelfth of our Prime Ministers — out of the 43 who have held office since Walpole — descended from him.

The squire was called Sir George Villiers, and the number of PMs descended from him is now reckoned to be 16 out of 54, with Cameron the most recent of these. I do not pretend that any simple moral should be drawn from this fact. But the existence of this and of the various other connections described by Bloomfield, including the great Quaker connection deriving from Robert Barclay, and the Wedgwood-Darwin connection, at least suggest it would be absurd to suggest someone could not be a scientist just because he or she is descended from scientists, or a prime minister just because he or she is descended, along with perhaps 50,000 other people, from Sir George Villiers.

In the United States, the sixth president, John Quincy Adams, was the son of John Adams, the second president, and in more recent times, the 43rd president was the son of the 41st: the two Bushes, who indicate that even today, voters have no insuperable aversion to such a link.

We want our prime minister to possess a paradoxical collection of qualities; to be at once ordinary and extraordinary, conventional and innovative, safe and audacious, banal and brilliant, a follower and a leader, sensitive to every change in the political weather but tough enough to endure terrible setbacks, on the side of the people but able to build a cabinet from members of the political class. Or as Walter Bagehot put it in 1856, when reviewing Peel’s Memoirs,

A constitutional statesman is in general a man of common opinions and uncommon abilities . . . the most influential of constitutional statesmen is the one who most felicitously expresses the creed of the moment, who administers it, who embodies it in laws and institutions, who gives it the highest life it is capable of, who induces the average man to think, “I could not have done it any better if I had had time myself.”

That is the test Theresa May is just now struggling to pass with Brexit. She looks dreadfully weak, but the average person probably takes a more favourable view of her than envious and superior pundits are inclined to do. All prime ministers need the fortitude to cope with being weak, and this at least she displays in ample measure. It is not impossible she will be looked back on with sympathy rather than with scorn.
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