By Michael Hinman
The world continues to mourn the passing of Queen Elizabeth II while welcoming a new sovereign, King Charles III.
Charles waited 70 years to become king since being named the Prince of Wales — the heir apparent to the British throne. That’s longer than any other prince or princess in the direct line. And, at 73, he is the oldest monarch crowned in British history.
Like his mother, Charles chose to keep the name given to him at birth. His grandfather Albert was the last to change his regnal name, choosing George VI to honor his father.
King Charles III is the first Charles on the throne since Charles II, who reigned for 25 years after the restoration of the British monarchy from Oliver Cromwell in 1660.
The United States, of course, has been officially separated from what was once the British Empire since the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783. But I actually lived under the reign of Elizabeth II for two years when I called the small Caribbean island of Grenada home. Although independent from Britain, too, Grenada is part of the Commonwealth of Nations — 56 former territories that still recognize the British monarch as head of state.
Oddly enough, however, my family has a deeper connection to the throne — that is, if longstanding legend is to be believed.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Sgt. Edward Hinman, arrived in Boston from England in late 1649, eventually settling in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Although he and many of his descendants would help settle key parts of that colony, Sgt. Hinman rarely talked about his life before he crossed the Atlantic.
One story was popularized in the late 19th century, however, by Connecticut’s then-secretary of state, Royal R. Hinman. In a book he published in 1856, Royal claimed that his great-grandfather had actually led the guard tasked with protecting King Charles I, who took the throne in 1624.
If that story is indeed true, my ancestor wasn’t exactly a great kingsguard. The reign of Charles I ended abruptly in 1649 when he found himself on the wrong side of an executioner’s ax during Cromwell’s revolt. But it was that war — and that execution — that forced Edward to flee England and seek refuge in the colonies.
It’s a fascinating story, but one I didn’t even know until the coronavirus pandemic. While I’ve always been fascinated by genealogy, I usually spent my time researching my mother’s side of the family, which has some of its own interesting history. I shied away from my father’s because no one in the family ever talked much about it.
I suspected we migrated over in the 19th century, and decided it was time to find out. As I worked my way backward through ancestors, I was shocked to discover that each passing generation was still in America. Where I once thought I was a third- or maybe fourth-generation American, I am actually a part of the 10th generation of Hinmans here.
I also picked up some other fascinating tidbits along the way. My family moved from Connecticut to Vermont, and from there to western New York, about the same time that Royal Hinman was writing his books.
My great-great grandfather, Franklin Hinman, owned lots of farmland in Ellicottville, now probably best known as a ski resort community just south of Buffalo.
His youngest son — my great-grandfather, born when Franklin was 51 years old — was the postmaster in one of the small communities near Ellicottville. My dad was born and raised just south of there, in Salamanca, on reservation land controlled by the Seneca Nation of New York.
Despite that connection — and the fact that I still have a number of relatives in that part of the state — none of us knew that the land once owned by Franklin is now known as Hinman Valley. Well, more specifically, the Hinman Valley Wetland Complex, a 100-acre marsh and wet meadow overseen by the state’s environmental conservation and transportation departments.
As you’re reading this, I’m back home in that part of the region, and I could very well be making my first-ever visit to these lands so closely connected to my family’s history.
And I certainly hope for a successful reign of Charles III — something leaps and bounds ahead of the previous sovereigns to take his name.
But if I can make one suggestion to the king: Best to make sure your guard isn’t led by a Hinman. There isn’t good history there.
Michael Hinman is executive editor of the Herald Community Newspapers. Comments? Execeditor@liherald.com.