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Fitzwilliam Darcy and the Godolphin Arabian

Sea Biscuit, Man o’ War, War Admiral…these are the names of some of the most famous race horses of all time and while there may be six degrees of separation for everything and everyone, at first glance, there may not seem to be much connection between them to Jane Austen.

My daughter (along with at least half of the seven year old girl population) is currently fascinated by horses and I recently picked up Marguerite Henry’s King of the Wind for her to read. The story is a fictionalized account of the Godolphin Arabian. I had not realized that it was a true story when I first began to peruse it, but I quickly became engrossed in the story, which reads like any fairy tale (and, of course, has a happy ending!)

The Godolphin Arabian, painted by George Stubbs, some time before 1806.
The Godolphin Arabian, painted by George Stubbs, some time before 1806.

According to Wikipedia, “the Godolphin Arabian (c. 1724 – 1753), was an Arabian horse who was one of three stallions that were the founders of the modern Thoroughbred horse racing bloodstock (the other two are the Darley Arabian and the Byerley Turk). He was given his name for his best-known owner, Francis Godolphin, 2nd Earl of Godolphin.

The Godolphin Arabian was foaled about 1724 in Yemen, but moved several times before reaching England. At some time in his early years, he was exported, probably via Syria, to the stud of the Bey of Tunis. From there he was given to Louis XV of France in 1730. It is believed he was a present from monarch to monarch. Even so, he was not valued by his new French owner, and it is believed he was used as a carthorse.

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