The Moons and the Greshams - a short family history

If Sunny were so inclined, she could trace her family history back to the Norman Invasion of 1107. But the Moon family first began to come to prominence in the seventeenth century when William Moon and Hortense bought a farm in South Oxfordshire, not far from present-day Goring and Streatley.

The Moons were typical yeoman farmers - minor landowners with a few good fields and a family pew halfway down the nave of the village church, well behind the squire's. But there was something about them. Something special, you might say. They were a little more hard-working, a little shrewder, a little more ambitious than their neighbours, and as time passed they built up their fortunes, making strong progress in the good years and not falling back very far when times were hard.

By the end of the twentieth century they were prosperous landowners and in a position to consider entering Society - the greater world that had its home in London. But they were still farmers, workers and countrymen at heart.

Until the twenty-year-old Ronald Moon, seeing that his father had many years of working life ahead of him and not particularly enjoying farming, decided to go to sea, despite family objections. He was just as clever and energetic as his forebears and he made swift progress up the rigid naval command structure, becoming a full four-ring captain at the very early age of thirty-five. This was exceptional, for Brytain was a nation at peace.

Ronald might have continued in his naval career, and risen to the very top of the tree, if he had not met, at a Consular party in Lisbon, Lady Cora Gresham.

The Greshams were always aristocrats. They had possessed dukedoms and earldoms across the length and breadth of Brytain since the Invasion and their wealth was incalculable. But every family has its rich and poor members, and the branch of the Greshams to which Cora and her ten years older sister Sybil belonged was very far from being wealthy. No Gresham would ever starve or be reduced to seeking Parish Relief, but the allowance that trickled down to Sybil and Cora was meagre indeed. They had no real home of their own, but were obliged to rely on the charity of their their better-off relatives. It was while travelling with a cousin in the Diplomatic Corps - a rare treat, indeed - that Cora - pale, delicate, ethereally beautiful Lady Cora - met the bluff, hearty but also kindly and considerate Ronald Moon.

He wooed her in his rough and ready style and she responded in her own, altogether more refined, manner. They were married in St Anselms Church, in Goring. The Greshams sent a spare Marquis as a place-holder. Cora lost her title.

But not for long. As I have said, the Moons were ambitious and Ronald, at his father's prompting, left the Navy and stood for Parliament. The combination of his energy and intelligence and Cora's family connections enabled the Moons finally to get a foothold in Brytish politics and enter an entirely new stratum of society. It was a love-match, Ronald's and Cora's, but it was also the alliance that both families needed.

Gerald Gresham Moon was born two years after Ronald and Cora were married. Their daughter Sonya Clarice Moon followed five years later, a gap explained by Ronald's frequent absences at the Great Parliament. By this time, Ronald Moon had received his knighthood and his wife had become Lady Cora once more.

And then, when Sonya was twelve, Cora died of consumption. She had never been strong. It was at this time that Sybil Gresham came to live permanently at Sunny's home intending, as she saw it, nothing but good.

Losing her mother at such a critical age had a terrible effect on Sonya. Her specialness was just emerging at that time, and she would have benefited greatly from a mother's advice and understanding. She could never confide in her father - his grief was too deep for that - and it was her beloved elder brother Gerry she told when it became clear that she would always be crucially different from other girls of her age. Brother and sister became closer than ever as a result.

Then came the conflict we now know as the Holy War. Gerry was lost at sea only a couple of days after the fighting started. This was a second blow for Sunny and her father. By now, Sir Ronald Moon was next in line to the Prime Minister and might reasonably have been expected to assume the leadership of his country some day, but when reserve officers were recalled to service he set aside the protections which his position as a cabinet minister afforded him and went back to his ship. In many ways he had never left her.

In the light of her brother's and her father's examples, it is no surprise that Sunny ran away from Highdean School and joined the Ambulance Brigade. She neatly embodied the attributes of both the Gresham and the Moon families. She had her mother's beauty and her father's intelligence and determination.

And she always got her way...