I was born in New York City, the second of two children to Anne and Oliver Biddle. Both were born as Biddles. They were second cousins; their grandfathers were brothers. They were also fourth cousins (among their grandparents were second cousins too) and according to what I’ve been told, fifth cousins (I haven’t gone back in the genealogy to figure this one out).

As though that weren’t inbred enough, when my parents married, my mother Anne’s older sister, Constance, was already married to my father Oliver’s older brother Sydney. All of them were born Biddles.


This photograph was taken in front of the fireplace in the living room at Anne and Constance’s childhood home, Boxmead Farm, at that time presided over by their father, Alfred, their mother having died six years earlier. Constance’s three siblings are there, and Sydney’s two brothers are as well.

Constance’s younger sister, Anne, my mother, is standing to the right of Sydney, the groom. Constance’s next sibling, Julian, is standing on the far left. Constance’s youngest sibling, Sheila, is seated on the right.

Sydney’s older brother, Peter, is standing to the left of Constance, the bride; Sydney’s younger brother, Oliver, my father, is standing on the far right.

On the wall at the far left is a photograph of Alfred’s younger brother, Julian, who was a pilot in WW I and was lost when his plane went down in the English Channel, in August of 1917.


He was a member of the Lafayette Escadrille, a U.S. unit constituted in 1916 under French command, made up of American volunteers who came forward to fly for France during World War I. My mother always told me that her father, Alfred, spent his life trying to live up to the myth of his heroic younger brother.

My mother and father to-be, Anne and Oliver, had both been “members of the wedding” at Constance and Sydney’s marriage, in January of 1947. The morning after, Constance and Anne’s father, Alfred, walked in on Anne and Oliver in bed together. Anne and Oliver got married nine months later, in October. Their first child, my older sister, Julia, was born the following February.

Kelly Nowels