Time and again superstar singer Beyonce has topped polls as the world’s most beautiful woman.
Few who saw the front cover of the most recent edition of Vogue, which featured a dramatic photo of the multimillionaire music icon posing in floral headdress and white Victorian-style dress, would care to disagree.
Just as captivating was the remarkably candid interview that accompanied it, in which the usually reserved Beyonce opened up about her black, white and mixed-race ancestors who hailed from Louisiana, in America’s Deep South, where a brutal slave trade flourished for nearly 150 years until abolition in the middle of the 19th century.
Beyonce explains to Vogue that her family has had its ups and downs, particularly with relationships.
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Beyonce’s family tree stretching back to her great-great-great grandmother in 1800s Louisiana has shown that the singing superstar is descended from slaves
Then she drops a fascinating bombshell: ‘I researched my ancestry recently and learned I come from a slave owner who fell in love with and married a slave.’
It was a remarkable discovery, one the Mail has investigated further and found that she is indeed descended from slaves.
We have traced Beyonce’s family tree back to 1800 and found her great-great-great grandmother, a black slave called Rosalie Jean Louis who was born that year.
According to U.S. records, she escaped from a terrible life of slavery by marrying Joseph Lacey, a well-off white American merchant. The fact he owned slaves has not been confirmed by historical records.
However, given the widespread prevalence of slave ownership among the population of Louisiana at the time and his relative wealth, this could certainly be the love match between a slave owner and a slave to which Beyonce referred in her interview.
One record shows that Rosalie’s own mother was also likely to have been a slave called Louis Mary Jean, who was not even given a surname by her slave master.
Sadly, no picture of Rosalie or Joseph has survived. However, we do know that in 1830 they had a daughter, Celestine Josephine Lacey.
Known to her family as ‘Tine’, she grew up to be a handsome woman with the same striking eyes as Beyonce.
Celestine Josephine Lacey, seen right and known to her family as ‘Tine’, grew up to be a handsome woman with the same striking eyes as Beyonce. Sadly no photo of Tine’s mother Rosalie survives
In the picture of her as a young woman, she looks serenely at the camera and wears a finely embroidered dress with scalloped sleeves and neckline which shows off her perfect figure and tiny waistline.
What happened next to Tine, the woman in this photograph, is a particularly intriguing part of the story of Beyonce’s ancestry.
For this mixed-race girl became the life-long mistress of a married man of French descent called Eloi Rene Rosemond Broussard, who had set up a farm in the thriving sugar plantations of Louisiana where by 1860, four years before abolition in Louisiana, 331,000 slaves toiled under the sun.
Tine was the life-long mistress of a married farmer of French descent called Eloi Rene Rosemond Broussard, with whom she had 13 children. One record implies the two may have married after Eloi’s wife’s died
Eloi had married conventionally enough in 1845, when he was 24, to a local girl called Rose Hebert. They went on to have two children.
However, in what must have provoked raised eyebrows at the time, Eloi hired mixed-race Tine as the family’s housekeeper, whereupon the two became lovers and over the years had 13 children, one a daughter named Odelia, who was the great-grandmother of Beyonce.
According to U.S. genealogist Christophe Landry, who uncovered the illicit liaison: ‘Eloi and Tine’s story is not one of rape. It is one of an open and acknowledged relationship.
‘Although Eloi had married Rose, he spent most of his adult years in open concubinage with Tine.’
Landry says Eloi and Tine never married. ‘The couple, unlike many others, did not take advantage of the 1868 Louisiana constitution which permitted inter-racial marriages,’ he says in a blog on Beyonce’s heritage.
‘But Eloi acknowledged paternity of all of his 13 children with Tina in their birth and marriage records.’
He also attended all the civil and church ceremonies for their brood of children, when he formally stated that he was the natural father of the son or daughter in question.
‘In addition, Eloi reared his children with Tine in his own home,’ says the genealogist. ‘He was present at the first of their children’s marriages in 1872 and the last before he died.’
To add to his remarkable story (for we can only wonder what his wife Rose thought of the arrangement) there is the theory that Tine — by then 43 — and Eloi, six years her senior, did marry at a ceremony in Iberia, Louisiana, in 1873.
A church record, which is disputed by Landry and other genealogists as a case of mistaken identity, has been found by the Mail. It states that their marriage took place a suitable amount of time after the death in 1865 of Eloi’s first wife, Rose.
It is yet another twist in this love story which, incredibly, survived the huge prejudices of the time against slaves, who had been brought by French settlers from Africa, and their descendants.
All this will now be known to Beyonce, who says in the Vogue interview that she is coming to terms with finding the truth of her extraordinary heritage. ‘I have processed the revelation (of slave ancestry) over time,’ she told the magazine.
Eloi died in 1904 at 79, but the woman recorded in U.S. census records as his ‘servant’ lived on.
The 1920 census recorded Tine as a single woman of 90 still living in Iberia, where she died two years later.
She left behind at least ten children still living. These included Odelia, who was by now 58 and had married Eugene Derouen, a self-employed farmer.
One of Tine’s 13 children was Odelia, right, who married Eugene Derouen, a self-employed farmer. The couple lived in Vermilion, Louisiana, where Odelia had 18 children, two of whom died. She never attended school and was unable to read and write. Both Eugene and Odelia are described in U.S. records as ‘mulatto’
At this stage, the fortunes of the family appear to take a dip. The couple lived in Vermilion, Louisiana, where Odelia had 18 children, two of whom died. She never attended school and was unable to read and write.
Both Eugene and Odelia are described in U.S. records as ‘mulatto’, a term of the time to describe people with one black parent and one white parent or two ‘mulatto’ parents.
One can only imagine the difficulties they faced in this part of America, riven as it was by racial tension.
However, their youngest child was to prove a remarkable success story. Agnes Derouen, Beyonce’s grandmother, was born in 1909 and went on to become a renowned and skilled seamstress in Louisiana.
Talented and self-taught, her fame spread throughout the state where she had a host of private clients.
She made their outfits stand out by decorating the fabrics she used with unique embellishments of embroidery, smocking, lace, beads and jewelled buttons.
Odelia’s youngest child was Agnes Derouen, Beyonce’s grandmother, seen right. Born in 1909 and went on to become a renowned seamstress in Louisiana. After her first marriage failed, she married a salt mine employee called Albert Lumas Buyince, left. They had seven children including Tina, Beyonce’s mother. Her surname is listed on her birth certificate as Beyonce, although she often uses the spelling Beyince.
Her first marriage at 17 failed but her second, to a salt mine employee called Albert Lumas Buyince, endured. She had seven children including Tina, the mother of Beyonce, who has become a successful entrepreneur. Her surname is listed on her birth certificate as Beyonce, although she often uses the spelling Beyince.
As Agnes prospered, she took her family off to Galveston in Texas, where the children were sent to private school.
In an interview with Ebony magazine, Tina once recalled that her mother made altar boy robes and other garments for the church so her children could attend Catholic schools.
In a sign of her admiration for Agnes, Tina named her fashion line House of Dereon — an adaptation of Derouen, her mother’s maiden name.
A picture of Beyonce and Tina showed the two promoting the business surrounded by racks of glossy outfits. In a large silver frame on the shelf beside them is a charming photograph of Agnes in her youth.
It has been placed prominently to catch the full attention of all who see the photograph.
Yet look at Agnes (pictured in the family tree) carefully. You can see the remarkable likeness to both Beyonce and her handsome great-great-grandmother, who was born the child of a slave.
In a sign of her admiration for Agnes, Tina named her fashion line House of Dereon. This picture of Beyonce and Tina showed the two promoting the business surrounded by racks of glossy outfits – being watched over by a large silver frame with a charming photograph of Agnes in her youth