|“||It is? I'm a stinking Papist now, like you?||”|
— William, Voyager
On the day of William Ransom's birth, he lost not only his mother, Geneva Dunsany, but also his father, the Earl of Ellesmere, whose official cause of death was 'misadventure'. Geneva was a young lady whose family arranged her marriage to the much older earl, and she died from childbirth complications soon after William was born. As a result of their dual passing, William was raised by his mother's sister, Isobel, and her husband, Lord John Grey. He referred to his aunt and her husband as his step-mother and step-father, respectively.
Unbeknownst to Willie, his birth father was not the elderly Earl of Ellesmere at all, but Jamie Fraser. Geneva had blackmailed Jamie, who was serving his parole as a groom for the Dunsanys at the time, into sharing her bed and taking her virginity before she was to wed to Ellesmere. Their one-night stand resulted in her pregnancy with William.
Upon Geneva's death, the old earl demanded that the child be handed over to his keeping and informed Geneva's father, Lord Dunsany, that he knew the child was not his blood, but the result of cuckoldry. The two men were arguing when Jamie, summoned to stand by as intercessor to the quarrel, entered the room, pistol in hand. When Ellesmere threatened to throw the newborn William out of the window, Jamie shot Ellesmere and rescued William, and the earl soon died of his injury. The Dunsanys, seeking to keep the truth of this scandalous interlude under wraps, did not accuse Jamie at the coroner's court, where it was determined that the old earl's distress over his wife's death caused his own sudden demise, and the court concluded that Ellesmere met his death "by misadventure". Such a phrase was often used as a euphemism for an indelicate death, such as one by suicide, and no one questioned the court's verdict.
In the course of the third novel in the series, William is born to Geneva Dunsany and the eighth Earl of Ellesmere, both of whom die on the same day. Brief insights into his early childhood are imparted from Jamie's perspective, he in the precarious position of serving as groom at Helwater's stables while watching his illegitimate son grow up. While Willie is a spoiled child, raised largely by his grandmother, Lady Dunsany, and aunt Isobel, Jamie tries to treat him with a firm though cautious hand – William is an earl, after all – when he teaches Willie how to ride and behave around the horses. At the age of six, Willie's resemblance to Jamie, though not immediately obvious, becomes apparent under close scrutiny and Jamie decides it is time to leave Helwater. On his final day with Willie, who threatens revolt at Jamie's departure, Jamie performs a secret, impromptu Catholic baptism on Willie, christening him "William James". As a parting gift, Jamie gives Willie his beachwood rosary to remember him by.
A few years later, when Jamie and Claire are in Jamaica, Lord John tells Claire of how he came to be Willie's stepfather. Lord John had married Isobel Dunsany, and together they would raise William as a son.
Around the age of twelve, William left England with his mother, Isobel, to travel by ship to Jamaica, where they would join Lord John, governor of the island at the time. Isobel died on route of a bloody flux, and William arrived alone, grief-stricken. Upon his mother's death, he and Lord John received an inquiry from Mount Josiah plantation, Isobel's estate in Virginia, asking for instructions. Thence Lord John and William traveled by ship to Charleston, and overland to Virginia.
Much to the surprise of Claire and Jamie, the two make a diversion on their journey, and in October 1768 arrive at Fraser's Ridge, though of course William had no inkling of Jamie's true involvement in his own history. While on the Ridge, Lord John takes ill with the measles. To protect William from infection, Jamie takes him on an excursion to Anna Ooka, an Indian village, and they camp together on the journey. When they return to the Ridge, Lord John has begun recovering enough strength to continue with William to Virginia, and they leave.
William does not appear in person in The Fiery Cross. However, in the summer of 1771, he sends a package to Fraser's Ridge after his father, Lord John, bade him find an astrolabe in London to send for Jamie's use at the Ridge.
William meets Brianna MacKenzie, not knowing that she is in fact his half-sister but feeling as though she looks familiar. They spend some little time together before the MacKenzies leave and William returns to his regiment.
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As a child he was spoiled and hotheaded, as perhaps befits a young earl. As a young man in his late teens, William still has an impulsive streak with ample stubbornness to go with it. Although he behaves very correctly and politely in society, he has a tendency toward swearing while going about his military duties. As many young officers do, William has a strong desire to distinguish himself as soon as possible, both to prove his aptitude and wear in his new-looking uniform. Still, he has acquired a strong sense of honor from his stepfather, Lord John Grey, and he tempers his impulse to act quickly with the learned conduct of a man of honor.
While William bears a strong physical resemblance to Jamie Fraser, he inherited his coloring from his mother. His hair is a deep chestnut brown, though his beard grows in red, much to his horror. He has the slanted blue cat-eyes of the Frasers, as well as the tall height of the MacKenzies. He inherited certain mannerisms from his father, as well – certain gestures, a tilt of the head, set of the shoulders.
William bears a scar on his arm from his injury sustained in the Great Dismal.
William briefly meets Brianna MacKenzie in Wilmington in July 1776. He is unaware that she is in fact his half-sister. He enjoys her company and finds her a charming woman, with striking blue eyes – Brianna makes a lingering impression on him.
Dorothea Grey is the niece of William's step-father, Lord John Grey. In September 1776, William sends a letter to Lord John, in which he claims to be in love with Dottie and asks Lord John to talk to her father Hal about William's intention to marry her. In December 1777, it becomes clear that William and Dottie have conspired to get her to America, where she is reunited with Dr. Denzell Hunter, with whom she had fallen in love in London.
William meets Rachel Hunter in early summer 1777, when he is recovering from some wounds in her and her brother Denzell's house. Subsequently, he travels with the Hunters north and they become friends. William is attracted to Rachel, but doesn't act on it. They meet again in late 1777, when William brings Denzell to Philadelphia to treat his cousin.
In May/June 1778, William saves Rachel from Arch Bug twice. In mid-June, he meets her and Ian Murray and learns that they are engaged, which causes a fight between the two men, and William gets Ian arrested. Rachel is furious with William, calls him a coward and a brute, and slaps him. William forcefully kisses her and they part company on bad terms.
They meet again in late June, after the Battle of Monmouth, and help each other – Rachel takes care of William's acquaintances Jane and Fanny Pocock, while William transports her wounded fiancé Ian to Jamie Fraser.
William meets Jane Pocock in a brothel in Philadelphia in June 1778. Disturbed by the truth about his paternity, William becomes violent with her and storms out of the brothel. The next day, William pays to spend a night with Jane in order to save her from a repulsive client Captain Harkness.
A few days later, he meets Jane and her sister Fanny while they are leaving Philadelphia with the British army. Jane asks him for his protection. William agrees, under the condition that Jane won't be selling herself to anyone—including him—and that she will be William's laundress. He is going to escort her and Fanny to New York, where they will part company.
Jane and Fanny leave the British camp the morning after the Battle of Monmouth. William finds them, and they tell him how Jane killed Captain Harkness before leaving Philadelphia, and that they want to go to New York, but not with the British army. Rachel Hunter then takes the girls to a Quaker settlement, where they should be safe until William makes other arrangements.
In January 1779, a friend of Captain Harkness's recognizes Jane and denounces her for the murder. Jane is to be hanged. William tries to speak on her behalf to General Clinton, but futilely. As a last resort, William seeks Jamie's help. They break into the house where Jane is kept, and find that she has cut her wrists with a broken beer bottle.
- William comes from the Germanic name Willahelm, which was composed of the elements wil "will, desire" and helm "helmet, protection".
- Clarence comes from the Latin title Clarensis which belonged to members of the British royal family. The title ultimately derives from the name of the town of Clare in Suffolk. While it is possible that the place name is Latin in origin, its precise history is uncertain.
- Henry comes from the Germanic name Heimirich which meant "home ruler", composed of the elements heim "home" and ric "power, ruler".
- George From the Greek name Γεωργιος (Georgios) which was derived from the Greek word γεωργος (georgos) meaning "farmer, earthworker", itself derived from the elements γη (ge) "earth" and εργον (ergon) "work".
- Ransom is of early medieval English origin, and is a patronymic from the Middle English given name Rand(e), a short form of any of the various Germanic compound personal names with the first element "rand" meaning "shield, rim", for example Randolph. The surname dates back to the mid 14th Century.
- ↑ Age as of the end of Written in My Own Heart's Blood.
- ↑ Jamie christened him as such in Voyager
- ↑ There is some inconsistency in An Echo in the Bone:
- On June 12, 1777, Claire and Jamie Fraser and Ian Murray are at Fort Ticonderoga. Claire talks to Ian about his problems with having children, and he leaves the fort the next day (Chapter 35).
- On June 21, 1777, William Ransom is wandering through the Great Dismal (Chapter 36). A few days later, he is wounded and meets Ian Murray who helps him to get to a Quaker settlement in search of medical care (Chapter 37). William is tended by Denzell and Rachel Hunter (Chapter 38). William then travels with Rachel and Denzell north for some weeks and they part ways in New Jersey (Chapters 41–42). Denzell intends to join the Continental army as a surgeon.
- On June 18, 1777, Claire writes in a letter to Brianna and Roger from Fort Ticonderoga that Ian left the fort a month ago, and that "the new influx of recruits brought with it a young Quaker doctor named Denzell Hunter and his sister, Rachel" (Chapter 43).
- ↑ Behind the Name: William – Accessed 17 March 2014
- ↑ Behind The Name: Clarence- Accessed 07 April 2016
- ↑ She Knows: Clarence, meaning "bright; shining; gentle." - Accessed 07 April 2016
- ↑ Keith Briggs, 'Clare, Clere, and Clères', Journal of the English Place-Name Society, 41, 7-25 (2009)
- ↑ Behind The Name: Henry - Accessed 07 April 2016
- ↑ Behind The Name: George - Accessed 07 April 2016
- ↑ Name Origin Research Surname: Ransom – Accessed 17 March 2014