Wide currency was given to the rumour that Colonel Gibbes was a natural son of Frederick. Duke of York, second son of George the Third. The rumour went that his mother, a Gibbes, to avoid a scandal, married her cousin, John Gibbes, planter, who came from Barbadoes. Descendants of the last generation were all aware of the story, which they preferred not to be mentioned. Gibbes connexions who were not descended from the Colonel were glad they were not involved. One of the latter category, H.E. Gibbes, of Naremburn, wrote in 1956:
Although my surname is spelt with an "e", I am unconscious of any family connexion with Colonel J.G.N. Gibbes. In fact my mother was most emphatic that our family was totally different from that of the Colonel, who was said to have been an illegitimate descendant of the Duke of York.
Therefore I have been somewhat mystified on finding my own coat of arms in a memorial window in St. John's Church, Canberra - to Colonel Gibbes, I think.
It seems that the latter, like my own ancestors, must have been descended from one of three Gibbes brothers who settled in the West Indies from Bristol, England, before 1630. Their names were Philip, William, and Thomas. Philip was later baronetted. The title until recent years was held by Sir Edward Osborne-Gibbes of New Zealand.
Mrs Mary Makinson, grand-daughter of William Gibbes, the Colonel's second son, wrote from England in 1956:
Great-grandfather came from Barbadoes. Three brothers settled there in 1626. In the 18th Century a descendant was created a Baronet - the title is now extinct.
I am under the impression that great-grandfather's mother was a Gibbes who married a cousin of the same name. His claim to more illustrious parentage is not mentioned outside the family. His children received favoured treatment from George the Fourth, and had the Duke of York ascended the throne it is possible that Colonel Gibbes might have received similar benefits to those accorded William the Fourth's crop of Fitzclarences.
Davies, in his biography of George the Third, wrote of Frederick, Duke of York (born 1763):
The father's favourite son was Frederick, Duke of York. In his youth he was as wild as the Prince of Wales; but he never allowed his heart altogether to run away with his head. Now and then, it is true, he was involved in unpleasant "scrapes", but they were far less notorious than those of his eldest brother. When he was eighteen the King had sent him on a Grand Tour; and as a result of the time he spent in Germany he was in many ways the most "German" of the Royal family. He loved food and drink; he swore coarsely; he treated his mistresses shamefully; and then went about his business like any other man.
Frederick became known as "the grand old Duke of York" who, in his campaign against the Dutch, "marched his men to the top of the hill and marched them down again." The Registrar-General's Records (registration of death) show that John George Nathaniel Gibbes was born in London in 1787, son of "John Gibbes, Planter, mother not known."
After absorbing the precise details of their family tree appearing in genealogical records, the descendants of Colonel Gibbes must find it disconcerting to have such a shadow of doubt cast aver the scene. What lies behind these rumours they will never know, so they may as well choose the ancestor who captures their fancy.