THE VILLIERS FAMILY TREE
At the age of 21, he paid his first visit to England a propitious moment since it was in England that he was to become famous and we have in a way adopted him historically as most people tend to think of him as an English painter.
During his stay in England he was fortunate enough to come into contact with the greatest art patron of the time, the Earl of Arundel who was only to be surpassed as a collector by Prince Henry and his brother Charles a few years later.
The Earl introduced him to James I who, either because of his own innate good taste or, perhaps the handsome countenance of young Anthony, who wanted to employ him as Court painter. For reasons unknown he declined and returned to his native town in 1622.
He did not return to England until 1632. That dear old dad and gossip as George Villiers habitually addressed him, was dead and so was his elder son, the brilliant Prince Henry. His younger son was now ruling as Charles I. If by Henry’s death we lost the perfect example of a Renaissance prince, we were not badly compensated by Charles who was to be known not only as a martyr for his throne, his religion and his people’s liberties, but also as the greatest art patron the world has ever known.
The Villiers Family
I have been asked to talk on Villiers Family History. It is I am afraid a rather complex subject as there are branches of the family in France and South Africa as well as England and Ireland.
The year 911 AD makes a good starting point, as I am sure you all know, that was the year Rolf the Ganger, the Viking Chief, made his first permanent settlement in France, near Rouen on the Seine. A Ganger, by the way, means “one who walks”. Rolf had to walk – he was so large no horse could carry him!.
The French King, Charles the Simple, in return for Rolf becoming his feudal vassal, and being converted to Christianity, made him Duke of Normandy. The ceremony at which this took place ended rather hilariously. Rolf was told he should kiss the foot of his new Liege Lord. With a few ripe Viking oaths, I do not doubt, he replied he had never kissed any mans foot and wasn’t going to begin now. However, he ordered one of his knights to do so for him. The Knight – perhaps his armour was rather tight – thought it would be easier if he lifted the Kings foot a bit, whereupon poor Charles sat down rather suddenly.
All ended well however. Rolf must have been forgiven, for Charles gave him his daughter Gisele in marriage. And that, I believe, was her only appearance in the pages of History. Today, if you raise the Clameur de Haro, it is probably Rolf who is the prince whom you call to your aid. Rolf’s son, William Longsword, later conquered Brittany and the Channel Islands.
I do not know whether there was a Villiers among those first Viking settlers, but if you follow the Seine upstream towards Paris and turn left into the river 1’Oise, past Pontoise, there is a town called 1’Isle Adam, near which is a village called Villiers-Adam. This is no longer Normandy; it is the Isle de France, and the Villiers family in the early days had a lot of property in those parts. The French Villiers de 1’Isle Adam is the senior branch of the family During the last Century there was a well-known author, Villiers de 1’Isle Adam.
Before I turn to the English branch of the Villiers family I would like to say a few words about the French branch and the Normans, as the Norseman or Vikings came to be called. They were an extraordinary and vigorous race. Robert Guiscard of Hauteville near Coutance, returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1216 was asked by a Monk at a Shrine to the Archangel Michael near Bari in Italy, to help bring law and order to the neighbourhood. Robert returned a year later with some forty friends and proceeded to conquer all Southern Italy. He became Duke of Apulia and made his nephew, Roger, Great Count of Sicily. That Norman Kingdom of Sicily lasted 300 years. Many of you have, I expect, see the lovely Norman Cathedral and Cloisters at Monreale near Palermo.
The Normans played a large part in the Crusades. The First Crusade was in response to an appeal to the pope from the Christian Emperor Alexius Comnenus of Constantinople for help against the invading Turks. However, in their enthusiasm for Christianity, (or perhaps with the hope that younger sons had, of advancing themselves and acquiring property and land) the Normans went on and Captured Jerusalem and the Holy Land, and set up the Norman Kingdom of Jerusalem. That was in 1099.
The Crusades have several interests for me personally. First of all the Villiers family Heraldic shield is the Red Cross of St George on a white Ground, on the Cross there are five gold escallop shells. Those escallop shells by tradition were granted to families who sent members to the Holy Land as Pilgrims or take part in a Crusade.
After about two hundred years that Norman Kingdom began to collapse with the capture and sacking of Jerusalem in 1244, but it was not till 1291, with the fall of Acre that the Christians were finally driven out of Palestine by the Muslim Turks. It was not till much later though, in 1453, that the Turks captured and occupied Constantinople, (Byzantium) and thereby ended the Christian Roman Empire in the East.
Both a John and a William Villiers were present at that battle for Acre. John was Master of the Hospitallers and was French, but William was, I expect, English. Driven out of the Holy Land the Hospitallers under John moved to Cyprus and later to Rhodes.
At Acre, Otto de Grandison, a Swiss follower of Prince Edward of England, later Edward 1, commanded the French in the defence of a section of the fortifications. More of him later.
Lastly, there was a famous Grand Master of the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem, to give them their full title, of the French Langue (or Tongue), Phillippe de Villiers de 1’sle Adam. You can see his emblem, a mailed gauntlet with a cloth draped over it, carved in stone, in several places in the Street of the Knights and elsewhere in Rhodes.
In 1522 the Turks under Suleiman the Magnificent laid siege to Rhodes, and after a terrific resistance the Knights were forced to surrender. But Suleiman was so impressed with their courage that he let them leave with flying colours. Under Grand Master Philippe they moved to Malta and his Tomb can be seen today in the Crypt under the Cathedral.
The Great siege of Malta by the Turks in 1565 is one of the most heroic and dramatic stories I know. The Knights under Grand Master La Vallette were eventually reduced to eating cats, dogs and rats. At last, at a meeting one night they came to the decision that they could not carry on; that they would have to surrender. But when morning dawned and they looked out to sea, they found Suleiman himself had also given up hope of conquest. His ships were on the horizon, sailing away.
We turn now to South Africa, where there is a very numerous branch of the Villiers family, as those of you who have visited that country will probably know.
They stem from a prominent branch of the French family that was settled around La Rochelle in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were Huguenots, living under the protection given Protestants by the Edict of Nantes of 1583. The Edict of Nantes was however revoked in the 1666 and Pierre de Villiers the elderly father, told his children that Catholic soldiers would arrive and that they would all be killed if they did not renounce their religion. The four sons, Pierre, Abraham, Jacques and Paul fled to Holland. Paul the youngest felt he could not go on, but the other three sailed for South Africa, to Cape town, which in those days were of course Dutch, on a ship 120 feet long, with a letter from the Chamber of Delft to the Governor recommending them as “skilled in viticulture and useful in promoting the wine making industry”. They married French girls out there and multiplied exceedingly. We once visited the original Villiers home in French Hoek near Paarl, and typical and delightful Cape Dutch house. So, members of the Villiers family were, in some degree, responsible for the South African wine industry and their delicious eating grapes.
I turn at last to England, “1066 and all that” though there is no evidence that any member of the Villiers family was actually with William of Normandy at the battle of Hastings. However, Aymer de Villiers by birth a Frenchman was Sewer to King Phillip the First of France. The Sewer (or Sever) was the Officer at Court responsible for the arrangements at the Kings table. Aymer was killed in Normandy about 1071. His son Guelf de Villiers was a follower of Duke William of Normandy, the King of England. Arnold de Villiers is recorded shortly after as owning property in York, Lincoln and at Brokesby in Leicestershire. They each had different Coats of Arms, but in the reign of Henry III, in 1216, Sir Richard de Villiers of Brokesby had as his shield, the Red Cross of St. George on a white Ground with the Five Escallop Shells and that has been the Villiers shield ever since.
We jump now to more historic times.
Sir George Villiers of Brokesby was born about 1550. Brokesby Hall, some few miles from Melton Mowbray, is now an Agricultural College, and the Church, with some rather lovely 18th Century Memorials, still exists. The village itself however, disappeared in the early 16th Century, de-populated like so many other at the time, by the transition from crops and agriculture to pasture farming for sheep and wool; the golden fleece.
Sir George Villiers married twice. By his first wife, Audrey Saunders, he had two sons and three daughters. The eldest son William inherited Brokesby and was created a Baronet, but the baronetcy became extinct with the death of the 3rd Baronet in 1711.
The second son was Sir Edward Villiers, who married Barbara St. John. They had four sons. Their eldest William, was Grandfather of Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland, Mistress of Charles II. Their youngest Edward, was Grandfather of Edward Villiers, 1st Earl of Jersey, my direct ancestor.
Old Sir George Villiers second wife was Margaret Beaumont, later created duchess of Buckingham in her own right. She was the mother of the famous George Villiers, First Duke of Buckingham, the favourite of Kings James1 and Charles 1. He was her third child. The first, a daughter, married the Earl of Denbigh; the second, John, was created Viscount Purbeck; and the youngest, Christopher, was made Earl of Anglesey.
George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham was born in 1592. He succeeded Robert Carr, the Earl of Somerset as the King’s favourite in 1615, aged 23, and was assassinated aged 36 in 1628. The House in Portsmouth where the assassination took place is, I believe, still standing, though I must confess I have not myself seen it. He had a remarkable career and must have been an extremely efficient individual.
From the time he became favourite to his death, he virtually ruled the whole Country on the Kings behalf; Home affairs, Foreign Policy, everything single handed, and at the same time retaining his position as favourite, not only with King James, but with his son Charles, as well.
Poor James, son of Darnley who was murdered and Mary Queen of Scots who was beheaded, with the connivance at the rate of her distant cousin, Queen Elizabeth, was scared stiff of being murdered himself. As a result, he spent most of his time hunting, avoiding getting too involved in public life. Buckingham’s foreign policy was dictated by the King’s wish to put his daughter Elizabeth of Bohemia, the winter Queen, and her husband Frederick back on their throne. The French dominated by Cardinal Richelieu, together with the Hapsburgs wanted to annex Bohemia.
Buckingham’s policy was to support the Calvinist uprising, get rid of Richelieu and, in affect, turn France Protestant. To do so he, in person, and his troops occupied the 1le de Re opposite La Rochelle.
It is a nice curiosity of history to speculate on what might have happened in Europe had he succeeded. He might have done so had he been able to keep his troops through another winter on the 1le de Re but he ran out of money to pay them.
The King’s the Country’s and the favourite’s finances were of course, in those days all jumbled up in an awful mess. Buckingham actually asked his mother if she could repay a loan of £6,000 (quite a large sum of money in those days), which he had made her to buy a house. Unfortunately, she had already spent the money and could not find the cash to repay the loan. As a result, Buckingham had to pack up his expedition and return home. Richelieu remained in power, and France remained Catholic. It was not long after his return to England that Buckingham was assassinated by Fenton at Portsmouth.
Buckingham, though famous for his courtesy, sadly has had a very bad press. Inevitably, as favourite he had many jealous rivals and enemies and he himself, his life cut short by assassination, had no opportunity to defend himself, no chance to write his reminiscence in his old age, like retired politicians of today.
Buckingham was very happily married to Lady Kitty Manners (of the Duke of Rutland’s family) and had three children. George, the second Duke, a brilliant but erratic character, poet, playwright and Politician, the “B” in Charles 11’s Cabal Ministry; Francis, who was killed during the Civil war, aged nineteen; and Susan who married Lord Denbigh and who was Grandmother of John Churchill, the great first Duke of Marlborough, ancestor of Winston Churchill. Old Sir George Villiers was also ancestor of Prime Minister William Pitt.
The second Duke came to Jersey with Charles II during his exile and nearly seized time, but under duress. He had offended the Lord Protector Cromwell and was ordered to be imprisoned at Mont Orgueil Castle. He had however, married Mary, daughter of General Fairfax, one of Cromwell’s favourite commanders, and Mary, a good wife, went and interceded with the Lord Protector and got her husband pardoned.
Another story I like about the second Duke is that at some pompous ceremony the King was described at great length, finishing up with “Defender of the Faith and Father of his People”. At which Buckingham, in a stage whisper commented “Or quite a lot of them, anyway”.
His end was rather sad. Politically disgraced, he retired to his home at Helmseley near Kirkbymoorside in Yorkshire, caught a chill out hunting and died aged 58 – one presumes of pneumonia.
I turn now to the first Duke’s elder half brother Sir Edward Villiers, old George Villiers of Brokesby’s second son by his first wife.
Edward is important in family history on three counts. As a result of his marrying Barbara St John, the Grandison Viscountcy came into the Jersey family. Her uncle’s connection with the crusade, Otto de Grandison, whom I referred to earlier, inspired the choice of the title. Lastly, his granddaughter was the famous Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, Charles II’s mistress.
Barbara St John’s uncle, Oliver St John, was created Viscount Grandison for his work as chief Governor of Ireland (Ireland was a trouble spot long before Cromwell’s campaign). As he had no son to succeed him when he died, by special remainder in the grant of the title, the Viscountcy went to the male heirs of his brother’s daughter, that is to say, of his niece Barbara, who, as I have just said, married Sir Edward Villiers. So on the death of Barbara’s Uncle Oliver the first Viscount Grandison, William, her eldest son by Sir Edwards Villiers, became 2nd Viscount Grandison. (Edward Villiers, incidentally, was also involved in Irish affairs as President of the Province of Munster).
As to the choice of Grandison as a title. Sir Oliver St John, to call him by his original title, had inherited property at Lydiard Tregoz and Lydiard Millicent some few miles west of Swindon in Berkshire, which property had originally belonged to Otto de Grandison. Otto had left England when Edward 1 died in 1307. He did not get on with Edward 11, or that rather unsavoury character Piers Gaveston. So he returned to Switzerland to his family home, Chateau Grandson on Lake Neuchatel, a few miles north of Geneva, where he died in 1328. Incidentally, it is probable that Otto was the hero of the legend that a knight sucked the poison from a wound Prince Edward received at the Battle for Acre.
Otto de Grandison comes also into the History of the Channel Islands. Edward Prince of Wales was made Lord of the Isles, but transferred his title to Otto de Grandison in1275. He held it for fifty years through it was only when he was nearly ninety that he actually visited the Islands. The title enabled him to demand revenues from the Islands, a rent of 500 Marks, a large sum of money, and it seems that these payments to an absentee Governor greatly encouraged the Islanders in establishing their own independent type of Government.
Sir Edward Villiers and his wife Barbara had four sons, three of whom succeeded to the Grandison title, the fourth; another Sir Edward was father of the first Earl of Jersey. The eldest, William 2nd Viscount Grandison was father of Barbara, who was made Duchess of Cleveland by Charles 11. The second son (the 3rd Viscount) had no children, but the third son who became4th Viscount Grandison was succeeded by his grandson, his son having died before him. This grandson therefore became the 5th Viscount, and when he died without male heirs, the title reverted to the descendant of Edward, the youngest of the four brothers, who then, 1766, was William, 3rd Earl of Jersey. He thus added to his other titles, that of 6th Viscount Grandison. The 1st Earl of Jersey was created an Earl in 1697, but had been Baron Villiers of Hoo in Kent, and Viscount Villiers of Dartford in 1692. That is how and why we have both Villiers and Grandison as Viscountcies in the Jersey family.
Those early Grandison’s also had property in Ireland,
but the story of the Villiers family of Dromana is too complicated to go into
We turn now to Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland. She was the only daughter of William Villiers, 2nd Viscount Grandison, and his wife Mary Rich, daughter of Viscount Bayning.
William was killed in the Civil War, fighting for Charles I, at the siege of Bristol in 1643.
Barbara had married Roger Palmer in April 1659. He was created Earl of Castle Maine in1661. It seems she was sent by the Royalist faction in England as a Messenger to Charles 11 in exile, and when he returned to England at the Restoration in1660, she came with him as his Mistress. Charles was born in May 1630, so at that date he was 30 and Barbara was 18 or 19 years old.
Charles acknowledged fourteen illegitimate children altogether, of whom Barbara bore him six. The full list my be of interest and is as follows:
Charles II’s religious beliefs are rather doubtful. He said he didn’t want to go on his travels again, and obviously agreed with the idea that his Throne was worth a Mass. It is probable that he died a Catholic. His brother James Duke of York, was, however, very definitely a professing Catholic.
James firstly married Anne Hyde, Lord Clarendon’s daughter. She had eight children, only two of whom survived her when she died of dropsy in1671. Mary who was then aged 9 and Anne aged 6. As Charles had no legitimate children, Mary his niece, was heir to the throne. She and her sister had been brought up Church of England, and Parliament was determined they should remain so. So when their father James announced two years later his betrothal to Catholic, Mary of Modena, their Uncle, King Charles, knowing the people of England would not accept a Catholic as Monarch, for practical reasons, agreed.
As a result the Princesses Mary and Anne were put into care
of a staunch Protestant, Lady Villiers, born Lady Frances Howard, daughter
of the Earl of Suffolk. Her husband was that same Sir Edward Villiers, who
three elder brothers had succeeded in turn as 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Viscounts Grandison.
The eldest son of Edward and Frances was the future Earl of Jersey.
The children with whom Mary and Anne were then brought up were: -
To anticipate for a moment: When Mary and William came to the
throne of England in 1689, she made Edward her Master of the Horse and he continued
at Court and in Politics most of his life serving William after Mary’s
Princess Mary Stuart, born 1662 was aged 15 in 1677, when she married her cousin, William Duke of Orange. She took with her as one of her Ladies in Waiting, Elizabeth Villiers, whom Dean Swift once said was “the wisest woman he ever met”.
I don’t know if what follows had given rise to that opinion but Betty followed her cousin Barbara’s example and became the King’s mistress. Unlike Barbara though, she kept a low profile. Poor Mary as Queen was left to run the two countries, England and Holland, while Betty Villiers consoled William during his campaign against Louis XIV of France.
Betty Villiers is reputed never to have used her influence to get appointments and Promotions for her customary for one in her position. When Queen Mary died in 1694 of smallpox, William continued on the throne, but his advisers told him that it was acceptable to have a mistress while the Queen, his wife, was alive, it was undesirable once she was dead. So he married off Betty to one of his Generals, Lord George Hamilton, son of the Duke of Hamilton.
Now his family had property in the Orkneys and on the 3rd January 1696, George and Betty Hamilton were made Earl and Countess of Orkney. The King also tried to settle the vast properties of James 11 in Ireland on Betty, worth reputedly several million pounds, but Parliament thought it excessive and refused to confirm the Gift.
As mentioned above, in 1697 Edward, who was then Viscount Villiers, and his brother-in-Law Portland, were sent by William 111 to the States General in France to negotiate what became the treaty of Ryswick, and at the same time created him Earl, perhaps to enhance his Standing at the French Court.
I am afraid however, in spite of all my efforts, I have never been able to discover why Edward Villiers chose the title of Earl of Jersey.
The family had no property here until I brought Radier, and no member of the Villiers family filled any official position in connection with the Island.
The earlier titles Baron Villiers of Hoo and Viscount Villiers of Dartford 1691, relate to properties the family had in Kent. The Treaty of Ryswick itself has no bearing on the Channel Islands.
One would presume there must be some reason for the choice. Perhaps someone will find a gossipy letter of the period, which will give the answer. If so please let me know.
I have sometimes wondered if, when he made Edward Villiers an Earl on 13th October1697, not so long after his sister Betty became a Countess, William said “I’m going to keep you two rascals as far apart as possible; Betty, you’re Countess of Orkney – Edward, I’ll make you Earl of Jersey right down in the Channel Islands”.
I have always thought of William as rather a severe character and lacking a sense of humour, but I may be unfair.
King William died in 1702 and was succeeded by his sister in law Princes Anne, who of course who had been brought up with Mary with the Villiers family. Edward, Earl of Jersey had been made Lord Chamberlain by William in 1700 and continued in that office under Anne but was removed in 1704 as being too High Tory. Later he was nominated Lord Privy Seal in 1711 but died before taking office.
Anne was, I always think a rather pathetic character. She married Prince George of Denmark in 1683. But he was only her “Consort” and unlike her sister Mary’s husband, William, could never come to the Throne. He died in 1708. She had five children. The first died of a fever aged 11, the rest as infants. Infant mortality was ghastly in those days even among Royalty. Anne herself died in 1714 without heirs, so the throne went to the great grandson of James 1, the elector of Hanover who became George I.
Edward Villiers had married Barbara Chiffinch, daughter of William Chiffinch, Groom of the Back Stairs to Charles II. Barbara not unnaturally was a keen supporter of the Stuarts and when James went into exile in 1688 she followed him to St. Germain, his mothers home outside Paris. There he set up Court in exile and established his own Peerage. He died in 1701.
His son, known as Jacobites as James III, or the Chevalier St. George, who was the Old Pretender of the 1715 Rebellion, continued the practice, he made Barbara, already Countess of Jersey in the English Peerage as wife of the first Earl, a Countess (of Jersey) in his own Peerage in exile. William, the 2nd Earl, he also made an Earl, both in 1716.
Presumably, they had been up to some mischief connected with the uprising of 1715 but I don’t know what it was.
James’s son, Prince Charles Edward, Charles III to the Jacobites, was of course Bonny Prince Charlie, the young Pretender of “45 Rebellion, and his (James’s) brother Henry Benedict known as King Henry IX but more usually as the Cardinal Duke of York was the last surviving descendant of James II, not dying until 1807.
To return to King Charles II and Chiffinch – a few years ago – 1968 to be precise – Lord Clifford gave dinner at the House of Lords to celebrate the Tercentenary of Charles II’s Cabel ministry of 1668. He invited the descendants of the members of Cabal, Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley and Lauderdale. Lady Jersey and I went representing Buckingham.
Lord Clifford had on display the two versions of the Secret Treaty of Dover of 1670, by which Charles received 40,000 Louis d’Or a year from the French, on his promise to support Louis against the United Provinces and try to turn England Catholic again. One copy contained the clause to this effect, but the other, which was for the especial benefit of Buckingham, a staunch Protestant, it was omitted.
The other point I found interesting was that William Chiffinch, father of Barbara, wife of 1st Lord Jersey, on behalf of the King, had signed a receipt for 40,000 Louis d’Or. I always wonder how he managed to smuggle all that gold back to the King in England without being caught out and questioned.
Another branch of the Villiers family is the Hyde-Villiers branch, the Earl of Clarendon’s family name. The second son of the 2nd Lord Jersey, born 1709, was a Diplomat in Poland, Saxony, Vienna and Berlin, and also a Lord of the Admiralty. He was given a Peerage in 1776. He married Charlotte, a descendant of Charles 11’s Lord Clarendon, the one whose daughter, Anne was the first wife of James 11 and mother of Queens Mary and Anne. In her honour he double-barrelled her ancestor’s family name with his as Hyde-Villiers, and chose as his title to revive the Earldom of Clarendon.
Now some scandal! Some of you may have seen, some 12 months ago, a television programme on the life of George Prince of Wales, later Prince Regent and eventually King George IV. Frances Lady wife of the 4th Lord Jersey, played a prominent, if not very edifying part. She was the Prince’s mistress and when in 1795 poor Caroline of Brunswick came to England to be bride to George, he, rather tactlessly, sent Frances to meet the Princess and to be her Lady in Waiting. In the circumstances, is it very surprising if Frances did not carry out her duties with great enthusiasm.
Caroline was young and very unsophisticated and the Prince soon separated from her.
Lady Jersey was Frances Twysden, posthumous daughter of Philip Twysden, Bishop of Raphoe in Ireland.
I don’t know how much of Twysden’s time was spent as a Bishop or in Ireland, but he had a house in Surrey and spent some of his time as a Highwayman. He had a long twisting drive to the house, and it is said that during dinner he would find time to remove the powder from the pistols of his guests, take a short cut across the park when they left, and hold them up on the Highway. Eventually one young man checked his guns, reloaded them, and the Bishop, if he preached a sermon the following Sunday, did so with his arm in a sling.
Frances was, apparently, tiny and at a Banquet once had herself served up to the Prince in a pie dish.
Poor Prince George – he had a very, very strict upbringing; he was emotionally rather unstable, and had a passion for older woman, a sort of mother complex. His first love was Perdita Robinson, the very beautiful actress; then in 1785 he married secretly Maria Fitzherbert, a widow older than himself; some five or six years later he took Lady Jersey as his mistress. Aged 44, she was nine years older than him and mother of eight children.
One of them was Harriet who married Richard Bagot. He unlike
his wife’s disreputable grandfather, the Bishop of Raphoe, became a very
respectable Bishop of Bath and Wells. There must be a moral there somewhere.
The next Countess of Jersey, Sarah Sophia, was a very different character. She was born in 1785, married the 5th Lord Jersey in 1804, and was a great London hostess, the leader of Almack’s, the fashionable ladies club of the day.
Her mother, Sarah Anne, was the only child of Robert Child the Banker of No1 Fleet Street and Osterley Park, the Adam house just outside London, which, after the last war, I gave to the National Trust. It is now run by the Victoria and Albert Museum and is open to the public. Her father had hoped she would marry a commoner who would take the name of Child and succeed him at the bank. However, to her parent’s distress, she eloped with John Fane, Earl of Westmoreland and married him at Gretna Green. A second, more official marriage was held at St George’s, Hanover Square. Her poor father, shortly afterwards died of remorse it is said. As a result of her elopement and to punish Westmoreland, I suppose, he left the Bank and Osterley to his eldest Granddaughter, Lady Sarah Sophia Fane, who married the 5th Earl of Jersey. Some years later her mother remarried, with Lord Ducie. Sarah Sophia became the proprietor and senior partner of Child’s Bank. A nice touch is that she had the Bank’s annual accounts drawn up on her Birthday. London Society was however, I suspect, of greater interest to her than Banking. Under its constitution in those days anyone joining the staff of Child’s, after a period of probation, and if they lived long enough and stayed in the Bank, became a Partner. It is described as Telford’s Bank in Dickens Tale of two Cities, and was little changed when I started my Banking career there in the 1930’s.
The family links with the Bank continued in that my eldest son worked there for some time, about ten years ago, and his son has a Bank account there to preserve our connections.
This year 1984, Child’s Bank at the Sign of the Marygold at Temple Bar, celebrates the 400th Anniversary of the founding by William Wheeler of the Goldsmith’s business, which in due course became Child’s Bank.
The first of the Child family to join the firm was Francis, a young man from Wiltshire. In 1671 he married the boss’s daughter and in due course inherited the business, gradually changing over from Goldsmithing to Banking. He was knighted and became Lord Mayor of London 1698 / 99, as also did his son, another Sir Francis in 1732.
Sarah Sophia was a great admirer of the Duke of Wellington. His niece Lady Priscilla Wellesley had in fact, married Sarah’s brother, like his father another John, Earl of Westmoreland. One story about the Duke I rather like; I expected at her London House, 28 Berkeley Square, also like Osterley, decorated by Robert Adam. An ante-room was littered with presents. The great Duke arrived rather late and realised he had forgotten the occasion of the party and had brought nothing. Never at a loss, he picked up a China Vase as he went through and presented it to his hostess with due solemnity. “Oh, how delightful” said Sarah, “the Duchess of So-and-So gave me one just like it. I must go and put them together and make a pair”.
Lord Jersey, Sarah Sophia’s husband’s great interest was racing and breeding horses; he won the Derby three times in the 1930’s with Middleton, Bay Middleton and Mameluke. He died in1859 (Sarah Sophia did not die until 1867) and was succeeded by his eldest son who had married Julia, daughter of Sir Robert Peel. Alas, three weeks later he too died. The result was that their son, my Grandfather, went to Eton one half as the Hon. Victor Albert George Child-Villiers, the next, I presume, as Viscount Grandison, and the third as the 7th Earl of Jersey. Most confusing to the authorities.
My Grandfather was christened Victor Albert after the Queen and Prince Consort. The Queen was publicly signifying that she was taking Sir Robert Peel back into Royal Favour by being Godmother to his Grandson. My Grandfather grew up and in due course married Margaret Elizabeth, daughter of Lord Leigh of Stoneleigh Abbey. That house has recently been restored after a fire and is open to the public. The grounds are the venue of the Royal Agricultural Society of England’s big Cattle and Agricultural Shows.
I can just remember my Grandfather. He had been lieutenant Governor of New South Wales, he was interested in the development of Railways and became a pillar of Victorian society. He died when I was six. My Grandmother I new well; she died aged 96 in1945. Full of anecdotes of her life in Australia, (she was one of the founders and first President of the Victoria League), of visits with friends to Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa; of garden Parties at Osterley with all the trappings of a style of life now long past.
One story she told me about a member of the Peel family – I don’t know which, but they were all very rich. Someone asked him why he had got engaged to a wealthy but rather plain looking girl when he could have married a beauty. He answered, “I’ve always been afraid of someone marrying me for my money, and my fiancée has felt the same, so it suits us both”.
My father inherited the title in his turn in 1915. He had married Lady Cynthia Needham of Mourne Park in Ireland, where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea. He became of course Senior Partner and Proprietor of Childs Bank, but his Executors sold it to Glyn Mills & Co. of 67 Lombard street and are now part of the Williams and Glyn’s complex. In addition, he inherited Osterley, Middleton Park near Bicester in Oxfordshire, and property at Briton Ferry near Swansea, in South Wales. Those of you who know Swansea may have been to Jersey Marine. He also was very keen on racing and was for some years Senior Steward of the Jockey Club. He kept a large stud at Chesterton near Middleton. Unfortunately, his best horse Greenback only came second in the Derby of 1910.
At Middleton, the house, the home farm, the Estate and the Village were an almost self supporting community in those days. I remember there were about 30 staff in the house when my parents moved in, 10 more in the Gardens and 10 on the Estate. Nearly all were from the Village where Sarah Sophia had founded a school for training Domestic Servants now, needless to say, closed down.
My father died aged 50 in 1923 when I was 13, and I, in my turn, succeeded as the 9th Earl of Jersey. And that, I think, an appropriate point to bring these remarks to close.