Monday 2 May 2016

Gold Fever

It started as a long delayed job to tidy and finish a brief document about a lady in the 19th Century who had a full life and would be a nod to feminists who claim that there are many able and important women ignored in our history.  But as is the case, for completion, perhaps a few things needed to be checked for this and that.

This led me to Cecil Rhodes and the fact that his gold fields project nearly failed because his leading associate, James Rochfort Maguire, upset Lobengula, second and last King of the Northern Ndebele people and the tribal leaders by washing his false teeth in the sacred spring of the Matabele.  It cost a lot of time and effort as well as a great deal of money to sort that one out.

Along the way, Harriet, the lady in the case, according to her granddaughter, Lady Jane Grey McDonnell who wrote a memoir, printed privately, was on the visiting list for the Shah of Persia and the Princes of India, to pay their respects after being received by Queen Victoria.  Lady Jane was the daughter of the 5th Earl of Antrim, Mark Seymour Kerr McDonnell and Jane Emma Hannah Macan, daughter of Harriet by her first marriage to Turner Macan.

Lady Jane married the 21st Baron Clinton and had two daughters, one of which, Fenella Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis, married John Herbert Bowes-Lyon in 1914.  He had a younger sister, Elizabeth, who married quite well, her daughter, also Elizabeth, is now our Queen.

Of course, it is more complicated than this.  The picture above is of The Marlborough Set in 1906 with King Edward VII sitting in the middle.  They are his "gang" as we might put it.  They liked to go off for informal long weekend jollies in the country untroubled by press or publicity.  At the back, by the King's left shoulder, wearing a boater, is James Rochfort Maguire with his wife, Julia Beatrice, born Peel, yes those Peel's.

The King preferred to play his card games against people who could pay their dues at the end of play.  As Maguire by then was a Director of Consolidated Gold Fields, Chairman of Rhodesian Railways and with extensive other related posts, he would have no trouble, very different from all the aristocrats in hock to their creditors.

James and Julia married in 1895 at St. Margaret's, Westminster, by the Abbey and across the street from where her dad used to work.  He was Arthur Wellesley Peel, Speaker of the House of Commons.  In 1895 he became 1st Viscount Peel on leaving his job after the election of that year.  His grandfather was Sir Robert Peel, Prime Minister.  The name Arthur Wellesley was that of the Duke of Wellington, also once a Prime Minister.  Harriet's brother had lived across the fields from the Duke, both old India hands.

The best man at the wedding was Schomberg Kerr McDonnell, brother of Lady Jane and grandson of Harriet.  His Schomberg first name comes from a descent from the Duke of Schomberg, right hand man of King William of Orange.  The Duke fell at the Battle of the Boyne.  Schomberg Kerr McDonnell was a leading figure in the Orange Order.  Schomberg had an interesting and varied career.  At one stage he was Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, from 1888 through the 90's and at the time when Salisbury's government issued the Royal Charter, signed by Queen Victoria in 1889 to set up Rhode's British South Africa Company.

Later, during the Boer War, although by then fortyish, he volunteered for service and was involved in the relief of the siege of Kimberley where Rhodes and Mr. and Mrs. Maguire were holed up.  Later he was a prominent figure in the Conservative Party, had a senior post in Intelligence in 1914 but again in 1915 volunteered for service at the age of 54 as a Major in the 5th Cameron Highlanders.  He was killed in action in 1915 See here.

One of the select Directors of the Company, was Albert Grey, later 4th Earl Grey, succeeding his uncle, Henry, 3rd Earl.  Albert's father was General Charles Grey, Private Secretary to Prince Albert and later Queen Victoria.  Albert's grandfather was Charles Grey, 2nd Earl, Prime Minister at the time of The Reform Act, an ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales.  Albert's sister, Louisa, married William McDonnell, 6th Earl of Antrim, brother of Lady Jane, above, and was Mistress of the Robes to Queen Victoria.

Harriet, born a Sneyd in 1795, married Turner Macan in Calcutta in 1822.  He was personal aide and interpreter to the Governor's General and a cavalry officer by trade.  His major interest was in the scholarship of the Persian and other languages and he played a major role in rescuing ancient texts, including the Shah Nameh of Firdausi.  His work for the Royal Asiatic Society meant that William Henry Whitbread, head of that brewing family, was a close friend and a few years after Macan's death, Harriet married William in London, setting up something of a salon.

He had money to spare and did well by her family.  The Whitbread's had made marriages with the Grey's, so Harriet's daughter, Caroline Nesbitt Macan, married Charles Conrad Grey in 1845, nephew of the Prime Minister Charles 2nd Earl Grey.  Both Caroline and Charles died young, so Maria, their daughter, was cared for by General Charles Grey, above.  He introduced her to Court and she married the heir to the Earldom of Home, later the 12th Earl of Home, becoming Countess in 1881 and grandmother to the 14th Earl of Home of recent memory.

In Africa, as Lobengula's health deteriorated, he weighed in at 19 stone and led an active life, the Company began to introduce the modern world in the shape of mining, railways, new settlers and urban centres, one named Salisbury.  It was bringing to an end the centuries of pastoral living and endless tribal wars and constant displacement and loss of population.  Lobengula at one time massacred over three hundred of his family in a dispute.  There were two colonial wars in the 1890's in Matabeleland, the first when Lobengula put his large standing army into the field without success and after his death in 1894 another.

The press reports of Maguire's wedding has a lot about the frocks and details all the presents.  It is a roll call of society.  It is no surprise to see the Rothchild's and the Coutt's listed among such as the Duchess of Sutherland etc. The landed met with the bankers and the speculators.  Lord Randolph Churchill is there and one might wonder if his son Winston was impressed and influenced by the example of these men.

In the City of London, the long argument over whether the pound should be based on gold, or a bimetallic system of gold and silver was won by the gold lobby by the 1890's.  A consequence of this was The Fall Of The Rupee in India, whose currency was silver based.  The Treasurer of India at the time was Auckland Colvin.

He was a nephew of Harriet's.  It was a small world in many ways.

1 comment:

  1. "Fenella Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis"

    Crikey that's a scary name.