Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Maud Gonne and Thomas Charles March and the English wine merchants who brought us port

Who were these people?

OK, apologies to those of you who've been religiously keeping score. The rest of you, go back and read every single post since January 2011.

Oh, all right, I'll make it easier.

1. I recently figured out (the penny dropped) that I come from a vampire bloodline.
2. Decided to see if Bram Stoker (author of Dracula) was influenced by my vampire family.
3. Looked Bram and family up in the census returns for 1881, 1891, 1901, and 1911, when they were in England.
4. Obsessively started figuring out not just where the Stokers lived, but who lived with them: the servants.
5. This led me to a man named Charles Jarrald, whose wife was the Stoker's nursery nurse in 1881. Charles was dead by then; his wife was a widow working for the Stokers.
6. Going back 10 years, I found Charles working on what turned out to be a pretty posh street. He was a servant at No. 27 Charles Street, Berkeley Square.
7. Since the street was crammed with the upper class in 1871, I decided to do a house-by-house analysis, starting at No. 1.
8. To keep everyone from falling asleep, I also decided to play Six Degrees of Separation with the people in the houses, figuring out how close the people are to (a) Queen Victoria and (b) Dracula, or at least, Bram Stoker.
9. At No. 1 Charles Street, was the family of Thomas Charles March, an interesting enough fellow who was one of the top non-political servants in the Royal Household of Queen Victoria, having a career that went from about 1840 (ish) to his death in 1898.

A few notes on the March family and the connection to Maud Gonne

Thomas Charles March was the second of six children, three boys and three girls.

His two brothers had equally distinguished careers, it appears, and at least one brother (George) moved in high society circles.

The parents, Thomas March and Mary Anne nee Gonne, were both born in Portugal in the late 1700s. I am fairly certain both fathers were wine merchants and also that both families were well off.

Thomas the father was a bankrupt, with a wife and six children, in the mid-1830s. This led to a lawsuit, which is a reported case I found online. It was all intra-familial and a little complicated in its details, but essentially Thomas's creditors (also family) tried to get the money Mary Anne brought with her as a marriage settlement, and which had been set up in a sort of trust to generate income for her and the children. The interesting social background is the law and attitudes about married women having property (or not). Also there is some ongoing intrigue and political scheming between Portugal and England during the period. Thomas's bankruptcy may have been the result of the Portuguese kicking the English merchants out. (I know very little about this but it's fascinating history.)

One of Thomas Charles March's sisters married a clergyman from a noble family in Yorkshire, and another sister lived with them at least for a time. The married sister and her husband had at least two sons.

I sort of lost the third sister and hope she will turn up one day.

The brother George worked in the diplomatic service, I think.

Now to switch to Maud Gonne, known variously as a political radical, Ireland's Joan of Arc, the mystic lover of the poet William Butler Yeats, and the mother of Nobel Peace Prize winner Sean McBride. You may have recognized the same last name, Gonne, as the mother of Thomas Charles March, Mary Anne nee Gonne.

At one point, when Maud was being attacked for her political views, she mentioned in a letter that eventually questions of her ancestry would be cleared up, and that her great-grandfather had been William Gonne, a wine merchant in Portugal.

I haven't constructed a chronology, and it's getting a bit too complicated to pursue it just now, but that William Gonne would fit the generation of Mary Anne's father, whose name was Thomas Gonne.  INCORRECT! Correction: Her father's name was William Gonne Esquire, possibly the same William Gonne as was Maud's great-grandfather.

Scholars of Maud Gonne, please, jump in any time and leave a comment if you know more about Maud's exact family tree. I am a lazy researcher working my way down the street, long before Maud was born, and not even the street where she lived. My Maud Gonne contribution may have to end here.

The Gonne and March families in the wine trade in Portugal would have been shipping port to England. A notable contribution to life there, wouldn't you say? I also suspect that the merchant community in Oporto may have done a little soft espionage on the side. Just a thought.

One more coincidence. Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee was in 1897. Maud Gonne protested against it. Her distant cousin, Thomas March, may have supervised the organizing of it, given his senior position within the staff of the Royal Household. Whether these two acknowledged each other as relatives, I don't know.

Thomas March is the first of many interesting people we will meet on Charles Street in 1871. His story starts with Thomas March of 1 Charles Street: One degree from Queen Victoria.

This article is one in an ongoing series, starting with Bram Stoker, author of Dracula in public records: BMD (Birth, Marriage, Death).

Next: We leave No. 1 Charles Street, and move along to No. 2. On census night in 1871, this house was occupied by Henry Fleming and two servants.
No. 2 Charles Street, Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London, in 1871.

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