Friday, January 10, 2014

The Marchioness's Will: A Diamond Tiara and Strongbow's Sword

The real Caroline Anne nee Caithness begins to emerge from the shadows as we peruse her will made four years before she died in 1917. 

Among several heirlooms of the Ely family bequeathed to the trustees of the estate are an inscribed silver gilt christening cup engraved with the Viscount’s coronet, the chased silver gilt cup and cover made from the Great Seal of Ireland, a helmet-shaped ewer and various items engraved with the Ely arms.

 The Loftus Cup (Belfast Museum). The inscription reads: 
This cup was made of the Great Seal of Ireland in the year 1593
 Adam Loftus being then Lord Chancellor. He was also Lord Justice in 1582 and 1583 
in which year he built Rathfernan Castle (below).

Adam Loftus

Paintings similarly bequeathed include the portrait of Adam Loftus, who was Lord Chancellor of Ireland in 1593, a portrait of Lady Loftus (no detail as to which one) and two small portraits of an Earl and Countess of Ely. A more personal piece of memorabilia linked to Caroline’s yachtsman husband is a two-handled racing cup, ‘Bermuda’.

Her servants named in the will receive a sum of money as well as the equivalent of a year’s wages. Her maid, Maria Rance, receives 700 pounds and there is an amount thoughtfully put in trust for Maria’s son, Ernest. Maria is also left ‘my blue enamel carriage clock and all my furs and wearing apparel except my Coronation robes and my lace’.

That Caroline loved animals is shown by her bequests to charitable institutions such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Home of Rest for Horses, Cricklewood and the Home for Lost and Starving Dogs, Hackbridge. Her own dog, Jock, as well as her pony, mare and donkey are not forgotten, funds being set aside for their suitable housing and keep after her death. The Dover Hospital and the Dover Sailors Home and the Hospital for Diseases of the Throat, London, are also remembered. Dover had associations for the 4th Marquis, whose residence Kearsney Abbey was in that area.

Specific monetary bequests are made to her brother George John Caithness, her niece Violet Irene Caithness and to her godson, George Henry Wellington Loftus, as well as to other members of the Loftus family. Some items of jewellery are mentioned, such as her pearl necklace to her godchild, Violet, and her three stone diamond ring to her brother George John Caithness. However, her diamond tiara is bequeathed to the trustees ‘to be held and enjoyed … by the lady who shall at my death be entitled to the title of Marchioness of Ely … and on her death successively by the other ladies who shall be entitled to such title for their respective lives’.

Perhaps the most intriguing item bequeathed to the trustees is ‘Strongbow’s Sword’ – Strongbow being the nickname of the almost mythical medieval Earl of Pembroke. For what length of time this heirloom, believed to have belonged to Strongbow, had been in the possession of the Elys is not certain but in 1928 it was used to cut the cake at the wedding of Viscount Loftus and Miss Thea Gronwold.

Trove: The Argus, Melbourne, Victoria 1928

Caroline expressed her wish to be cremated and for her urn to be placed with her husband’s at the Ely family tomb in Kensal Green Cemetery, London. She had been a widow for 28 years.

Tom Sheldon

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