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Help and advice for Gloucestershire: The Stratfords

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The Stratfords
By Gerald H. Stratford.

Chapter 12. The Last Two Earls and a Claim for The Earldom.


Mason Gerard Stratford, the Fifth Earl, was the subject of much controversy and discussion. He married at Kirkudbright in Scotland, Cornelia Jane Tandy of Waterford, he being 20 yrs, and she 22 yrs. His statement, disposed in a letter after his death written by him stated. ' Before I saw Miss Tandy, I was married to Miss Maria Teresa Davenport, who was then alive.'

If he so was, the Marriage Certificate has not come to light. He was also married at the British Embassy in Paris on the 23rd of December 1826, to Mary the daughter of the late Samuel Arundell, who was a Minor, with her mother's consent. By this bigamous marriage she bore him several children. The Divorce by the Arches Court of Canterbury took place on the 6th of December 1826, so I personally cannot see why his Marriage with Mary Arundell should have been declared illegal.

The Claim of the 6th Earl who succeeded in 1849 was recognised, after being opposed by Mary, Lady Aldborough, for her ' illegitimate ' son, Henry Stratford. After losing the case she called herself Mrs Gerard and lived in Florence until her death in 1876.

By Cornelia, Mason Gerard, had seven children, Benjamin and Charles Henry were the two sons, and Benjamin was born in Dublin and obtained a B.A. in 1827. Charles Henry was born in Drogheda, and was an Officer in the 18th Royal Irish Regiment. he died in Suez in the October of 1842. Byron, another son was drowned, and two died in infancy, and two daughters who never married.

Mason Gerard spent time in London and when, at his wit's end for money, he used to go to money lenders and threaten to shoot himself there and then if they did not lend him some.

A newspaper cutting stating, ' We have received the following letter from the Earl of Aldborough.
Carlsbad
December 20th 18 33
By Galignani's Messenger
Sir.
I reply to a letter that I have this moment only read in your Journal of the month of November signed Charles H. Tandy, where, in reply to my declaration that Miss Tandy was not Countess of Aldborough, as had been incorrectly stated in your papers, and refers to a Judgement given at the Arches Court some years since, as a proof in her favour, it is always with much regret that I obtrude my name on the Public but it is impossible to pass this over in silence, and I am obliged to explain that delicacy to the departed would have induced me to avoid if possible.

My father left me for twenty years without one shilling of allowance. i had a large family, seven infant children dependent on me, myself dependent only on credit, payable at his demise, to support them. I had suffered every possible privatation. I received a letter from him, from which the following is an extract.

' Miss Tandy is in the last stage of a deep consumption, she cannot live, and I ask you to give her e satisfaction which I pledge myself shall in no way hurt you and will be generous towards her, say she is your wife. I will give you an allowance if you will write me to this effect.'

My situation was at this time desperate. For myself I cared not, but who can see helpless infancy without bread? I wrote. I got the allowance. He commenced the Trial alluded to by the Document, and I had no means to go to law. So, finding myself entrapped, deceived, and a conspiracy against me, I declared in all Journals in London my inability to defend the cause from want of means, and declared, as I do now, that it was false. This may or may not prejudice my Case, but I have a better appointment of the Honour of Englishmen than to think it will, and at all events, from the lowest to the highest, I will appeal and not submit to such monstrous injustice. I shall not notice any further attack, it must rest with the Law to decide the case. I content myself with again in the most solemn manner declaring before God and Man, that she is not my Wife, and that I had one at the time. I pray you to give this a place in your paper, I have the Honour to be etc. Aldborough.

PS. Of the situation in which I left London I can produce thousands to give evidence of those who assisted, who gave me long Credits, and to whom my gratitude has been out at Compound Interests with their Claims.

Here follows the Petition for Henry Stratford, the son of Mary, Countess of Aldborough, to the Earldom.

Minutes of evidence taken before the Committee for Privileges to whom the Petition of The Right Honourable Benjamin O'Neale Stratford, Viscount Amiens, and Earl of Aldborough of the Palatine of Upper Ormonde in Ireland, claiming the right to vote at the Elections of Representative Peers for Ireland, and also the Petition purporting to be the Petition of the right Honourable Mary, Countess of Alborough, therein described as Widow of the late Right Honourable Mason Gerard Stratford, Viscount Amiens, and Earl of Aldborough of the Palatine of the Upper Ormonde in Ireland against the said Claim. Were Referred. Ordered 9th June 1854.

The Lord Redesdale in the Chair.

The Order of reference was read.

The Petition of the Right Honourable Benjamin O'Neale Stratford, Viscount Amiens and earl of Aldborough of the Palatine of Upper Ormonde in Ireland, praying his Right to vote at the Election of Peers for Ireland to sit in the Parliament of the United Kingdom be admitted, was read.

And also. The petition purporting to be the Petition of the Right Honourable Mary, Countess of Aldborough, therein described as Widow of the Late Right Honourable Mason Gerard Stratford, Viscount Amiens, and Earl of Aldborough of the Palatine of the Upper Ormonde in Ireland, praying to be admitted to oppose the said Claim, and to support the Title and Claim of her son, Henry Stratford, as Viscount Amiens and earl of Aldborough, to vote at elections of Peers of Ireland, and to sit in the Parliament of the United Kingdom was read.

The Council and Parties were ordered to be called in and Mr. Alexander and Mr. Hodgson appearing as Counsel for the Petitioners.
Mr. Alexander was heard to open allegations of the Petition.
Then, Ralph Scott Esquire was called in, and having been sworn, was examined as follows.
( By Council ) You are the Solicitor for the Claimant ?
The Irish Solicitor.
Do you produce an examined copy of the Enrolment of certain Letters Patent.
I do. ( producing the same )
Have you examined it with the original Roll ?
I have.
( By Counsel ) This much you have produced is an Examined Copy from the record ?
It is.
You Examined it yourself ?
Yes, I Examined it myself and saw it signed by the proper Officer, the Keeper of the Rolls.
Will you read the Limitations?
To have, hold, and enjoy the Names, Degrees, States, Styles, Titles, Dignities, and Honours of Viscount Amiens and Earl of Aldborough of the Palatine of Upper Ormonde, afore said, with all the singular, Seats, Places, Voices, Privileges, Preeminencies, Honours, Immunities, Commodities, Advantages and Emoluments to such States, Degrees, Styles, Titles, Dignities and Honours belonging or appertaining unto the said John Viscount Aldborough, afar said, and to the Heirs Male of his body lawfully begotten and to be begotten for ever.
Then Henry Stone Esquire, having been sworn, was examined as follows.
( By Counsel ) You are the Chief Clerk in the Parliament Office ?
Yes.
Are the Journals of the House in your Custody ?
Yes.
Will you turn to the Journals of the House for the date of the 26th of may 1826, and read the entry that you find there ?
The Earl of Shaftsbury reported from the Lord's Committee for Privileges to which it was referred to consider of this Petition of Benjamin O'Neale Stratford, earl of Aldborough, Viscount Amiens and Baron of Baltinglass, in the Kingdom of Ireland praying that his Right to Vote in the election of Peers of Ireland and to sit in the Parliament of the United Kingdom may be admitted. that the Committee had met, and had considered the Petition to them referred and had come to the following resolution.

Resolved that it is the opinion of this Committee that Benjamin O'Neale Stratford, Earl of Aldborough, Viscount Amiens, and Baron of Baltinglass in the Kingdom of Ireland, hath made out his claim to be admitted as a Temporal Peer of Ireland and to vote at the Election of the Lords Temporal to represent the Peerage of Ireland in the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Which report, being read by the Clerk, was agreed to by the House.

Resolved and adjudged, by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, that Benjamin O'Neale Stratford, earl of Aldborough, Viscount Amiens and Baron of Baltinglass in the Kingdom of Ireland hath made out his Claim to be admitted as a Temporal Peer of Ireland, to vote at the election of the Lords Temporal to represent the Peerage in Ireland in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Ordered that the Clerks of the Parliament do transmit to the Clerk of the Crown in Ireland the said Resolution and Judgement.

( To Mr. Scott ) Do you produce an extract from the Register of the Constitutional Court of Dublin, of the Grant of a Licence to the Rector of the Parish of St. Ann in the City of Dublin to marry Benjamin Stratford and Mary Burton ?
( By a Lord ) By whom was it signed ?
It is by the proper Officer. I examined it and compared it with the original.
( By Counsel ) Will you read it ?
Extract from the Registry of His Grace Richard Lord Archbishop of Dublin, a Licence was granted on the 10th day of January 1774 by the Most Rev John, and so forth, to solemnize marriage between Benjamin Stratford of Belan in the County Kildare Esquire, and Martha Burton of the Parish of St. Ann, Dublin, Spinster, directed to the Rev Thomas Leland, Clerk, Doctor of Divinity, Rector of the said Parish. A true copy. John Samuels, Registrar.
( By a Lord ) What relation was Benjamin Stratford to the late Earl of Aldborough ? He was brother to the then Earl.
( By Counsel ) Have you searched the register of Marriages in the Parish of St. Ann for the purpose of finding the entry of that marriage ?
I searched the Parish Registers of St. Ann for at least two years previously and several years after, and no such entry appears. I have searched also in all the adjoining Parishes in the City of Dublin. I found no entry whatever, and I was told in almost every place that it was unusual at that time to Register marriages that took place in private houses.
You made inquiries upon the subject ?
Yes, and this was the result of my inquiries in every department.
Then Thomas Stratford Dennis Esquire was called in and having sworn was examined as follows.
( By Counsel ) Are you the Great Nephew to Benjamin earl of Aldborough ?
I am.
He was Grandfather of the present Claimant ?
Yes
Were you intimately acquainted with him ?
I was, for the first 50 years of my life.
Do you recollect his wife ?
Yes, very well.
What was he Christian name ?
Martha.
Did you know her before her marriage ?
No.
Do you know what her Maiden Name was ?
Burton.
( By a Lord ) When did you first make acquaintance with her ?
When I was a child I was on visits there, and I was in the habit of meeting with her almost all my life.
( By Counsel ) She became your great Aunt by Marriage ?
She did.
Can you tell their Lordships whether, at the period when this Licence bears date, it was usual to marry at a private residence in Ireland instead of marrying in Church ?
It was, and it was so unusual to have it entered in the Register that I never signed the Register for my own marriage. I was married in 1810.
The did not keep regular Registers at that time ?
No, they were very irregular in many cases. Even since then I have known that they were not regular.
At the time you were married in 1810, it was usual for persons of Station to marry at private houses and not at Church ?
It was, I was married at my Grandmother's House.
You have stated that you were intimately acquainted with your Uncle Benjamin, Earl of Aldborough. Were he and Martha, Countess of Aldborough always received as man and wife ?
Always.
Did you spend some time with them and mix with them in general society ?
Yes, I spent months at a time at their house.
Did you ever see Mrs. Burton, the mother of the Countess of Aldborough there ?
Yes, when I was a little boy.
Did you ever live at your Family Seat ?
No. Lord Aldborough built a Seat for himself. Belan was the Family Seat, but he lived generally at Stratford Lodge, a house he built himself.
Did they live there together, and were they generally received as man and wife ?
Always. They were constantly resident there.
( By a Lord ) When did Benjamin Stratford succeed to the Earldom ?
On the death of John, I forget how many years ago.
About how many ?
I think it must be 20 years ago. I do not exactly recollect.
How long did he hold the Earldom ?
Not above seven or eight years.
Mr Alexander stated that he proposed next to produce a Mortgage Deed from the Family Monuments to show that Martha was spoken of in it as the wife of Benjamin, the earl of Alborough.
The Counsel was informed that the Committee were of the opinion that it was unnecessary.
Mr. Alexander stated that he proposed next to prove that Mason Gerard, the late Earl, was the son of the marriage which had just been proved.
Then the Rev Henry Scott was called in and, having been sworn, was examined as follows.
(By Counsel ) Were you the Curate of Baitinglass for some years ?
I was.
For how many years ?
Between 25 and 26.
Was this the Parish in which the Family Residence of the Aldborough Family was situated
It was the residence of Benjamin, Earl of Aldborough.
Was that where Stratford Lodge was situated ?
Yes.
Were most of the Registers of the Parish burned some years ago ?
I understand so. They were not in existence upon my coming to the Parish.
You did not find them upon commencing your Incumbency?
In the latter end of 1827, I think there were books extant, but not going beyond 1808.
( By Counsel ) Then you are unable to find an entry of a Registry of Birth in any year prior to that ?
Of course.
The the Right Honourable the earl of Wicklow was examined in his place, as follows.
( By Counsel ) Was your Lordship acquainted with the earl of Aldborough, Mason Gerard
Very Little. I was at school with him and subsequently I knew that he had been a Major in my Militia Regiment, but he had left previously to my appointment.
Was he generally reputed as the eldest son of Benjamin, Earl of Aldborough ?
Always. He assumed the Title of Lord Amiens during his father's life.
( By a Lord ) Benjamin succeeded to the Earldom ?
Yes. I have been at Benjamin's house. Lord Amiens, his son, was not at that time on good terms with him, but I there saw the present Claimant, the grandson of Benjamin and the son of Lord Amiens,
( By Counsel ) On his father's death in 1833, did Benjamin assume the Title of Earl of Aldborough ?
I presume so. My acquaintance with him was not sufficient to enable me to say with certainty, but I recollect frequently hearing of him as Lord Aldborough. I was well acquainted with his Agent, who was a Major in my Militia Regiment, Major Hoey, who had the management of his property and who managed it for him as Earl of Alborough. Did you know him as Lord Amiens ?
I did not know him as Lord Amiens. I knew him as a boy at school, but I heard a great deal of him as Major of my Regiment. Afterwards he was Colonel Stratford,
Then Thomas Stratford Dennis Esquire was further examined as follows.
( By Counsel ) You have stated that you knew Benjamin, Earl of Aldborough, your late Uncle. Did you know Mason Gerard, the late Earl, his son ?
Very well, some years ago as Major Stratford.
Was he generally reputed to be the eldest son of Benjamin, Earl of Aldborough, by Martha, Countess of Aldborough ?
The only son.
Upon the death of his father, did he assume the Title Earl of Aldborough ?
So I always understood.
And continued to enjoy it afterwards as far as your knowledge extends ?
Yes.
Mr Alexander stated that he was able to produce a Deed of 1828, for the purpose of barring the entail upon some estates in which it was recited that Mason Gerard was the only son of Benjamin, Earl of Aldborough.
( By a Lord to Mr. Dennis ) Was any question ever raised about Mason Gerard being the only son of Benjamin, his father ?
Never.
He was your first Cousin ?
He was.
You knew him intimately ?
Yes, when he was Major Stratford.
The Counsel was informed that it was unnecessary to produce the Deed of Entail.
The Ralph Scott Esquire was further examined as follows.
( By Counsel ) Do you produce an extract from the register of Burials of the Parish of Baltinglass ?
Yes.
Will you read it to your Lordships ?
The same was read as follows.
Burials in the Parish of Baltinglass in the County of Wicklow in the year 1833. Earl of Aldborough, Benjamin ()Neale Stratford, Abode Stratford lodge when buried July 12th 1833. aged 87 years. By whom ceremony performed. Wm Grogan. H. Scott. I certify that the above extract from the registry of the Parish of Baltinglass County Wicklow, January 11th 1853. Henry Scott, Curate of the parish of Baltinglass, County Wicklow. ( By Counsel to Mr. Dennis ) Did Benjamin, Earl of Aldborough, bear the second Christian name of O'Neale ?
Always.
( To Mr. Henry Scott ) I believe you officiated at the funeral in 1833 ?
I did.
Do you produce an extract from the Register of the Parish of Kirkcudbright in Scotland ?
I do, ( producing the same )
Have you examined it with the original ?
I have.
And is it a correct copy ?
It is.
What is the date of the Marriage ?
The 2nd of August 1804.
Will you read it ?
Register of Marriage 1804. Mason Gerard Stratford of County Wicklow, and Cornelia Jane Tandy of the City of Waterford, August the 2nd. Extracted from the register of Marriages for the Parish of Kirkcudbright on the 6th day of September 1852 by James Thomas, Session Clerk. That the above is a correct extract and taken in my presence by James Thomas, Session Clerk, is certified at Kirkcudbright on the 6th day of September 1852. John Underwood, Minister.
( By a Lord ) How is the register of Marriages from which that extract is made kept ?
In a book.
In whose Custody ?
In the Custody of a person whom they call the Moderator, The Clergyman of the Parish brought me to this house, and there we got the books, he has the Charge of them. I also got a Certificate of his Appointment as Moderator, which I have, ( producing the same ).
The person to whom they brought you as a Moderator was a Clergyman ?
Yes. He was the Clergyman of the parish.
Is that entry one of the regular entries of marriages in the Parish ?
Yes. It is a book in which they enter all the marriages in the Parish.
( By Counsel ) A book kept in the usual form for the Register of Marriages ?
Yes.
Then the Right Honourable Cornelia Jane, Countess Dowager of Aldborough, having been sworn, was examined as follows.
( By Counsel ) What was your Maiden name before marriage ?
Tandy.
Where were you married ?
At Kirkcudbright in Scotland.
What was the name of your husband ?
Mason Gerard Stratford.
Is the present Claimant, Benjamin O'Neale your son ?
He is.
Your eldest son ?
Yes.
By Mason Gerard, the late Earl of Aldborough ?
Yes.
When was he born ?
In July 1808.
He took the name of his Grandfather, Benjamin O'Neale ?
Yes.
( By a Lord ) Lord Aldborough had not previously married ?
Certainty not.
He was a single man when you married him ?
Then Edward Walmsley Esquire was called in, and, having been sworn, was examined as follows,
( By Counsel ) You are Agent for the Claimant ?
I am.
Do you produce a Certificate from the British Chaplain at Leghorn of the death of the late Earl of Aldborough ?
Of the burial of the late Earl.
Has that been transmitted to you under the Consular Seal and with the signature of the
British Chaplain ?
It has.
Will you read it to your Lordships ?
The same was read as follows.
Extracts from the register of Burials in the City of Leghorn in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in the year 1849. Name. the Right Honourable The Earl of Aldborough, Mason Gerard Stratford, N 412. Abode. Leghorn. When buried, October 8th, aged 65. By whom the ceremony was performed, Thomas Steeman, Assistant Chaplain. I do hereby Certify that the above is a true copy of the register. Done at Leghorn this 18th Day of August 1852. Thomas Steeman. I do Certify that the foregoing signature Thomas Steeman to be that of the Rev Thomas Steeman, British Chaplain at this port. Alex MacBean, Consul, British Consulate, Leghorn, 18th August 1852.
The Counsel for the Petitioner, being asked whether any person appeared in support of the Petition against the Claim, stated that the Petitioner against the Claim had been presented in the last Session, but no further proceedings had been taken upon it and that the agent for the Claimant had received a letter from the agent for the Petitioner stating that it was not his intention to proceed upon the Petition.
The Witnesses were directed to withdraw.
The Counsel was directed to withdraw.
Proposed to resolve that it is not the opinion of this Committee that Benjamin O'Neale Stratford, Viscount Amiens and Earl of Aldborough of the Palatine of Upper Ormonde in Ireland, hath made out his Claim to be admitted as a Temporal Peer of Ireland to vote at the Election of the Lords Temporal to represent the peerage of Ireland in the Parliament in the United Kingdom.
The same was agreed to.
The said resolution was ordered to be reported to the house.

The Sixth Earl, Benjamin O'Neale Stratford was born in Dublin on the 10th of June 1808, spending most of his childhood at Stratford Lodge with his grandfather. he initially in his adulthood, became a Captain in the 1st Dragoon Guards and eventually became a recluse, living at Stratford Lodge. The Georgian Society reported that as a young man he interested himself in aerial navigation, taking out five Patents for the improvements for balloons, and, in error, said that he promoted Holloway Pills. It was actually Mason Gerard who did this for he lived rent free at Leghorn in Holloway's house.

It was reported that a thief either intentionally or accidentally set fir to Stratford lodge whilst Benjamin was still in it. When he was eventually aroused, he could not find his room key, but after the door was broken open he escaped. the fire soon caught hold and very little water at hand, the house was soon a mass of fire. Benjamin's Balloon House escaped the fire and he then went to live in it for the next few weeks and then went to London. He travelled the Continent and died in Spain. His Obituary read.

Benjamin O'Neale Stratford, the 6th and last Earl of Aldborough died at Alicante on the 24th of December 1876, he was an Irish Nobleman whose name was used constantly to appear in newspapers as voucher for a Patent Medicine. he had been living a very secluded life on the Cantabrian Coast for some years and from his very eccentric habits a mode of life attracted no small attention among Spaniards. He studiously avoided his own countrymen and resented any attempt at breaking in on his voluntary retirement. He was 67 years of age and unmarried.

Henry Stratford, the youngest brother of Benjamin had died previously returning from Hong Kong on board ship and is buried at Suez.

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Data transcribed by Colin Hinson from:
A document written by
Gerald H. Stratford in 1988.
Reproduced here by permission
© Gerald H. Stratford.