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Lieutenant Colonel the Prince de Mahé


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Lieutenant Colonel the Prince de Mahé was dishing out Scout Medals at a Huddersfield park on Empire Day 1918. This is not in the least bit important but I am curious. Who is this Prince?

Tony.

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Dunno! But he seems to have been on the staff in 1915. See www.gwpda.org/Dunsterville/Dunsterville_1915.html

Cheers,

Ian

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Seems he was on the establishment as early as 1914.

From the London Gazette # 28934, dated 12th october 1914.

GENERAL RESERVE OF OFFICERS.

ROYAL REGIMENT OF ARTILLERY.

The name of Captain and Honorary Major H. H. Charles Mahe de Chenal de la Bourdonnais, Prince de Mahe, is as now stated, and not Charles Digby Williams, as published in the Gazette of 4th September, 1914.

Link to the Gazette us Here

Think after the mouthful that is H. H. Charles Mahe de Chenal de la Bourdonnais, Prince de Mahe I'd have stuck with Charles Digby Williams :blink:

Steve

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As Maj. (actg. Lt.-Col.) H. H. Prince C. M. de C. de la B. de Mahé (Res. of Off.) R.F.A., he was mentioned in despatches in a Supplement to the London Gazette dated 25 January 1917, "for distinguished services rendered in connexion with the War" (see The Times, Saturday, Mar 31, 1917; p. 3.)

A predecessor, Francois Mahé de la Bourdonnais was the French Governor of the Ile de France (Mauritius) from 1735-1746.

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So we seem to have some sort of French prince in the Royal Field Artillery sent up to Yorkshire to do the honours at an award ceremony for Boy Scouts.

Maybe something more will turn up,

Thanks,

Tony.

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  • 14 years later...
ianjonesncl

Whilst researching through the London Gazette I came across the entry restating Charles Digby Williams with the Prince de Mahe etc etc etc name and thus on to this post from many years ago. 

 

Intrigued, I have tried to find a some more information finding that, unsurprisingly, there are multiple versions of his name. 

 

London Gazette 1914 -> Captain and Honorary Major H. H. Charles Mahe de Chenal de la Bourdonnais, Prince de Mahe,

 

 On his MIC his name is shown in two forms;

for his decorations -> de Mahe (Prince) Capt

and current situation ->  Prince De Mahe, H H C M de Cde la B.

 

His officers service record (WO 339/34703) -> Major H H The Prince de MAHE

 

London Gazette 1920 -> Mahe de Chenal de la Bourdonnais, Maj. (T./Lt.-Col.) Charles, H.H. Prince. R.F.A

 

It appears Charles Digby Williams was commissioned into RA Militia The Glamorgan Artillery (Western Division) 18th December, 1895. He looks to have been recalled from the General Reserve of Officers on 5th September 1914  - (LG-Captain and Honorary Major Charles Digby Williams, late Royal Garrison Artillery, Special Reserve, to be Captain.) His MIC records him landing in France 29th August 1914.

 

Reading through the 1914 diary for Lionel Dunsterville, Dunsterville went to France as an interpreter (24-Aug) and moved around various formations/ locations, so possibly a Liaison Officer.  One wonders if the Prince de Mahe , whom Dunsterville met in January 1915, performed a similar role. It may explain  a change of name to help with liaison with the French.

 

His MIC shows service as a Captain and then as a Temporary Lt Col  at  A.A.D Leeds, explaining  why he was dishing out Scout Medals at a Huddersfield park on Empire Day 1918.

 

I think he may have received an OBE;

The London Gazette Publication date: 30 May 1919 Supplement: 31377 Page: 6990 < https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31377/supplement/6990>

 

He reverts back to Charles Digby Williams in August 1920 (The London Gazette, Publication date: 27 August 1920, Supplement: 32033 Page: 8840

From <https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/32033/supplement/8840> )

 

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It is possible that the Mahe de la Boundonnais emigrate in UK during the French Revolution and stay in Great Britain since.

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voltaire60

He is in The National Archives. His entitlements are on a medal card:

 

image.png.3a0be44209610a0f695cc1c1ebd2ff1c.png

 

   and he has an officer file,which may proved an interesting read post-Lurgi. Yes, many Bourbons and subsequently Bonapartes lived in exile in England -Many returned as regimes changed and became more friendly but those born or brought up here often stayed.  Perhaps the best known is the Prince Imperial,only son of Napoleon III, killed in the Zulu War in 1879 as an officer of the British Army- told in a popular military book in recent times-"Captain Carey's Blunder" (He being the guard officer and companion)

image.png.798eeadfeaea4e6b7a3cb005df8f0a1d.png

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ianjonesncl
8 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

He is in The National Archives. His entitlements are on a medal card:

 I could imagine that the medal engraver's reaction when presented with Captain H. H. Charles Mahe de Chenal de la Bourdonnais, Prince de Mahe. 

 

It is interesting to see two name forms on a MIC. There must be a maximum number of characters allowed in order to fit name / rank / number 

 

image.png.cf13aa164ad363986b48e1164a469514.png

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voltaire60
2 minutes ago, ianjonesncl said:

It is interesting to see two name forms on a MIC. There must be a maximum number of characters allowed in order to fit name / rank / number 

 

     As an aside, it does make one wonder what the etiquette  for the medal engravers actually was.  One could also imagine what the standard "Pip,Squeak and Wilfred" for the King may have had on them-       Rank?   "King Emperor".  Just a thought:wub:

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Andrew Upton
3 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

 

     As an aside, it does make one wonder what the etiquette  for the medal engravers actually was.  One could also imagine what the standard "Pip,Squeak and Wilfred" for the King may have had on them-       Rank?   "King Emperor".  Just a thought:wub:

 

Well he has a MIC - probably something like HM King George V from the basic details shown:

 

https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/D2312183

Catalogue description Medal card of George V, His Majesty King

Details of WO 372/7/233326
Reference: WO 372/7/233326
Description:
Medal card of George V, His Majesty King
Date: 1914-1920
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Closure status: Open Document, Open Description
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A classic case of undocumented nobility?

 

European nobility and royalty are excessively and obsessively documented in breeding guides for the genteel. Think Burke's Peerage for British nobs, and the Gotha for European guillotine fodder. Older versions of these are freely available online, and there any number of blogs, wiki articles and historical works in which these folks feature.

 

So where are the Princes de Mahe? I don't see this extensive documentation for them at all.

 

Instead, this chap, Charles Digby Williams, metamorphoses into the Prince de Mahe in 1914, ex nihilo!

 

Consider the following list of red flags:

 

1. A title of prince is at the very apogee of the European nobility structure - above barons, viscounts, earls, marquises and dukes and other assorted riff-raff.  Princes were the most desirable of all, and the most extensively studied and document. So where is the documentation?

 

2. Titles typically only descend to heirs male (with very, very limited exceptions). So how does the rather British sounding Charles Digby Williams suddenly become a French aristo?

 

3. British subjects can only use foreign titles with express approval, via a royal warrant. You may recall Betty the 1st's famous comment on branding her own sheep. A search of the London gazette shows no such warrant.

 

 

 

 

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voltaire60

 

 

31 minutes ago, Wexflyer said:

European nobility and royalty are excessively and obsessively documented in breeding guides for the genteel.

 

  Which includes the Irish traditionals- The O'Connor Don, The O'Gorman Mahon,etc. (We'll leave Terence MacCarthy out of this one), Who used their names in the mainland UK.

 

31 minutes ago, Wexflyer said:

Think Burke's Peerage for British nob

 

    It includes Irish nobs as well.

 

31 minutes ago, Wexflyer said:

British subjects can only use foreign titles with express approval, via a royal warrant

 

     I am not at all sure that the use of a foreign title by a UK national requires any publication in the Gazettes.

 

Let's see what his officer file at Kew has to say when it reopens

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ianjonesncl

What ever the circumstances of him using the title Prince, de Mahé is certainly a nice place to be Prince of......

 

A sunny island in the Seychelles 

Mahé, Seychelles - Wikipedia

 

The wiki entry outlines that the island was named after named after Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais, a French governor of Isle de France (modern-day Mauritius).

Edited by ianjonesncl
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ianjonesncl

His father Henry Charles Williams was born in 1830 in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, whose occupation in 1871 is listed as Master Mariner, Merchant Marine. His mother

Mary Maria Young was born in 1843 in Pontypool, Monmouthshire. He married Jessie Ethel Wright in 1899, the daughter of and Sir John Roper Wright. Wright established a steel company in Gowetron, Swansea and owned a number of steel works.

 

I can not see a connection to Chenal de la Bourdonnais, or where Prince de Mahé  would come from.

 

Charles Digby Williams' 1899 marriage certificate lists his occupation as Gentlemen and the 1911 census as Private Means.

 

For his 1914 star, Capt H.H.C.M. de la B. Prince de Mahe is listed on the medal rolls of Train Conducting Officers (Supp). I am thinking he this was a staff officer tasked with assisting / organising  train movements. This would be consistent with the diary entries of Lionel Dunsterville which records activities relating to railways in France. www.gwpda.org/Dunsterville/Dunsterville_1915.html

 

Anyone know what his later his later employment as a Lt Col - A.A.D. Leeds entailed ? 

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The LG of 27 Aug 1920 is interesting

 

It seems that in 1914 the army was prepared to treat Williams as HH Prince etc etc, but then changes it mind after the war ..... 

 

388113700_Screenshot2021-02-06at21_18_52.png.db3bd64c81b3210d89719747067645c6.png

 

 

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ianjonesncl
5 minutes ago, QUEX said:

The LG of 27 Aug 1920 is interesting

 

It seems that in 1914 the army was prepared to treat Williams as HH Prince etc etc, but then changes it mind after the war ..... 

 

A war time expediency for what ever reason.

 

There is a family tree on Ancestry which suggests members of his family continued to use various forms of the names for a few generations.

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Ron Clifton
On 05/02/2021 at 09:15, ianjonesncl said:

It is interesting to see two name forms on a MIC. There must be a maximum number of characters allowed in order to fit name / rank / number 

Officers didn't have numbers at this time, which shortens the task very slightly.

 

Ron

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On 06/02/2021 at 08:22, ianjonesncl said:

His father Henry Charles Williams was born in 1830 in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, whose occupation in 1871 is listed as Master Mariner, Merchant Marine. His mother

Mary Maria Young was born in 1843 in Pontypool, Monmouthshire. He married Jessie Ethel Wright in 1899, the daughter of and Sir John Roper Wright. Wright established a steel company in Gowetron, Swansea and owned a number of steel works.

 

I can not see a connection to Chenal de la Bourdonnais, or where Prince de Mahé  would come from.

 

Charles Digby Williams' 1899 marriage certificate lists his occupation as Gentlemen and the 1911 census as Private Means.

 

 

 

I think we can take it that my earlier observation that this is a case of "undocumented nobility" has proved correct. In other words he was a conman, serving at a high level on the British staff!

 

I am astonished that it took the army until 1920 to rumble him (see LG quote by QUEX) - did no one consult the Gotha or Burke's for 6 years!?

 

Have to admire the man's cojones though - he went straight to the top, a prince, no less! Most would have settled for something more run-of-the-mill, such as vicomte.

 

Wexflyer, Tánaiste of Ferns

 

Just now, Wexflyer said:


 

 

Edited by Wexflyer
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A beautiful usuroation case. As you said a "corones" question.

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ianjonesncl

Another variation on his name. He turns up in the Army lists > Quarterly Army Lists (First Series) 1879-1922 > 1919 > Fourth quarter > Part 2

 

De Mahe, H.H. Prince C.M. de C. de la B.

 

and listed as having received the Order of St. Stanislas, 2nd Class,

 

A Russian Order ??????

 

image.png.8aa7c099bf1f9faea0a81b6549091d5f.png

 

Edinburgh Gazette: 

 

War Office, 14th January, 1918.

The following Russian Decorations and Medals have been awarded at various dates for distinguished services rendered during the course of the campaign : — His Majesty the KING has given unrestricted -permission in all cases to wear the Decorations and Medals in question.

 

Order of St. Stanislas, 2nd Class.

Major His Highness Charles Mahe de C. .de la Bourdonnais, Prince De Mahe, Reserve of Officers, late Royal Artillery.

 

 

Edited by ianjonesncl
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voltaire60

I am not a natural defender of aristos. but there does seem a case for waiting it out and seeing what his officer file has to say-if anything.

 

Wexflyer has suggested that Chuck Williams  (as we should call him pro tem) would have to get formal permission and be gazetted as such.  Which is what happened in 1914.  It is not only the pure title that appeared in the Gazette but the adornment "HH" which is not given out lightly in the UK  (Its never been offered to me for instance!) So there must have been some grounds at base for him getting through in 1914-and further grounds for him being relegated from the Premier League in 1919.

    It's the adornment of "HH" that suggests some bigger story- the rest of it could have slid through anyway. A number of times on this Forum, the notion that a man could enlist in the army under any name- even if real identity was known- but the proviso was that he would be known by that name by the army no matter what. Could this have applied to Chuck?  What disturbs this thought is again the acceptance by the Gazette of HH. But the name? Comes in 1914 and goes in 1919- could this have just been acceptance of the name he enlisted with as per usual??

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ianjonesncl
39 minutes ago, voltaire60 said:

 It's the adornment of "HH" that suggests some bigger story

I have been a bit slow on this one and wondering what HH meant - His Highness. :blink:

 

Also on acronyms - A.A.D Leeds on his MIC I think is Anti Aircraft Defence. 

 

The London Gazette Publication date: 18 February 1919 Supplement: 31193 Page: 2569

From <https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31193/supplement/2569>

 

The names of the undermentioned have been brought to the notice of the Secretary of State for War for valuable services rendered in connection with anti-aircraft services in the United Kingdom: —

De Mahe, Maj. (T./Lt.-Col.) H. H. C. M. de C. de la B., Prince, R.F.A. 
 

 

Edited by ianjonesncl
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ianjonesncl

Now able to put a face to Captain (Honorary Major / Temporary Lieutenant Colonel) His Highness Charles Mahe de Chenal de la Bourdonnais, Prince de Mahe, Order of the British Empire, Order of St Stanislas 2nd Class, twice Mentioned in Despatches, Late Royal Artillery. 

 

image.png.dbb29c7bf9c95eff9c4b7302771a18ae.png

 

After the War Chuck Williams seems to have continued as the Prince De Mahe, and as such, was reported as being involved in local politics, opening events (the picture is from the opening of Plymouth Albion RFC's new stand in 1923) and active with the local community in Totnes. 

 

Still no clue to his transition:

Name Registered at Birth:      Williams, Charles Digby

Name Registered at Death:    Mahé De Chenal De La Bourdonnais, Charles D. (Prince)

 

He deployed to France 25th August 1914 as Charles Digby Williams, and by 9th October he is is Prince of a tropical paradise island. 

 

Will his officers file have the answers ??? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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voltaire60
1 hour ago, ianjonesncl said:

Will his officers file have the answers ??? 

 

   Hit and miss- but on this occasion the odds are with us. 

 

1 hour ago, ianjonesncl said:

(the picture is from the opening of Plymouth Albion RFC's new stand in 1923)

 

   My home town!! And my cousin was Captain of Albion-thus, this one must get solved!!

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