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Lieutenant Colonel the Prince de Mahé


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Gunner Hall

The plot thickens.  His son? (rank H.H Prince John De Mahe,)   marries Rachael Ursula Isolde Guinness in 1931 (The daughter of the founder of the Guinness Mahon Bank) 

I can't voucher for the accuracy of this page, but at:  http://www.thepeerage.com/p30162.htm

Prince John Bryant Digby de Mahé is the son of Prince Charles Digby Mahé de Chenal de la Bourbonnais. He married Rachel Ursula Isolde Guinness, of  Burton Hall, Stillorgan, County Dublin,   daughter of Henry Seymour Guinness and Mary Middleton Bainbridge, on 26 November 1931.
The entry in the register of St Michael, Pimlico gives his  fathers name  as Charles Mahe de Chenal de La Bourbonnais  Rank,  H.H Prince De Mahe.

The Mahe's were living at  59  Eaton Terrace, SW1.  (Currently estimated as being worth  £7.8 million.  Is this a hovel in SW1 terms?, I don't know,   It would probably buy most of East Durham. )

Henry Seymour Guinness was  an engineer in the Indian Public Works during 1880–95. He served as a lieutenant in the Burma State Railway Volunteer Rifles in the Third Anglo-Burmese War. Back in Ireland he was a director of the Great Northern Railway (Didn't Our Charlie have a railway connection?)  in 1902–24, director of the Bank of Ireland, and assistant managing director at Guinness  1924–30.

Would old Henry tolerate letting his daughter marry a wrong'un?

Edited by Gunner Hall
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ianjonesncl
1 hour ago, Gunner Hall said:

The plot thickens.  His son? (rank H.H Prince John De Mahe,)   marries Rachael Ursula Isolde Guinness in 1931 (The daughter of the founder of the Guinness Mahon Bank) 

I can't voucher for the accuracy of this page, but at:  http://www.thepeerage.com/p30162.htm

Prince John Bryant Digby de Mahé is the son of Prince Charles Digby Mahé de Chenal de la Bourbonnais. 

 

Looking at the peerage entry  http://www.thepeerage.com/p30162.htm I can not see a precedence, there looks to be no Prince de Mahe before him. If he inherited the title, one would have expected with such a aristocratic name there would be links back to Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais (Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais) the person which the Island of Mahe is named after. If the title had been conferred on him, one would have hoped there might have been a reference.  

 

The fact that the name change was posted in the London Gazette suggests there is a document that gives the authority for it to be gazetted.  Equally an authority to change his name back to plain old Charlie (Lt Col OBE). If he was a Walt, then it was officially sanctioned.

 

I have tried to piece a bit more of his military service from the Army Lists. It looks like he may have spent some time in Newcastle. On the Army List he is shown as serving with 1A Reserve Brigade RFA from January 1916 to November 1916. 

 

2 hours ago, Gunner Hall said:

(Didn't Our Charlie have a railway connection?)  

Only one I have found is his duties as a Train Conducting Officer.

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knittinganddeath

A "Prince de Mahé" is mentioned in the high society news in some French newspapers in October 1905: here and here. He was in London, staying at Claridge's Hotel with lots of other aristos. But his personal name isn't given...

 

Screen Shot 2021-02-10 at 16.41.15.png

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Gunner Hall

He's cropped up again - at least his son has

 

Passenger list for the Llanstephan Castle in '47 on route from London to Kenya   Back to being royalty again. H.H Prince M.B.E  and Princess De Mahe,  plus two sprogs.  Poor little blighters had to make do with "Miss"   

 

Hope he got an upgrade.  

Llanstephan castle.jpg

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ianjonesncl
28 minutes ago, knittinganddeath said:

A "Prince de Mahé" is mentioned in the high society news in some French newspapers in October 1905: here and here. He was in London, staying at Claridge's Hotel with lots of other aristos. But his personal name isn't given...

The first pre war reference I have seen - many thanks for the information. 

 

Having married the daughter of Sir John Wright (Sir John Wright, 1st Baronet) I would think Charlie would be rich enough to mix with high society and stay at Claridge's. 

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Gunner Hall

Princess Fiona sailing back from Kenya to Blighty in '57 on the S.S Kenya.   Shrek has been left behind.

S.S Kenya.jpg

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knittinganddeath
15 minutes ago, ianjonesncl said:

Having married the daughter of Sir John Wright (Sir John Wright, 1st Baronet) I would think Charlie would be rich enough to mix with high society and stay at Claridge's. 

Now I wonder if he decided to adopt an aristocratic name & persona in order to associate socially with dukes and duchesses. Aren't nobs notoriously snobbish about people's bloodlines and where they've made their money? Sir John wasn't ennobled yet in 1905, so might not have been able to rise into the ton, but his money could have allowed a "prince" to gain access to more exalted social circles.

 

Sorry for all the speculation. I am a big fan of historical romances and this scenario would fit right in with all the over-the-top plots.

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ianjonesncl
1 hour ago, knittinganddeath said:

Sorry for all the speculation. I am a big fan of historical romances and this scenario would fit right in with all the over-the-top plots.

 

Many scenarios worthy of Agatha Christie..... will the mystery of Charlie be solved ? 

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

 

Francois's grandson Louis-Charles was a chess master, who was born in on the Isle of Reunion in 1795, but died penniless in London in 1840 having lost his fortune in land deals.  No sign here if was the male heir or he had any issue, but must have inherited some of grandpa's money ?

Perhaps he sold the title like you can a lordship of the manor.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis-Charles_Mahé_de_La_Bourdonnais

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ianjonesncl
42 minutes ago, travers61 said:

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

 

 I have found an Association of Friends of Mahé de La Bourdonnais

 Association des Amis de Mahé de La Bourdonnais - Le site de l'Association (labourdonnais-association.org)

 

which includes a family tree which shows Louis-Charles having a child (died aged 10)  to an English lady, Miss Gordon.

Arbre d'ascendance - Association des Amis de Mahé de La Bourdonnais (labourdonnais-association.org) 

 

36 minutes ago, travers61 said:

Francois's grandson Louis-Charles was a chess master, who was born in on the Isle of Reunion in 1795, but died penniless in London in 1840 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis-Charles_Mahé_de_La_Bourdonnais

 

 Louis-Charles being in London (recorded as being there in 1834  McDonnell versus De La Bourdonnais, Match 4 (16), London 1834 - Wikipedia), and dying there December 1840), puts him in the UK at the same time as Charlie Williams parents. Another thought was a possible link to the Miss Gordon shown in the family tree.

 

What is interesting that there is no reference on the tree to anyone claiming the title Prince de Mahe.

 

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ianjonesncl
  • Another Mahe, in India, with a disputed link to Mahé de La Bourdonnais.

Mahé, India - Wikipedia

  • A few more diary entries from Dunsterville's diary which are tagged Prince de Mahe;

Prince de Mahé | Stalky's World War 1 Diaries (wordpress.com)

  • A little more self learning about being a Prince; 

Prince as a substantive title

Other princes derive their title not from dynastic membership as such, but from inheritance of a title named for a specific and historical territory. The family's possession of prerogatives or properties in that territory might be long past. Such were most of the "princedoms" of France's ancien régime.

Prince - Wikipedia

 

The title being an inheritance for a specific and historical territory does explain why someone with an aristocratic sounding French name may feel they have a claim to a  "princedom" of France's ancien régime. It seems from Dunsterville's diary entries that Charlie was accepted as the Prince de Mahe. 

Edited by ianjonesncl
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ianjonesncl

This is what I have pulled together regarding Charles Digby Williams transformation to His Highness Charles Mahé de Chenal de la Bourdonnais, Prince de Mahé for the duration of the First World War. Despite an the entry in the London Gazette restoring the Prince to Charles Digby Williams, Charlie and the next generation continued with their princely names.

 

Prince de Mahé aka Charles Digby Williams - Northumbrian Gunner meanderings - Great War Forum

 

The mystery of why Charlie was the Prince de Mahé and what triggered Charlie to be a gazetted a Prince remains a mystery. 

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I am beginning to see how to connect the dots. :D

 

Chuck or his dad made a few bob, doubtless from the slave trade, which was such a forte of Global Britain. They then decided to move up-market by buying a piece of French property, associated with the de La Bourdonnais family, and claiming a title went with it. A process directly akin to buying an historic lordship of the manor of XYZ, and thereby claiming to have become "Lord of XYZ". The property involved need not be large.

 

As you might guess or expect, this was not a valid way to acquire a French title since the sans-culottes stormed the Bastille!

See the extensive discussion of the question by François Velde, an expert on French nobility, at

https://www.heraldica.org/topics/france/titlesale.htm

 

 

 

 

Edited by Wexflyer
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edwin astill

Some real or pretend royalty- perhaps then but also now - might easily be persuaded to hand out a title for a consideration.

 

Edwin

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5 hours ago, edwin astill said:

Some real or pretend royalty- perhaps then but also now - might easily be persuaded to hand out a title for a consideration.

 

Edwin

 

True, but they have to be sovereign royalty. Mere nobility, or non-royal princes do not enjoy this prerogative.

 

Which reminds me, as Tánaiste of Ferns I am always willing to entertain offers of fealty from generous new adherents to the sept...

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7 hours ago, Wexflyer said:

Which reminds me, as Tánaiste of Ferns I am always willing to entertain offers of fealty from generous new adherents to the sept...

 

     Does your fealty not go to The O'Morchoe?    Out of interest, Wex-  and in line with the current discussion of soidisant toffs of yesteryear, is there anything out there on the Irish chiefs during the Great War?  I note the last O'Morchoe-a decent man and a good Irishman- was formerly a British Army Major-General.  It would be an historical byway to know if any of the chiefs served in the Great War - let alone what their medal cards have to say!

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28 minutes ago, voltaire60 said:

 

     Does your fealty not go to The O'Morchoe?    Out of interest, Wex-  and in line with the current discussion of soidisant toffs of yesteryear, is there anything out there on the Irish chiefs during the Great War?  I note the last O'Morchoe-a decent man and a good Irishman- was formerly a British Army Major-General.  It would be an historical byway to know if any of the chiefs served in the Great War - let alone what their medal cards have to say!

 

Indeed not! I am not a Murphy, and in any case they had a dreadful tendency to support the away team...

Plenty of more patriotic septs in Ferns/Wexford!

 

As for the on-topic question, as to Irish Chiefs in the Great War, apart from random references I know of only one book or article dedicated to that topic. The exception, of course, relates to The O'Rahilly, who played for the home team in 1916.

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20 minutes ago, Wexflyer said:

I know of only one book or article dedicated to that topic

 

     May I ask what that is?  

 

CDMDCDLB was unlikely to be the only  man serving in the British Army with ,how can we put this politely- a somewhat foggy genealogy.  This would be a good thread to set down any others that turn up. It is still a nagging problem that in 1914 he was gazetted as "HH"- and that does betoken some official acceptance of him.  But there must be others- after all, there were enough French titles, both Napoleonic and Bourbon, living in exile in the UK to bring this question up more than once. And perhaps the odd Belgian nob among the refugees of 1914? 

    

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ianjonesncl
15 hours ago, Wexflyer said:

I am beginning to see how to connect the dots. :D

I rather like the thought of Miss Gordon, the mistress of Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais (Arbre d’ascendance), being an illicit link to the Williams family, which Charlie used to adopt the aristocratic sounding name and potentially purchase the title of Prince de Mahe. I think the name and title needed to go hand in hand, Charlie Williams Prince of Gowerton (Wales obviously being taken) does not quite have the same kudos. 

 

The reference to the prince de Mahe in 1905 high society may indicate that Charlie had adopted the persona pre war. On mobilisation he looked to continue  with his nomenclature, instituting some form of paperwork for the London Gazette. With the Race to the Sea in progress, the British Expeditionary Force reinforcing , and the Kitchener recruiting effort producing an ever expanding Army, I can see that checks that Charlie Williams was the Prince de Mahe (and entitled to use HH),  being minimal as the mound of paperwork grew at the London Gazette. The official acceptance in 1914, then the official repudiation in 1920 is intriguing.

 

Hopefully at some stage all the dots will be joined, in the meantime the foggy genealogy of Charlie to Prince of Mahe is a useful diversion during lockdown (plenty of time for the imagination run riot). 

 

As well as the Charlie to Prince enigma, a few other questions arose from researching him;

  • What is the Russian Order of St. Stanislas, 2nd Class ? and what are the criteria for it's award ?
  • What was his contribution to Air Defence leading to a MID ?
  • What were his valuable services for an OBE ?
Edited by ianjonesncl
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knittinganddeath

@ianjonesncl A more thorough search of Gallica (BNF) reveals Charlie was also an inventor -- he applied for patents       in the 1920s for "improvements in, or relating to, loud-speakers, gramophones, and other sound-recording or reproducing apparatus." Between 1897 and 1912, a Charles Digby Williams also filed patent applications, relating mainly to "improvements in pneumatic tires for vehicles."

 

As for the Order of St Stanislaus, if his award was genuine then he must have been one of the very last to receive it -- Wikipedia says that "after 1917, the order was not awarded in Soviet Russia in any form."

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ianjonesncl

@knittinganddeath Many thanks - more insight into Charlie. 

 

10 minutes ago, knittinganddeath said:

@ianjonesncl A more thorough search of Gallica (BNF) reveals Charlie was also an inventor -- he applied for patents  

Do you know what name did he use for the filling of his patents ? Was it different pre and post war ?

 

9 minutes ago, knittinganddeath said:

in the 1920s for "improvements in, or relating to, loud-speakers, gramophones, and other sound-recording or reproducing apparatus." 

One wonders if the use of acoustics in WW1 for the detection of air craft was part of his wartime work. It would help explain a MID for valuable services rendered in connection with anti-aircraft services in the United Kingdom 

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

 

19 minutes ago, knittinganddeath said:

As for the Order of St Stanislaus, if his award was genuine then he must have been one of the very last to receive it -- Wikipedia says that "after 1917, the order was not awarded in Soviet Russia in any form."

I had wondered about the timing of the award. The wiki entry does detail "the Order of Saint Stanislas continued to be awarded after the revolution by Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich, and Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna; the latter a claimant to the headship of the Imperial House". 

 

The London Gazette records a number of awards of the Order of St Stanislaus of various classes, https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30476/supplement/829

 

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I don't think that this has been asked before, but .... where are the medals now?  

 

It's been established that there was / is a daughter, but she'd be a good age now. She was 22 when she returned to the UK in 1957, so that makes her approximately 87 now, if she's still alive. It's also a puzzle as to what happened to her ... she was described as a "Spinster" in 1957, but did she later get married and have children? 

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knittinganddeath
58 minutes ago, ianjonesncl said:

Do you know what name did he use for the filling of his patents ? Was it different pre and post war ?

In the 1920s he used the whole mouthful -- the applications are recorded as being registered by "CHARLES MAHE DE CHENAL de la BOURDONNAIS PRINCE DE MAHE" and "Mahé, (C. M. de C. de la Bourdonnais), Prince de."

 

I don't know if it's possible to know if the Charles Digby Williams of the prewar patents is the same person, but if it is -- then he's using the title of Prince de Mahé socially during this same period (assuming the prince in the French news is him) but he seems to know it won't stand up legally and therefore files the patent applications with his legal name.

 

The timing of his St Stanislaus medal actually makes sense; according to your earlier links, the Gazette article that announces it is dated 11 Jan 1918. I imagine it might have taken some time for the news to reach the media. Also, 11 Jan 1918 was something like 30 or 31 Dec 1917 on the Julian calendar that was still in use in Russia at the time. The Soviets changed over to the Gregorian calendar only in Feb 1918.

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  • 2 weeks later...
ianjonesncl

A little more about Charlie.

 

His marriage to Jessie Ethel Wright, the daughter of Steel Company owner Colonel JR Wright was well reported;

SWANSEA.|1899-02-09|South Wales Daily News - Welsh Newspapers (library.wales)

PRETTY WEDDING AT GOWERTON.|1899-02-10|The Cambrian - Welsh Newspapers (library.wales)

FASHIONABLE WEDDING AT GOWERTOM.|1899-02-08|The South Wales Daily Post - Welsh Newspapers (library.wales)

 

The article in the South Wales Daily Post outlines that Charlie was a manager of a works in Algiers (The Cambrian details he works in the iron industry). 

The newly wedded couple left by the 1.30 train to spend the honeymoon in London, en route for Paris and Algiers, where they will reside, the bridegroom holding an important position there as manager of a works.

 

In July 1901 the birth of their son (also destined to be a prince), is announced in the Weekly Mail, Family Notices|1901-07-20|Weekly Mail - Welsh Newspapers (library.wales) By this stage it looks like Charlie (London Gazette in 1899 records his promotion to Captain as C.D. Williams), has added a hyphen to his name , becoming Charlie Digby- Williams. This is how his family's name is recorded in the 1911 census. 

 

The Army list of 1914 still records him as Williams C.D.

 

 

 

 

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