Friday, June 17, 2011

Tales of the Elusive Julius – Part One

Photo credit: Venetia Bowman-Vaughan
Near this place lyeth interr’d the Body of Capt. William Julus [Julius] late Commander of His Ma. Ship the Colchester who departed this life ye 3d of Oct. 1698 Aged 33 years

Behind the story of this inscription in Westminster Abbey are several stories that continue to tweak my curiosity. I had temporarily forgotten about this William Julius, but then my interest was reawakened during the television stories about the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton  – mostly because of the Westminster Abbey connection. 

William Julius was a great-great uncle of Amelia Lydia Dare, wife of Sir Thomas Jackson. The more I learn about her and her family, the more important it becomes to learn about her Julius and Dare family roots. The international business connections of these two families in the 1800s were a not insignificant part of her husband’s success in making HSBC such a major player. They could even be credited with being one of the convergences that laid the ground for HSBC’s later successes in the 20th and 21st centuries. I realize that may sound like quite a stretch, but Amelia Lydia Dare was born a child of the British Empire, if anyone was, and there were dividends to be realized on account of this.

She was born in Singapore in 1851, the seventh of nine children. Her father, Captain George Julius Dare, was a well-known “character” in Singapore. He had been a navigating officer in the navy, a midshipman in the East India Company, and had married Sarah Shrieve Parke when he was at The Cape. At the time, he was laid low and recovering from dysentery. In fact, had he not been decked by the disease, he would never have met his future wife. The connection came about because a friend, Captain James Sedgewick, took him to recover at the home of his future mother-in-law, Elizabeth Parke, a home that she ran as a boarding house for East India men who were at The Cape for health.

Not surprisingly, George had many business interests on the side, as naval men of his day often did. After all, before the telegraph was invented, it was the naval men who were most often in the know with respect to both sides of the imperial coin – importing and exporting.

After his wedding day, George and his friend James Sedgewick- who incidentally married George’s wife’s sister on the same day - sailed off together with their brand new wives in the ship that Sedgewick captained, and in no time at all, fortune fell into their laps. According to a letter from a cousin of Amelia Lydia Dare in the late 1800s:

On the way they fell in with a derelict, and your father said he could navigate her to the port if he had crew and Uncle Sedgewick gave him one. He took the ship to Ireland and was much feted by owners and got a large sum of money as salvage which of course had to be shared with Uncle Sedgewick’s owners.

The received family version has it that George Julius Dare finally received his own ship thanks to money inherited from his maternal grandfather, William Julius. This maternal grandfather would have been a nephew of the William Julius who was buried in Westminster Abbey in 1698, and who was one of the first of the Julius family to be connected to sailing ventures and plantations in the West Indies. The subsequent Julius family fortunes were made in sugar and tobacco, on the backs of slaves, although to their credit one of them was also active in the move to finally end slavery and experienced personal financial setbacks as a consequence.

George’s grandfather was already long dead before George was even born, and George himself was only seventeen years old when his father had died, so it is likely that the money for his first ship came as a result of a bequest from his mother, or else from one of the trustees of his grandfather’s estate. The will of his mother, Louisa Caroline Dare (née Julius), mentions bequests already received by her two surviving sons, John and George. It may also be that some of the money - which would have been a considerable amount - came from George’s uncle John Julius, who was fortuitously placed as Governor of Nevis in the West Indies.

Regardless of how George received the start-up cash, it was a good investment. He acquired more ships and was soon conducting trade with China using his three neatly kitted out vessels, all of which he owned outright. The telling detail here is that he was rich enough that no partnerships were required.

Of course, it probably didn’t hurt that his brother John Julius Dare also had substantial business interests in Demerara, and had married Louisa Antoinette de St. Felix, who as an additional bonus when it came to business connections, was the daughter of the physician to the King of France.

In the days of the British Empire, the notion of six degrees of separation was likely considerably less than that, especially if you moved in the right circles. It is very clear that the Julius and Dare families were right in thick of it all when it came to the entrepreneurial action of their times, thanks to their ancestors such as the William Julius at the start of this piece His memorial at Westminster Abbey was the niggling little bit that kick started this line of inquiry in the first place, so thanks to him - whoever he was. Obviously, I still have more to learn.

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