Friday, June 17, 2011

Tales of the Elusive Julius – Part Two


Most of the time, I never know what I am going to stumble into next as I explore the tangents of extended family tales. I often start with a story that has been handed down through letters or diaries, and then I go digging around to see whether there are any verifiable facts to back it up. In my previous piece on the elusive Julius family,  I talked about the Dare-Julius family connections, especially those of George Julius Dare, son of Louisa Caroline Julius. Well, there is much more to tell.

Apparently, Louisa Caroline Julius not only received but also declined an offer of marriage from Horatio Nelson – yes, that Horatio Nelson, some time before she married Phocian Dare, father of George. Here is the earliest known version I have of this tale, dated sometime before 1882:

I now come to my mother's first cousin Mrs. Nesbit. This lady resided at Nevis where the late Lord Nelson, after making my mother Louise Carolyn Julius an offer and receiving a refusal, married her. My mother acting as one of the bridesmaids. King William 4th (then Duke of Clarence who with the fleet was anchored at Nevis) gave the bride away.

Like so many family stories, the facts bear out a fair bit of it, but other parts are still in the grey zone.  First of all, there is the question of how Mrs. Nesbit was related to Louisa Caroline Julius as a cousin. Frances Nesbit was born Frances Herbert Woolward, most likely at Nevis. Her father was a senior judge there, and her mother Mary Herbert, had two sisters as well as a brother. Mary Herbert’s brother, John Richardson Herbert, was President of Nevis at the time of this tale. Given that Louisa Caroline Julius’s father William was a landed proprietor in the island of St. Kitts, at Mankie estate, and his brother John Julius was Governor of St. Kitts, a cousin relationship between the two women is more likely than not. On such a tiny island, the marriage pool was small.

It is easy to track Louisa’s family ties through my Rootsweb tree, not that I can claim that it is all accurate. The best that can be said about much of the early material is that it is based on family stories from the mid-1800s. I have cobbled together a tree for Fanny, largely based on records in Caribbeana by Vere Langford Oliver: 

So far, I can’t nail down the connection between the two “cousins”. Somewhere amongst the various children of the siblings of Fanny’s parents: William Woolward, & Mary Herbert, and the parents of Louisa: William Julius & Jane Smith Edwards, there must be a link. If any readers know of it, I am all ears. One other possibility is that it was not a 1st cousin relationship, but rather some other level of cousin relationship, at which point, the name Hamilton would be a reasonable name to throw into the mix. These early family pedigrees are often hard to prove – thanks to the destruction of the records when the French attacked Nevis in 1706.

There is one other link worth exploring, and that is Marlebone, in central London. For reasons that escape me, I once had a birth entry for Louisa Caroline Julius as: Probably Marlebone, London, England.   Perhaps that was where she was baptised, and whatever record I once had found is since buried in my unfiled piles that cover my pool table. Marlybone Church is also where Walter Nisbit was married. He was the older brother of Josiah – first husband of Frances.

This clearly needs more work – it must be time for me to attack my pool table.

Still and all, I do love the vantage point of seeing Horatio Nelson as a young man in love. In May 1785, when he met Frances, he was twenty-seven years old.  Frances, recently widowed, had a five year old son, and was running the household of her uncle, John Richardson Herbert. He was the President of Nevis and was himself a widower. One May day, Horatio dropped in unannounced at Montpelier Estate, and President Herbert needed time to dress before receiving him. Herbert returned from his dressing room in a state of partial, albeit reasonable dress, and later described the scene that met his eyes: Good God! if I did not find that great little man, of whom everybody is so afraid, playing in the next room, under the dining- table, with Mrs. Nisbet's child! Two days later, Horatio and Francis actually met.

Their engagement lasted two years. Not that this would have been their choice, but Horatio Nelson’s private income was certainly too small for setting up house. It wasn’t that Francis’ uncle could not have helped them out, but he chose not to. Finally Nelson’s financial resources grew to be respectable enough that he and Francis were married March 12th, 1787, at her uncle’s Montpelier Estate in Nevis. Prince William, later King William IV, stood in for her father, and gave the bride away.

So far, there is no mention that I can find of Louisa Caroline Julius being a bridesmaid. It is also not clear that she herself was still unmarried at this time. It isn’t that her presence is impossible, only that it is so far invisible.  If there had been a proposal of marriage, and a subsequent refusal, it might very well have been on account of Nelson’s lack of financial resources.

Here is the little that I know that might help solve this question: Louisa married Phocion Dare, supposedly in 1784, shortly before Nelson’s courting of Mrs. Nesbit began. Phocion came from a financially respectable family, supposedly of Huguenot origins, although that has yet to be proven. His father was supposedly a close friend of the Duke of Bedford, although there are some factual glitches when it comes to definitively proving this part. Apparently, Phocion had no profession, but lived off the avails of Woodford Park, near Weymouth in Dorsetshire. None of this is documented, but that’s the family story. The best that can be said about it is that it is what the family has believed to be true for the past couple of centuries.

Today, we have two resources that our researching ancestors did not have: the Internet and the ability to play with data in databases. My family tree data base often alerts me to mismatches that would be readily missed if I had to stick to working from piles of paper notes, as my ancestors had to. One mismatch for me centers on the marriage date given for Phocion Dare and Louisa Caroline Julius.

The source for their date of marriage comes from a family tree done in the 1800s, and shared throughout dozens of Dare family lines all over the world. One aspect of it makes no sense to me, so here is my question: How could it be that Louisa Caroline’s first child is born thirteen years after the marriage, after which there is a child born every year or two until she hits the age of forty three, a reasonable age for the closing of the door on fertility?

There are at least two possibilities. Firstly, that the marriage date is incorrect, possibly a typo, and they married a decade later. Another possibility is that there were other children,  possibly who died in infancy, for which we have no record. 

Once again, one thing leads to another. There are always more questions than answers. The beauty of the internet is that it is not unreasonable to hope that some other researcher will read this, root around in their own piles of material, and help us all to click the missing pieces into place. This does keep happening. I continue to live and breathe in hope.

1 comment:

  1. Louisa was baptised/christened on 04 April 1764 in Saint Mary-St Marylebone Road, St Marylebone, London, England.

    John Oliver