The history of the Yelverton family of Ireland falls into two parts. The first covers nearly five hundred years of the family's earlier activities in England, from the birth of Andrew Yelverton in Norfolk in 1307 to the death of Henry Yelverton, 18th Baron Grey de Ruthyn and 3rd Earl of Kent, in 1799. I have included a postscript for Henry's descendents because of the unfortunate story of the Marquess of Hastings and the family connections to the Dukes of Leinster, the Aga Khan and the de Robecks of Gowran Grange.
The second part encompasses the Yelverton family in Co. Cork from the time of Francis Yelverton, father of the colourful 1st Viscount Avonmore, through to the death of the 6th and last Viscount in 1910. This includes the celebrated Yelverton v. Longworth Case and draws particular attention to William Henry Morgan Yelverton (1840 - 1909) of Belle Isle, Co. Tipperary, and the Morgans of Whitland Abbey in Carmarthenshire. Major Tony Blake had the ownership of the latter property for a short period in the mid-20th century before his brutal execution during the Korean War. Two members of the family became influential in Australia - Charles Yelverton O'Connor, who did so much to boost the spread of railways and waterpipes in Western Australia, and the politician Henry John Yelverton.
The name Yelverton either derives from the Old English word "elleford" meaning "elder tree", or it is an adaptation of the personal name, Geldfrib. In either case, the word "tun" meaning "village" was added later. The first of the line to have a known address was been Andrew Yelverton (1307 - 1377) who was living at Rackheath in Norfolk during the turbulent reign of Edward II. His son Robert married Cycily, daughter of Thomas Bardolfe of Kent. Robert's grandson Sir William Yelverton (1386 - 1476) was one of those crafty Machiavellian types who was able to serve both York and Lancastrian during the Wars of the Roses. Henry VI appointed him a Judge of the Court of King's Bench while, after Henry's execution, Edward IV made him a Knight of the Bath and Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. Sir William's wife Agnes was a daughter of Sir Oliver Le Gross of Crostwick in Norfolk. (1)
Sir William's descendants were one of the most powerful families in Norfolk during the age of the Tudors. Sir Henry Yelverton was knighted by Queen Elizabeth and married Bridget Drury. She was the youngest daughter of Sir William Drury of Hawstead, a prominent Catholic soldier, diplomat and landowner from Suffolk. (2) Henry's younger brother Sir Christopher Yelverton, a lawyer with thespian ambitions, rose to become Judge of the Court of King's Bench and Speaker of the House of Commons under Queen Elizabeth. He helped produce a number of plays for George Gascoyne and also wrote the Epilogue for Gascoyne's translation of Euripides' Jocasta. King James knighted him in 1601. Sir Christopher died in 1607 at his 70-room mansion, Easton Mauduit, Northamptonshire. (3) His wife Mary was a daughter of Thomas Catesby of Whiston, Northampton, and a cousin of Robert Catesby, the Gunpowder Plot conspirator.
King James (above) bestowed a
knighthood upon Sir Henry
Yelverton in 1613.
Sir Christopher's eldest son Henry nearly came a cropper in 1609 when summoned before King James to explain why he had been speaking in a derogatory manner about Scottish people. James, only son of the unfortunate Mary, Queen of Scots, was as vigorous a kilt-wearing Jock that had ever sat upon a throne. Sir Henry Yelverton, who valued life, dutifully bowed his head and kissed the Royal hand so many times that he was knighted and made Solicitor General in 1613 and Attorney General in 1617. However, he was impeached and sent to the Tower of London in 1621 for launching a blistering attack on the monopolistic corruption of the King's homosexual lover, the Duke of Buckingham. Upon the accession of Charles I in 1625, Sir Henry was made Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. He died in January 1629. His wife Margaret was a daughter of Robert Beale (1541 - 1601), secretary to Queen Elizabeth's Privy Council and one of Sir Francis Walsingham's principal henchmen. Another reason why King James was likely to give Sir Henry the beady eye was that Beale had personally carried the death warrant to his mother, Mary, and presided over her execution.
Above: Anne Yelverton, daughter of Sir Christopher and Lady Anne Yelverton, as painted by Godfrey Kneller. She was married twice - firstly to Robert, 3rd Earl of Manchester, the English Abassidor to Venice, and secondly to Charles, Earl of Halifax. Her son Charles was to become one of the most active supporters of William of Orange and was created Duke of Manchester in 1719. (With thanks to Mark Yelverton).
Sir Henry was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir Christopher Yelverton, "an astute and careful man", who became a baronet in 1641 and was a member of the Long Parliament. His wife Anne was the youngest daughter of Sir William Twysden, knighted by King James in 1603 as a reward for escorting him from Scotland to London to succeed to the throne on the death of Elizabeth. The Twysdens suffered for their support of the Royalists during the English Civil War but Sir Christopher's diplomacy eased their plight considerably. Lady Anne bore him a son, Harry, and a daughter, Anne, pictured, who became Countess of Manchester and later of Halifax.
In April 2008, I was contacted by Nathaniel Crowell in regard to an interesting Yelverton around at this time. Elishua Yelverton is said to have been a daughter of Edward Yelverton of Norfolk, presumably a kinsman of this family. Her mother, Nazareth Bedingfield, was a daughter of Edmund Bedingfield of Hoxon, Norfolk, and his wife, Ann Southwell. Elishua arrived in Massachusetts on the Elizabeth Bonaventure in May 1633.
According to Nathaniel, she was married in 1636 in Charlestown, Massachusetts, to John Crowe, who had also emigrated from Norfolk. However, another descendent Bethany Congdon believes John and Elishua were already married before they emigrated. In March 2012, I was contacted by Janice Maddox who had a photocopy of page 103 from an unnamed book which, headed "Passenger and Ships" stated that Mrs Elishua Crowe emmigrated to America on the Bonaventure, John Graves Master, leaving Yarmouth, Norfolk on June 15 with 95 passengers. This would lend credence to Bethany's suggestion that the Crowes were married in England.
Elishua died in Yarmouth, MA, in 1687. The name ‘Yelverton’ continued through the ensuing generations of the Crowe (or Crowell) family. John and Elishua Crowe’s grandson Edward Crowell moved to New Jersey with his wife Mary, dying intestate and leaving three sons and a daughter. Mary Crowell married her solicitor who represented her in the surrogate court following her husband's death. Edward and Mary's elder children Yelverton and John later moved from Cape May, New jersey, to North Carolina.
Anyone with further information on Elishua and her family is urged to make contact.
After Sir Christopher's death in 1654, his son Sir Harry Yelverton, "a very pretty little gentleman", succeeded. "A man of superior accomplishments and serious learning", Sir Harry was educated at St. Paul's School, London, and afterwards at Wadham College, Oxford. His tutor was Dr. Wilkins, Cromwell's brother-in-law, a learned and philosophical mathematician. At the age of 20, Harry married the fabulously wealthy Susan, Baroness Grey de Ruthyn, great-granddaughter of the Earl of Kent. In time, he took a leading part in the politics of the day as MP for Northampton in the Restoration Parliament. He was a high Tory and a great defender of the Church.
Above: Arms of the Barons Greys de Ruthyn
Edward II created the 1st Baron Grey de Ruthyn in 1324. For his support of the House of York during the War of the Roses, his grandson, the 4th Baron, was raised as Earl of Kent. The family prospered under the Tudors with the 5th Baron (and 2nd Earl of Kent) serving as Military Commander during Henry VII's 1492 campaign in support of Emperor Maximillian in France. The 5th Baron was also in charge of suppressing the Cornish Rising of Lord Audley, for which he was given the King's own sister-in-law as a bride. Subsequent marital alliances with families such as Wingfield, Blennerhassett and Herbert further enhanced their social status. The 9th Baron was one of the Peers who sat on the jury during the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1587. His son Henry was the 8th and last Earl of Kent when the Baronetcy devolved upon Henry's nephew, Charles Longueville. Charles was killed fighting for the Royalists at the Battle of Oxford in 1643. He left an only child, the afore-named Susan who was duly confirmed Baroness de Grey Ruthyn.
Sir Harry and the Baroness had three sons - Charles, Henry and Christopher. The eldest succeeded as 14th Baron Grey de Ruthyn (and 3rd Bart of the Yelvertons) in 1676 but died of small pox three years later aged 22. His brother Henry succeeded as 15th Baron and became a prominent Jacobite, carrying the Great Golden Spurs at James II's Coronation and being raised as Viscount de Longueville in April 1690. The right to bear the Great Golden Spurs at Coronations has been retained by the Barons Grey de Ruthyns ever since.
In 1717, Henry's son, Talbot Yelverton, 16th Baron Grey de Ruthyn, was created Earl of Sussex by George I. He was Deputy Marshal of England in 1725, officiated at the Coronation of George II, served on the Privy Council and was made a Knight of the Bath on the renewal of the Order. His wife Lucy Pelham was a first cousin of the Duke of Newcastle. His son George Augustus, 17th Baron and (2nd Earl), was Lord of the Bedchamber to Frederick, Prince of Wales and to George III when he was Prince of Wales. Upon his death in 1758, the titles passed to his brother, Henry, 18th Baron Grey de Ruthyn and 3rd Earl of Kent. However the Earldom became extinct - as did both the Viscountcy of Longueville and the baronetcy of Yelverton - on the death of the 18th Baron in 1799.
Above: The poet Lord Byron may have
been just too pretty for the short-lived
19th Baron Grey de Ruthyn.
The 18th Baron's grandson, Henry Edward Gould (1780-1810), assumed the surname of Yelverton and ultimately succeeded as 19th Baron Grey de Ruthyn. (4) Although he only lived thirty years, he had quite an impact on society, not least upon a 16-year-old Lord Byron. The two men were tremendous pals until something, presumed to have been some form of sexual advance by the Baron on the poet, caused an irreconcilable split. Byron wrote to his half-sister, Augusta Leigh: 'I am not reconciled to Lord Grey, and I never will. He was once my Greatest Friend, my reasons for ceasing that Friendship are such as I cannot explain, not even to you, my Dear Sister, (although were they to be made known to any body, you would be the first) but they will ever remain hidden in my own breast'.
The situation is made more complex by assertions that Byron's mother had fallen in love with Lord Grey in the meantime.
In 1809, the 19th Baron married Anna Maria Kelham, daughter of William Kelham, of Ryton-upon-Dunsmore, Warwick. Byron was delighted his nemesis had fetched up with a mere 'farmer's daughter'. He wrote to his mother from his European trip: "So Lord G is married to a rustic. Well done! If I wed, I will bring home a Sultana, with half a dozen cities for a dowry, and reconcile you to an Ottoman daughter-in-law, with a bushel of pearls not larger than ostrich eggs, or smaller than walnuts'.
Lady Anna gave birth to a daughter, Barbara, in May 1810. The 19th Baron died that same October.
The 19th Baron's only child, Barbara Yelverton, Baroness Grey de Ruthyn, married twice, firstly in 1831 to the 2nd Marquess of Hastings, by whom she had six children, two sons and four daughters. The 2nd Marquess died in 1844 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Paulyn, who died suddenly in January 1851 aged 20. No happy fate awaited Paulyn's brother Henry who succeeded as 4th Marquess of Hastings. One day in July 1864, a man named Chaplin took his pretty fiancée Lady Florence Paget shopping in Piccadilly Circus. She gave him the slip and ran off with the Marquess of Hastings. However, Chaplin had his revenge less than three years later when he entered a horse called Hermit for the 1867 Derby. The Marquess bet against it. The race took place in a blinding snowstorm but Hermit won and the Marquess was ruined. He died "almost a beggar" in 1868 aged 26. The Marquessate of Hastings became extinct there and then though the baronetcy of Grey de Ruthyn survived and passed to the 4th Marquess's sister, Bertha.
Above: Admiral Sir Hastings
Yelverton, First Lord of
the Admiralty (1876-78)
In April 1845, Barbara Yelverton, Baroness Grey de Ruthyn, took a second husband, Admiral Sir Hastings Henry, CB, KCB, GCB. Their only child, Barbara, was born at Efford House, Hampshire, in 1849. That same year, Sir Hastings took the name "Yelverton" by Royal Sign Manual. The Baroness died relatively young in 1858. Sir Hastings, a scion of the House of Henry from Straffan, Co. Kildare, was born in 1808, joined the Royal Navy in 1923 and spent the remainder of his life "constantly afloat". His mother was Lady Emily FitzGerald, daughter of the 2nd Duke of Leinster. He was 2nd in command of the Mediterranean Squadron from 1863 to 1866 and later commanded the Channel Squadron. He became Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean Station from 1870 - 1874 and First Lord of the Admiralty from 1876 until his death in 1878. (5) In September 1872, his only daughter Barbara married to John Yarde-Buller, 2nd Baron Churston, by which she became great-grandmother to the present Aga Khan. Another family related to the Yelvertons by this line are the de Robecks of Gowran Grange.
With thanks to Adam Green, Nathaniel Crowell, Bethany Congdon, Janice Maddox, Benjamin Wilson, Caroline Aliaga-Kelly, Meredith Crowell and others.
1. "Genealogical History of Dormant, Abeyant, Forfeited & Extinct
Peerages of the British Empire" by Sir Bernard Burke. Harrison,
Pall Mall (1866).
2. Sir Henry Yelverton's son William was created a baronet in 1620 and married Dionesse, daughter of Richard Stubbs of Sedgefield in Norfolk. Sir William's son, another Sir William, married Ursula Richardson whose father, Sir Thomas Richardson was Speaker of the House of Commons and later Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench. Sir William died in 1649 and the death of his baby son William the following year meant the baronetcy became extinguished again.
3. Easton Mauduit was purchased by the Marquess of Northampton early in the 19th century but has since been demolished.
4. The Grey de Ruthyn arms include those of Yelverton and Longueville.
5. Admiral Hastings Henry assumed the name of Yelverton in lieu of Henry on his marriage by Royal Licence. His wife, Barbara, Baroness Grey (1810-1858), was previously married to the 2nd Marquess of Hastings. She died on 19th November 1858. The Admiral is buried at Brixham in Devon.