Back to Armenia – more Finnis stories

To understand the next chapter in the story of the Finnis descendants, we must go back to the wife of Henry Blosse Lynch, Rosa. She had a sister, Khatoon.

Khatoon’s marriage was rather less controversial than that of her sister. She married  a merchant called Yusuf Constantine and had a son, Lazar and a daughter, Miriam. The family lived in Baghdad and when Khatoon’s husband died, she and her children moved in with her sister and brother-in-law, Robert Taylor,  in the same city. Shortly afterwards she was introduced to John Vesey Parnell (later 2nd Lord Congleton) who was on a largely unsuccessful missionary trip from England on behalf of the Plymouth Brethren. He did, however, manage to convert Khatoon and their marriage followed shortly afterwards, on 21 May 1833.  They were both widowed (Parnell’s wife had died on the journey out), so it seems that the niceties of an extended courtship were dispensed with.

They travelled back to England with the ten-year-old Lazar and his four-year-old sister Miriam

Parnell succeeded as Lord Congleton in 1842 when his father hanged himself. He and Khatoon, who lived in Great Cumberland Place in London, had no children of their own. Lord Congelton was frequently away from home, preaching and baptising adult believers all over England. Khatoon died in 1865.

At this point, we return to Hythe. Lazar, who became a civil engineer,  married Elizabeth Ann Finnis of Hythe grand-daughter of Robert Finnis, upholsterer, in 1861.  They must have met in London through Elizabeth’s half-Armenian cousins. The  bride was given away by her uncle, Thomas Quested Finnis, who gave a splendid wedding breakfast and ball for the couple at his home in Wanstead. The couple lived with Lazar’s mother for a while, but later in Cambridge Terrace, just around the corner.  It was a short marriage as he died only five years later on 8 April 1866.  He had made his will only weeks earlier, leaving a thousand pounds to his step-father who was the sole executor (perhaps in repayment of a loan) and the rest to his wife. Elizabeth Ann, a childless widow, moved back to Hythe to live with her maiden aunt Sarah Finnis and after her death rented a house in Arthur Villas in Stade Street. AHe lived there with a paid companion, Charlotte Lane, dying in 1913, still a widow and was buried in the Finnis family vault at St Leonard’s church, its last occupant. She had only stocks and shares left to bequeath and these went to a niece she had never met, daughter of her half-brother John Elphicke Castle, who had emigrated to Canada in the 1850s.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Ann’s cousin, Thomas Kerr Lynch, had married Harriet Taylor, the daughter of Robert Taylor and Rosa.  Their son, Henry Finnis Blosse Lynch (HFB, to distinguish him from all the other Henrys) continued the exploration of the Middle East started by his father and uncles.

Born on 18 April 1862, HFB was educated at Eton, the University of Heidelberg and Trinity College, Cambridge. As a child, he was surrounded by Armenian relatives: his grandmother, Rosa and her sister Khatoon, who lived nearby; Khatoon’s son, Lazar and his sister Miriam; his uncle Stephen’s wife, Hosanna.  His father and uncles travelled to and from across continents, to Armenia, Persia and Mesopotamia. His uncle Henry, together with his wife Caroline, HFB’s aunt, visited from Paris.

After Cambridge, he studied law and was called to the Bar in 1887, but seems never to have practised as a barrister, instead joining the family firm of Lynch Brothers, becoming company’s chairman in 1896. He had been admitted as a freeman of the Worshipful Company of Bowyers of the City of London in 1888 – evidently the name of Finnis still had some influence there.

HFB Lynch

Business took him to the Middle East, but he was still attracted by Armenia and in 1893-4 and again in 1898 made extended visits to the country where he travelled extensively, sometimes in the company of a Blosse Lynch cousin, yet another Henry. Together they climbed Mount Ararat. The result of his travels was a two-volume book, Armenia: Travel and Studies. illustrated with his own photographs and published in 1901.

Mount Ararat, 

HFB then turned his attention to politics . In 1906-1910 he was the Liberal MP for Ripon in Yorkshire but lost the seat to Edward Wood, later Lord Halifax.  He then contested the constituency of Gloucester but lost to the Conservative candidate by three votes and apparently decided to retire from politics. He lived latterly in Wardington House near Banbury, but died, ‘suddenly’ on 24 November 1913 at Calais. He is buried at Kensal Green.

Wardington House, now a nursing home

His only sibling, Eva, meanwhile, had married twice, the first time disastrously. At only twenty, she had accepted the proposal of John Charlton Kinchant, a captain in the 11th Hussars, who told her and her father that his only debt was £100 owed to his tailor. During the honeymoon in Paris, he admitted that in fact he had gambling debts amounting to over £12,000, which his new father-in-law paid off to avert disgrace. Kinchant was also obsessively jealous and often beat his wife, who understandably petitioned for a judicial separation after seven years of misery.

She was granted a divorce at the end of 1889 and in 1913 married the French Naval Attache to London, Commander (later Comte)  Rothiacob. They eventually retired to St Raphael on the French Riviera, where Eva died  on 19 December 1943 and where she is buried.

 

Alice and Harry: the Finnis French Connection

I thought, having completed ‘Armenia, India &  Mesopotamia: The Finnis Grandchildren’ eighteen months ago,  that I had also completed the story of the descendants of Robert Finnis, upholsterer of Hythe, but a telephone conversation with Christopher Young proved me very wrong. Christopher is a retired judge who studied history after his retirement and developed a particular interest in Henry Finnis Blosse Lynch. 

In that last post, I left Henry Blosse Lynch, Robert’s grandson, in 1856 in Paris with his wife and the comment that he died there. There was, in fact, more to come. 

Henry had gone to Paris with his wife, Caroline Anne, the daughter of Robert Taylor and his wife Rosa. Their love story was unusual even scandalous, as Robert, then a nineteen-year-old British army ensign, had eloped with Rosa, the daughter of an Armenian merchant, when she was twelve.  

 

Robert Taylor in later life        Christopher Young

Their children did not arrive until some years later, which gives me hope that until then the relationship was innocent. It was not, latterly however, without excitement. In 1808, when travelling with her infant son  to join her husband in Bombay (Mumbai),  Rosa’s  ship was captured by pirates and a ransom had to be paid to get her back. The adventure made her the talk of Bombay for months to come. Later, in 1829, after a trip to England, she eschewed the usual sea journey and travelled  overland from England to Baghdad where her husband (now Major Taylor) was the British resident. One of his claims to fame was that he had found near Nineveh a hexagonal clay tablet containing King Sennacherib’s account of his conquests. In the same way that the Parthenon marbles became known as ‘Elgin’s marbles’, so Sennacherib’s prism became ‘Taylor’s prism’. Rosa sold it to the British Museum in 1850 where it can still be viewed.

‘Taylor’s prism’

But I digress. Henry Blosse Lynch and Caroline Taylor had five children. In Paris, Henry established himself  as a well-known and popular member of the English colony. At the conclusion of the Persian war of 1856–7, he was delegated by Lord Palmerston to conduct the negotiations with the Persian plenipotentiary, which resulted in the treaty of Paris of  March 1857.  He also wrote papers for the Royal Geographic Society on the Tigris. The children grew up .

Henry Blosse Lynch

The second was Alice, born during Henry’s soldiering days in Bombay (Mumbai) in 1844.  Regarded as a great beauty, she married in 1867 Adolf Wilhelm Kessler, a banker.

Alice Blosse Lynch at about the time of her marriage

Adolf Kessler

Their son Harry was born in Paris on 23 May 1868.  Two years later, the couple visited Bad Ems, a spa town on the Rhein. Also holidaying there was the Kaiser, Wilhelm I, who was smitten by Alice, introduced himself on the promenade and remained an admirer for the rest of his life. This, of course, resulted in rumours that the two were lovers and that Alice’s children were by the Kaiser, despite the fact that Harry was born well before they met. The rumours were fuelled by Wilhelm’s insistence on being godfather to Harry’s sister, Wilhelmina and by his ennoblement of Adolf, who became a count (or more correctly, Graf). Otto von Bismarck , the German Chancellor, was another admirer, enchanted, he said, by Alice’s singing. 

The admirers: Wilhelm I, Bismarck and Bülow,

Admiration could have its downside.  Another of Alice’s devoted followers was Bernhard von Bülow, later another German Chancellor. He made an ill-judged attempt to seduce Alice while her husband was away and was rebuffed. He took his revenge fifty years later by using his memoirs to suggest that Alice, now long dead, had been the mistress of General Georges Ernest Boulanger, soldier and nationalist politician. In fact, these rumours had been current years before, but had been successfully quashed by the family. 

Alice in later life, rather ethereal

Alice consoled herself with amateur theatre where she performed the works of Maupassant to invited audiences and was congratulated by Ibsen himself on her performance as Nora in The Dollshouse . He especially liked  hertempestuous’ dancing of the tarantella. (1) 

Adolf died of throat cancer on 22 March 1895 and Alice never recovered from her loss. She developed a debilitating but undiagnosed illness and retreated from society, refusing to see old friends except occasionally in dimmed light. Winters were spent hidden in her Paris apartment, summers in a semi-derelict chateau in Normandy. Her correspondence with her beloved son Harry during her declining years was full of misery. She died on 19 September 1919. Harry was devastated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Kessler as a young man

Harry (in full, Harry Clement Ulrich Kessler) was a brilliant but complex character. Educated in France, England and Germany, he studied law and art history in Bonn and Leipzig  respectively. His biographer, Laird M. Easton, describes his contribution to the cultural and political life of Germany (and beyond) during the inter war years as aesthete, art patron, diplomat, diarist and peace campaigner.  He supported artists such as French sculptor Aristide Maillol, Belgian architect Henry van de Velde, English theatre designer Gordon Craig, and Austrian poet and playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal;   during World War 1 he served as a soldier, propagandist, and secret agent and after it embarked on a public career as a committed internationalist and pacifist, a stance that led ultimately to his exile from Germany after Hitler’s rise to power.  

Harry Kessler in 1936

Harry returned to Paris, then went on to Mallorca and finally to the southern French provinces. He died in 1937 in Lyon at a hostelry owned by his sister (now the Duchesse de Frioul) and is buried in the family plot at Père Lachaise cemetery, Paris.  He never married. His preference was for beautiful young men, notably a French cyclist called Colin. As I write this, I cannot but think how impossibly vulgar Harry would find the notion of being the subject of a blog post. 

His grandmother, Rosa, meanwhile, widowed, went  first to Boulogne and then to England where she stayed with her daughter Harriet in Cleveland Square, Bayswater. Her grandson, who lived with her, could remember  could remember her running her hennaed hands over his face and telling him he had the features of her late husband. She died in 1873. 

To be continued…

  1. Laird M. Easton, The Red Count: The Life and Times of Harry Kessler  (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002) p. 19

Armenia, India and Mesopotamia: the Finnis Grandchildren

Robert Finnis, upholsterer of Hythe,  had a great many grandchildren, despite the fact that three of his nine children died young and another three had no offspring. Of the three remaining, George had two daughters, one of whom died young. The other, Elizabeth, made, for a young woman brought up in Hythe, an extraordinary marriage, to Lazar Josef Constantine, an Armenian. His widowed mother had subsequently married Lord Congleton.  The connection can only have been through her Lynch cousins, two of whom also married Armenians (see below). Elizabeth was the last person to be buried in the Finnis vault at St Leonard’s church, in 1913.

Elizabeth, Robert’s eldest daughter, married Henry Blosse Lynch of Partry House, Co. Mayo, and gave birth to eleven sons. Her new husband’s father, Joseph Blosse Lynch,  had converted to Anglicanism from Roman Catholicism, which gave his son the right to serve in the British Army. It was important for Henry to find a paying occupation as his father had brought Partry House and his own finances into a state of collapse through his gambling habit.  Henry, who was with the 27th Regiment of Foot, fought in the Peninsular Wars and distinguished himself at he capture of Ciudad Rodrigo in 1812.  He wrote home from Spain to his ‘dear Betsy’, describing the fighting and his march home through France when he was able to visit Versailles and the Louvre and buy Sevres china at St Cloud. (1) Until then, the family had lived in quarters in Rochester, but now they were free to go home to Partry House.

Five of their children, Henry, Robert, Michael, Stephen and Thomas, made their fortunes, and sometimes met their deaths, in exploring the Middle East.

Henry Blosse Lynch (junior) joined the Indian Navy at sixteen, taking part in a survey of the Persian Gulf.  He had a flair for languages, and learned Arabic, Hindustani and Farsi.   As a lieutenant, he was second-in-command of Colonel Chesney’s expedition to transport overland the components of two steamships across northern Syria to meet the Euphrates, there to re-assemble the steamships (the SS Euphrates and Tigris) and to navigate the Euphrates as far as the Iranian Gulf. The intention was to seek a new trade route with India and the Far East.  Henry commanded the Euphrates and his younger brother Robert, a lieutenant in the 26th regiment of the Bengal Army, the Tigris, the smaller vessel. Robert and twenty other men were drowned when a sudden storm capsized his vessel in May 1836.

See the source image

Henry returned, much feted, to England, later in 1836, was granted an audience with the king, William IV and wrote articles for the Royal Geographical Society. A minor and now forgotten poet, Henry Richardson, wrote a very long (eighty-eight page) poem,   The Loss of the Tigris; a poem. In two cantos. Inscribed to the commander, officers, and men of the Euphrates Expedition. An excerpt follows:

There were two brothers in the death-doomed bark;
And one escaped, the other’s life was reft;
And here the words of holy Scipture mark;
“One Shall be taken, and the other left!”
Dark and inscrutable are Wisdom’s laws!
But, Lynch you perished in a noble cause,
And your brother lives to carry through,
Bright deeds of glory denied to you.

In 1839, another younger brother, Michael, was sent out to Baghdad with three more disassembled steamships.  He also undertook some surveying work in Armenia and died there in 1840 aged twenty-eight. No poet eulogised his death.  There were, however, still two younger brothers left ( the very youngest, Frederick, had died aged twelve).  Henry understood the commercial potential of Mespotamia and Armenia and he succeeded in interesting his uncle, Thomas Quested Finnis, in importing goods, unobtainable elsewhere, for his provisions company, Finnis and Fisher. It is likely that he also received financial backing – Thomas Quested Finnis was very rich. The two younger brothers, Thomas Kerr and Stephen, duly set sail.

Stephen was only twenty-one, and he stayed for the next thirty years, establishing Stephen Lynch & Co. in Baghdad and Lynch Brothers & Co. in Basra as traders in commodities. In 1858, he founded the London and Baghdad Banking Association  and used this financial leverage to obtain from the British Foreign Office the sole right to navigate the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and to maintain two steamers on those rivers. He and Thomas Kerr then established the Euphrates and Tigris Steam Navigation Company and commissioned their own steamers, the peak of their achievement being the two-funnelled SS Blosse Lynch, 270 feet in length and 46 feet on the beam, in 1878. She was later used for river trips for tourists and remarkably, was pressed into service during World War 1, armed with 18-pounder field guns strapped to her decks.

view-of-baghdad-with-the-dijla-and-the-customs-house-william-perry-fogg-1874

The Dijla, another Lynch Brothers steamer, moored on the Tigris at Baghdad  (William Perry Fogg, 1874, Harvard Art Museum, Fogg Collection)

Stephen, like two of his brothers, married an Armenian woman, Hosanna, the youngest daughter of Hatchick Mackertich, vice consul at Baghdad on 10 November 1859 and established his family in Cleveland Square in Bayswater.

Stephen Blosse Lynch with two of his daughters and a son; his wife, Hosanna. 

Christopher Young

The girls were presented at court, most unusually wearing Armenian dress rather than the traditional white ball gowns.

Stephen’s daughters in Armenian costume.                       Christopher Young

In the 1850s, Thomas Kerr, who had by then travelled extensively throughout Mesopotamia and Persia, was appointed Consul-General for Persia in London. He was made a Knight of the Order of the Lion and the Sun by the Shah of Persia  and married Harriet Sophia Taylor whose mother was Armenian and father, Colonel Robert Taylor, the British political resident at Baghdad.  Their son, Henry Finnis Blosse Lynch, continued his father’s exploration of Armenia and was widely published on the subject.

H. F. B. Lynch.png

Henry Finnis Blosse Lynch, traveller, business man and, briefly, Liberal MP for Ripon. He was a great- grandson of Robert Finnes

 

Henry, meanwhile, had moved on to India, where he worked as assistant to the superintendent of the Indian Navy. In 1851–53, as commodore, he commanded a small squadron of vessels of the Indian navy, which rendered distinguished services with the Royal Navy during the second Burmese war, at the conclusion of which he was made C.B. He returned home, and on 13 April 1856 finally retired from the service. He had married another daughter of  Colonel Taylor, Caroline Anne, and the couple  married and eventually retired to Paris, where he died at his residence in the Rue Royal, Faubourg St. Honoré on 14 April 1873, aged 66.

The other brothers led exemplary, if less adventurous, lives.  John Finnis became a barrister; Edward Patrick joined the Bombay Infantry and retired as a Lt. Colonel; George Quested  became a surgeon and at first joined his brothers in the Middle East, but on hearing of the dreadful depredations of the famine in Ireland, returned home to help. The family, together with others locally chartered the ship the Martha Washington to bring corn meal from America for their tenants. George Quested died of Typhus in 1848.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The obelisk commemorating George Quested Lynch at Partry House

 

Brownlow (by now his parents had run out of second Christian names)  became an Anglican church minister in Ballyhane, Co. Mayo. He was remembered by  one parishioner as a simple and trusting man. He was also, by his brothers’ standards, quite poor, having an income of only £165 a year from his parish which had no residence or glebe attached to it.

In the meantime, the cousins of the Lynch men were growing up. They were the sons and daughters of Col. John Finnes, who had been killed in the Indian Mutiny.

Robert Francis Finnis was the eldest son of John Finnes and his wife Sarah and was born on 13 June 1839 in Dinapore (now Dinapur) in India.  His uncle Thomas Quested Finnis enrolled him in the Company of Bowyers in 1862, but clearly Robert Francis was not cut out for a life of trade and by 1865 was a lieutenant in the Indian Navy. That year, at the church of St Bartholomew the Less in London, he married Ernestine Maria Sparks, daughter of R.H. Sparks of Charterhouse. He died at Tandil, Argentina, on 22 Nov 1868, by which time he was a former lieutenant, so not cut out for the navy, either.  Why he was there is unknown. The widowed Ernestine went on to marry twice more.

The memorial to Robert Francis Finnis and John Finnes in St Leonard’s church, Hythe. 

John, born barely a year after his brother in Burdwan, Bengal became a cadet in the Indian army at the age of sixteen, just after the death of his father in the Indian Mutiny.  He was commissioned lieutenant in December 1857, took part in campaigns at Oude, Shapore and  Dadoopore and went on the Mahsud Waziri expedition in  1881. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel in February 1884 and served on detachment to the 2nd Punjab Infantry as second-in-command. In September that year, while on leave at Mussoorie,  a hill station in the lower Himalayas, he had some decayed teeth removed by a dentist. An abscess formed in his jaw and, trying to relieve the pain, John took too much laudanum.  Although medical help was summoned, he died.

See the source image

Mussurrie Hill Station, where John Finnis died and is buried.

He had married, on 27 February1869 in Bengal, Florence Stanley McGowan.  At his death, Florence, still only thirty-four, was left with seven children, though another three had died young. She had an army pension, but John had been left nothing by Thomas Quested Finnis who had died the previous year, though he left £6000 for the children. She returned to England, living at first in London but latterly in  Dolgellau in Merionethshire with her daughters and sister. She died in 1916, not long after the death of her eldest son John Fortescue  Finnis, fighting in Mesopotamia.

The memorial to John Fortescue Finnis, great-grandson of Robert Finnis, in St Leonard’s church, Hythe. 


                                                                      John Fortescue Finnis, who left a widow and son

George Carruthers Finnis, the next son of John and Sarah,  was born in Calcutta on 2 July 1845. On the family’s return to England, he was raised by his uncle, Thomas Quested Finnis, who evidently discerned a kindred spirit. George was enrolled in the Company of Bowyers and worked for his uncle’s provisions company.  He maintained his family’s links with Hythe and married a local woman Emma Elizabeth Fagge, daughter of a Hythe physician, on 27 October 1870 in the parish church. His aunt Jane died the following year, and George appears to have inherited her house in Regent’s Park – at least, he lived there for the next twenty years. He also inherited £12,000 from Thomas Quested Finnis. He became a JP, but that was the extent of his civic life, and he died of pneumonia aged fifty-two.  Elizabeth went back to Hythe and she and George have their own memorial in St Leonard’s church.

The memorial to George Carruthers and Elizabeth Emma Finnis erected by their two sons

Another brother, Thomas Quested Finnis shunned the usual male Finnis occupations and became a dairy farmer in Pangbourne, where he died aged forty on 17 February 1890

Three daughters survived to adulthood. Louisa Jane married Captain Charles M’Laughlin a naval officer. Sophia Margaretta (Sophie) married Ross Willaume Hayter, then a civil servant,  and travelled the world with him, first to India, then to Canada in 1888 and finally the USA, though they both died in Hampshire.

Lucy Ann, the youngest child, not two years old when her father was killed, married Grimble Vallentin,  a distiller and Master of the Worshipful Company of Distillers. They had two daughters and a son, John, baptised in St Leonard’s church, Hythe in 1882. A career soldier, John Vallentin  served in South Africa from 1901 to 1903, and then on the North-West Frontier of India and Gibraltar.  He arrived in France soon after the outbreak of war , in October 1914. On 7 November 1914 at Zillebeke, Belgium, when leading an attack against the Germans under very heavy fire, he was struck down, but seeing that the other officer leading the attack had been killed, he rose and continued before being himself killed. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

His body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres. His Victoria Cross was presented to his widowed mother by George V at Buckingham Palace on 16th November 1916. She also had a plaque placed in St Leonard’s church in his memory

The memorial to John Franks Vallentin, VC, in St Leonard’s church


                                                                   John Franks Vallentin, a great-grandson of Robert Finnis

  1. Information given by Christoper Young.