29 December 2020

The banking heir who
claimed a title and whose
father was Vicar of Askeaton

Francis Money-Coutts … a poet and writer, who inherited an obscure title and a banking fortune

Patrick Comerford

While I was researching the priests, rectors, vicars and curates of Askeaton for a lecture hosted by Askeaton Civic Trust earlier this year [19 February 2020], I came across the extraordinary story of the son of one Vicar of Askeaton who inherited one of the largest banking fortunes in Britain and who also managed, by sleight of hand, to wangle a seat in the House of Lords.

It was an exotic story that brought me from the rectory of Askeaton to the banking halls of London and the House of Lords … but also to stories of death in Venice, traders in Bombay, the courts of Cambridge, and the archaeological digs at Minoan Knossos in Crete.

Francis Burdett Thomas Nevill Money-Coutts (1852-1923) was born plain Francis Money in London on 18 September 1852, the son of the Revd James Drummond Money (1800-1875), who was Vicar of Askeaton in 1830-1833.

The Revd James Drummond Money was born in Bombay, India, on 26 April 1805, a son of Sir William Taylor Money (1769-1834), an MP (1816-1826) who made his fortune in India and Java as a director of the East India Company and who died of cholera in Venice in 1834.

James was educated at Harrow and Trinity College Cambridge (BA, 1828; MA, 1868), and was ordained deacon (1828) and priest (1829). He was the curate (‘lecturer’) in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, for less than a year when he came to Co Limerick in 1830 and was presented as Vicar of Askeaton by Sir Matthew Blakiston (1783-1862).

What brought a young man like this to Askeaton? He was then only 25, newly-ordained and with little parish experience. The answer is probably provided by his marriage on 10 October 1832 to Charlotte Noel, daughter of Canon Gerard Thomas Noel (1782-1851), Vicar of Romsey Abbey, Hampshire, and a famous evangelical hymnwriter.

The Revd James Drummond Money’s father, Sir William Taylor Money, died of cholera in Venice in 1834 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

She was his first wife, and she was a first cousin of Charles Noel, Earl of Gainsborough … I have told the sad and romantic stories of his daughters’ marriages in ‘Four Victorian weddings and a funeral’ (in Marriage and the Irish: A miscellany, ed Salvador Ryan, Wordwell: Dublin, 2019, pp 163-165). But, more importantly for this part of Ireland, Charlotte was a granddaughter of Sir Lucius O’Brien (1731-1795) of Dromoland Castle, Co Clare, and a first cousin of William Smith O’Brien (1803-1864) of Cahermoyle, Co Limerick.

Charlotte and James stayed in Askeaton for a very short time. They returned to England in 1833, where he became the Rector of Blatherwyck in Northamptonshire in 1833 and then a year later Rector of Sternfield, Suffolk (1834-1861) in the Diocese of St Edmundsbury. Charlotte and James had nine children, but most of them died in infancy and she died in 1848.

The Revd James Money married his second wife, Clara Maria Money-Coutts, originally Clara Maria Burdett, at Chelsea on 28 April 1850. Clara was one of the three daughters of the wealthy banker Sir Francis Burdett (1770-1844) and his wife Sophia, a daughter of the banker Thomas Coutts. Clara’s sister was the Victorian philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts, who eventually inherited the Coutts banking fortune.

James Money and his second wife Clara were the parents of Francis Burdett Thomas Nevill Money-Coutts (1852-1923), who was born Francis Money in London on 18 September 1852; and the Revd Walter Baptist Money (1849-1924), who played cricket for Kent and Surrey and who was ordained in the Diocese of Lichfield.

James Money, former Vicar of Askeaton, died in 1875 and Clara died in 1899.

Their son, Francis Money, was educated at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge (BA 1875; MA and LLM 1878). He was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1873 and was called to the bar in 1879. But, although he was both a barrister and solicitor, he spent most of his life as a poet, librettist and writer. He is now remembered chiefly as a patron and collaborator of the Spanish composer Isaac Albéniz.

Mercy Money-Coutts Seiradaki worked at Knossos with Sir Arthur Evans and John Pendlebury (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In 1875, Francis Money, as he was then named, married Edith Ellen Churchill.

In 1881, his aunt Angela Burdett marrying a foreigner – an American who was 40 years her junior. The marriage violated the terms of the will of her father Sir Francis Burdett, who had made her the sole heir of the Coutts banking fortune.

Seeing an opportunity, Clara and her son adopted the name Coutts under the terms of the will, so that he became Francis Burdett Thomas Nevill Money-Coutts on 20 September 1880. Mother and son then contested Angela’s claims. A settlement was reached, and Angela received two-fifths of the income until her death in 1906, when Francis then became the sole beneficiary.

At one point, Francis was considered for a partnership in the family bank, but this idea was abandoned as he was thought too unstable in temperament for such a position.

Adopting the pen name of ‘Mountjoy,’ he wrote and published at least 23 works between 1896 and 1923. Many of these were collections of poems. He also worked for the publisher John Lane in London, writing prefaces for, and editing, collections of poems by other authors, including the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson and the 17th century mystic, theologian and bishop Jeremy Taylor.

In 1912, by a genealogical sleight of hand, Francis became the 5th Baron Latymer through his mother’s family, when the title was called out of abeyance. The title was thought to have been extinct for 335 since the death in 1577 of John Nevill, stepson of Catherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII. But Francis petitioned for the title in 1911, and by resolution of the House of Lords on 15 July 1912 he was declared to be co-heir to the Barony of Latymer. He was summoned to Parliament by writ on 11 February 1913. Now the son of a Vicar of Askeaton had a seat in the House of Lords.

Francis changed his name again in 1914 to Francis Burdett Thomas Coutts-Nevill. He died in London on 8 June 1923.

Of course, as I researched the history of this unusual family that had lived briefly in Askeaton in the 1830s, I also had to find a Greek connection, especially with Crete and Thessaloniki. Francis was the grandfather of Mercy Money-Coutts Seiradaki (1910-1993), born the Hon Mercy Money-Coutts. She worked in the 1930s as an archaeologist in Crete, where she married Michael Seiradakis in 1947.

She was privately educated and then graduated in modern history at Oxford. There she became a student volunteer for Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos, but John Pendlebury was her archaeological mentor. He was working at the Temple Tomb and was the Curator of Knossos in the early 1930s.

Mercy was one of the five women post-graduate students at the British School at Athens in 1933-1934. She studied prehistoric pottery that winter in Athens and then left with her fellow student Edith Eccles for Crete to assist Pendlebury in completing his catalogue at Knossos. She excavated with him in the Lasithi Plateau and illustrated his most important book.

During World War II, Mercy worked for British Intelligence at Bletchley Park, then for the Red Cross, and returned to Crete in 1944. Pendlebury had been shot by the Germans earlier in the war. Back in Crete, Mercy joined the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, and acquired almost legendary status for her heroic exploits.

She was whole-hearted not only about her work but also about life on Crete. She learned modern Greek, got to know the island, its people and culture and was known for her ability to get on with local workers on site. She is seen as a pioneer of contemporary approaches to archaeological work.

Mercy married Michaeli Seiradakis, who also worked for UNRRA, and they had two children. They lived in Chania in western Crete, but she moved to Athens in 1962 where for several years she worked part-time as a library assistant in the British School. She spent the last three years of her life in Thessaloniki and died on 1 September 1993. Her son, the physicist and astronomer John Seiradakis, was born in Chania and is a professor emeritus at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

Ballindeel House, Askeaton … home of the Revd James Drummond Money in 1830-1833 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Canon Patrick Comerford is the priest-in-charge in the Church of Ireland parish, and has been living in Askeaton since 2017

The Great Court, Trinity College Cambridge … both the Revd James Money and the future Lord Latymer were students there (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This feature is published in the 2020 edirion of ABC News, the annual magazine of the Askeaton/Ballysteen Community Council Muintir na Tíre (pp 72-74).

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