'The Nassau family of St Osyth: a royal genealogy' by Kenneth Walker - The Essex Review, 1942

A reproduction of: Walker, K. (1942) 'The Nassau family of St Oysth: a royal genealogy', The Essex Review, 51, pp.75-85.


"The illustrious house of Nassau originated in the German district of that name, where it ruled as early as the seventh century. One of the oldest families in Europe, it spread through many provinces, and by marrying heiresses of other ancient houses acquired considerable power. One branch, settling in the Netherlands, became Princes of Orange, a title which descended to our own King William III. At his death in 1702, without issue, it passed to another branch, who became Kings of Holland, and from whom the crown has descended to Queen Wilhelmina.

Although the first dynasty had become extinct in 1702, William's grandfather, Prince Henry Frederick, had issue an illegitimate son, Frederick Nassau (1608-72), to whom he granted his lordship of Zuylestein, near Utrecht. This nobleman, who married an English lady, was for three years the governor and wise counsellor of the future King of England, and met a gallant death fighting the French near Utrecht, 22 October, 1672. His only surviving son, William Henry (1645-1709), inherited his father's talents, and was a close friend of William III, whom he accompanied to this country, being naturalised in 1689. He was created Earl of Rochford, Viscount Tonbridge and Baron Enfield, but spent the last twelve years of his life at Zuylestein. His elder son, William (1681-1710), another brilliant soldier, was killed in battle, and the younger son, Frederick, duly succeeded as 3rd Earl.

Frederick Nassau, 3rd Earl, was born in 1682, and came to England on inheriting the peerage. Like his forbears, he fell in love with a beautiful heiress, Bessy Savage, natural daughter of the 4th Earl Rivers. Although she was only 15 the pair married in the chapel of Somerset House, 3 August, 1714. It was not till 1721, however, that an Act of Parliament confirmed to the Nassaus the Rivers Essex estates, namely the manors and rectories of Great and Little Clacton, St. Osyth, Kirby, Thorpe and Walton, and some 6,800 acres of land, which were all that now remained of the once powerful Abbey of St.
afterwards 1st Earl of Rochford (1615-1709).
From a reproduction of a painting by Lely, now at Castle Zuylestein, appearing
in 'William Prince of Orange', by Marjorie Bowen.
Osyth. Many of the old monastic lands had been lost during the Civil War, when the mansion at St. Osyth, known as the Priory, had been severely damaged, and was probably still only partly habitable. Rochford selected this as his seat, and set about restoring the place, adding a new wing to the west. The young couple lived there till my Lord's death on 14 June, 1738, when the charming Bessy found another suitor in her chaplain, the Rev. Philip Carter, * whose culogy, The Lass of St. Osyth, was a popular poem of the time. She died 23 May, 1746, leaving two sons, of whom the elder had succeeded to the peerage.

Of William Henry, 4th Earl of Rochford (1717-81) I have already written in these pages (E. R., xlvi, 65-72). Excelling rather as a courtier than as a diplomat, he commenced those extravagances which were destined to ruin the Essex Nassaus. He sold his Suffolk estates to his brother, and in March, 1775, in order to pay off his mortgages, sold the manors and rectories of Kirby, Thorpe and Walton to Richard Rigby, of Mistley Hall. At his death he left the remaining properties to his son, Frederick, though post mortem debts caused a further mortgage to be made. Meanwhile the titles had passed to his nephew, at whose death in 1830 the English peerage became extinct. The Dutch lordships went to the descendants of the first Earl's daughter, by whose representatives, the Counts Bentinck, they are still held.

The 4th Earl left at least three illegitimate children. By Martha Harrison he had issue Maria Nassau and by Ann Labbee or Johnson, Frederick and Anne Nassau. It is possible, however, that the John Nassau who married at St. Mary-le-Bone in 1795 was also a son, for it was in this parish (Upper Harley Street) that the Earl had his town house.

Maria Nassau married at St. Mary-le-Bone, 12 April, 1782, Richard Dore, and appears to have died at Newport, I.O.W. [Isle of Wight], 20 February, 1853, aged 95. Her half-sister Anne, died at Windsor, 4 April, 1848, aged 74. Each was bequeathed an annuity of £300, chargeable on the estates.

Frederick Nassau was born 31 July, 1771. His mother, 'Madam Johnson,' to whom the Earl was greatly attached, received £500 a year for her son's education until he was 21, £200 for household expenses and the armorial plate. She lived at the Priory but for a short time afterwards.

Frederick, like his father, was extravagant, though generous, a fitting member of Regency society. Although he maintained St. Osyth as his country seat, he spent his younger days at Park

Street, Windsor, and St. James's. In 1806 he was captain of the St. Osyth 'Home Guard,' a troop of some 134 men which had been formed to repel any attempted invasion. In 1811 it is recorded that they kept their arms in a room over the Priory gateway.

The peace of 1815 brought even greater extravagances, and we find Nassau borrowing more money on the estates. Later in life he seems to have lived quietly at the Priory, no more debts being incurred, and in 1822 he was High Sheriff of Essex. He died 3 July, 1845, aged 74, and was buried at St. Osyth.
Azure, billettee, a lion ramp-
ant or. Crest : Out of  a
ducal coronet or, the attires
of a nuck, gules.*2
Whilst on a visit to Switzerland in 1797 he married Catherine Rose, Baronne de Brackel, and the nuptials were celebrated again at St. Osyth, 14 July, 1798. This lady, who was born 29 March, 1771, was the youngest daughter of a Swiss baron, by his wife, a daughter of Sir James Kinloch, Bt., through whom she claimed descent from Edward III. At the Priory she had a boudoir specially fitted up, which was known as the Swiss Room. It was beautifully decorated with panels painted to represent scenes of her native country. She was the mother of four children, William Frederick, John Augustus, Frances Catherine and Anne Catherine Rose, and died 4 November, 1857, aged 86, being buried at St. Osyth. Capt. John Bolle, a Swiss, died at the Priory in 1811.

William Frederick Nassau, who inherited the estates, was born at Windsor, 6 December, 1798. He was educated at Eton and at St. John's College, Cambridge, and lived at the Priory, to which he had duly succeeded, although as the result of a quarrel he had only spoken once to his father after 1833.

Argent, a stag's head ca-
boshed, in chief a mullet.
The younger Nassau is still remembered by some of the oldest inhabitants of the district, and they hand down many stories of his wild excesses. One thing is said to his favour, however, that he was generous to a fault. He was extremely corpulent, and at one time weighed 26 stone. It is said that a bay had to be carved out of the dining table in order that he might reach his food. It was his custom to drive his fly 'hell for leather' through the village, being strapped in for fear of bouncing out. A few remember the coaches being driven out of the Priory, the coachmen resplendent in their close-fitting green jackets, and tall hats decorated with gay cockades. In 1851 a coach was bought especially to visit the Hyde Park Exhibition. He would drive his four in hand with a different coloured harness to each horse, and his yacht frequently displayed a gaudy array of flags. The local barber, who used to call to shave him, was often kept waiting several hours, and then had to perform his duty when his patron was sleeping, a servant holding up his head. When Nassau awoke, unaware of this, he would send for the barber, not believing it had been done. An impediment in his speech caused him to shun society.

In 1848, having fears concerning his health, he offered Dr. Robert Welham, of St. Osyth, £257 5s. 10d. per annum to relinquish his practice, and devote himself 'exclusively in the capacity of medical attendant,' an agreement which he revoked seven years later.

Things came to a head in 1857. The deaths of his mother and wife, and the realisation to what an exorbitant debt his follies had led him, had an unfortunate effect on his health. He laboured under fits of despondency and mental aberration, and in spite of the removal of all weapons he managed to secrete a penknife, with which he inflicted severe wounds upon himself one morning after his customary shave. His surgeon, Dr. T. E. Osmond, of Thorpe, and Dr. J. H. Parker, of Clacton, brought him temporary relief by their prompt attention, but he died a week later, 24 November, 1857, aged 59. At an inquest held at the Priory the following day, before W. Codd, the coroner, it was recorded that 'the deceased destroyed himself while labouring under temporary derangement.' A false rumour was spread by certain parties that the unfortunate gentleman was poisoned by a relative, as the penknife could not be found, and there were no traces of blood where expected. His life was insured for £80,000.

He took to wife Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Garnet, a miller of St. Osyth. She was born 10 September, 1809, and died 9 August, 1857. By her he had had two daughters, Elizabeth Garnet, wife of J. R. Kirby, and Eliza Nassau, wife of Charles Brandreth, with whom I deal below.

John Augustus Nassau, brother of the deceased, was born at Windsor, 6 January, 1800, and was educated at Eton, Trinity College, Cambridge, and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he matriculated in 1819. With his sister he inherited Wash Farm, Clacton, which was sold to Charles Gray Round, of Colchester, in 1851. His first wife died 30 October, 1851, aged 26, and he married again at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, 19 March, 1853, Mary Elizabeth Austin (nee Chamberlain), a widow. He executed a deed of assignment in 1856, was said to be still living in Essex in 1864, but died in London.

His son, Rochford Augustus (1853-1902), was the father of Mr. F. F. R. Nassau, of Palmers Green, the present male representative of the family, who has two sons to carry on this old and royal name, as well as a sister, now Mrs E. Savage. His only brother died at sea in 1933, without issue.

Frances Catherine, daughter of the Baronne, was born 1 May, 1802, but died in infancy. Her sister, Anne Catherine Rose, was born at Park Place, St. James's Street, 15 May, 1806, and married at Kendal, 15 August, 1825, Thomas John Manning, of Barbados, by whom she had three daughters, and at least one son, Stephen Augustus, who died without issue. One daughter, Katherine Ruth (1831-1900), married Matthew Lister, of Burwell, and was mother of Mr. M. H. Lister, of Muckton, Lincs. Another daughter, Annie Catherine Rose, married at St. Osyth, 28 April, 1853, George Simpson, of Lee Wick, who was connected with many local farming families, including the Carringtons, Wilsons and Blyths. He died October, 1864, aged 37, and his widow, with her five children, left the district and married a Mr. Vaughan.

The Brandreths were an old Cheshire family. Dr. Joseph Brandreth (1746-1816) was an eminent surgeon, and his son, Thomas Shaw Brandreth (1788-1873), was distinguished as a mathematician and scholar. Another son, Dr. John Brandreth, of Liverpool, had several children, including Charles and Helen, who married Edgar Corrie, of Redbank.
Charles Brandreth, J.P., was born 20 March, 1826, and was educated at Eton and at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1846 he joined the 4th (Queen's Own) Regiment Light Dragoons. He relinquished his commission upon marrying Eliza Nassau at St. Osyth, 15 May, 1851.
Sable, a cross of 5 mascles
or. Crest: An Agnus Dei
couchant, argent. Motto:
Fortunam honestent virtute
(May they adorn success
with courage.)
By his will, W. F. Nassau left his estates in trust for his two duaghters, but desired that certain portions should be sold in order to pay off his debts, which amounted to nearly £100,000. The trustees were J. T. Ambrose, solicitor, of Mistley, and J. Martin Leake, of Thorpe Hall. The latter relinquished his trust, however, and it was left to Ambrose to carry through the difficult negotiations. The contents of the Priory were sold by J. C. Fenn. of Ardleigh Hall, 20 April, 1858, in spite of ineffectual attempts to prevent it by John Nassau, who was claiming his brother's estate under the Earl's entail. He then brought an action of ejectment against Brandreth, which was heard at Chelmsford assizes on 22 July, but was unsuccessful, and the sale of the estates and advowsons was proceeded with.
They were auctioned at the Mart, opposite the Bank of England, on 20 August, 1858. We read : 'The sale, from the magnitude of the property offered, and the number of tenants and others concerned in the result, naturally excited very great interest. The attendants of yeoman and others from the Tendring Hundred was very large, and we also noticed nearly all the principlal solicitors and auctioneers from the eastern part of the county.'
Thus were the remaining lands of the old Abbey of St. Osyth sold piecemeal in under two hours, the total realised being £89,765, many of the estates, including the Little Clacton living, being bought in at £121,920, giving a gross total of £211,685. Some of the land was purchased by Brandreth. The Little Clacton living seems to have been returned to the Nassau trustees, who continued to own the manors of St. Osyth and Clacton, and later included T. W. Nunn, of Lawford Hall (died 1888), and A. Brandreth Corrie, son of the above Helen, who succeeded the Brandreths. The Great Clacton Manorial Rights were purchased by the Clacton Local Board in 1894.
Charles Brandreth, who had bought the Priory for £12,000, now took up his residence there, but afterwards seems to have changed with his brother-in-law, who lived at Hill House, 1 1/2 miles to the north.
In 1859, the west wing of the Priory, including the beautiful Swiss Room, was pulled down, in order, so it was said, to open up a view of the park. Walford, writing shortly after this, deplored the many acts of vandalism there, adding : 'It would be a satisfaction to know that the Vandal's reign is at an end in St. Osyth.' Fortunatley, succeeding owners have once more restored the Priory to its former dignity. In 1862, it was occupied for a year by Hynman Allenby, accompanied by his son, who was destined to become the great field marshal. The following year it was sold to Mr. John Johnson, afterwards knighted, a wealthy corn merchant, of Mark Lane.
Charles Brandreth died 10 August, 1892. His wife, born 10 July, 1833, died 5 August, 1912, aged 79, leaving an only daughter, Margaret, who was born 14 November, 1866, but died unmarried at Southwold, 8 March, 1924.
The Kirbys had been connected with the district for several generations. John, son of John Kirby, was admitted a Free Burgess of Colchester in 1700. Another John, probably his grandson, married in 1744 Ann Martin, of East Donyland, and a fourth John Kirby died 10 December, 1809, aged 68, and was buried at All Saints, Colchester. The last named was the father of John Roberts Kirby, who was born about 1762, and educated at Felsted, Onehouse, and Caius College, Cambridge, where he was admitted in 1779. In 1785 he became tenant of property at Dedham, upon the surrender of Cyprian Colchester, merchant, who had married Anna Maria Kirby, probably his aunt, in 1774. The same year he was ordained deacon at Peterborough, and in 1791, as the Rev. J. R. Kirby, had moved to Great Holland. He married Ann Fogg at St. Mary-le-Strand, 7 May, 1784, and their son, John Lawrence, was baptised at Dedham, 26 November, 1787.
The last-named gentleman was a captain in the East Essex Militia in 1814, but forsaking the sword for the gown, was admitted to Pembroke College, Cambridge, in 1816, and, obtaining his B.A., was ordained to the ministry. On 20 Jaunary, 1832, he was presented to Little Clacton by F. Nassau, and there built the present vicarage, where he remained until his death, of typhoid fever, 7 January, 1850, aged 62. Of an artistic temperament, he married in 1814 a Dane, Mary Emma Jones, who died in Copenhagen, 18 July 1875. They had, in addition to four sons, four daughters who died young. The third, Margaret, died in the typhoid epidemic, 1 October 1848, and when she was being buried five days later her sister, Christiana, was taken.
The eldest son, John Roberts Kirby, J.P., was born 23 July, 1819, and married Elizabeth Garnet (Nassau) at St. Osyth, 7 April, 1845. After the sale of the Priory he lived for over forty years at Dover, dying there 6 November, 1906, aged 87. His wife, born 3 November, 1827, lived to the great age of 99, and died 3 September, 1926, being the last member of the family to be buried at St. Osyth.
They had three sons and four daughters. The two elder sons died young, and are buried at St. Osyth, and the younger, D'Arcy (1859-92), assumed the name of Nassau by deed poll in 1884. He left an only son, Capt. T. D'Arcy Nassau, M.I.E.E. [Member of the Institution of Electrial Engineers] (1886-1938).
The third daughter is Lady Braddell, widow of Sir Thos. de Multon Lee Braddell, who has six living children and six grandchildren. Her eldest son is a barrister-at-law, the second a noted architect, and the third a captain in the Buffs.
Thus we complete the genealogy of the English branch of the royal Nassaus. In conclusion, I would like to thank for their kind help Mr. F. Nassau, Mr. L. C. Sier, of Colchester, the Rev. J. Holyoak and Mr. F. Norman, of St. Osyth, and Mr. T. D'Arcy Braddel, F.R.I.B.A. [Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects].

[Note: this not a complete pedigree]
* This was probably the Rev. Philip Carter, B.A., born about 1699, who became rector of Tunstall, Suffolk, 1722, and rector of Bromeswell, 1727, both within five miles of the Nassaus' estate at Easton. Although the Countess is said to have been his widow, at her death in 1746, a Philip Carter, clerk, was party to an agreement to the 4th Earl from 1717 to 1767.

*2 The full Rochford achievement is illustrated E.R., xlvi, p. 71."

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