Cyril Ward

Another book about SPARES (I wrote mine first!)

In 2021 I wrote a book about the lives of a group of aristocratic British Spares and specifically their extraordinary expedition to Jerusalem to find the Ark of the Covenant. The expedition ended in riots and disorder and headlines around the world. In January 2023 Penguin Books launched Prince Harry’s autobiography entitled Spare. It similarly has produced an enormous number of headlines around the world.

Prince Harry at the Invictus Games 2020

The title of the Duke of Sussex’s book refers to the fact that Harry’s elder brother William is the Heir and Harry, the younger brother, is the Spare. This fate which has faced countless royal and aristocratic brothers. It is inherent in the system whereby the title and position passes automatically to the eldest son. The fate of sisters has traditionally been worse, as in a hereditary system they were simply there to be married off in a suitable dynastic match determined by their father.

The issue for the male Spare is what to do with their life. Initially Prince Harry followed a familiar path which has been trodden by generations of young royal and aristocratic British men. Only later did he have to worry about what to do with his life. As a spare in the British Royal Family Harry did not have to really worry about money.

Eton College

As mentioned earlier most British members of the Parker expedition were spares and this is not the only similarity between them and the Duke of Sussex. The first of these is Harry’s upbringing and education. Prince Harry, like his elder brother, was educated at Eton College. King Henry VI founded the College in the 15th century. The King is possibly best remembered by the famous quote that he “lost his wits, his two kingdoms and his only son”. Henry VI’s goal for the College was to educate poor children around Windsor Castle, the king’s principal residence. However, over the years, the College changed its role. Its purpose became, and in no small degree still is, to create the next generation of English gentlemen. Eton was and still is a school for those who came from power and money and who assume, generally correctly, that this situation will continue. Most Etonian schoolboys have traditionally known that their academic achievements or otherwise at the College were not the prime drivers of their future. Over the centuries many boys have realised that there was no absolute necessity for them to work hard. This was certainly true of Prince Harry who left the College with decidedly underwhelming academic qualifications. In his autobiography he says he confessed to Meghan on their second date that he is “Not really big on books”.

An Eton schoolboy’s uniform in the 1890s.

Most of the members of the Parker expedition were younger sons, not necessarily destined to inherit their father’s titles. The eponymous expedition leader, Montagu Parker was the second son of an earl. Cyril Foley was the second son of a general and the grandson of a baron. Clarence Wilson was the third son of a rich, knighted member of parliament. Cyril Ward was the fifth son of an earl. These men, like Harry, were not meant to inherit their father’s title, estate or realm. So the question was what they did with their lives.

The Royal Family

Many of the members of the Parker expedition were very close to the Royal family. Gordon Wilson even helped ensure the continuation of the monarchy. When he was a schoolboy at Eton he helped foil an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria in Windsor. A mentally ill man named Roderick Maclean fired at Queen Victoria’s carriage as she drove from the station to the castle. Gordon hit Maclean over the head with his umbrella a number of times and ensured he could be subdued by the police before he could fire any more shots.  

Roderick Maclean firing at Queen Victoria

Other connections were very personal, Cyril Ward’s aunt, Lady Harriet Mordaunt, had been one of Edward VII’s many mistresses. She was also one of the most notorious. Her husband divorced her for adultery, a highly unusual move in Victorian England.  In court, Sir Charles Mordaunt as good as accused the heir to the throne of adultery with his wife. The Prince of Wales felt obliged to give evidence. It is hard to overemphasise how scandalous it was for the heir to appear in court to deny he had committed adultery. Many newspaper reports said that Robin Duff was a cousin of the King, albeit a distant one. However, he was close to the English (and German) Royal families. Robin Duff married Lady Juliet Lowther, a favourite of the Royal family and King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra attended their wedding. Cyril Foley knew many of the Royal family well and shot regularly with George V and VI. In his autobiography he 

The British Army

Prince Harry had many of the same constraints as late Victorian aristocratic men. They and he could not go into, what was called, trade to make money. One route which many royal and aristocratic young men took after finishing education was to go into the military. This is exactly what many of the Parker expedition and Prince Harry did. Military service, of course was as officers typically in an elite regiment such as the Guards, Hussars or Lancers. In the Edwardian era aristocrats dominated the officer corps of such regiments. Prince Harry joined one such regiment, the Blues and Royals of the Household Cavalry. Several members of the Parker expedition served in the Household Division and one, Gordon Wilson, rose to command the Royal Horse Guards. Monty Parker served in the Grenadier Guards and Robin Duff served in the Royal Life Guards. Most of the other British members of the expedition served as officers in the British Army, the only exception being Cyril Ward who served as an officer in the Royal Navy.

Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Wilson  

Active Service in a Foreign War

Most of the members of the expedition who served in the British Army saw active service, just as Harry did. In the case of the Parker expedition this was the Second Boer War. Like the war in which Harry fought, the war was fought against irregular and guerrilla forces. In March 1900, Montagu Parker sailed with a contingent of the Grenadier and Scots Guards to South Africa. He was twenty-one years of age and one of the youngest officers in the Grenadier Guards. Before they sailed, Queen Victoria inspected the regiment at Buckingham Palace, with the officers being presented individually to the Queen. During the Boer War Gordon Wilson fought at the siege of Mafeking with Robert Baden-Powell, his brother Clarence was wounded and another brother Wilfred was killed in action. Clarence went on to be the main funder of the Parker expedition, ploughing the equivalent of millions of pounds into it.

Cyril Foley, like Harry, wrote an account of his time in the war and recounted the tale of one night when there was a tremendous fusillade from two blockhouses under his command. This went on for forty minutes. When Foley got through to the blockhouse, his men told him they had fought off a massed attack by the Boers, who had driven a herd of cattle at the wire. The two blockhouses fired 1,200 rounds of ammunition, fighting off the supposed attack. In the morning, when he inspected the battlefield, Foley found the sole casualty was a single cow!

What To Do Next? Marriage to a famous American divorcee perhaps

The members of the Parker expedition who fought in South Africa came home to a more cynical country and were possibly more cynical and damaged themselves.  For example Monty Parker was diagnosed with PTSD caused by his service in the war. After Harry’s service in Afghanistan he resigned his commission in 2015 and had to find a new role for himself. It was while he was looking for this new role that he met Megan Markle and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Once again there are many similarities with the members of the Parker expedition, many of whom had finished their military careers shortly before the expedition. They had to find new lives, which given their status as Spares was difficult. One possibility was to make a good match and marry well. Monty Parker, if you believe the newspapers of the time was a favourite of Ava Astor, one of the most beautiful women of the age. One newspaper report said

‘His attentions during the recent visit of Mrs Astor were indefatigable, while in his company the beautiful American seemed to lose that wearied look she continually wears, and occasionally smiled, something she rarely does.’

 There seemed a possibility that she and Monty Parker might wed once she divorced her first husband. He was one of the richest men in America, John Jacob Astor, commonly known as Jack. Ava Astor was one of the most beautiful women of her age and with her eventual divorce settlement of $10 million from her husband would be worth over $300m today.

Ava Astor

The Parker expedition

In the end Monty and Ava did not marry and instead he led the expedition to find the Ark of the Covenant together with other Spares. The expedition seemed the perfect opportunity for young men who were searching for something to do with their lives.

The Parker expedition believed they had solved the 2,500-year-old mystery of the location of the Ark. The expedition members were convinced the Ark and the Temple treasures were not lost. They believed the precious objects had been hidden to protect them when Jerusalem was once again under threat. The participants were confident they knew the hiding place and had come to retrieve the Ark. The venture started when a Finnish poet and biblical scholar convinced the aristocratic Spares that he had discovered hidden cyphers in the Old Testament which showed the Ark’s hiding place.

The story of the Parker expedition includes secret codes, bribery, betrayal, gun-running, madness, bankruptcy, untimely death and more. It sounds improbable; Downton Abbey meets Indiana Jones meets Dan Brown. However, there is no need for invention. When Rudyard Kipling, the most famous writer of the day, heard the story of the expedition from one of its participants, he wrote to a friend: ‘Talk of fiction! Fiction isn’t in it.

Newspaper Headlines

It does not spoil the story of the Parker expedition to say that the expedition did not succeed in its goal and the members live happily ever after. Instead it created riots and disorder in Jerusalem in 1911 resulting in headlines around the world. Many of these were inaccurate and some contained outright journalistic invention. To use a modern phrase, there was a great deal of fake news about the expedition. However, a well-sourced story in the Jewish Chronicle reported that one cypher the expedition used contained a curse. The report said that any unauthorised person who attempted to disclose the secret chamber containing the Ark would be cursed ‘sixty and six fold’. Another newspaper report asked rhetorically what fate would await the Ark’s robbers. In my research I have found that the answer to this question was often an unhappy one. Within a few years, three were dead, one was mad, two were bankrupt, one divorced and another deported.

Hopefully the Duke of Sussex’s path is smoother and does not lead to the same unhappy endings as many of the Spares on the Parker expedition!

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The connections to Kenya

The Hon. Cyril Augustus Ward

The connections of the Parker expedition to Kenya centre on Cyril Augustus Ward. He was a member of the expedition party in 1909.

He was also a gambler and a gambler and a poor one; by 1914 he was between £15,000 and £16,000 in debt. This amount is the equivalent of £1.7 million in 2021. It was an extraordinary achievement to have built up such a level of debt given his family situation. His father was extremely wealthy and Cyril Ward reputedly received £100,000 in the will. However, Ward found many occasions to lose money. In 1914, he lost £825 playing the card game chemin-de-fer. Fortunately his wife, formerly Baroness Irene, came from a wealthy background and reputedly had an income of £5,000 a year herself. She paid off his debts and took control of his income. Ward assigned all his future earnings to his wife and she gave him an allowance of £500 a year.

After the First World War he returned to his losing ways. Ward had to file for bankruptcy and appeared at the London Bankruptcy Court in November 1923. He had assets of £57 and debts of £3,367. Ward informed the court his debts were due to ‘losses by gambling and speculations on the Stock Exchange and to having lived beyond his means.’ Ward added that he was without funds as his wife had stopped his allowance and he was living on the charity of his brother-in-law. It was a humiliating downfall for the brother of a wealthy earl. Soon after he left for Africa and settled in Kenya. He lived the classic expatriate lifestyle there. Ward joined the Rift Valley Sports Club, was a well-known golfer at Njoro and was one of the first regular customers of the Kenya Brewery.

A document from the Rift Valley Sports Club records the following mundane interactions:

13 Apr 1928 – ‘On this day we the undersigned took the liberty of taking a table from the dining room to the verandah for our lunch. We found this to be most comfortable cool and quiet. We realise that this is not possible every day owing to climatic conditions but we do urge that when possible a certain number of tables should be provided on the verandah for lunch or any other meals which may be suitable. The accoustics in the dining room are so bad that it is a great relief to be able to have meals in quietude.’ [signed by Cyril A. Ward, V.F.C. Peto, R.S. Muttlebury & unknown]’

17 Mar 1928 – ‘This morning I tried to get on by telephone to the Club for half an hour with no result. I suggest that either the telephone be moved or an extension bell be fitted to where it can be heard.’ [supported by C.B.P. Fitzgerald & D.C. Venning]

Cyril Ward died on 11 Jan 1930 in Nakuru in Kenya.

 

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King Edward VII’s connections to the Parker expedition

1901 Portrait of King Edward VII

King Edward VII was neither a participant nor investor in the Parker expedition but he did know most of the British members of the expedition very well. Many of the British members of the expedition were married but three were married. These were Gordon Wilson, Robin Duff and Cyril Ward. Edward attended two of the three weddings and might well have attended the third if it had not been scaled down to a small family affair due to bereavements in the family.

The first wedding he attended was Gordon Wilson’s marriage to Lady Sarah Spencer-Churchill in November 1891. The wedding was performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Prince of Wales, as he then was, was foremost amongst the guests. He was not the only royal in attendance; the Duke of Cambridge, a cousin of Queen Victoria and at that time Commander-in-Chief of the Army attended as did his wife the Duchess of Teck and their daughter Princess Victoria of Teck who later married the future King George V.

As ever the Prince of Wales complicated love life intersected with the family. He had a brief affair with Jennie Jerome the future wife of Lord Randolph Churchill, Lady Sarah’s brother.

In June 1903 Robin Duff married Lady Juliet Lowther. Her stepfather was Lord de Grey, who was the Treasurer of the household of Queen Alexandra, Edward VII’s consort. Lady Juliet was a favourite of the royal family. King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra and Princess Victoria all attended the wedding at St. Peter’s, Eaton Square, London. The Press Association reported that

‘on the marriage yesterday of Lady Juliet to Mr Robert Duff, Count von Bernstorff, Councillor and First Secretary to the German Embassy, conveyed to the bride the sincere congratulations of His Majesty the German Emperor, and presented her with a bouquet on behalf of the Emperor. The King and Queen, with Princess Victoria, were present at the ceremony at St. Peter’s, Eaton Square, London.’

Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1902

Lady Juliet and Robin Duff had two children, a boy and a girl. Princess Mary of Teck, the future Queen Mary, was godmother to their son. Princess Victoria was godmother to their daughter.

Robin Duff was an officer in the Life Guards of the Household Cavalry and was at one point was Silver Stick in Waiting to Edward VII. In 1902 before his marriage to Lady Juliet he was involved in an episode of bullying of a fellow officer. He and several other junior officers stripped 2nd Lieutenant, Charles Dalton Gregson and auctioned off his clothes. They emptied horse manure over him, rolled him in mud, ducked him in a water trough then threw his furniture out of his room. Finally, they made him run around the green outside the mess dressed only in his boots and underwear. They were punished by having their leave cancelled for six months. King Edward VII thought even these sanctions were too harsh. The victim arguably suffered a worse punishment; Gregson was transferred out of one of the most prestigious regiments in the British army and posted to the Indian army.

The third married member of the expedition was Cyril Augustus Ward. He was the fifth son of the Earl of Dudley and in April 1904 when he married Baroness Irene de Brienen, the daughter of a wealthy Dutch aristocrat. The families of both the bride and groom were in mourning so the wedding at St. Peter’s, Eaton Square was a small family one with few guests. However, King Edward VII would likely have attended the marriage in different circumstances as he attended weddings of several of Cyril’s brothers and had invested Cyril with the Royal Victorian Order.

Once again the Prince of Wales love life played a role in the close connections. He also had a very close personal relationship with Cyril’s aunt Lady Harriet Mordaunt. She had been one of Edward VII’s many mistresses and also one of the most notorious. Her husband divorced her for adultery, a highly unusual move in Victorian England. He did this after Lady Mordaunt told her husband she was pregnant and the baby was not his. The Prince of Wales paid regular visits to Lady Mordaunt at her home. In court, Sir Charles Mordaunt as good as accused the heir to the throne of adultery with his wife. The Prince of Wales felt obliged to give evidence. It is hard to overemphasise how scandalous it was for the heir to appear in court to deny he had committed adultery with a married woman. At the end of the case, Sir Charles gained his divorce. Lady Mordaunt was conveniently found to be insane and committed to an institution, away from public view.

Cyril Foley was another member of the expedition who knew King Edward VII both when he was sovereign and when he was the Prince of Wales. Foley was a very keen sportsman and shot regularly including with the German and British royal families. In his autobiography he recounted an incident in which both royal families were shooting at Sandringham. They had hoped to be hunting but there was a hard frost so they had to shoot hares instead. Some of the German party became overcome with enthusiasm and instead of staying in their places pursued the hares. During this period one of them accidentally shot King Edward VII. He received a pellet in the nose before lunch. Foley recounted how

‘and with his abundant good nature, which was one of his chief characteristics, merely shook his head and said, ‘Very dangerous, very dangerous,’

Foley added reassuringly that no one was killed that day!

Clarence Wilson who provided the largest amount of funding to the Parker expedition was a keen sailor and a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron. At the time the Commodore was King Edward VII. This period was considered the golden age of the R.Y.S. At the meeting in which Clarence Wilson was elected an active member of the R.Y.S., he was one of three new members. One of the two others was the Prince of Wales, the future King George V.

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The connections to the Netherlands

Two Dutch Baronesses

Baroness Irene

There were very limited connections of the Parker expedition to the Netherlands. The main one was a link to Cyril Augustus Ward

Cyril Augustus Ward in Jerusalem

Cyril Augustus Ward was the fifth son of the 1st Earl of Morley. He served as an officer in the Royal Navy and in April 1904 he married Baroness Irene de Brienen. She was the daughter of a wealthy Dutch aristocrat, Baron Arnoud Nicolaas Justinus van Brienen. Irene was born in the magnificent manor house of Huys Clingendael in Wassenaar a suburb of the Hague on 5 November 1883. Irene had one sister Marguerite who was generally known as  Daisy.

Marriage Certificate

Irene’s marriage to Cyril Ward was a difficult one. He was a gambler and a poor one; by 1914 he was between £15,000 and £16,000 in debt. This amount is the equivalent of £1.7 million in 2021. It was an extraordinary achievement to have built up such a level of debt given his family situation. His father was extremely wealthy and Cyril Ward reputedly received £100,000 in the will. However, Ward found many occasions to lose money. In 1914, he lost £825 playing the card game chemin-de-fer. Fortunately his wife, formerly Baroness Irene, came from a wealthy background and reputedly had an income of £5,000 a year herself. She paid off his debts and took control of his income. Ward assigned all his future earnings to his wife and she gave him an allowance of £500 a year.

After the First World War he returned to his losing ways. Ward had to file for bankruptcy and appeared at the London Bankruptcy Court in November 1923. He had assets of £57 and debts of £3,367. Ward informed the court his debts were due to ‘losses by gambling and speculations on the Stock Exchange and to having lived beyond his means.’ Ward added that he was without funds as his wife had stopped his allowance and he was living on the charity of his brother-in-law. It was a humiliating downfall for the brother of a wealthy earl. Soon after he left for Africa and settled in Kenya where he died in 1930.

In 1934 Baroness Irene remarried another naval officer, but a slightly more senior one; Vice-Admiral Hon. Arthur Charles Strutt. They did not have any children. Baroness Irene lived an extremely long life. She was born on 5 November 1883 and died on 21 April 1974.

Baroness Daisy

Baroness Irene’s father did not have any sons and bequeathed the manor house and estate to whichever of his daughters did not marry.  This was Irene’s sister Daisy and she laid out beautiful Japanese gardens on the estate.

Daisy spent a great deal of time in England and, perhaps, helped by her sister’s connections mixed in high society. She was friends with Lady Sackville-West and her daughter Vita and Alice Keppel, the former mistress of King Edward VII. During the First World War she did a great deal to help British soldiers who were interned in the Netherlands, which was neutral. She opened her estate and housed many wounded British soldiers there.

Unfortunately through these friendships and actions she became caught up in a bizarre libel case in 1918 in the United Kingdom. A right-wing English MP named Noel Pemberton-Billing was sued for criminal libel in a complicated case involving the dancer Maud Allan, homosexuality and the Germans blackmailing what Pemberton-Billing described as ‘47,000 highly placed British perverts’. In her evidence in the case Maud Allan was asked whether she mixed in the highest social circles and she said that she had danced for the King and Queen at Lord and Lady Dudley’s. This would actually be the Earl of Dudley, Cyril Ward’s elder brother and Baroness van Brienen’s brother-in-law.

The evidence later went on to hear claims that Alice Keppel was in the Netherlands during the war acting as a go-between with the Germans and that in the Netherlands she met ‘a certain Baroness’. This is assumed to be Daisy van Brienen. The entire case is a truly bizarre one.

Maud Allan performing Salome

 

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The connections to Ireland

In the 19th century Ireland was not separated politically. It was a single country ruled from London. The major Irish connection is with a part of Ireland which is still part of the United Kingdom. So the map does not reflect this and refers to the Republic of Ireland.

An Irish emigrant and an aide to the viceroy

Samuel Wilson

Samuel Wilson, was born in County Antrim in Ireland. He was the sixth son of a farmer. In 1838, when criminals were still being transported, two of Samuel’s elder brothers emigrated to Australia. The brothers had read about the healthy climate and opportunities in the new colony for settlers with capital. Despite stiff opposition from their parents, the brothers sailed to Australia. A third brother joined them a few years later and together they bought a farm north of Melbourne. Their decision to leave Ireland was probably a good one. In the 1840s, Ireland suffered its worst-ever natural disaster, the Great Famine. Around one million people died of starvation and associated diseases during this period and another one million emigrated from Ireland.

Samuel Wilson was still a child at this point but when he was 22 he sailed to Australia at the height of the Australian gold rush. He made a fortune in Australia through sheep farming. In 1874 his annual income was estimated as almost £100,000 and came back to the northern hemisphere a very wealthy man. In 1881 he contested the Londonderry county as a Conservative candidate. He was unsuccessful but was later elected an M.P. for Portsmouth.

Cyril Augustus Ward

Cyril was born in 1876, the fifth son of the 1st Earl of Dudley. His elder brother became the 2nd Earl of Dudley on his father’s death. He became a Conservative politician and served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1902. He makes a small appearance in James Joyce’s Ulysses.

2nd Earl of Dudley

Cyril Ward served as an aide to his brother during his time in Ireland.

Other geographical connections

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