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Thursday, 16 June 2016

Follow Up Blog On the 2014 Story "A Misleading Apcar Line"

This story is brought to you with the support of the
AGBU UK Trust.

A recent comment by a reader of a blog piece I did back in 2014 on “A Misleading Apcar Line -Charles Apcar Was Not Armenian” made me go back and revisit it.  

*NOTE: The hyperlinks in square brackets [ ] do not work in this blog, please scroll to the bottom to read the links.*

The comment was made by Clare at Arrunga Design who said: 

“This is facinating and thank you for your efforts in chasing the paper trail. A word of caution though. Ida starts her divorce application in 1888 after a year of marriage with non consumation. She does have a son in 1894 but maybe by John Apcar. She gives birth in France away from London Society and scandalous wispers. By putting her soon to be divorced husband on the birth record as the father she protects her son from illegitimacy and ensures his legal rights to his faux fathers title and wealth .

John Apcar was a barrister and this would have been the way to handle this delicate situation.

I am inclinded to think Charles was an Apcar and wished to acknowledge his true heritage through Naturalization.
Best wishes Clare”

It has taken me a while to further investigate any potential possibility to this angle of the original story but I am now able to reply to Clare as follows:

Looking again at my research a little wider has given a much better view of this family story. I am still of the opinion that Charles was born of de Soveral genes as per the evidence in two important documents (1) the baptism register and, in particular (2) the highlights from the naturalisation application.

Your speculative theory is interesting, and I’ve taken some time to expand my research on this story with further documentary evidence of various events within the family. A rather time consuming and costly exercise but fascinating nonetheless.

As has already been highlighted Charles was born and baptised with the surname [de] Soveral, (see original blog article for a copy of the baptism record), coupled with the naturalisation documentation, stating he was ‘Soveral but known as Apcar’ (his desire was to be naturalised as a British subject rather than stay a French citizen), the latter document being the key to his exact identity. IF he had “wished to acknowledge his true heritage” as you put it, I believe he would not have put “Portuguese” as his nationality in the first place. IF John Apcar had been his natural father, it would be mentioned somewhere on the naturalisation application as important supporting information. 

Snapshot of the naturalisation application of Charles Soveral

I also note Charles is listed as “Soveral” on the census return for 1901.  However, speculating myself now, I would suggest the following scenario.  That having married Ida Kreeft in 1899, 

Marriage of John A. Apcar and Ida Vicomtesse de Soveral

John Alexander Apcar was clearly an influential father figure in Charles’s life from an early age. I argue that upon marriage to Ida John decided to adopt five year old Charles to make the family complete.  The natural father of Charles as stated on the baptism record being Edward de Soveral who was deceased at the time of Ida’s 2nd marriage to John. Worthy of note here is that Ida had also been adopted as a child herself by Siegerich Kreeft and his second wife Anne[1], Siegerich having lost his only natural daughter aged seven in 1865 a year after her own mother Emma (Siegerich’s first wife) had died.

Charles’s entitlement to any Apcar inheritance would have been secure anyway because he was adopted, it would not have relied on naturalisation to inherit. Ida had previously sued her estranged husband Edward de Soveral in 1892 for a sum in excess of £9,000 (a purchasing power value today at over £800,000) to the extent that he was publicly humiliated and declared bankrupt a year later. In one newspaper report Edward is noted as absconding from a hotel in London without paying his £100 bill, something he was pretty adept at doing. After their wedding, Edward and Ida honeymooned in various locations in France visiting family and friends. Edward encouraged her to spend a great deal of money on extravagant and luxury items in exclusive stores and boutiques, and on more than one occasion he was unable to settle their hotel accounts. Ida’s mother Anne was summoned to France to bail the couple out. Edward professing a financial hiccup declared he would go Paris to obtain money to repay Anne but the money didn’t materialise. Ida had no option but to sue him for her losses resulting in shame and embarrassment for both him and his aristocratic family, as well as bankruptcy.

I would further suggest a couple of possibilities. That there may have been some sort of temporary (but probably strained) brief reconciliation between Ida and Edward that resulted in Charles being born in France. I also think that Edward’s son (from his first marriage, spouse deceased), the Marquis de Soveral pulled a few strings and minimised the amount of newspaper coverage his father would have otherwise taken up had the Marquis not been part of His Majesty the King’s inner circle of friends. I am convinced the Marquis spoke quietly to newspaper editors to minimise the coverage of Ida and Edward’s troubles. 

Courtesy of The Royal Archives:
Marquis de Soveral with King Edward VII

I say this because although the situation where the Vicomte Edward de Soveral’s apparent desertion of Ida was reported in the English newspapers, those articles were greatly muted, and actually barely given space, compared to the reports of the same scandal in the European papers[2], whose columns swam with metaphorical titters. Effectively they said a foolish old man fell for a beautiful blonde. Whilst wooing her, he alluded to having great wealth which he didn’t.  Her canny mother didn’t do anything to discourage the burgeoning fast-moving relationship, and after a whirlwind romance they all fell into the local registry office in Surrey and later a Roman Catholic church to formalise the union. He was around 65 years of age she was 26, although as can be seen from the marriage certificate he started married life with a lie, stating he was 56 years of age. (During the Court hearing in London into his bankruptcy in 1892 he confirmed his age at 70, thus his year of birth was circ 1822. There is a  Portuguese reference to a date of birth  of 21 May 1822[3] in São João da Pesqueira Municipality, Viseu District, Portugal). 

Marriage of Ida Kreeft and Edward Vicomte de Soveral

Prior to the marriage, Ida’s mother Anne was keenly aware of this well known Portuguese royal related surname of de Soveral and in particular Edward’s son the Marquis.  Having tasted society’s highest echelons herself, Anne was no stranger to the world of Foreign Consuls. As already mentioned she had been married to Siegerich Kreeft who was the Consul for Mecklenburg-Schwerin in London. She became widowed in 1885 leaving her with the urgent matter of finding a suitable husband for Ida.  Siegerich had been an engineer working on the railway development in Italy and, search as I might, I could not find a marriage in the UK of Siegerich and Anne. Searching European records I found Siegerich Kreeft had married Anne Kuzel in France in September 1866. It would seem that Ida was Anne’s daughter whom Siegerich adopted after marriage. 

Ida saw the circles the de Soveral’s moved in. You can’t get any higher than royalty, and as I have already stated, the Marquis was a very close friend of King Edward VII, and Anne did everything to encourage romance.   However, when the Marquis met Ida who was now his new step mother, he was less than impressed and thought her a gold digger. What Ida didn’t know was that Edward de Soveral was not wealthy and relied upon his son the Marquis for an allowance.  Edward promised her a settlement for life but could not fulfil it because his son would not put up the full amount.  At first glance, what is odd is that the divorce document of Edward and Ida does not indicate it went to Nisi or Absolute and I believe this is because the Marquis probably paid Ida off to go quietly.  And this is where I speculate that perhaps the 69 year old Edward may not be the father of Charles, but rather his promiscuous and rampant son the Marquis de Soveral. He was well known in society to engage in close relationships with ladies and was by all accounts suave, popular and charming with females.  Perhaps whilst negotiating with Ida the best way for her to desist from dragging his father Edward through the Courts any further, he got just a little too close, and Charles was the result.  The Marquis’s life knew no bounds and he was a rascal socially (although very reverent in the King’s presence and incredibly discrete), being part of the hedonistic set that included Alice Keppel. Baptising Charles with Edward’s name was the best way to save the Marquis and therefore also saving his friend the King from potential salacious newspaper headlines and embarrassment.  

To give you an idea of how the Marquis was an integral part of London life and how he could certainly hold the attention of a gathered audience. Quoting from the book “Edward VII: The Last Victorian King” Christopher Hibbert wrote:  

“…….finding Cassel on occasions a trifle dispiriting, the Prince [of Wales, later King Edward VII] never tired of the Marquis de Soveral, the lively, stimulating Portuguese Minister in London whose charming presence was welcome at every party. Known as the ‘Blue Monkey’ because of his animated manner, blue-black hair and dark complexion, Luis de Soveral was recognised, indeed, as being ‘the most popular man in London’, except at the German Embassy, where he was known as ‘Soveral-Überall’ and strongly disliked for his known anti-German sentiments.  The Princess of Pless, the former Daisy Cornwallis-West, treated him as a rather distasteful joke. 

“He imagines himself to be a great intellectual and political force and the wise adviser of all the heads of the government, and of course, the greatest danger to women!...[but surely] even those stupid people who believe that every man who talks to a woman must be her lover, could not take his Don juan-esque pretensions seriously. Yet I am told that all women do not judge him so severely and some even find him très séduisant. How disgusting!”

The Princess of Pless apart, virtually everyone in London, even the husbands of his mistresses, and both the Prince of Wales and Alice Keppel, delighted in the sight of his tall figure approaching, a white flower in his buttonhole, a monocle firmly fixed in one glittering eye, his large moustache neatly brushed, his regular teeth revealed in a warm and happy smile, ready to greet an old friend with enthusiasm or to charm a new acquaintance. ‘As a talker he was quite wonderful in keeping the ball rolling’, Henry Ponsonby’s son, Frederick thought. ‘And without being exactly witty his conversation was always sparkling and amusing.  It was only when he had to talk seriously that one realised how clever he was.’ Yet he did all he could to disguise his cleverness, having found by experience that ‘both men and women fight shy of a clever man.’…….”

It would be interesting to get the Will of Edward de Soveral to see if Charles was mentioned, assuming Edward died before Charles.

Clare, turning now to John Apcar and your thought that he might have fathered Charles. From the moment he passed the Bar exam in 1871 up to the 1890s  John Apcar was a High Court barrister in Calcutta. Although not impossible for John to have fathered a child, it is highly unlikely given that he spent most of his career in India. 

Having had Charles in May 1894, Ida returned to England from France within a month of giving birth[4]. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest Charles was the natural son of John Apcar.  If your theory Clare were correct and John Alexander Apcar had been the father, I simply don’t see why Ida would go to the trouble of naming her son after her down-beat, bankrupt estranged husband de Soveral.  The Apcars were a large family with a great many things going on, an illegitimate child would not send them cowering into a corner. (see De Vine Intent, Sarah Apcar was a cousin of John living in London and she and her family took scandal and illegitimacy on the chin), and IF Charles had been the illegitimate son of J.A. Apcar he would have been baptised with the Apcar name and openly acknowledged as an Apcar. They were no shrinking violets.

The naturalisation document of Charles de Soveral states his father was Edward de Soveral and that he was of “Portuguese descent”. The de Soveral family were most definitely Portuguese and I am utterly convinced this application was completed truthfully.

Meanwhile Chevalier Siegerich Kreeft had died in Surrey in November 1885 having made his will in Turin, Italy in February 1884 in favour of his wife Anne.

Snapshot of the Will of Siegerich Kreeft

Anne Kreeft died in Surrey in 1889 having made her will in December 1885 in favour of her adopted daughter Ida de Soveral.

Snapshot of the Will of Anne Kreeft

If you have any documentation or further evidence to support your suggestion I’d be most interested to see it, but I think the main thread of my original blog story stands firm and Charles was not a natural born Apcar but the offspring of a de Soveral.

[1] The Will of Anne Kreeft 2 December 1885, see image above.
[2] The scandal was covered in a number of papers, including La Matin, 16 Avril 1892 “Un Scandale a Londres. Les dangers de la vie d’hotel – Le père d’un minister – La carte à payer" 
[3] Resenha Las Familias Titulares, Grandes de Portugal – Albano da Silveira Pinto + Visconde de Sanches de Baèna
[4] The naturalisation application of Charles de Soveral, National Archives, Kew.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy, Calcutta 1821 to Present Day.

This story is brought to you with the support of the
AGBU UK Trust.

In tribute and celebration of the 195th anniversary of the Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy in Kolkata. Remembering the first Headmaster, Arratoon Kaloos and a selection of others associated with the school.

The list of Founders of the school.

A great deal has already been written about Arratoon Kaloos and it is not my intention to repeat it all here.  Suffice to say he was born in 1777 in Tokat in Anatolia, he started the first Armenian school in Calcutta in 1798[1]. (Mesrovb Seth’s “Armenians in India” can be downloaded here
Arratoon was passionate about education and he was one of several Armenians in Calcutta who came together to create the Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy.  More on the history of the ACPA can be read on their website.

What is perhaps much less known about him is that he was one of the earliest financial contributors to the Armenian Church in Singapore. The Will[2] along with the Estate Accounts of Arratoon Kaloos clearly show that he was a named subscriber to the building and subsequent completion of the church.

The first paragraph of Aratoon Kaloos's Will.

Extract from the estate accounts of Arratoon Kaloos dated 1834[3]

The extract shows evidence of his financial support
to the building of the Armenian Church in Singapore

"11 April 1834 to cash paid to Mr. P Jordon the deceased's subscription to the completion of the Armenian Church at Sineapore (sic)."

This is the first time I have seen written in any estate accounts evidence of the support Calcutta Armenians, and in particular a named individual, gave to the community in Singapore for the erection of their own church. Normally a generalisation is made in reference material that the Armenian communities in Calcutta, Java and Singapore raised the necessary funds.

Arratoon Kaloos had been the head master of the Armenian College during the first years of its inception and it can be seen from his will and supporting accounts that he was a generous man of heart and mind. As well as supporting the school and the church, he and his wife adopted a child and brought him up as if he was his own. Ever grateful to Arratoon Kaloos for his kindness in offering him a home, the child Arratoon John Agacy, went on to marry and have children one of whom he named Kaloos in his honour.

A simply family tree chart

In his Will dated 9th February 1832, Arratoon Kaloos left a legacy specifically to the Armenian College. “To the Managers, for the time being, of the Armenian Philanthropic Academy in Calcutta, in trust, to be applied for and towards the maintenance and education of the indigent Pupils of the said Academy the sum of two thousand Sicca Rupees. Rs2000.0.0.”

The estate accounts indicate a small amount of interest had been made on the original legacy.

Another founding member of the Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy in 1821 was Aviet Agabeg. Rarely remembered these days as one of several who changed the life path of so many, his obituary reflected his loss as well as his achievements.  Unlike others such as Arratoon Kaloos, Aviet Agabeg[4] did not leave any legacies in his will to the Armenian College, preferring to ensure his wife and children inherited his estate. During his lifetime Aviet was a staunch backer and supporter.

Aviet Agabeg's Obituary, written by an un-named ex student
of the Armenian College and Philanthrophic Academy

It should be remembered that Sir Paul Chater (or simply Paul Chater as he was then) took the bold step to bring six Armenian College students over from Calcutta to Hong Kong in 1899. Knowing that he could make a difference to peoples’ lives, he gave them commercial opportunities that would otherwise not have been available to them. Although Sir Paul never attended the Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy in Calcutta (his preferred school was La Martiniere in Calcutta), by investing personally and professionally in the future of six young students he demonstrated that he did indeed have very fond memories of the Armenian community in Calcutta where he once roamed as a bare foot orphan boy himself.

Chater suggested they give up their studies earlier than planned and take advantage of an offer he was making to them to emigrate with him to Hong Kong and fill jobs he had obtained and held for them at the Post Office in Hong Kong[5].

The students in question were:

Mr. G.M. Gregory (not to be confused with Rev. G. Gregory)
Mr. Tigran Matthews Gregory 
Mr. Stephen M. Joseph
Mr. Nazareth Malcolm Manuk
Mr. Mackertich Cyril Owen
and 1 other with a nickname "Goblin"

The Apcar ship 'Lightning'. Courtesy of John Schlesinger

They all arrived in Hong Kong in late 1899.  A coincidence in this small story is that they took the ship "Lightning", which was the same ship Chater sailed on in 1864 when he left Calcutta for Hong Kong.  Chater, an Indian Armenian pioneer in 1864 facilitated more Indian Armenian pioneers 35 years later.  The ship belonged to the Calcutta based Armenian company Apcar & Co, and thus the promise of a new life and prospective fortune was instigated and carried out by Chater and Apcar. Both, who were influential in their own right in the Far East, having paved the way for further Armenian settlers to seek their fortune in the Fragrant Harbour and also keeping it nicely within the Armenians of Calcutta community.

The students all took up their positions obtained for them by Chater in the Post Office in Hong Kong.  Five of them are listed in official papers of the colony[6].  They were all earning $40.00 per month with a $4 sorting allowance.  None of them stayed long in the Post Office, all of them ultimately making a good living, particularly Tigran Matthews Gregory.  Tigran started his own company T.M. Gregory & Co of which he was sole proprietor and he was also a well connected and established diamond merchant in Hong Kong during his lifetime.  Without that first leg up from Paul Chater, Tigran Matthews Gregory would not have been in a position to donate to the Armenian Church in Calcutta so generously upon his death, Tigran died in Hong Kong in 1962 and is buried in the same cemetery as Sir Paul Chater.  Thus, the Armenian Church in Calcutta acquired further generous donations which, ordinarily it would not have received but for Sir Paul.  

Nazareth Malcolm Manuk joined the Post Office briefly in 1899 but quickly obtained a position with the Chartered Bank of India.  After about 18 months he then joined The Dairy Farm, a company that Paul Chater had helped to start. Within a year of joining in 1905 Malcolm (who dropped his Christian name of Nazareth to fit more easily into the British establishment), was promoted to Secretary of the Company a position which showed that he was held in the highest esteem for his business abilities.  Malcolm dedicated 27 years of his life at the Dairy Farm Company and its rapid progress was in no small measure because of his responsibilities.  During WW1 he served in the Hong Kong Volunteer Corps in what was known as the Right Section Machine Gun Company.  He was well liked and thoroughly efficient.  He was also an extremely good marksman and won many shooting trophies.

Malcolm took a keen interest in theosophy and was the Presidential Agent of China of the Theosophical Society in Hong Kong where he often gave lectures.
The six men had a long and close friendship for the rest of their lives and in particular Malcolm Manuk and Tigran Matthews who later became his brother in law because Mrs. Gregory was Mr. Manuk’s sister Ripsey.  Malcolm Manuk died in Hong Kong in 1932[7].

After three years at the Post Office, Stephen M. Joseph felt confident enough in himself and his abilities to try his luck in Shanghai, but perhaps youthful exuberance, or slight immaturity held him back and he wasn't as successful there as he would have liked.  However, undaunted and unbowed, he left for Japan with one of the original six friends, and he secured a job with an American firm.  S.M. Joseph lived in Japan for 23 years and became extremely successful.  However, his brother, Abraham Joseph had a Shellac business in Jhalda and asked Stephen to join him.  He left Japan for India with approximately a lakh of Rupees in his pocket but tragically just prior to his leaving, he learnt of his brother's death by drowning which happened in 1927.  Shortly after this the big depression in trade set in and in 1930 all his savings where lost.  Stephen Joseph was now in serious financial difficulties and facing great hardship.  He received a letter from one of the original six friends that he had travelled to Hong Kong with from Calcutta, and who had heard of his hard times, the letter contained a job offer with a firm in Bangkok.  He immediately took the offer up and left for Bangkok to start his life all over again at the age of 60.  He became a successful businessman there.

Mackertich Cyril Owen, (known as Mack Owen) after his time at the Post Office, took a position as an assistant with the well known firm of A.H. Rennie & Co., Mack married in March 1909 at St. John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong to Phyllis Seth the daughter of the Court Registrar of Hong Kong, Arathoon Seth and his wife Catharine.  Arrathoon’s family was originally from Madras.

Other Armenians from India who settled and worked there during the lifetime of Paul Chater were Owen Elias Owen, Enos Seth, Harold Arathoon Seth, John Hennesey Seth, Seth Arathoon Seth and Aratoon Vertannes Apcar[8], to name but a few.

That friendship of six Armenian College students was solely due to Sir Paul Chater bringing them together, spotting their potential and giving them the chance of a lifetime to make something of themselves.  They in turn held each other in the highest regard all through their lives; that bond of friendship forged on the decks of the "Lightning" on that long journey between Calcutta and Hong Kong was etched in their minds for life.

Over the last 195 years the Armenian College has turned out numerous students who have made a difference in the world one way or another. With some patience and persistence one can find references to students and ex students in newspapers, journals, periodicals, institutions, repositories and libraries.

Congratulations Armenian College & Philanthropic Academy on your 195th anniversary, may you have many more years of education and celebration in front of you.

From little acorns, mighty oak trees do grow.

[1] Armenians in India by Mesrovb Seth. P.481
[2] British Library: L/AG/34/29/53
[3] British Library: L/AG/34/27/106/333.  See also L/AG/34/27/109/2, L/AG/34/27/169/81, L/AG/34/27/170/69.
[4] Oriental Observer (Calcutta, India), Sunday, November 18, 1832; pg. 520; Issue 47. Empire.

[5] Armenian College Old Boys’ Union Souvenir 1909-1959
[6] Hong Kong Government papers. Correspondence Respecting Increase of Salaries of Subordinate Officers in the Civil Service of the Colony. October 1900
[7] The China Mail 7 April 1932
[8] Hong Kong Government Gazettes