Eloise Breese 1

Eloise Breese

Eloise Lawrence Breese

Among the far twigs of the family tree is Eloise Lawrence Breese (1890-1953), my wife’s eighth cousin twice removed.

After her father, William Lawrence Breese (1854-1888) died, her mother, the former Mary Louise Parsons, in 1893 married Henry Vincent Higgins, a solicitor and manager of Covent Gardens. They moved to London, where Eloise studied signing under Signor Allenesi.

William Lawrence breese

William Lawrence Breese

Mart Louise Parsons

Mary Louise Parsons

Henry Vincent Higgins

Henry Vincent Higgins

Like many American heiresses, Eloise was married off to a titled European, Gilbert Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby (1867-1951). He was twenty-three years her senior. In this case both were wealthy.

Gilbert Heatcote

Gilbert Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby

The marriage was a major social event; the account sounds as if it had been written by Saki, so I have highlighted the more interesting tidbits.

When Eloise Breese, the charming daughter of the late William Lawrence Breese, of New York, married Lord Willoughby de Eresby [pronounced Dursby] of London, it was considered a most desirable match, as the young Lord was the heir of the wealthy Earl of Ancaster.  The Earl of Ancaster died on Christmas Eve in 1910, and his eldest son, Lord Willoughby, succeeded to the title and an American girl became the Countess of Ancaster.  Lord Ancaster also succeeded to three magnificent country seats: Grimsthorpe Castle, in Lincolnshire; Normanton Park near Stamford, and Drummond Castle, in Perthshire, Scotland.

Grimsthorpe Castle

Grimsthorpe Castle

Normanton Park

Normanton Park

Drummond Castle

Drummond Castle

Lord Willoughby and Eloise Breese were married on December 5, 1905, at St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster.  The ceremony drew a large and distinguished gathering, and was one of the brightest ever seen. The church was crowded with a fashionable throng that included nearly all the prominent members of the American Colony and Royalty, to name a few, the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, Princess Patricia of Connaught, Ambassador Whitelaw Reid, Miss Reid, Prince Francis of Teck and the Ladies Dartmouth and Cheylesmore.  A detachment of the Lincolnshire Yeomanry lined the aisles.

Seldom has been seen a more beautiful dress than that worn by the bride.  It was made of ivory satin, with full Court train of Brussels lace chiffon.  The bridesmaids, looked remarkably pretty in lavender gowns trimmed with sable, and picture hats.

Lord Willoughby de Eresby used to be known as a dashing young fellow and fond of a frolic, but represented the Horncastle Divison of Lincolnshire in the House of Commons as a Conservative.

The title of Lord Ancaster has only existed in the family for about a quarter of a century, the father having succeeded to the title in 1898.  The Dukedom of Ancaster came into existence in 1715.  It became extinct in 1809 with the death of Brownlow de Eresby, to be revived again in 1892 when Baron Willoughby was so signally honored.

The present Earl of Ancaster is descended from Gilbert Heathcote, who was a Court jeweler and Lord Mayor of London in the reign of Queen Anne.  The Ancaster estates formerly belonging to the Dukes of Ancaster, the Drummond estates, formerly belonging to the Earldom of Perth, and the Willoughby de Eresby have all come into the possession of the present Earl of Ancaster’s family through marriage within the last hundred years, and there is no Peer of the British realm whose properties, especially the Drummond estates, have been more frequently claimed by people hailing from America. 

Among them have been a Mrs. Bond of New York, who claims to be the daughter of Frederick Burrell Drummond, who she alleges came to America in 1836 and married in New York.  While the Peerage and works of reference make no mention of his death, and leave it to be supposed that he disappeared in the United States, it is a fact that if he had survived his mother, he would have inherited the Willoughby de Eresby Peerage as well as the Drummond estates in lieu of his sister Annabella, who married Sir Gilbert Heathcote, 1st Lord Aveland, and grandfather of Lord Ancaster.

One of the other claimants has been the daughter of the late Earl of Perth.  She resided for many years in Brooklyn. Lord Drummond died in St. Luke’s Hospital after having earned his living for a time in New York as ticket chopper on the elevated railroad and as a reporter of one of the leading metropolitan daily newspapers.

The Earl and Lady Ancaster reside, when in London, in Chesterfield Gardens, but their favorite residence is Drummond Castle, their Scotch estate, the whole of great architectural beauty.  It is situated in a park of some 75,000 acres, richly wooded.  The southeastern tower dates back to the time of Henry III.

Drummond Castle stands about three miles southwest of Creif, and the castle gates are reached through grand old avenues, which are stated to be without equal in the United Kingdom.  The oldest part of the castle dates from 1491, when it was built by the 1st Lord Drummond, a nobleman whose ancestors descended from the ancient Kings of Hungary; came to Scotland with Prince Edward Ætheling of England, when they fled from the latter country after the death of King Harold and the Battle of Hastings, in 1066.

The castle is still surrounded by the world famed Drummond Gardens, laid out by John, 2nd Earl of Perth, in the middle of the 17th century.

There are few abodes in the United Kingdom more replete with historic memories, for the House of Drummond furnished several women to the Scotch Royal House, including, Annabella, Queen of Scotland, the last known of all, being that of Margaret Drummond, mistress of King James IV.  

It was rumored she was poisoned at Drummond Castle along with her two sisters, in order to enable her husband to marry Princess Margaret of England.  Mary, Queen of Scots was a frequent visitor to Drummond Castle, and her son, King James I of England, likewise often stayed there, and the Jacobite Pretender slept there on the eve of the fateful Battle of Culloden.

Eloise Breese was the eldest daughter of William Lawrence Breese and Mary Louise Parsons. Several years after the death of her father, her mother married Henry Victor Higgins, an English solicitor.  She was his second wife, his first being a daughter of the Earl of Winchelsea and Nottingham.  The Higgins’ reside at present in London.

At the wedding of Eloise to the Earl, the stepfather gave the bride away.  The bridesmaids were the Ladies Alice Willoughby and Dorothy Onslow, the then Gladys Fellowes and Miss Anne Breese, the latter having married Lord Alastair Innes-Ker in 1907.

The bride was also attended by four children, the Ladies Blanche and Diana Somerset, daughters of the Duke of Beaufort, and the Misses Moyra Goff and Peggie Cavendish.

The Countess is a keen angler and ranks high among the most expert women salmon fishers.  She is an enthusiastic sportswoman and has taken great interest in yachting and automobiling.  Prior to her marriage she was a flag member of the New York Yacht Club, as well as  member of the Seawannaka Corinthian Yacht Club.  She is handsome, of classic type, and very witty and cultivated.

Eloise election 1

Willoughby was a Conservative politician

In 1910 the old Earl died and she became Countess of Ancaster.

Eloise and heir

Eloise and the infant James

Her brother, William Lawrence Breese, who had become a naturalized British subject in 1914, joined the British army and died in France on 1915.

Eloise’s son James Heathcote Drummond Willoughby (1907-1983), my wife’s ninth cousin once removed, was the last holder of the earldom; on his death the title became extinct.  His son and heir Timothy Gilbert had been s lost at sea in 1963.

Gilbert James Heathcote drummond willoughby

James Heathcote Drummond Willoughby

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