Pirate Treasure

The following article is interesting – and some parts of it even appear to be accurate. From the Times Dispatch, Richmond, Virginia, April 14, 1911, p. 4:



ERIC PHIPPS, second secretary of the British Embassy at Paris, and private secretary to the ambassador, Sir Francis Bertie, who is about to marry the pretty blonde half American daughter of the Herbert Wards, is a scion of the only house of the British aristocracy that is indebted for the foundation of its fortune to the recovery of pirate treasure, such as that of Sir Henry Morgan, which has been the object of so many fruitless exploring expeditions in recent years. Miss Ward is the daughter of Herbert Ward, (now about the onlly survivor of Sir Henry Stanley’s Emin Pasha Relief Expedition,) and of his wife, who was a Miss Schermerhorn of Philadelphia. Besides being an explorer of note, Herbert Ward is a sculptor of talent, added to which the Wards have a considerable fortune, derived from the cattle and hides trade down in Argentina.

Eric Phipps is a son of the late Sir Edmund Constantine Phipps, for many years connected with the British Embassy at Washington, and afterwards British envoy at Brussels – (who onlly died a few weeks ago) – by his first marriage to the daughter of Alfred Miller Mundy, of Shipley Hall, Derbyshire. Sir Edmund afterwards married a Russian lady of great wealth, daughter of old Wassili Schorrnacker of St. Petersburg, and widow of General Gomez Brandao of the Brazilian army. Eric Phipps’s union to Miss Ward will be his second marriage, his first wife, whom he lost two years ago, having been Yvonne, daughter of the Comte and Comtesse de Louvencourt of Paris, who represent one of the oldest families in France.

The origin of Eric Phipps’s family should be of particular interest to people over here, since its founder was born in America, although for some reason or other no mention whatsoever is made thereof in “Burke’s,” “Debrett’s,” or any other of the standard peerages. He was William Phipps, the son of James Phipps, a Bristol gunsmith, who had emigrated to America, and married there, his son William, whom he had apprenticed to a ship carpenter at Boston, Mass., having been born in that city. On attaining manhood, William Phipps took to trading, and during a voyage to the Bahamas, learned there of the existence of a buccaneer “cache” on one of the smallest of the WEst India Islands. He seems to have been partly successful in recovering some of the valuables, for he was enabled to make a voyage to England. He had obtained information that there was somewhere among the West India Islands “a mighty treasure hitherto undiscovered,” also a pirate cache, and having a strong impression on his mind that he was destined to be the discoverer, he managed to get himself appointed by King Charles II, to conduct a search under a commission from the crown. The King placed the Algier Rose, a frigate of eighteen guns and 95 men, at his disposal, and after touching at various New England ports, he made his way to the West Indies. He failed, however, to discover any treasure, and was forced by mutinies and lack of provisions to return to England, Charles having meanwhile been gathered to his fathers.

William Phipps endeavored to obtain another vessel from his successor, James II., but as the latter would not consent, he opened a subscription for private assistance. At first he was scoffed at; but at length the Duke of Albemarle, son of the Duke of Albemarle, son of that General Monk who had brought about the restoration of Charles II., agreed to advance a large sum, and induced some of his friends to do likewise. In 1687 Phipps set sail once more, in a ship of 200 tons burden, having previously engaged to divide the profits, according to the twenty shares of which the subscription consisted. On arriving on the spot, the banks of the Bahamas, where he felt persuaded the sunken treasure lay, he employed the various isntruments he had invented for submarine descent, including the diving bell, but without success. For a long time the search was in vain; but finally the lost treasure was discovered, and before long thirty-two tons of silver, great quantities of gold, precious stones and pearls were discovered, the proceeds amounting in value to about $6,000,000.

On Phipps’s return to England pressure was brought to bear on the King to seize both the ship and the cargo, on the ground that treasure-troves belonged by right to the crown, and that insufficient information regarding the project for which the charter had been obtained. The King, however, turned a deaf ear to these recommendations. He declared that Phipps was “an honest man,” and that he and his associates in the venture should be left to share its entire profits among themselves, even if the fortune which they had secured was double the value stated. Not content with this, he conferred the honor of knighthood upon Phipps, who as “Sir William Phipps,” returned to American in 1688, and served a term as High Sheriff of New England. While there he fitted out another expedition to the West Indies, found another private cache, and obtained thereby a handsome addition to his already large fortune. Honors came thick upon him. He was appointed Governor of Massachusetts, and died in his forty-fifth year in London, in 1693.

It was his grandson who became Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and the latter’s grandson, in turn, who was created Lord Mulgrave. Later, Lord Mulgrave was advanced to the rank of Marquis of Normanby. He was in turn Governor-General of Jamaica. Lord Privy Seal, and Secretary of State for the Colonies and for the Home Department, and Ambassador to the Court of France; while his son, the father of the present marquis, was Governor, in turn, of Queensland, of New Zealand, and of Victoria, as well as Comptroller of Queen Victoria’s household.

The present Lord Normanby, head of the house of Phipps, was formerly rector of a place called Worsley, near Manchester. But he did not keep the berth very long, for as soon as it became known in Lancashire and the neighboring counties that there was a real live marquis officiating as rector at Worsley, people came from far and wide for the purpose of availing themselves of his ecclesiastical services. Some stood in need of baptism, others of marriage and of confirmation, while yet others required nothing save a funeral service. The last named class predominated, and before long there was such an astounding influx of corpses into Worsley, brought thither for the purpose of being buried by a marquis, that Lord Normanby, who is an exceedingly sensitive man, was compelled to leave the place, and to take =to keeping school, instead, at Mulgrave Castle his ancestral home.

The castle is a superb old place, commanding wide stretches of sea and moorland, and flanked by hundreds of acres of wood that stretch down to the beach, 500 feet below. The upper floors of the castle were fitted up as dormitories for the boys, whose school rooms and gymnasium were at the back and out of sight, in no way impairing the picturesque and romantic aspect of the ancient pile. Lord Normanby himself acted as the head master, assisted by a large corps of teachers, most of them, like himself, divines of the Church of England. He gave up the school, however, on his marriage, in December, 1903, to Gertrude Stansfeld, youngest daughter and co-heiress of the late Johnston Jones Foster, of Moor Park, Shropshire, and by whom he has two children, daughters, aged six and three years respectively, and uses Mulgrave Castle no longer as a scholastic institution, but merely as his principal residence.


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