Part 5: Was it Bill or was it Ben?

Whilst it is possible that Hannah Musselwhite met Henry Orchard in the mid 1880’s but they were unable to marry at that time but were living together and that Henry was the father of the boy, Charles Edward, I think you have to concede that is unlikely!

Charles Edward was born over two years before Hannah and Henry married Living together before marriage just did not happen in Victorian times. There seems to be no impediment in 1886/7 to a marriage that suddenly disappears in 1890. Why was the birth not registered when all of the couples later children’s births were?
Why would they suddenly decide to give up their first son after three years?

I think the evidence is so strong we really have to accept that someone other than Henry Orchard was the father of Charles Edward. If that is the case then who could it be? There is no way of knowing but here are some thoughts on the matter.

Firstly, Hannah was undoubtedly still ‘in service’ and almost certainly still with the Keppel family when the child was conceived. Opportunities to change employment and employer would be very limited for a poor girl from the country. It seems plausible that the father must have been either:

  1. A member of the Keppel family - unlikely to be the father, the Eal of Albemarle, but he had two sons of suitable age!
  2. A fellow member of the Keppel family household staff.
  3. A guest staying the Keppel family or at a social function in the Keppel’s house
  4. Someone with no connection to the Keppel family and household

What would the reaction of the Keppel’s be to one of their staff becoming pregnant? If there was no family connection then they would certainly have dismissed her. In late Victorian times such circumstances would have been deemed a disgrace and Hannah would have been thrown out on the streets, this was common practice in those days. Hannah would have been obliged to return home to Ashlett in disgrace. This did not happen, she seems to have retained her post and the family stood by her. Was she such an exceptional employee that they did not wish to lose or was there another reason?

If the father was another member of the Keppel household staff I am pretty sure that the Keppel’s would have insisted the couple marry. They may then have been encouraged to set up home elsewhere but if it was a senior member of staff it may have been more prudent to keep them both on the payroll. Henry Orchard may have been known to Sir Massey Lopes but I pretty sure he was not working in his household.

When Hannah became pregnant she was not dismissed by the Keppel’s nor was she ‘encouraged’ to marry the father, they seem to have stood by her and then possibly introduced her to potential husbands. Part of the deal to marry Henry must have been to get the illegitimate child out of town and well away from the Keppel family and the Orchard family.

It is possible that the father was one of the Keppel sons? It is well known, and has been portrayed in various dramas about the time, that lords and their sons were not slow in ‘taking advantage’ of young women from ‘below stairs’. This, sadly, was not always with the young woman’s whole hearted consent but when the option is to have sex with your master or lose your home and employment it is a pretty dire choice …

The Keppel’s had two sons; Theodore who would have been about 26 in 1887 and Derek who would have been 24. Both had gone into the army and had become officers in different regiments; Theodore in the Prince of Wales Own and Derek in the Gordon Highlanders. Both were a suitable age and neither was married at this time so either could be the man we are looking for! We will never know and, of course, it may have been neither of them. I have looked at photographs of ‘Pop’ and I just do not think he looks like a soldier's son! There was also some vague theory between Alf and Helen (two of his children) that there was a Spanish connection somewhere; does Pop look a little Mediterranean in appearance or is that fantasy?

As an aside, one interesting fact I came across is that Derek Keppel married and his wife, Ann, became the mistress of King Edward 7th! It was a well known fact and Derek made a point of being ‘be out of town’ when the King made it known that he wanted to ‘see’ Ann. It means nothing to our story other than to show just how things were in that level of society.

Both the Earl of Albemarle (Hannah’s employer) and Sir Massey Lopes (Henry’s father’s employer) were Conservative politicians in senior posts at the same time, they must have known each other and moved in the same circles. You may recall from part 3 that Sir Massey Lopes was of ‘Sephardic-Jewish’ origin and, not knowing what Sephardic meant I looked it up; the Sephardi are descendants of the Jews that were expelled from Spain and Portugal in 1492. Sephardic means Hispanic in Hebrew! Could this possibly be the Spanish connection Alf and Helen spoke of?

Could it be that the father was Sir Massey Lopes son, Henry? I would not think it was Sir Massey himself as he would have been about 68 at the time and was not in the best of health, he declined a government post due to ill health in 1885 if you recall.

Sir Massey Lopes’ son was Henry Yarde Buller Lopes. He was born in 1859 making him 28 in 1887. He was elected to Parliament as Conservative in 1892 and so was presumably well established in London before this time. He married Lady Alberta Louise Florence Edgcumbe in 1891, co-incidentally the same year Hannah married Henry Orchard.

Whoever the father was I am pretty sure that Hannah was not entirely happy about what had happened and the outcome; indeed that may be something of an understatement! To avoid significant embarrassment to both senior figures it seems the Keppel’s cared for both the mother and her son until they could make suitable ‘arrangements’. Could it even be that to cover up and to try and rectify the wrong Sir Massey ‘introduced’ his valet’s son, Henry Orchard, to Hannah with the specific intent (even financial inducement) of the two of them marrying? When people asked who the father was did Hannah say “Henry (Lopes)” and so another Henry (Orchard) was found to deflect the flack from the true father? It could just be a coincidence of course.

Once the marriage was in place the unwanted baby could be shipped off to his grandmother and everyone would live happily ever after!

There is no proof of any of this, it is pure speculation, but if it is true it seems to tie many loose ends together and explain so much. It is pretty shocking and one can only feel real sympathy for poor Hannah if these were the circumstances, they must have been five very traumatic years for her. Abandoning Charles Edward must have been painful despite the background to his birth and no wonder she did not feel she could deliver him to Grannie Musselwhite herself. At least the marriage to Henry does seem to have been a happy one and she was to have five further children to perhaps compensate for the loss of Charles Edward.


Printable Version: 

These are the people mentioned in the above story. Click the name of any person you want to know more about:

Name (Click to see details) Date of Birth Parents Date of Marriage Spouse Child Date of Death
Musselwhite, Hannah Sun, 23/03/1862 Thu, 20/03/1890 Orchard, Henry Orchard, Charles Sat, 01/06/1946
Orchard, Henry Wed, 01/07/1868 Thu, 20/03/1890 Musselwhite, Hannah Mon, 01/03/1926
Orchard, Charles Sat, 22/10/1887 Sat, 01/01/1910 Orman, Beatrice Wed, 09/02/1972


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