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 The de Serres family & 'Princess' Olive

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Dominic de Serres was born in Auch in Gascony around 1720. Allegedly a Count, he was nephew of the Archbishop of Rheims. He avoided the Priesthood by running to Spain where he joined the Spanish merchant navy as a common sailor. He rose to the rank of master of a vessel trading to Havana in Cuba, but was captured by the English during the Seven Years War. He then sailed with the Royal Navy on expeditions to Nova Scotia and Havanna as an artist. He was a founder member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768. Appointed Official Painter of Maritime Conflicts by King George III. And in 1792 appointed Librarian of the Royal Academy. Around 1758 in Northamptonshire Dominic married, but the name of his wife is unknown. He died in London on 6th November 1793 and was buried in St.Marylebone Old Church. An account of his life can be found in the Dictionary of National Biography. He had issue,

1. John Thomas Serres, born in December 1759. After travelling in his youth he married on 1st September 1791 at Barton on the Heath Parish Church in Warwickshire Olive Wilmot, who claimed to be the only child of H.R.H. Henry Frederick Duke of Cumberland K.G. (1745-1790) by his allegedly lawful wife Olive (1750-1774) daughter of the Rev. James Wilmot (1726-1807), Rector of Barton on the Heath, Auditor to Lord Archer, and a notable literary scholar. However, it is said that in reality Olive was daughter of the house painter Robert Wilmot (d. 1812) by his wife Anna Maria Brunton. John Thomas Serres succeeded his father as Marine Painter to King George III in 1793. Appointed Marine Draughtsman to the Admiralty in 1800. Around that time he lived in Harley Street, Cavendish Square, and later in Berners Street, where he established the British School of Fine Arts. His wife's extravagances proved a strain on his finances, and in 1801 a "J. T. Serres, Wimpole Street, Cavendish Square, bookseller" appears on the monthly list of bankrupts. The couple separated in 1803. Serres attempted to recoup his fortune by becoming a partner in, and scenic director of, the new Royal Coburg Theatre in Lambeth, London (now the Old Vic), which opened in 1818. However this venture failed and he died of cancer in a debtorsí prison under the rules of the King's Bench on 28th December 1825. An account of his life can be found in the Dictionary of National Biography.

Olive was born in Warwick on 3rd April 1772 and baptized in St.Nicholas' Church there on 15th April 1772. Some question remains over her alleged parents marriage, which is said to have taken place on 4th March 1767 at Lord Archer's house in Grosvenor Square. As her mother is said to have lived until 5th December 1774, dying in France, it would mean that the Duke of Cumberland's recognised marriage to Ann Luttrell in 1771 was bigamous. This has been cited as one of the reasons for the introduction of the Royal Marriages Act. As Olivia Wilmot Serres of Mitcham in Surrey she published some poetry in 1791, and in 1805 wrote an opera entitled 'The Castle of Avola'. It was not until 1817 that Olive made her first claim to be the daughter of the late Duke of Cumberland. It is said that she dined in state at the Royal table at the Guildhall in November 1820. The National Portrait Gallery has 3 engravings of her. There was probably more than a grain of truth to her claim, and many respected works on Royal and Peerage Genealogy by such authors as Burke and G.E.C.'s Complete Peerage mention her without dismissing her as an impostor. Moreover those who choose to blindly dismiss her as such should note the article which appeared in The Times newspaper during Olive's daughters court case (see right).

The Dictionary of National Biography contains a description of Olive's life. And an excellent and very readable account can be found online by clicking here. Olive died on 21st November 1834 at Trinity Square in Southwark and was buried on 3rd December 1834 at St.James', Piccadilly. Her will pr. on 27th March 1835 (P.C.C. Gloster 201-250).

John Thomas Serres and Olive Wilmot had issue

a. John Dominic South Serres, born on 23rd November 1792 and baptized at St.Mary's, St.Marylebone Road on 22nd December following. He died young.
a. Mary Esther Olivia Serres, born on 14th November 1793 and baptized at St.Mary's, St.Marylebone Road in London on 13th December following. Nothing more is known of her and she may have died young, although the 1841 census records an Esther Serres living at Bath in Somerset.
b. Lavinia Janetta Horton Serres, born in Liverpool on 16th March 1797 and baptized at St.Nicholas' Church there on 31st August 1797. On 22nd November 1822 at St.George the Martyr's Church in Surrey she married Anthony Thomas Ryves. For many years Lavinia vigorously pursued her mothers claim for Royal status, culminating in 1866 in the Ryves & Ryves vs. the Attorney-General court case - but without success. She divorced from her husband in 1841 on the grounds of adultery and cruelty. She died at Queens Crescent, Haverstock Hill in London on 7th December 1871. Anthony Thomas Ryves died in April 1873. Together they had six children, details of whom may be found here.
c. Britannia Serres, born on 2nd December 1802 and baptized the following January at St.Mary's, St.Marylebone Road in London. On 20th December 1830 at St.Matthews' in Brixton, Surrey she married Thomas Brock (1805-73) and had issue

i. Thomas Dominick Serres Brock, born in East London in 1839. The 1861 census records him as a Comedian living with his mother. In 1876 in Aberystwyth District he married Laura Hannah, daughter of Frederick Jackson, a Hall Keeper of Cheltenham by his wife Isabella Page. The 1881 census states he was a Comedian (Actor) lodging at 42 Lower Byrom Street in Manchester with his wife and two young sons. Thomas and Laura had known issue

(1) Thomas Dominick F Brock, born in Cheltenham District in 1877.
(2) George F Brock, born in Dumfries, Scotland about 1881.

ii. Francis Richard Serres Brock, his birth recorded in East London in the first quarter of 1841. He died about a year later, his death being recorded in Shoreditch District during the second quarter of 1842.
i. Charlotte Georgina Serres Brock, born in Dublin on 5th March 1836. In 1861 in London she married William L Bennett.

Olive Wilmot is also said to have had a relationship with the artist George Fields, by whom she had a natural son

Charles Wilmot Serres, born about 1803. Charles is said to have lived most of his life in the wilds of South Africa, where he was known as 'Old Wilmot' and was still living in June 1866 when his half-sister Lavinia Ryves took her case to court as Ryves & Ryves v. the Attorney-General. He was the subject of a book 'The Suppressed Prince', written by Charles Mason. It is to be noted that some newspapers, and perhaps the above mentioned book too, made the claim that he was a legitimate son of Olive Wilmot. This was possibly to pour further ridicule on his half-sister Lavina's efforts to gain Royal status.

2. Dominic Michael Serres, of whom presently.
1. Sarah Serres, living in 1802.
2. Augusta Charlotte Serres, living in 1802.
3-4. two other daughters.

The younger son of Dominic de Serres,
Dominic Michael Serres, married on 4th August 1788 at St.Mary's, St.Marylebone Road in London Lucretia daughter of Wyndham Madden. Dominic predeceased her, as she remarried her kinsman Captain Henry Madden and had further issue. She died in 1820 having had a son by Dominic,

John Edmund Dominic Serres. On 18th April 1822 at St.Martin's in Chichester he married his cousin Elizabeth (Betsey), daughter of Major William Molesworth Hatch Madden by his wife Elizabeth widow of Captain Richard Ridewood. John became curate of Easebourne in Sussex. Elizabeth died in childbirth in 1838 leaving him with ten children to cope with, and it is said he lost his mind as a result. John's death is recorded in Alton District, Hampshire during the last quarter of 1861. They had issue

1. Wyndham Scott Serres, baptized on 25th May 1823 at North Ferriby in Yorkshire and educated at Queens College, Cambridge, graduating B.A. in 1845. On 3rd July 1845 at St.Pancras in London he married Elizabeth, 2nd daughter of Robert Robertson of FitzRoy Place in Kentish Town, but they appear to have had no children. From 1849-1863 Wyndham was Rector of Bepton in Sussex and in 1856 was curate of St.Peter's in Bethnal Green. By 1861 he had become Curate of Morvah in Cornwall. Elizabeth died in 1862 in Cornwall. On 19th August 1863 at St.Dunstans in Stepney, Wyndham married Katherine (or Elizabeth) Sarah Jackson. It is unknown if they had any children. He appears to have emigrated to Kingston, Jamaica in the mid-1860's.
2. Henry Stephens Serres, baptized at Eastbourne in Sussex on 30th May 1824. He was a Bankers Clerk lodging in Huddersfield at the time of the 1851 census. In 1860 in Hackney District he married Emma Davis Sadler, and the following year was recorded as an Accountant living at 2 Whites Cottages in Hackney. At the time of the 1881 census he was a retired Bill Broker residing at Morvah in Cornwall. He appears to have had no children.
3. William Serres, of whom presently.
4. Edward Serres, born 13th and baptized 17th February 1827 at Easebourne. He was a Bankers Clerk lodging at 22 High Street in Lutterworth, Leicestershire in 1851. He died suddenly at Calais on 14th March 1854, presumably unmarried.
5. George Serres, born 26th August 1831 and baptized 14th October following at Easebourne. He probably died young, by 1851.
6. John Charles Serres, baptized at Eastbourne on 14th January 1837. In 1859 in Pancras District he married Emma Hartley or Bruce. He was a Clerk in the Bill Office, Bank of England, living at 1 Whites Cottages, Hackney in 1861. A Bankers Clerk boarding with the Lovett family at 7 Harley Street in Sculcoates in 1871. In 1880 in Caistor District he married Helen Mary, daughter of Thomas Lovett by his wife Anne Gregory. At the time of the 1881 census he was an Accountant lodging at 7 St.James Terrace in Nottingham. He died in Stepney District in 1885. His second wife's death was recorded in Portsea District during the first quarter of 1888. He appears to have had no children.
7. Arthur Serres, born in 1838 and baptized on 2nd December. He died 8 days later on 10th December 1838.
1. Clarissa Serres, born about 1830. On 10th September 1856 at Easebourne she married (as his 1st wife) the Rev. Henry Bloxam Purton, who served as Curate of Dymock in Gloucestershire during their marriage. They appear to have had no children together, and Clarissa may have died by October 1865, when Henry married his 2nd wife, Rose Blanche Pountney.
2. Elizabeth Mary Serres, born at Easebourne on 28th March 1833 and baptized there on 10th July following.
3. Maria Serres, born 16th December 1834 and baptized at Eastbourne on 20th April 1835. Her death was recorded in Penzance District during the first quarter of 1866.

The third son of the Rev. John Edmund Dominic Serres and Elizabeth Madden,
● William Serres, was born on 29th June 1825 and baptized at Eastbourne on 10th July 1825. He became an army cadet in Madras in 1841 or 1842. On 16th July 1849 in India he married Maria Evans. William died on 3rd June 1877, with Maria dying on 6th September 1909. They had issue

1. William Serres, born on 18th May 1850. He may be the William W Serres whose death aged 71 is recorded in Hastings District during the first quarter of 1922.
2. (Edward) Edmund Serres, of whom later.
3. George Serres, born on 9th March 1854. No more is presently known of him.
4. Henry Arthur Serres, born in India on 2nd September 1855. He was at school in Penzance, England by 1871 and was a Schoolmaster living with his widowed mother in 1881. In 1891 he was a Curate (Clergy) living with his elder brother Edward in Osgathorpe. In 1896 in Croydon District he married Ella Harriette Miskin. It is not known if they had any issue.
5. John James Serres, born on 8th May 1857 at Trichinopole, India. He was at school in Penzance, England by 1871 and was a Medical Student living with his widowed mother in 1881. He married Edith Brummell Oldham, their marriage being recorded in Croydon District during the first quarter of 1883. In 1891 he was a General Practitioner in Osgathorpe. In 1901 he was a Medical Practitioner living at 18 Hastings Road in Church Gresley, Derbyshire. Edith died in 1916 in Lincoln District. They had known issue

a. Ernest Dominic Serres, born in Loughborough in 1886.
b. John Whyndam Serres, born in Loughborough about 1889. In 1913 in Epson District he married Annie Medland and had (known) issue three sons

i. Ian W Serres, born in 1915.
ii. Maurice C Serres, born about 1918.
iii. Basil M Serres, born in 1920.

c. Leonard Oldham Serres, born in Loughborough in 1890. In 1924 in Lincoln District he married Sarita F Brown. and had several children, many of whom were born before their parents marriage.
a. Rose Marie Serres, born in 1883 at Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire. She was living with her parents in 1901.
b. Edith Vera Serres, born in Loughborough in 1885. She was living with her parents in 1901.

6. Charles Herbert Serres, born in India on 12th June 1859. In 1888 in Croydon District he married Elsie Emily Oldham and probably had issue

Albert Gordon Serres, whose birth is recorded in the first quarter of 1889 in Croydon District.

7. Ernest Dominic Serres, born in Easebourne on 28th June 1861 and baptized there on 1st July following. He was at school with his brothers in Penzance in 1871.
8. Thomas Victor Serres, born on 10th June 1866 and dying six days later.

The 2nd son of William Serres and Maria Evans,
(Edward) Edmund Serres, was born on 24th April 1852 in India. He was at School in Penzance, England by 1871 and became a Schoolmaster at Osgathorpe in Leicestershire. In 1885 in Kensington District he married Bertha Saunders. Edwards death is recorded in Ashby Zouch District during the first quarter of 1901. Bertha's death is recorded in the first quarter of 1932, aged 75. They had issue

1. Frederick William Serrres, of whom presently.
2. Edward Edmund Serres, born about 1891 at Osgathorpe. His death was recorded in Croydon in 1915.
1. Bertha May Serres, born in Ashby Zouch district in 1886.
2. Eva Mary Serres, born in Ashby Zouch district in 1888.

The elder son of Edward Edmund Serres and Bertha Saunders,
Frederick William Serres, was born in 1887 at Osgathorpe. In 1913 he married Evelyn M Hurst and had (at least) two sons

1. Frederick W Serres born in 1913.
2. Geoffrey H Serres, born about 1916.


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Revised: 22-Jan-2010.