On doing some ancestry research I came across two separate newspaper articles questioning the legitimacy of my 6th and 5th great-grandfathers’ ‘baronetcies’.
Here are the newspaper cuttings, relating to the father Sir John (1729-1788), and then the son Sir George (1764-1832), see right:
I have contacted the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, the National Archives, the College of Arms, The Standing Council of the Baronetcy, Debrett’s and the Court of the Lord Lyon of Scotland, none of which can find any record of them (see the letters below).
I have no personal axe to grind - they may have been genuine baronets or they may have just been well-connected scoundrels, but it would be interesting to know one way or the other!
If, as appears possible, both father and son conferred their ‘baronetcies’ upon themselves, they did it with a certain style, as witnessed by the title page of a book written by the son which was sponsored by several Princes, Dukes and MPs, and effusively dedicated to The Right Honourable Robert Lord Viscount Melville, see right:
(If you click on the book and scroll through the first half-dozen pages you’ll see the ‘great and the good’ listed as subscribers to Sir George’s book - Princes, Dukes, Lords and Ladies, Baronets, MPs etc.)
There is also some mystery surrounding the name of Mouat itself - I should mention that for some reason ‘Mouat’ and ‘Mowat’ appear interchangeable, with the latter being the most commonly used spelling. ‘Monat’ also appears, but that is probably a misreading of Mouat.
I have read that Dr. Conrad Swan* of the College of Arms has said that all Mowats, Mowatts (and therefore Mouats) are descended from one Prince Patrick de Monte Alto of Spain, who apparently arrived in England alongside William the Conquerer in 1066, thereafter changing his name to Mowat. It would be good to have this collaborated.
*The original webpage containing this information seems to have disappeared, I’m in the process of rediscovering it.
Dear Mr. Poulson,
Thank you for your enquiry regarding your ancestors' baronetcy and I am afraid that I have been unable to find any reference to a Keith baronetcy that has a Sir John or a Sir George Keith. There are three references to Keith baronetcies, the first relates to the Earl Marischal, and two others that, in 1903, were thought to be either dormant or extinct: neither brief genealogy included a John or George. I did wonder if, in fact, John and George might have been knighted rather than being created baronets and I looked at our reference works on knights but could not find them in the list of those created Knights Bachelor.
I rather fear that I can throw no more light on the subject than your other contacts.
I am sorry to send a disappointing reply.
Secretary to Lyon Office,
Court of the Lord Lyon
Dear Mr Poulson,
Under Scottish law at that time it was possible to assume a title. However, the Assistant Registrar of the Baronetage can find nothing about the Keiths in question although he feels there may be a connection with the Marischal titles that were forfeited (there was a Keith Baronetcy associated with them). It might be worth enquiring of the Court of the Lord Lyon, they are always very helpful and knowledgeable.
As far as George Keith's Naval career is concerned, the following, received from the Naval Historical Branch, may be of interest to you:
" The Admiralty Library has a copy of his A voyage to South America (which has gained some additional interest that we have a new HMS PROTECTOR), as well as a German chart of the North Sea that was annotated by him when he was in command of HMS REDBREAST in 1813. Marshall’s Royal Naval biography vol.IV pt 2 (1833) records that Keith obtained his commission as a lieutenant on 12th August 1801, PROTECTOR being the first command noted. Assuming that you have seen his book, you will know that he was present at the capture of the Cape of Good Hope in 1806. In 1808 he transferred to the REDBREAST, another gun-brig, on the North Sea station. In 1813 and 1814 he took part on the sieges of Cuxhaven and Gluckstadt (then in the hands of the French) – hence the chart in our collections. Marshall records no other service, but the Admiralty’s manuscripts ledgers of captains and ships show that he had been in command of HMS BOXER from 27th September 1804 to 5th June 1805, taking command of the PROTECTOR on 6th June 1805 and remaining with her until 8th March 1806. He took command of HMS REDBREAST on 27th March 1808, until 16th March 1814 when he transferred to HMS VARIABLE on promotion to the rank of commander. No subsequent command is recorded. HMS VARIABLE appears to have been a schooner which had been purchased in Jamaica some years before and went out of service during 1814. The name was given to another schooner taken from the Americans in 1814, but not until later in the year.
Marshall noted that Keith’s eldest son had died at Sierra Leone, and this is reported in the Gentleman’s Magazine for 1823, which stated that George Mouat-Keith, only son of Sir George Keith, bart., RN, had died on 14th March of a fever, aged 18. Keith had at least one daughter, Margaret, who had married John Frederick Ellerton of the East India Company in 1816. In 1824 the Times reported the birth of a granddaughter, Elizabeth Mary Ellerton, at Keith’s house in Camberwell. Keith himself died in 1832, at Mantes, his death also being reported in the Times."
I wish you luck with your further research.
Dear Mr Poulson
I am sorry to say that I have nothing to add to the information you have already found on your 5th and 6th great-grandfathers.
It is certainly odd that there is not so much as a footnote in GEC’s Complete Baronetage, which is by far the most comprehensive work on the subject.
Nor can I find any connection to the Keith Earls Marischal of Scotland in The Scots Peerage by Sir James Balfour Paul.
I also checked A Naval Biographical Dictionary by W.R.O’Byrne (1849) but without success.
Sorry to be so negative.
Charles Kidd (ed)
College of Arms
130 Queen Victoria Street
London EC4V 4BT
Tel and fax: 020 7236 7728
Dear Mr Poulson,
Thank you for your email of 7 March. I apologise for not replying to your earlier email of 3 January.
To try to answer your enquiry about your 5th and 6th great grandfathers, referred to in your attachments as Sir John Mouat Keith Bt and Sir George Mouat Keith Bt, I should have to make searches in the official registers of arms and pedigrees. It would be helpful to have a brief family tree summarising what you know about your Keith ancestors, giving full names and dates/places of birth, marriage and death, with occupations and places of residence where known.
The College of Arms is not supported by the state and fees are charged for our work. In this case I should ask for a sum of £330 to cover my search and report. If you would like to pursue the matter, please let me have a cheque made payable to T H S Duke. If you would prefer to make a payment by bank transfer, I will give you details of my account.
Although the College of Arms holds many records of Baronets and their families, the Roll of the Baronetage is compiled through the Crown Office.
I cannot immediately confirm that the name Mowat derives from de Monte Alto. You will find several variant forms and suggested derivations in P H Reaney, A Dictionary of British Surnames (1976) and
David L Gold, A Dictionary of Surnames (1988, reprinted 1996).
In 2012 I recommenced research, including visiting the National Archives.
But the ‘big break’ was when I came across the book, right.
(Link to book)
I discovered it thanks to Google Books, a great source of information which doesn’t necessarily appear on ‘regular’ Google.
The book suggests a real legitimacy to the titles, as a Knight Companion of the Order of the Bath (see particularly the top of page 181), below:
In the spirit of one step forward, two steps back, I wrote again to Mr Bruce Gorie, Secretary to Lyon Office, Court of the Lord Lyon, seeking his opinion on the information above.
To précis his response, he suggests the 1848 book, above, may be incorrect as it is different to “Peter Galloway's excellent book on The Order of the Bath” which states:
“Lieutenant Colonel, later Lieutenant General, Sir Robert Murray Keith was nominated an extra knight (Knight Companion) of the Order on 29th February 1772 and a constituent knight in March 1772 (on the death of Lord Catherlough). He was invested on 29th February 1772 by dispensation and installed on 15th June that year (by his proxy Captain Sir Basil Keith). He died on 22nd June 1795.”
To discover that good-old Sir George Mouat Keith may have been incorrectly included in a textbook in place of another Keith would be bizarre indeed.
My quest for the truth continues...
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