Rosa Frederica (Baring) FitzGeorge

It is clear from a study of the divorce papers at The National Archives, Kew [J77/327 C527592], that many statements about Rosa Frederica Baring FitzGeorge (1854-1927) and her daughter Vera Bate Lombardi (died 1948) in articles on the Internet, in Wikipedia and in Ancestry.com, are far from correct.

The sworn Petition of Rosa Baring's first husband, Frank Wigsell Arkwright, dated 20 October 1884 stated that there were two children of his marriage to Rosa: Esme Francis Wigsell Arkwright, born 7 May 1882, and Vera Nina Arkwright, born 11 August 1883:

1. Esme Francis Wigsell Arkwright was, according to the 1891 Census [RG12/585-26-2], born at 26 Hans Place, London. In 1891 he was aged 8 and living with his father at Sanderstead. His birth was registered at Chelsea in the June Quarter of 1882 [GRO Birth Indexes 1a 370].

2. Vera Nina Arkwright, was, according to the 1891 Census [RG12/932-69-9], born at London. In 1891 she was aged 7 and living with her Baring grandparents at Norman Court. Her birth was registered (as 'Female Arkwright') at Kensington in the September Quarter of 1883 [GRO indexes 1a 172].

The daughter Vera Nina Arkwright was thus not born in 1885 and it is highly unlikely that she was the daughter of Prince Adolphus of Teck (born 13 August 1868) who would have been only a few months past his fourteenth birthday at the time of her conception (and not seventeen as variously stated).

Frank Arkwright's Petition for Divorce in which he accused Rosa of frequently committing adultery (at places and on dates specified: in July 1884 at Ostend, in September 1884 at 15 Motcomb Street, Middlesex, on 4-16 October 1884 at Holme Meade, Sevenoaks, and from 17 October 1884 to date at Queen Anne's Mansions, St James Park, Middlesex) with Lieutenant Colonel George FitzGeorge, the Co-Respondent (on whom notice of the proceedings would have been served and who was legally represented), names the children and gives their dates of birth. The Divorce proceedings were also widely reported in the national and local press. That George FitzGeorge was, at the time of his marriage to Rosa Arkwright a year later, not aware that his future wife had been previously married and was the mother of two children, is thus not correct.

Newspaper accounts of the divorce proceedings say that shortly after their marriage differences arose between Frank Arkwright and his wife and a formal Deed of Separation was drawn up by which Rosa Arkwright had charge of the children, she allowing access to her husband, but that she was disinclined to let him have opportunities of access. She lived at Sevenoaks, but after a time Frank 'could not find the place of her residence' and a watch was consequently set on her movements, when it was found that she had gone to Ostend where she lived for some time with George FitzGeorge. As a result a formal Petition for Divorce was filed [Portsmouth Evening News, 6 March 1885, page 2d; York Herald, 7 March 1885, page 19b; Morning Post, 6 March 1885, page 6c-d; Bristol Mercury, 6 March 1885, page 8b]. One Irish newspaper mentioned that the co-respondent was a son of the Duke of Cambridge [Freeman's Journal, 6 March 1885, page 5g-h].

In the divorce Frank Arkwright petitioned for custody of the children. Both Rosa and George FitzGeorge denied adultery but did not appear in Court to defend the suit, being represented by the same solicitors. Rosa's initial costs of  £12-4-8 were paid by Frank Arkwright. The marriage was dissolved by a Decree Nisi on 5 March 1885 which was made Absolute on 27 October 1885. The Court ordered that George FitzGeorge pay the costs of the action and that the children should remain with Frank Arkwright until further Order [also reported in Portsmouth Evening News, 6 March 1885, page 2d].

The marriage of Rosa Frederica Baring (Mrs F. Arkwright), youngest daughter of W. Baring Esq of Norman Court, to Lieut-Col G W A FitzGeorge ADC, at the British Embassy, Paris, on 28 November 1885, was reported in the Hampshire Advertiser, 5 December 1885 [page 7c] and a week later the Hampshire Telegraph noted, 'Major Fitzgeorge was married a few days ago in Paris to pretty Mrs Frank Arkwright, and so ended one of the romances of the year' [Hampshire Telegraph, 12 December 1885].

It is thus clear that Rosa FitzGeorge did not 'abandon' her children as stated in the articles, though she probably knew that as a consequence of her actions they would be removed from her custody. Rosa being the 'guilty party', the children were initially placed in the care of Frank Arkwright, but on 4 May 1886 the Court ordered that Vera Nina be placed in the custody of her grandmother (and Rosa's mother) Elizabeth Baring as had been Agreed on 19 April 1886.

Frank Arkwright then applied for permission to vary the terms of his Marriage Settlement with Rosa Baring dated 27 August 1878. After various delays a Variation was agreed by the Trustees of the Settlement and this was confirmed by the Court on 8 June 1886 which ordered that £200 per annum be paid to Rosa from the income arising from the Trust Fund, the remainder being placed in trust for the children. Rosa's power to appoint Trustees was cancelled. On 14 August 1886 George FitzGeorge was ordered to pay Frank Arkwright's costs of £56-1-9.

Frank Arkwright died on 13 March 1893 (leaving a Personal Estate of £10,217-14-8) and on 7 August 1893 his Executors and Vera's Guardians were involved in further discussions about his Marriage Settlement and the Trustees were restrained from dealing in the property. On 26 February 1894 the Court ordered that Vera be represented in the proceedings and on 20 April 1894 it noted that she had (on 17 April 1894) elected Elizabeth Baring to be her Guardian. On 13 July 1894 the Court ordered that Rosa Arkwright also be at liberty to intervene in the proceedings and her solicitors duly filed an Intervention.

On 13 & 14 May 1895 the Court ordered that a Report of the Registrar on a Variation of the Settlement be confirmed to take effect from 14 May 1895, the costs of all the parties being paid out of the income arising since 14 May 1895 from a sum of £10,000 brought into Settlement by the late Petitioner (Frank Arkwright). The costs of the Trustees and Guardians were filed 1 August 1895. There is no further document on the Divorce file.

Elizabeth Baring, Vera Nina's grandmother, died at Norman Court on 6 November 1897 (leaving a Personal Estate of £518-1-1) and Elizabeth's husband, William Henry Baring, died at Norman Court on 10 June 1906 (leaving a Personal Estate of £84,874-18-11). Their wills may throw further light on the matter.

Vera Nina Arkwright has not been found in England in the 1901 and 1911 census returns and it is not clear where she was living in those years (though her US passport applications say that she lived in England from 1884 to 1914). She may be the Miss Vera Arkwright at 17 Connaught Street, South Paddington, in 1915 [Electoral Register, Hyde Park Ward, Division 3, Page 375]. If and when she lived with Lady Margaret Grosvenor (1873-1929), the daughter of the First Duke of Westminster and the wife (from 1894) of the above mentioned Prince Adolphus of Teck (who was created Duke of Teck in 1900 and Marquis of Cambridge in 1917), and if and when she assumed the forenames Sarah Gertrude, as stated in the articles, is not clear. Vera Nina married Frederick Blantford Bate in Paris, 1 May 1916, in the name Vera Nina Arkwright and later that day applied for a passport using the name Vera Nina Bate. She made her will (following her second marriage to Alberto Lombardi) and it was proved in London in 1949 in the name Vera Nina Lombardi.

Although her age in the 1891 census (as given by her grandparents) is correct, Vera thought, or pretended, that she was born later. Her passport applications in 1916 say that she was born 11 August 1885 whilst those made in 1919-21 say that she was born 11 August 1884.

From careful Court arrangements outlined above it is clear that Vera, her brother and her mother shared the income from the Trust set up by her father. After her mother's death in 1927 she would have shared the balance of the Trust with her brother until he died in 1934. She may have received other funds under the wills of her father and grandfather [see below]. Vera's limited administration (with will) was granted in London, 21 March 1949 [Effects £4.444-9-9], to her cousin Evelyn Bingham Baring (1893-1966) a Director of Baring Brothers & Co and the son of her mother's brother, William Bingham Baring (1859-1916), as attorney for Alberto Lombardi.

The sensational stories of a royal illegitimacy and cover-up thus have no basis in fact. It is equally clear that Vera Nina Bate Lombardi (1883-1948) and her daughter Bridget Bate Tichenor (1917-1990), both of whom have biographies on Wikipedia, had no royal descent through George FitzGeorge and that a descent from Prince Adolphus, for which no contemporary evidence can be shown, is highly unlikely.

Anthony Camp, 11 & 20 November 2012 .

The two books generally cited as sources for information about the birth and parentage of Vera Bate Lombardi are Axel Madsen (1930-2007) in his Chanel: a woman of her own (1991) and Hal Vaughan (1928-2013) in his Sleeping with the enemy: Coco Chanel's secret war (2011), but both seem to rely only on the allegations of Vera's daughter Bridget Bate Tichenor (1917-1990). Bridget was a surrealist painter in the 'magic realism school' and had, it seems to me, little interest in factual truth. It is impossible to consider her a reliable witness. She had been estranged from her mother since 1939 and had moved to a reclusive life in Mexico in 1953. She considered her mother a 'monster' and told many stories about her to a spiritist protégé whom she met in 1971. Amongst these stories was the suggestion that she (Bridget, born in 1917) was the daughter of Coco Chanel and the Duke of Westminster (who did not meet until 1923), that her mother (Vera Arkwright, born in 1883) used the name Sarah Gertrude Arkwright and was the 'surrogate child' of the Duchess of Westminster, that Vera was descended from King George III and was either the daughter of Rosa Baring by George FitzGeorge (Rosa's second husband) or by Prince Adolphus of Teck (then just fourteen), that Rosa had abandoned her children (born in 1882 and 1883) by her first husband Frank Arkwright and that there was a royal 'cover up' when they divorced in 1884-5, and so forth. These allegations were made known by Bridget's protégé after her death in 1990 but none, so far as I have been able to discover, has been corroborated from other sources. The statements cannot be dignified as 'family tradition' and they seem to have been unknown to anyone other than the protégé until publication.

Vera frequently gave false information about her date of birth and the allegations that Prince Adolphus was her father were made by her daughter in the belief that Vera was not born until 1885 (when Prince Adolphus would have been 16 or 17) whereas she was born in 1883 when he was just 14. The 1884-5 divorce papers of Vera's parents Frank Arkwright and Rosa Baring show that their marriage settlement was openly discussed in court, its trustees were closely involved, and after Frank's death in March 1893, his executors were also involved. By a deed of separation made prior to the divorce the two children had been placed with Rosa Arkwright, Frank having access, but Rosa was disinclined to allow access and when it was found that she was committing adultery with George FitzGeorge, divorce proceedings were instituted in October 1884. The children were as a result placed with their father who, under the terms of his marriage settlement, was providing for their upkeep. The divorce was no quickly hushed-up matter and various extensions of time were given so that those affected might be represented and bring forward information which would safeguard the future income and welfare of the children. It was not until 4 May 1886 that it was ordered that Vera be placed, by mutual agreement, in the care of Rosa's mother, Elizabeth Baring. Affidavits were filed as late as April 1894 (following Frank's death) relating to the child's election of Elizabeth Baring as her testamentary guardian ad litam. The entry in the 1891 census showing Vera as the 'granddaughter adopted' of Elizabeth Baring's husband is in no way remarkable and should not be used to suggest that Vera was illegitimate.

Anthony Camp, 28 June 2015

Although Vera Arkwight cannot be found in the 1901 and 1911 census returns it seems probable that she was indeed in England when the Census was taken. As "Miss Vera Arkwright" she was amongst those present at the annual Oakley Hunt Ball in January 1905 [Bedfordshire Times and Independent, 20 January 1905, page 5], she was amongst the guests at the marriage of Nora C. Barrow and W. Lindsay Hogg at Christ Church, Lancaster Gate, in May 1907 [Kent and Sussex Courier, 24 May 1907, page 4], she was a bridesmaid at the marriage of her brother Esme Arkwright to Audrey Violet Hatfield-Harter at Holy Trinity, Sloane Street, on 6 July 1909, the Prime Minister and Mrs Asquith being guests [Buckingham Advertiser, 10 July 1909, page 7], she broke her right arm whilst out hunting from Bredenbury Court, Bromyard, with the North Ledbury Hounds, in January 1910 [Gloucestershire Echo, 11 January 1910, page 3, and Gloucestershire Chronicle, 15 January 1910, page 6; the 53-roomed house was unoccupied except for two servants in 1911], and a photograph of her was published on the announcement of her marriage to Frederick Bate [Sunday Mirror, 9 April 1916, page 9]. She is mentioned as being bequeathed £200 in an account of her grandfather Captain William Henry Baring's will, Rosa being left £10,000 on trust for the eventual benefit of all her children (except her eldest son Esme Arkwright) if monies owing to Captain Baring by Colonel FitzGeorge had been paid in full [Western Gazette, 24 August 1906, page 3]. In July 1937 it was reported that a champion rider in the Italian army, Major Lombardi, had come to England to buy horses on behalf of his government (without success as the births of the horses had not been registered in stud-books) and that his English wife Miss Vera Arkwright "also made a great name for herself as an horsewoman" ['Red Tape' in Lancashire Evening Post, 30 July 1937, page 6].

Anthony Camp, 29 June 2015.