The mystery of Charles Bancroft & Margaret Grimston
Although not directly connected to the main focus of the Old White Lodge web site, I found that it was worthwhile and quite interesting to take a deeper look as Ellie McMahon's first husband, Charles Edward Bancroft whose life seems to be full of mysteries. I also researched further because of contact I've had with living relatives of the two families discussed on this page.
I've found that undertaking this type of research has been very exciting and fulfilling, especially when, at the end of a particular research thread, the objective is reached with information or, even better, an actual photo located in a remote archive.
I was very pleased to locate this photograph of Charles, aged about 11 (?) and thus taken around 1874, in the Dame Madge Kendal's scrapbook held in the Grimsby Town Hall archive.
As can be seen further down this page, this photo provided conclusive evidence (for me anyway) as to Charles's paternity.
Published by permission of North East Lincolnshire Archives.
The curator can be contacted at: email@example.com
Thanks to Ian Brooker for pointing out that the scrapbook contained a photo of Charles.
I've recently met up with the granddaughter of Madge Kendal, who is the grand old age of 86. She kindly allowed me to copy a photograph of an older Charles - aged around 15?
The most important is Marie Effie Wilton who was born in 1840. She became was a well known Victorian actress in the early 1860s who married Squire Bancroft in 1868.
1861: Marie Wilton was the daughter of Robert Pleydell Wilton and she had five sisters: Georgiana, Augusta, Blanch and Emma and Ida who are not listed. Marie was living with her father and sisters in 1861 aged 22 according to the 1861 census. (Marie Bancroft in 1861. Picture credit: Wikipedia)
1841: Squire White Butterfield was born in May 14th 1841 and became a very well know Victorian actor and theatre owner. He was knighted in 1897. (Picture credit: Wikipedia)
1867: Squire White Butterfield changed his name by deed poll to Squire Bancroft Bancroft (Daily News, Saturday, December 14, 1867). Squire died in 1926.
1861: Marie Wilton was the daughter of Robert Pleydell Wilton and she had five sisters: Georgiana, Marie, Augusta and Blanch and Ida who is not listed. Marie was living with her father and sisters in 1861 aged 22 according to the 1861 census.
1868: In 28 December 1867 Effie Marie Wilton married Squire Bancroft:
1869: According to public records and acknowledged in the Bancroft's autobiographies, a son was born - George Louise Pleydell Bancroft.
1870: Another son was born in 1870, Arthur Hamilton, but he died in the same quarter as he was born.
They did much to improve the respectability of the Victorian theatre, and according to the Theatre Museum website:
"Mrs Kendal was by all accounts a cold and judgmental character. She disapproved of people and practices that did not conform to her strict code, and she had a poor relationship with her own five children." This attitude could have caused some of the issues surrounding her daughter as we will see later.
William Hunter Kendal photo credit: Joan Shields (William and Madge's granddaughter).
The other children are: Hugh Dorington (known as "Dori) [b. 1872], Ethel Muriel [b. 1874], Harold Robertson [b. 1876] and
Dorothy May [b. 1880].
Charles and Margaret
1863: Charles Edward Wilton was born on the 20th October 1863 and was the illegitimate son of Marie Effie Wilton. He was christened at an old age of three on 26th August 1866 prior to Charles changing his name to Bancroft upon the marriage of his mother to Squire Bancroft.
To this day, no one knows who the real father was and Charles is never mentioned in any of the 'official' material and autobiographies of Lady Marie and Sir Squire Bancroft.
Painting: Captain Charles Edward Bancroft of the Royal Welch Fusiliers.
The next appearance seems to be a re-appearance seems to be on December 15th 1863 for a Christmas burlesque indicating a break for Charles' maternity. Charles was born in Q4 1863. Interestingly, Augusta, Marie's sister debuts on the stage in mid-may and has several appearances until Marie returns. Augusta is not mentioned before or after the time that Marie is away from the stage with Charles.
1871:In the 1871 census, the following names were registered. Charles is not listed but we assume he was away at boarding school.
We assume that by this time, Charles Edward Wilton had formally adopted the name, Charles Edward Bancroft. Charles later became a captain in the Royal Welch Fusiliers.
He was commissioned lieutenant, The Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry on 25 August 1883 but transferred to the Royal Welch Fusiliers on 24 October the same year. He is listed as
captain 2 RWF on 21 January 1893 and was placed on half pay on 7 September 1896.
Madge Kendal sitting, with Dorothy and Margaret standing in 1902
Charles and Margaret'sMarriage
1895:In 1895, Charles Edward Bancroft first marriage took place to Margaret Catherine Grimston:
The Era, Saturday, September 15, 1895
1895: Just after Charles' and Margaret's wedding, Charles is in Wrexham
The Marriage Annulment
1897:Unfortunately, the marriage between Charles and Margaret didn't last and was very quickly annulled for some reason.
According to the annulment papers, Charles and Margaret lived together from their marriage on 21st September 1895 to 2nd January 1896, a period of only around twelve weeks. They came together again from the 2nd to the 17th June 1896.
The prime reason sighted in the the annulment papers for cause was the impotence of Charles:
The Decree Absolute was issued on February 17th 1897.
Why an Annulment?
Extracts from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biographies provides some interesting background by indicating that Margaret's other four children (Hugh Dorington [b. 1892], Ethel Murial [b. 1874], Harold Robertson [b. 1876] and Dorothy May [b. 1880]) did not have good relations with their parents for the rest of their lives. Something really quite traumatic must have happened to cause such a lifetime rift. Moreover, the rift was not only within the family but also between families - i.e. the Kendals and their in-laws, the Bancrofts. This could only have been caused by the reasons for the annulled marriage.
Madge Kendal's autobiography, Dame Madge Kendal by herself, released in 1933 just before her death, provided further depth and background to the annulment in that she say the "the marriage had to be annulled", "her daughter never recovered from the shock" and that "it is a subject on which we must always be silent".
So why was it the marriage "had to be annulled" and why the "shock"? There could be several reasons
So, who was Charles's father?
So, is William Kendal actually Charles's father? I believe he is. There are several points that confirm this to my mind:
Point #1: The annulment of the marriage between Margaret and Charles discussed above.
Point #2: A photograph of Charles, aged around aged 11 and thus taken around 1874, in the Dame Madge Kendal's scrapbook held in the North East Lincolnshire Archives. It is interesting to look at the three photos shown below. To my eyes, both Margaret and Charles have very, very, similar facial features - especially the 'droopy' shape of all their eyes. If the photos are placed on top of each other, then it can be clearly seen that all the facial features have similar spacing. Margaret and Charles look especially close.
Point #3: Why would Madge and William Kendal (Grimston) have a photograph of Charles as a 11 year old boy in her scrapbook? Yes, the Kendals knew the Bancrofts from the middle of the 1860s but Charles didn't marry Margaret until 1895, about 20 years after the photo was taken. It strikes me as it being rather unusual unless there was a father / son relationship between William and Charles. Clearly, William would have photos of his son sent by his mother Marie Bancroft from time to time.
Another intriguing aspect that needs investigating is that the photograph of Charles is, I believe, at the back of the scrapbook. This indicates to me that the photograph was pasted into the scrapbook at a very late date by Madge by which time, William, Margaret and Charles had all died.
Point #4: In the description of the 1895 wedding of Margaret and Charles in The Era shown above, it is rather peculiar that Charles's mother, Marie Bancroft ,was not present as she was on holiday in Italy with her husband, Squire. William Kendal was not present either. However, Madge and her son George were present after "travelling over night from Hull", this seems to indicate that those who knew about Charles's parentage were not present, while Madge, who most likely did not know about William's illegitimate son, made the effort. Surely, if she knew about Charles's parentage she would not have condoned the marriage?
Point #5: This last point is the most specific. In 2008 a living granddaughter of Madge Kendal said that, according to a family story, Charles is the son of William Kendal.
Without written confirmation this is about as near as we can get to the truth. However, with power of the internet who knows what else will turn up given time.
1898: In June 1898, a small paragraph in The Era, explicitly links Charles Edward Bancroft to Lady (Marie) Bancroft.
A 'secret' concerning Charles Edward Bancroft has been found 12month's
1902:Maybe Margaret never did really recover from the annulment as she died on 31st October 1902 in Scarborough. Even though Catherine is spelt with a 'K' rather than a 'C' we assume this to be the same Margaret as married Charles Edward Bancroft in 1895. The following obituary confirms this assumption to be correct - however, her age is erroneously given as 26, when she was actually 31.
The house in Filey, North Yorkshire was South Crescent Lodge, which is now the White Lodge Hotel.
The Filey Post, November 1902
Her first husband, Charles, travelled back from China (see below) in October / November 1901 with his new wife Ellie. It is interesting to conjecture whether he was amongst the "large concourse of sorrowing relatives and friends" at Margaret's funeral.
Margaret is buried in the East Finchley cemetery (Formally St Marylebone cemetery) together with her parents, William Hunter Kendal (Grimston) and Madge (Margaret Shafto) Kendal (Grimston, Nee Robertson). The location is in H4 next to the chapel.
As mentioned above, Dame Madge Kendal seemed to have a very sad life as she was unreconciled with her children to the end of her life. To quote from Madge's autobiography:
On one occasion she [Margaret] went to stay with some friends at Besancon. When she returned, she brought, as a souvenir of her visit, a large photograph of Bouguereau's well-known picture, "Mater Afflicta". "Oh, Margaret," I said, "what a melancholy picture." "I think it is one of Bouguereau's best," she replied. "That's why I've brought it to you." By that time she knew many of the sad facts of my life and, though I said nothing to her about it, I wondered whether it was not a curious divination of the appeal it would make to me that made her select it. So impressed was I with its applicability that I had the words engraved on the tombstone which will, in time, be placed over my grave.
I was pleased to be able to tidy the grave and to replace the balustrades the best I could as they were in an untidy heap. Following this, I found the inscription on the fallen and upside-down balustrade of the family grave.
Charles's second marriage
1900: Charles Edward Bancroft marries for a second time to Ellie Maude Moses in Hong Kong on 1st August 1900. The Royal Welch Fusiliers participated in many colonial wars before going to South Africa in 1899 and to China to raise the siege of the legations in Peking by the Boxers in 1900.
Ellie was Australian and was born Ellie Maude Moses, daughter of Hon. Henry Moses MLC of New South Wales.
The Battalion in Hong Kong c1900
On the far left on the back row is Lieut. J A Higgon who married Ellie's sister Lurline.
Back Row, left to right:Lieut J A Higgon, Lieut G J P Geiger, Lieut H Hill, Lieut H M Richards, Lieut R B Johnson, Lieut C S Owen, Bt Major C M Dobell, 2nd Lieut G H Gwyther, Capt C H M Doughty-Wylie, Lieut and Qr Mr J Clieve, Bt Major Sir Horace McMahon Front row, left to right: 2nd Lieut C I Stockwell, Lieut O S Flower, Major S G Everitt, Liet-Col Hon R H Bertie, Cat and Adjt H O S Cadogan, Lieut A Hay, Capt J H Gwynne, Capt C Bancroft Sitting Left to right: 2nd Lieut M E Lloyd, Lieut F J Walwyn, 2nd Lieut J R Minshull-Ford
The following cartoons were taken from Ellie Bancroft (later McMahon) autograph book. These cartoons were created by Charles Collette a well know actor who played with Marie Bancroft at the Princes theatre and married Marie's sister Blanche. The subject matter is Charlie and Ellie's first flat after they had returned from China. The second is his second recall to his regiment in March 1902.
Interestingly, Ellie's sister was also in Hong Kong at the time and she got married as well. On the 27th June 1900, Lurline May Moses married John Arthur Higgon, also of the Royal Welch Fusiliers.
Q1 190: Primrose Marie H Bancroft was born on the 12th December 1902.
1906: Charles Edward Bancroft died in Marylebone in 1906 after a long illness. His funeral was held on 10th October 1906.
Charles's final resting place
A visit to the office in Brompton Cemetery in West London elicited the fact that Charles was interned with four other people. The records are inaccurate as it is listed in the cemetery records as a 'common' or 'public' grave. This turned out to be inaccurate. However his location is not identified in any form of a memorial.
In fact, he was put to rest in the mausoleum of William Frederick Hamilton Fletcher who died in 1879. William was the first husband of Ida Ann Wilton, Marie Bancroft's sister.
Other people in the mausoleum are John James Elmes who died in 1888 and is Ida's second husband. After this came Francis Aston Drake who died in 1901 and was Emma Marie Wilton's husband - another of Marie Bancroft's sisters.
Emma Drake is definitely interred in the Brompton cemetery but not in this mausoleum according to the Times dated October 25th 1921.
Charles Edward Bancroft was placed there in 1906. Ida Ann Elmes ( Wilton, then Fletcher, then Elmes) died on the 22nd June 1920 and is also located in the mausoleum.
Other than FWH Fletcher, whose name is over the door, none of the other occupants of the mausoleum are acknowledged in the form of an external memorial. I have to say I consider this to be rather strange.
1911: Ellie Maude Bancroft marries Horace Westropp McMahon.
More on Ellie and her second marriage to General Horace McMahon can be found here.
1926: Squire Bancroft dies: He and Marie are buried in Brompton Cemetery (Click to see location using Google Earth).