What Jane Knew ~ A 1329 Darcy – De Bourgh Marriage in Jane Austen’s Family Tree

Enquiring Readers: Ron Dunning has previously posted here at Jane Austen in Vermont about his invaluable Jane Austen genealogy website. As he continues to research the connections, he is discovering amazing coincidences and some very familiar names.  Today he gives some insight into a marriage that took place between a Darcy and a de Burgh in 1329 and speculates on whether Jane Austen could possibly have known about this…



What Jane Might Well Have Known, and What She Couldn’t Possibly Have Known, About Her Ancestors

I’m against making any assumption based on slim evidence, but I’m about to make two; first of all, concerning a great coincidence about which Jane can’t have known anything. In 1329 a marriage took place between John Darcy, 1st Lord Darcy of Knaith, and Joan de Burgh. (The spelling doesn’t matter – even up to the 18th century spellings hadn’t been fully standardised.) Joan’s father Richard de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster, was a direct ancestor of Mrs Austen through her brother John.

Last summer when my Akin to Jane [ www.janeaustensfamily.co.uk ] website was launched one or two people, with admirable perseverance, trawled through my separate family tree [ http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~janeausten ] and on discovering this marriage, insisted that Jane must have known. I was never in any doubt that she couldn’t possibly have known. This was also the opinion of the only other person who has studied the Austen pedigree extensively, Anielka Briggs.

Dugdale Baronage - Skinnerinc.com

Dugdale Baronage – Skinnerinc.com

While Baronetages were readily available in the late 1700s, the dignity having been created only in 1611, there were very few studies of the Peerage and all of those were very primitive. William Dugdale’s Baronage of England of 1675 covered only England. (Remember that Joan’s father John de Burgh was the Earl of Ulster; the marriage in question is said to have taken place in County Kildare.)

The Rev. Barlow’s Complete English Peerage was printed in 1772, so might just have been in George Austen’s library, but again deals just with English peerages. Another possibility, Arthur Collins’s Peerage series*, was first published in 1709, with reprints every few years and frequent new editions. Even he appears not to have included Irish peerages, and in the eight editions that I was able to search, not a single de Burgh featured in the indexes.

Barlow Peerage - Open Library

Barlow Peerage – Open Library

A further obstacle in the way of Jane’s knowing (or for that matter anyone at the time) is that there was no direct male descent from the de Burghs to the Austens – the surname soon disappeared from Jane’s pedigree, through a series of female links. Traditional pedigrees concentrate on the direct male line.

However, John Darcy did himself play a role in the Austen pedigree – he was a many-greats-grandfather of Charles Austen’s wives, the sisters Frances and Harriet Palmer. John and his first wife, Emmeline Heron, were the ancestors of four generations of male Darcys; Elizabeth Darcy, in the fifth generation, married James Strangeways; and that surname continued down to the Palmer girls’ paternal grandmother, Dorothy Strangeways. In Charles’s children, the Darcy and the de Burgh lines were finally united.

My second assumption concerns what Jane might well have known. Janine Barchas, in her Matters of Fact in Jane Austen, speculates that she, in choosing the names of Darcy, Wentworth, Woodhouse, FitzWilliam, Tilney, etc., was alluding “to actual high-profile politicians and contemporary celebrities as well as to famous historical figures and landed estates.” In the words of Juliet McMaster in the blurb, she was “a confirmed name dropper who subtly manipulates the celebrity culture of her day.” On page 118 Janine Barchas wrote, “Cassandra Willoughby (…) the supposed ancestor of Mrs Austen.”  Yes – she’s almost got it.  Cassandra was Mrs Austen’s 1st cousin, twice removed.


I think that Jane may well have known about the family relationship and its relevance. Cassandra’s mother Emma (Willoughby and then Child, née Barnard) was Cassandra Leigh’s great-great-aunt; it was Emma’s sister Elizabeth (Brydges, née Barnard) who was her great-grandmother.  Elizabeth was also the mother of James Bridges, the Duke of Chandos, who married Cassandra Willoughby – the two were cousins. Emma’s first husband was the noted naturalist, Francis Willoughby; after his death she remarried, to Sir Josiah Child – supreme governor of the East India Company, an early monetarist, and a rapaciously wealthy financier to 17th century royalty.  Emma and Sir Josiah’s son Richard Child became the Earl Tylney of Castlemaine, and one of his great-granddaughters was Catherine Tylney-Long.

Barchas speculates that Jane, in naming her Catherine Tilney, had this other Catherine in mind. This lady had inherited a vast estate and fortune in 1794 at the age of 5, and at 18 was reputedly the richest commoner in England. Catherine Tylney was Jane Austen’s 4th cousin.  Very few of us have any idea about our fourth cousins, but based on the following circumstantial evidence, I suspect that Jane did know that they were distantly related.

Catherine Tylney-Long - Wanstead House

Catherine Tylney-Long – Wanstead House

Wanstead House

Wanstead House

[Image: Wanstead House ]

Mrs. Austen

Mrs. Austen

There is a strong tradition in the Warwickshire village of Middleton, the seat of Francis Willoughby, that Jane visited there on the trip to Staffordshire in 1806 with her mother and sister. Middleton certainly lies in a direct line, as the crow flies, from their stop at Stoneleigh to Hamstall Ridware, where her cousin was the Rector. If they did visit, it may have been because Mrs Austen knew of the family relationship – she was certainly considered to have been proud of her aristocratic ancestors. The Austens preserved a letter written by Elizabeth Brydges in the 1680s from Constantinople, giving advice to her daughter who had been left behind; I think it likely that she’d have known about Elizabeth’s sister Emma’s illustrious marriages, and have told her daughters.


Thank you Ron! for all this information [my head is spinning!] – I do wonder what Lady C might say to all this – would she be concerned about the “Shades of Pemberly [being] thus polluted” by any of these illustrious ancestors?

If you have questions for Ron, please comment below.

Ed. Note: * Collins Peerage:

Collins Peerage - 1812 ed.

Collins Peerage – 1812 ed.

Just again to prove once again that all roads lead back to Jane Austen, it is interesting here to note that Egerton Brydges edited this 1812 edition of the Collins Peerage – this is Jane Austen’s very own Mr. Brydges, brother to her friend Madame Lefroy. Austen makes much of his novel Arthur Fitz-Albini (1798) in her letter of 25 November 1798:

We have got Fitz-Albini; my father has brought it against my private wishes, for it does not quite satisfy my feelings that we should purchase the only one of Egerton’s works of which his family are ashamed. That these scruples, however do not at all interfere with my reading it, you will easily believe. We have neither of us yet finished the first volume. My father is disappointed – I am not, for I expected nothing better. Never did any book carry more internal evidence of its author. Every sentiment is completely Egerton’s. There is very little story, and what there is [is] told in a strange unconnected way. There are many characters introduced, apparently merely to be delineated. We have not been able to recognize any of them hitherto except Dr and Mrs Hey and Mr. Oxenden, who is not very tenderly treated…. [Letters, No. 12]


Further reading:

1.  Ron Dunning’s Jane Austen websites:

2.  Janine Barchas links:

3. History of Catherine Tylney-Long at Wanstead Park website: http://www.wansteadpark.org.uk/hist/the-owners-of-wanstead-park-part-10-1784-1825/

4.  Wanstead Wildlife.org [information and above image]: http://www.wansteadwildlife.org.uk/index.php/home/list-of-people?id=101

5. William Dugdale Baronage [above image]: https://www.skinnerinc.com/auctions/2526B/lots/212

6. Frederic Barlow. Complete English Peerage (London, 1775): [complete text and above image]: http://openlibrary.org/books/OL24241621M/The_complete_English_peerage

7. Collins’s Peerage of England: [complete text and above image]: http://openlibrary.org/books/OL7054900M/Collins’s_peerage_of_England_genealogical_biographical_and_historical.

8. A nice introduction to Charles Austen at Austenprose.

  c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

10 thoughts on “What Jane Knew ~ A 1329 Darcy – De Bourgh Marriage in Jane Austen’s Family Tree

  1. Ron, What a wonderful historical journey of your family you’ve taken us on – one that, I note, transports us over three-quarters of a millennium! Somehow I feel Jane Austen must have known of the marriage between a D’Arcy and a de B. some five hundred years before!!

    A quick question: You mention Catherine Tylney-Long as the richest commoner woman at the turn of the 19th century. Last summer in Bath I was told that the richest woman in the world next to the Queen was Henrietta Pulteney – of whom there are two Gainsborough portraits (one as a child; one as a young bride and mother) in the Holburne (now Museum) in Bath. Can you enlighten us on this?



    • Hello Elissa,

      I recall the same comment about Henrietta Pulteney when I was in the Holburne as well [unfortunately I do not have my guide book with me! – I am away] – but a quick search brings up only a portrait of her as a child by Angelica Kauffman, nothing by Gainsborough, and only this one – will look further to see if I can find anything on the other portrait you mention, but nothing shows up at the Holburne. An interesting note is that the town of Henrietta, New York is named after her, as her father invested in the land. Here are a few quick links:

      Portrait in the Holburne Museum by Angelica Kauffman [a lovely portrait of childhood]: http://www.museumnetworkuk.org/portraits/artworks/holburne/img4.html

      DNB: http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/printable/59519

      Town in New York named after her: [her father had invested in the area]: http://henriettahistoricalsociety.org/Page_2__history_of_town.html


      She did die the wealthiest woman of her time, both in money and property…

      Ron, do you have anything on her? – is she somehow connected to Jane Austen, like everyone else is?!

      Thanks for stopping by Elissa,


      • Deb – Thank you for your comments. A charming docent at the Holbourne – who I later discovered was a younger brother of the fifth Earl of XXX – insisted on giving my friend and me a personalized tour and discussion of the magnificent collection of paintings. I am holding the wonderful Guidebook in my hands now: among the myriad of treasures in the Holburne are several Breughels, van der Venne’s Temptation of St. Anthony, Guardis, Ramsays that include the portraits of Sargent and his wife, and several incredible Stubbs paintings that include an interesting portrait of the rather stout Rev. Thelwall (with family and horses), who I think may well be the model for Dr. Grant of Austen’s Mansfield Park. There are also several magnificent portraits by Hoare that show the obvious familial lineage of George Washington to many prominent English men of his time, a late Constable, and several Turners.

        On the Gainsboroughs: No one in Europe since the great Italian masters paints fabric, backgrounds, scenery better than Gainsborough – and these are all massive paintings.I am surp[rised to see the large, portrait of Henrietta Laura Pulteney as a child is actually by a woman, Angelica Kauffmann, not Gainsborough. It is vastly oversized and rather sentimental – but one thing stands out – the enormous white lace turban that covers this young girl’s head set against the dark woodland background obviously shines forth like a great crown – and indeed, Henrietta was, for almost forty years, a sort of monarch as the wealthiest woman of the western world save the British Monarch – and yet virtually No One today has ever heard of her. Henrietta Streets in Bath, London, and throughout American New England, NY, and Pennsylvania are all named for her because her clever father managed to own vast swaths of these colonies – lost, of course for good, after 1812. Suppose I continue this on the Janeite site so as not to be overlong here.

        Sounds like we both want a return trip to Bath, Deb!!

        Best, Elissa


      • Yes, a return to Bath would be a delight! A friend of mine was just there and to hear him talk about the Crescent and the stone and the Assemby rooms, etc – one needs to re-read NA just for a quick fix!

        I thought this interesting as well to find this portrait was done by a woman – and it appears to be the only one – where was Gainsborough and Lawrence to paint the wealthiest woman in England??

        As always such comments as yours starts a whole new research project! – so not sure I am thankful or not! – One must assume that Jane Austen knew of her – Pulteney [real last name Johnstone] was named Baroness of Bath in 1792 and then Countess of Bath in 1803 – when Austen was there – [perhaps we have a model for Lady Dalrymple after all?! I think that Sir Egerton Brydges was her model for Sir Walter] – she names a character Henrietta, her brother lived on Henrietta St in London, etc, etc… I don’t see any reference in the Letters to this family, but a little more sleuthing might turn something up [alas! I am without my JAS Reports – certainly something will be in there if there is a connection…do you have them at hand?]

        Hoping that Ron will find something – indeed, we might find that she and Jane are actually related in some way!

        Thanks again for visiting Elissa [I think!]


  2. Fortunately for me, this *hasn’t* started a whole new research project. On the information that’s easily available, Henrietta’s paternal line (the Johnstones) and maternal line (the Pulteneys) had only recently emerged from obscurity, and none of the people in the record were common to Jane Austen’s family. (We’ll leave aside the proposition (by a genealogically-minded statistician) that virtually every person of English extraction was descended from the Plantagenets, and therefore 10th or 15th cousins.)

    It doesn’t bother me whether she or Catherine T-L was the richer, but it’s possible that at certain times each of them could have been considered the richest. Henrietta lived from 1766 to 1808, and married in 1794. When she married, she and her wealth (or most of it, if any of the Pulteney estate was entailed to her) became the personal property of her husband. Catherine lived from 1789 to 1825. I seem to recall (I’m too lazy to look it up, and her wealth may have been measured at a slightly later date) that from the age of 5 she was the wealthiest commoner. She turned 5 in the same year that Henrietta married. Given that Catherine was some 23 years younger, we don’t even need to worry that they might have been rivals.


  3. Fabulous!!! Both the initial article of Mr Dunning’s and the discussion that followed in comments is totally fascinating — and what wonderful references. Thoroughly enjoyed it – thanks to all!


    • Absolutely Adriana! – let everyone know about it!

      How are you? – miss our communications but do follow everything you are doing – all quite amazing!
      Thanks for stopping by,


  4. Deb, I just came across the above post today, I had not noticed it when it came out.

    Just as a point of information, it was I who first pointed out the 1329 marriage between a D’Arcy and a De B., when a Google search I did earlier in 2012 had by luck led me to Ron’s website that was still in formation, and I was astounded to see it right there in the genealogical tree!.

    Here’s are links to both my AustenL post and my own blog post on July, 22, 2012, in which I discuss that finding:


    I am certain Jane Austen knew about that marriage, for a number of reasons.

    Cheers, ARNIE
    @JaneAustenCode on Twitter


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