AC Silver

A Heraldic Love Story

“If you were given the choice between love and money, which would you pick?”

A question I feel you will have been asked before but one that came to light today as I started to upload more silverware to our website. Writing descriptions and discovering heraldic crests to research can be fascinating but also a little disheartening as often the associated family names are too common or the animals portrayed could be incorporated into too many variations.

The crests of topic today manifested from a magnificent set of six soup plates which Mr Campbell presented to me along with a research project starting with just three names; the heraldic trio was startling as I am so used to a single or double crest. Delighted I hunted the internet for further information on the names and found a rather impressive history. After reading more, making the notes I needed and exclaiming my personal opinions to my work colleagues, I felt I should share my findings to a wider audience so the story doesn’t get missed.

Bartlett Burdett Coutts

Coutts & Co is a private bank and wealth manager and is the seventh oldest bank in the world.

Within the 19th century the Coutts fortune was inherited by Angela Burdett as long as she abided with three vital conditions:

  1. The 50% share she is given in the bank was to be held in Trust
  2. She must take the name Coutts
  3. She may never marry a foreigner
Bartless Burdett Coutts

Upon her step mother’s death in 1837 Burdett became Angela Burdett-Coutts, double barrelling her grandfather/father’s surname with the required Coutts to comply with the second clause. She inherited £1.8 million which made her the wealthiest woman in Britain and she gave her life to philanthropy, providing support to a wide range of charities, earning her a peerage as Baroness Burdett-Coutts of Highgate and Brookfield in the County of Middlesex in 1871.

By 1880 it was noted that the baroness had intentions to marry her secretary William Lehman Ashmead Bartlett who was American born; this directly violated the third condition of Harriot Mellon’s will. It was declared by the partners of the bank and other dignitaries that Bartlett was only interested in Burdett-Coutts for her money, followed by opinions from Queen Victorian to say she would be sacrificing her high reputation for an unsuitable marriage. Despite these comments and Bartlett releasing her from the promise of marriage, they married in February 1881; in respect for his wife, Bartlett changed his surname to Burdett-Coutts. After a dispute claiming Bartlett’s direct heritage only included one American parent, she forfeited three-fifths of her income to her younger sister Clara and son Francis, who both took the name Coutts as per the agreement of the will.

Personal Reflection

My project started with Mr Campbell’s tip of “crests of Bartlett Burdett Coutts” and from that I have read a wonderful history of a devoted love. So I ask again the question, if you were given the choice between love and money, which would you pick? Personally I would follow in the footsteps of Lady Burdett-Coutts and pick love all the way.

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