George de Stacpoole

    Portail de Stacpoole, Abbaye Saint           Wandrille
George, Duke de Stacpoole (Paris,1860—London, 1929), who could trace the presence of his family in Ireland back to Strongbow’s conquest of Ireland in the 12th century, was a representative of the landed classes that dominated rural Ireland until the Land Acts of the late 19th century began to divide their vast properties. His family having converted back to Catholicism in the 18th century, de Stacpoole was sent to elite Catholic schools in England, before going on to officer training. When not soldiering or managing the thousands of acres of land his family owned in Ireland, Stacpoole spent his life dining, clubbing, hunting and generally socializing with his social peers around Europe. He also managed to travel to the Ottoman Empire and the United States.

The tales he tells in his autobiography are amusing and informative of his times and his milieu. Like many landlords in Ireland, Lord Clanricarde (known locally as Clan-Rack-Rent) actually spent little of his time in Ireland, preferring London and places East. Clanricarde came away from his occasional inspections of his property in the west, “with a poor impression of the sobriety of the Co. Galway aristocracy”, according to de Stacpoole. As for another absentee landlord, Robert Percy ffrench, he was “much more at home in London, Paris or Madrid that at Monivea Castle” (also in Galway).

De Stacpoole’s great-grandfather, also called George Stacpoole (born in Cork in 1736) had a residence in Grosvenor Square in London, where he frequently entertained the exiled French king, Louis XVIII. When Louis was restored to the French throne in 1814, Stacpoole was showered with honours and persuaded to settle in Paris with his family, buying himself a fine residence situated at 237, rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré (8th arrondissement). The Stacpoole family bought another large property, the Château de Montigny-Lencoup south-east of Paris, between Fontainebleau and Provins, in 1818. George’s father, George Stanislaus, the third Duke de Stacpoole, entered Holy orders after the death of his wife and was ordained a priest in 1875. Before then, in 1868, he had acquired the Abbey of St. Wandrille in Normandy, between Rouen and Le Havre, which had originally been founded in the seventh century. George Stanislaus partially restored the abbey in the 28 years he lived there and after his death in 1896, the abbey reverted to the Benedictine monks, who had been expelled from St. Wandrille during the French Revolution.

 Stacpoole residence, rue Faubourg Saint Honoré
De Stacpoole himself was born in Paris in 1860 “in a large house which stood in an angle formed by the rue Jean Goujon and the Cours Albert 1er—then known as the Cours La Reine—immediately facing the Pont de l’Alma….In the opposite angle…stood a similar house belonging to Prince Murat.” The family also had a property on rue de la Cirque (8th arrondissment). The first event of importance that de Stacpoole remembered from his Paris days was his visit to the Exposition Universelle of 1867, held in the Champs de Mars, where the Eiffel Tower had not yet been built. The Second Empire of Napoleon III, which was to be swept away in the Franco-Prussian War three years later, was already tottering by 1867. And yet, according to de Stacpoole, “impending disaster was heralded by a period of delirious pleasure and wild extravagance”.

De Stacpoole married Pauline MacEvoy, daughter of Edward MacEvoy, member of parliament for Meath, in 1883. She did not care much for gallivanting around Europe, and when in 1886 her mother offered the couple a property in county Galway, called Mount Hazel, de Stacpoole was persuaded to cast anchor. But de Stacpoole’s heart was in continental Europe, where he continued to traveal frequently.  The fire at the charity bazaar at rue Jean Goujon (8th arrondissement) in 1897, in which 126 people perished, most from the upper classes, was one of the numerous “near misses” de Stacpoole records from his escapades around Europe and the Ottoman Empire. De Stacpoole himself had intended to go to the bazaar that day, but was “kept so long at Longchamps races that I had been obliged to give up the idea”. When not at the races, de Stacpoole wined and dined with his upper-class friends, many of them Anglo-Irish landowners like him. Once, he wrote, he stayed with an impecunious Lord Clanmorris, head of the East Galway hounds, in the Hotel Meurice on the rue de Rivoli (1st arrondissement), where Clanmorris kept up appearances (despite having lost his last £2,000 in speculation) “by receiving woodcock (shot at Cregg-Clare, County Galway) at the Hotel Meurice every day, keeping his Russian valet, and his famous brown poodle”.

    Roderick & Robert de Stacpoole, killed in France, 1914-1915
On April 23, 1914, de Stacpoole and his youngest son were invited to the barracks of the 1st regiment of cuirassiers as they made their preparations to escort King George and Queen May during their state visit to Paris. Some of the regimental officers invited de Stacpoole to the restaurant at the Plaza-Athénee on the Avenue Montaigne (8th arrondissement). Alas, he somberly notes, “all the French officers with whom we lunched were killed before Christmas.”

All five of George de Stacpoole’s sons served as officers in the British Army in the First World War. The two youngest of them were killed early on in the hostilities—Robert, who was killed on the Aisne on September 20, 1914, aged 22, and Roderick, who lost his life at the battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915, at the age of 20. During the Easter rising in 1916, De Stacpoole’s second-eldest son, also a British officer, was shot at as he strode through Dublin on his way back from the Fairyhouse Races.

But by the time de Stacpoole was writing his memoirs back in Galway in 1921, his world was coming to a close. “Life is not secure, we are living on the edge of a precipice,” he wrote. “The pleasant pre-war days are gone for ever.” In May 1920, Tobertynan House in Co. Meath, which De Stacpoole had acquired via his wife, was looted and vandalised by a gang claiming to be acting on behalf of the IRA. De Stacpoole soon moved back to London, where he died in 1929. The family’s residence on the Faubourg Saint Honoré was pulled down in the 1840s. The house on Cours Albert 1er and the Château de Montigny Lencoup suffered the same fate. The last to go was Mount Hazel, which was demolished in 1945.


Select Bibliography

Irish and Other Memories (1922)
Duke de Stacpoole

“Monseigneur Stanislas de Stacpooleʺ