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William Burdett-Coutts

Person  Male  Born 20/1/1851  Died 28/7/1921

Categories: Philanthropy, Politics & Administration

Countries: USA

Born of British stock in America as William Lehman Ashmead-Bartlett. On his father's death the family moved to England in 1852.

In 'The Story of Holly Lodge' by Margaret Downing, March 2009, we learn: "He first met Angela {the massively wealthy Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts} when he was ten, and she presented the prizes at his school in Devon. Deeply  impressed by his recitation there, she helped fund his education at Highgate School and then at  Oxford."

On leaving university in 1877 he became secretary to Angela who, despite being 37 years his senior, married him in 1881 and he took her name. After her death he continued her philanthropic work. Chairman of the Highgate Committee for enlarging Hampstead Heath. MP for Westminster 1885 until his death at home, Holly Lodge, Highgate.

He was younger brother to the politician Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, who had two sons: Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett (the war correspondent) and S. Burdett-Coutts. Interesting that one son took his wealthy uncle's name and the other didn't. (ref: King's College London), we wonder if "S" was William's heir?

Other men who have changed their surnames to incorporate that of their wives are the head spy Sir Mansfield Cumming and the eccentric Hedley Hope-Nicholson. Myddelton House, Enfield caused one man to adopt the moniker 'Henry Carington Bowles Bowles'. Edith Fletcher's brother added 'Aubrey' as a surname when he inherited from Charles Aubrey Aubrey. Women also have changed their names as part of an inheritance, e.g. Emily Carr-Gomm.

The circumstances in which an inheritance by a woman causes a man to change his name are covered by Anthony Trollope, in his 1879 novel ‘Cousin Henry’. On p64 Indefer Jones is struggling to decide whether he should follow tradition and leave his wealth to Henry, a distant male heir, or follow his heart and leave it to Isabel Brodrick, a much loved niece who is looking after him. His lawyer reports a conversation “He told me that he thought it right to keep the property in the direct line of his family. I endeavoured to explain to him that this might be sufficiently done though the property were left to a lady, if the lady were required to take the name, and to confer the name on her husband, should she afterwards marry.”

And later, p271, when Indefer Jones has died and Isabel has inherited and also become engaged, the lawyer informs her “You will have to undergo a variety of changes in signing your name. You will become first Miss Isabel Brodrick Indefer Jones, then Mrs William Owen, then, when he shall have gone through the proper changes, Mrs William Owen Indefer Jones.”

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William Burdett-Coutts

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