Our family history starts in Switzerland, in a city
on the banks of the river Aare. This river rises in the
great Aare glaciers, west of the Grimsel Pass. Beyond the
Handegg waterfall, it traverses the Haslital and expands
into the lake of Brienz, crosses the swampy plain of the
Bodeli, near Interlaken, and so into Lake Thun. The Aare
now flows north-west, encircling the lofty bluff on which
the town of Berne is built and so to Soleure, which is where
our story begins.
Soleure (or Solothurn, as it is now called) lies at
the foot of the last ridge of the Jura mountains. In Roman
times, it was called "Salodorum" and the remains of the
Roman "castrum" (camp) still exist. Its position led to
its being strongly fortified more than once. In 1481, Soleure
was admitted into the Swiss Confederation.
In 1529, the majority of the "communes" went over to
the reformed faith and men were sent to fight on the side
of the reformer, Ulrich Zwingli (seen right). On 10th October, 1531,
the battle of Kappel was fought - a battle disastrous to
the Protestant cause. Zwingli, who, as chaplain, was carrying
the banner, was struck to the ground and was later killed
in cold blood. His corpse was quartered by the public hangman
and burnt with dung by the soldiers. A great boulder, roughly
squared, standing a little way off the road, marks the place
where Zwingli fell. It is inscribed:-
They may kill the body, but not the soul. So spoke,
on this spot, Ulrich Zwingli who, for truth and the
Christian Church, died a hero's death. October 11, 1531.
It was in these stormy times that Soleure was chosen,
as a place of residence, by Ambassadors of the King of France
to the Swiss Diet. In 1530, my ancestor, Jean Chevalley,
became Ambassador of the Republic of Soleure. This is the
first entry recorded nn our family tree. Nothing more is
known about Jean Chevalley, except that his son, Urse, became
Aveyer (lawyer) of Soleure in 1539.
Urse died in 1562, leaving three sons. His second son,
Etienne, became Banneret of Soleure in 1579 and Etienne's
son, Urse, was also to hold this position.
A Banneret was a Nobleman, with the right to lead his
own vassals, under his own banner. In England, the title
"Knight Banneret", with the right to display the private
banner, came to be granted for distinguished service in
the field, but only when either the king was present or,
at least, his royal standard was displayed. The creation
of a Banneret was almost the self-same of the French ceremony,
by the solemn delivery of a banner, charged with the arms
of him that was to be created, and the cutting of the end
of the pennon or streamer, to make it a square, or into
the shape of a banner. (The last instance of the creation
of a Knight Banneret in England was that of John Smith,
created Banneret at the battle of Edgehill by Charles I,
for rescuing the royal standard from the enemy.)
Etienne's third son, Antoine, became a Captain in the
Regiment Arreger in 1589, following in the military footsteps
of his uncle Jacques and his eldest brother, Guillaume.
Antoine's two sons continued the family's military
tradition - the second, also named Antoine, becoming a Captain
in the French Guards in 1646.
Nothing is known of the next two generations, except
that Antoine's son, Jean Pierre, died in 1689 and Jean Pierre's
son, Jean Gaspard, died in 1739. Two years before the latter's
death; his eldest son, Jean Pierre, married his niece, Louise
Legeret. They had a son, Jacques Etienne, born on May 18th,
1738, who married Anne Chappuis de Rivaz. They had four
children, the eldest being Jean Jacques, who was born on
March 14th, 1768.
Jacques Etienne Chevalley was a vigneron and he and
his wife, Anne, had obtained permission, on January 13th,
1763, to live in Vevey, on Lake Leman (Lake Geneva). In
1782, he bought a house in the Ruelle (lane or alley) du
Moulin du Sauveur (this is now Rue duConseil), for the price
of 3,000 livres.
On February 23rd, 1789, with Anne Chappuis (his wife),
his two sons (aged about 20 and 16) and their two daughters,
he received "la bourgeoisie de Vevey" and 600 francs.. The
document is in my possession.
Jean-Jacques Chevalley, his son, lived in this house
with his wife, Marguerite Ruchet, and with his family and,
in 1822, he opened a wine shop (or tavern) on the premises.
Eventually, he started to serve food and, at last, in 1829
was able to establish there an inn, under the sign "William
Tell". This house still remains in the Commune, probably
several times restored, and is now No.6 Rue du Conseil.
Jean-Jacques Chevalley lived in this house until his death,
on February 1st, 1830.
Jean-Jacques had seven children, all born in Vevey.
The third was Jacques Etienne, born on August 16th, 1801.
He was the only one of the three sons to have married. He
was educated in the Protestant religion and studied Philosophy,
in the venerable Academy of Lausanne, in order to take vows
in the Protestant ministry in the Calvinist sect.
In 1822, however, he was converted to the Catholic
faith and a letter, dated March 30th, 1827, written by the
Cure of Geneva, M. Vuavin, states:-
After diverse proofs and some painful contradictions,
he abjured the errors of Calvin and became a Catholic,
with the sincerity and zeal of a Christian of the first
century. Since that time, he has not ceased to give a
part of his time to the propagation of good works
and to stand up for the Catholic faith and to dissipate
the prejudices of the Protestants.
He studied medicine at the Faculty of Paris and, whilst
there, professed his new faith. He was also responsible
for a much-praised translation of a new edition of the letters
of Cobbet, on the history of the Reformation of the Anglican
Church. In 1825, he nearly lost his life, from the action
of one of the students, who wished to make him renege on
his total absorption with Papism and Jesuitism.
In spite of all this, he had a distinguished career
at the medical school, under the direction of M. le docteur
Recamier, at whose home he lived. He was helped monetarily
by a Colonel d'Horrer, who held him in such high esteem
and affection, that he proposed that he should give his
daughter to him in marriage!
This did not, in fact, take place for, in 1832, Jacques
Etienne married a French lady, Louise Sophie Sauve, and
their first son, Victor Chevalley, was born in the following
year. They were to have two more sons, Leon, born in 1835,
who died when he was only eight years old, and Eugene, born
Jacques Etienne was appointed to be doctor to the King
of Naples and his certificate of origin (passport) was issued
by the Municipal Council of the Commune of Rivaz, near Vevey,
in 1827. He lived at Casamicciola,, on the island of Ischia,
in the Bay of Naples. He became famous for his work during
a cholera epidemic in Naples, when people were often dying
of fright, and apparently, on one celebrated occasion, he
got into the bed of a dying man, to show the people that
cholera was not contagious.
He also discovered waters, at Casamicciola, which were
good for rheumatism and are used to this day.
In 1833, Jacques Etienne obtained special permission,
from King Ferdinand, to take the name "de Rivaz", which
had come into the family from his grandmother, Anne Chappuis
His fame grew. A street was named after him - Via Dottore
de Rivaz. In January 1848, he received a gold medal from
the King of the Belgians and, in December 1848, he received
a Diploma of Knight of Isabel the Catholic of Spain. In
1850, he was awarded a Diploma of Knight of St. Gregory
the Great of Rome, by Pope Pius IX - and also became a member
of the Legion of Honour of France that same year.
In 1832, the year that Jacques Etienne and Louise Sophie
had been married, so too were the King of Naples and Cristina,
daughter of Victor Emmanuel I, King of Sardinia. Sadly,
Cristina died only lour years later and the King took a
second wife, Marie Theresa, daughter of the Archduke Charles
of Austria. After this Austrian alliance, the King's rule
became more and more despotic.
In 1837, there was a rising in Sicily in consequence
of the outbreak of cholera and, in 1843, the Young Italy
Society organised a series of isolated outbreaks of rebellion.
Attilio and Emilio Bandiera, two Italian officers in
the Austrian Navy, were won over to the ideas of Italian
freedom and unity - and corresponded with Guiseppe Mazzini
and other members of "Giovane Italia" (Young Italy). They
began to make propaganda among the officers and men of the
Austrian Navy, nearly all Italians, and actually planned
to seize a warship and bombard Messina - but, having been
betrayed, they fled to Corfu early in 1844.
Rumours reached them there of agitation in the Neapolitan
kingdom, where the people were represented as ready to rise
"en masse", at the first appearance of a leader. The Bandieras,
consequently, determined to make a raid on the Calabrian
coast. They got together a band of nineteen men, ready to
sacrifice their lives for an ideal, and set sail on their
desperate adventure on June 12th, 1844.
Four days later, they landed near Cotrone, intending
to go to Cosenza, liberate the political prisoners and issue
their proclamations. But they did not find the insurgent
band which, they had been told, awaited them and were betrayed
by one of their party, the Corsican Boccheciammpe, and by
some peasants, who believed them to be Turkish pirates.
On July 23rd, the two Bandieras (and seven of their
companions) were executed. They cried "Viva 1'Italia" as
they fell. The moral effect of their execution was universally
condemned and their martyrdom became an inspiration for
In 1848, there were more uprisings in Sicily and
throughout Italy, including Naples. However, these uprisings
were defeated, Sicily was subjugated in 1849 and King Ferdinand
earned the nickname "King Bomba", as a result of the bombarding
of the chief Sicilian cities. Repression continued and it
is estimated that, by 1851, there were 40,000 political
prisoners in the Kingdom of Naples.
William Ewart Gladstone, destined to become four times
Prime Minister of England, after wintering in Italy that
year wrote about the scandalous reign of terror and the
abominable treatment of the political prisoners. As a result,
both England and France made diplomatic representations
to the King, but without success.
It is against this terrible background that young Victor
Chevalley de Rivaz, aged nineteen, spoke out against the
tyranny of the King, at a banquet in Naples.
Fortunately for him, his father was able to intercede
on his behalf and, instead of imprisonment, Victor was given
fourteen days in which to leave the country.
Victor left his home on October 12th, 1852, never to
Jacques Etienne was never to see his son again and
died on December 7th, 1863, eleven years later.
Victor Chevalley de Rivaz's passport is dated September 30th, 1852, and
is signed by the French Consul, one Hippolyte Flury. It
describes Victor as "having auburn hair, high forehead,
brown eyes, nose 'ordinaire', beard blonde, chin protruding,
face long, colour 'ordinaire'." The document states that
Victor was a native of Naples, born of French parents, without
profession, living in Naples and going to Paris via Marseille.
The document was delivered at the request of his father
(Consular Agent of France in Ischia).
From Paris, Victor travelled to England and took lodgings
in London, probably in Bayswater. We know little of how
this young man fared in a strange land. He lost a lot of
money and his landlady must have been sorry for him, as
she let him live at her house for some time without paying
his rent. He made some money selling pictures to shops and,
also, as a translator of French and Italian, but he must
have been financed by his parents and, also, by grandparents,
as there were entries in his account book of £54.19.6d and
E25, both from R.P. Sauve.
However, possibly through his ability as a linguist,
he soon got a job. An entry in his account book, in 1853,
was: "Income £20. Salary Clerk at E.Lloyd & Co". In 1854,
his income had reached £40, now with E.Lloyd & Hambro and,
in 1855, he was working for C.J.Hambro & Son, for a wage
of £100.9.7d per annum.
In 1856 and 1857, entries show he was working for
Desgrands Pere et Fils for £150 and E170 respectively.
On June 15th, 1857, "Victor Chevalley de Rivaz, now residing
at 14, Everett Street, Brunswick Square, in the County of
Middlesex, carrying on business as an Exchange Broker in
the City of London and intending to continue to reside
permanently in the United kingdom", obtained a certificate
of Naturalization. He was now aged twenty-four.
In September 1857, on the 29th to be exact, he was
admitted to be a Broker within the City of London. He had
had "to enter into two Bonds or Obligations, the one in
the penalty of One Thousand Pounds for his honest and good
behaviour in the office or employment of a Broker, and the
other with security in the penalty of Fifty Pounds, conditioned
for the yearly payment of Five Pounds upon every twentyninth day of September and, having provided further security
in two persons approved by this Court, in the penalty of
Two Hundred and Fifty Pounds each, for his honest and good
behaviour in the said office, pursuant an order made by
this Court of Mayor and Aldermen, held in the Inner Chamber
of the Guildhall of the City of London, on Tuesday the 29th
day of September, 1857, and in the Twenty-first year of
the reign of Victoria, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Ireland, Queen & etc.''
We are told that, as a Bill Broker, he only went to
business three days a week, but worked a full week later,
when he became a stockbroker, joining the firm of Laurie
Milbank & Co. in Threadneedle Street. Thus, we see a picture
of a young man steadily prospering and making his way in
the financial world of the City.
Now, let us turn to the romantic side of his life.
Before he left Naples, he was in love with a Spanish lady,
a well-known beauty, who told him that she would think about
him when he earned £500 a year. He must have kept in touch
with her as we are told that, when he had achieved this,
she still would not have anything to do with him. Years
later, an engraving of this lady hung in the dining room
of his home and he used to point it out to his children
and say, in fun: "That lady might have been your mother!"
However, there was more than one pebble on the beach
and, one day, while staying at an hotel at Shepperton, by
the river Thames, with a friend (a Per. Henfrey), he saw
a young lady and remarked to his friend: "That is the first
woman I have seen in this country who can walk properly."
This lady, whose name was Adeline Gilbert-Heard, had recently
suffered a terrible tragedy. She had been engaged to be
married to a gentleman who was a Volunteer, who had been
involved in a cab accident - his bayonet had gone through
his side and had killed him.
On this day by the Thames, when Victor first espied
Adeline, she was with her brother (who was either a barrister
or solicitor) and who was known to Mr. Henfrey, a barrister
himself. An introduction was effected and they became friends
and, in due course, fell in love with each other.
However, it was very difficult for Victor to propose,
as they were never allowed to be alone together and, in
any event, Adeline's parents were not in favour of their
daughter marrying a foreigner. But, one Sunday, it was raining
when they came out of church and Mrs. Heard had no umbrella.
Victor seized his opportunity, gave Adeline's umbrella to
his future mother-in-law and walked off with Adeline under
his umbrella - and proposed!
They were married on January 8th, 1863, at a church
in the neighbourhood of Russell Square. They spent their
honeymoon in Paris. The hotel did not possess a bath, let
alone a bathroom, so Victor bought a bath and gave it to
the proprietors. Later, Victor and Adeline went on to Algiers.
Returning to England, they set up home in Shrewsbury
Road, Bayswater, later moving to 10, Talbot Road nearby,
where they brought up their large family of five boys and
two girls. Sadly though, in 1875, their eldest son,
Amadeus (whose name does not appear on [some printed versions of] the family tree),
died after being taken ill at Clifton College. Bullying
at public schools, in those days, was rife and the poor
boy contracted rheumatic fever, owing to some boys throwing
cold water over his bed. He would never say which boys were
After this tragedy, it is not surprising that their
second son, Gilbert (Bertie), was sent to Haileybury College,
near Hertford. He went there in January 1881, followed by
his brother, Reginald Noel, two years later and the youngest
son, Francis John (Frank), in May 1885. All were in Batten
House. Victor's last child was born in 1876, a girl, Florence
Victor Chevalley's business career prospered and, in
due course, he became senior partner with Laurie Milbank.
However, Victor did not enjoy the best of health. He had
decided that he would like to return to Italy, to see the
relations that he had not seen for so many years. Accordingly,
he and Adeline set off, in the winter of 1880, when he was
forty-seven years old. His parents were dead and his old
family home had been destroyed in an earthquake. He and
Adeline had only travelled as far as Paris, when Victor
was taken ill with bronchitis. When he recovered, the doctor
would not let him proceed to Naples, as it could be very
cold there in the winter, so Victor never saw his relations
at Casamicciola again. Instead, they went to St. Jean de
Luz, a coastal town of south-western France, in the Department
of Basses-Pyrenees, at the mouth of the Nivelle. Travelling
to Bayonne, they then took a train, on a branch line of
the Southern Railway, to St. Jean de Luz.
This old town, with its maritime traditions and
thirteenth-century church, that has galleries in the nave
which, by the Basque custom, are reserved for men, was to
become the place where, each winter, Victor would go for
1885 was a year of considerable change. Victor was
now aged fifty-two. Bertie and Charles Henry (Harry) were
working at the Stock Exchange, whilst Reginald, being of
an adventurous disposition, decided to seek his fortune
in the United States of America. The family moved to Northbrook
House, No.4, Grove Road (now called Lissom Grove). The house
stood in grounds of about an acre, large for a London house,
and had a small two-roomed cottage for a gardener - and
large stables. Victor spent a great deal of money on the
house and garden - and laid out a tennis court.
This was a fashionable area, when he first moved there,
and his neighbours included doctors, surgeons, a J.P. and
three clergymen (who officiated at the Catholic church in
the road). However, plans were afoot for the building of
a railway terminus and the area began to deteriorate. In
1891, No.6 was now occupied by an artist. No.8 had been
turned into apartments and Victor "let" the stable of
Northbrook House to Mr. Stephen Cox, a horse dealer. In
1893, the artist moved from No.6 and two dressmakers, Buckley
and Fenlon, were the occupiers. Northbrook House was still
there in 1894 but, together with Nos.l, 2 and 3, had been
demolished by 1896, to make way for Marylebone Station.
No.4, Northbrook House, was situated half-way between
the canal and Church Street, opposite Princess Street (where
the railway now goes under the road). [The image to the right probably shows a street where it was, near the N in the map above.]
There were always many callers on Sunday afternoons,
some of whom were asked to stay for dinner. Victor, besides
his work on the Stock Exchange, was a man of various talents.
He made richly decorated wooden furniture and he had taken
up the study of cookery, as he found the English cooking
was so bad. For years, he wrote the "Cookery" and the
"Housewife" columns in "The Queen" newspaper. He also published
two books, "Round the Table" and "Practical Dinners", which
were very successful. Later, having given up writing for
"The Queen", he was asked to write the cookery articles
for the "St. James' Budget", a new weekly paper, and he
did this for some time.
Victor also had many artist friends, amongst them Stacey
Marks R.A., who was well-known for his paintings of birds.
Another friend was John Bagnold Burgess R.A. (1830-1897) who, besides being a
portrait painter, painted several pictures of scenes in
Many people, from the Continent, came over to England
with introductions to Victor. One family, Cerasoti by name,
came with six children. The father was an artist, but could
not sell his paintings. However, two of the girls were
brilliant pianists and "kept" the family! They played duets
on two pianos and were only about eight and ten years old.
They would come for the day to Northbrook House and the
de Rivaz children would have to speak French.
Mme. Marie Rose, an opera singer, came with her son,
who, himself, wrote an opera - "Jeanne d'Arc". The opera
was performed in London but, apparently, was not a success
and the composer died young.
Then there was M. de Soria, a wine merchant from Bordeaux,
who had a lovely tenor voice. He used to come to London
for the season and sing at the homes of many celebrate
people, including the Princess of Wales, later to be Queen
Alexandra. He needed no accompaniment and would sing to
the family and guests, on the terrace, after dinner on fine
So, one gets the impression of a home of culture
hospitality and affluence.
In 1888, Bertie and Harry joined forces and set up
as a Stock Market Dealing Partnership, under the name
"de Rivaz Bros.", dealing chiefly in South African gold
shares. Although Bertie was hard-working and conscientious
he was let down badly by his brother, who lived the life
of a roue. After about two years, the partnership was annulled
and their debts paid for by Victor. Victor managed to obtain
a post for Bertie with Schweder's, a stockbroking firm
for whom Bertie worked until his retirement, whilst Harry
emigrated to South Africa, never to be heard of again.
That same year, Victor's youngest son, Frank, left
Haileybury and started work in a foreign bank in the City.
Although he was a shy young man, life in an office did not
suit him, so, in 1890, he decided to join his older brother,
Reginald, who was now a cowboy in Colorado.
The United States was growing rapidly. Colorado itself
had become a member state in 1876, exactly one hundred years
after the Declaration of Independence and is known as the
"Centennial State". Its population, in 1860, was only 34,277
but, by 1890, had risen to 413,249. This increase was largely
due to the building of railways, which not only opened up
new mining areas, between Denver and Ogden in the neighbouring
state of Utah, but also a great cattle country - recently,
the habitat of the bison - and was inhabited by Red Indians.
It was the country of the Arapahoe and Cheyenne Indians
and was, in fact, "the wild west".
The eastern half of Colorado consists of rolling plains
and farmlands, which rise gradually in elevation towards
the foothills and mountains. The western half of the state
is mountainous and is criss-crossed with high, rugged mountain
ranges, that offer a vast expanse of much of the finest
scenery in North America. Interspersed among the mountain
ranges are wide fertile valleys, canyons, high plateaux
and deep basin areas. The highest point is Mount Elbert,
which is 14,431 feet.
Colorado is noted for its excellent climate and
exhilarating atmosphere and, all in all, must have been
a pleasant land in which to live.
Alas, however, all was not to go well for the two young
men. Heavy floods all but ruined them and they decided to
move on and try their luck elsewhere. They trekked south
to New Mexico and started there afresh but, again, their
luck was out, losing their savings by the failure of their
Bank. Once more they moved on, this time further west, to
Arizona, Apache country - the "Grand Canyon" state. Here,
tragedy came when, aged only twenty-seven, Reginald died,
in August 1895, leaving Frank, now twenty-four years old,
Meanwhile, in England, the family fortunes continued
to prosper and, in 1892, Victor was wintering, as usual,
in St. Jean de Luz. Once again, he became ill and a kind
friend sent Adeline a telegram, informing her that her husband
was ill and "a presence of someone necessary". Unfortunately,
this alarming news arrived a day or two before a small dance
was to be held, at which their second daughter, Helen (Nellie),
was to "come out". Needless to say, the dance was cancelled
and Adeline set off at once for St. Jean de Luz, only to
be greeted, on arrival, by Victor, who had now recovered
with the somewhat unkind remark: "What have you come for?"
Nellie, who throughout her life always kept exact costings
(and whose letters were noted for everything being priced,
such as: "Had lunch at Lyons Corner House - three shillings
and sixpence, including tip"), records that the band and
the supper, which was being done by a firm of caterers
(Withers, Baker Street) had to be paid for. Happily, Nellie
duly "came out" at a dance, at a friend's house, a few weeks
However, the next year, the fortunes of Victor took
a disastrous turn. He had invested heavily in a South American
Bank in Buenos Aires, called Murietta. This Bank was deeply
involved in financing the Argentine Northern-Central Railway.
Fred Milbank, the senior partner of Laurie Milbank, had
told Victor that there was a doubt about Murietta and had
advised him to sell out. Victor did not take this. advice,
as he thought the investment was quite safe. In the event,
Murietta became bankrupt and Victor lost his entire investment.
As a result of this grievous financial loss, he was
forced to move to a much more modest house, in Leicester
Road, New Barnet, which he named "Soria", after his old
Not long afterwards, Victor suffered a severe stroke
and, in August 1895, was further saddened by the news that
his son, Reginald, had died in America.
His health improved somewhat and he was able to go
for short walks, on the arm of one or other of his daughters.
But, one day in November, only three months after his son's
death, on a day he had planned to go to London to stay with
friends, he suffered another stroke early in the morning
and never regained consciousness. He passed away in the
early hours of the following morning, at the age of sixtytwo.
Victor's widow, now left with only her daughters at
home, Bertie having married, wrote to Frank, beseeching
him to return to England. So it was that, in 1898, the shy
youngest son returned - bronzed, travelled and with his
character and personality stamped by the adventures,
experiences and tragedies he had borne.