Philip d'Auvergne

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Philip d'Auvergne, naval officer and claimant of French Duchy

From Payne's Armorial of Jersey:


In the latter part of the 18th century, his Serene Highness Godfrey de la Tour d'Auvergne, Duke of Bouillon, having lost his second son — the eldest being so afflicted as to preclude the hope of a lineal succession — was without prospect of an ultimate heir. He was therefore induced to seek among his relatives for someone whom he might select as a successor to his titles and immense wealth; and accordingly caused researches to be made in the different archives of the provinces with which the history of his house was connected, and directed the Abbe Coyer, who had been his private tutor, to examine, with the assistance of some learned Benedictine monks, the different depots in the province whence the family drew its origin, and of which its heads had been feudal sovereigns before the union of the great fiefs to the crown of France, under Philip Augustus.

This search elicited the facts narrated above; when about that period Lieutenant Philip d'Auvergne, of the British Royal Navy, and a member of the Jersey family of that name which had settled in England, being a prisoner of war in France, was introduced to the Duke of Bouillon by the French Minister of Marine. Struck with the similarity of name, his Serene Highness invited his newly-found friend to his seat at Navarre, in Normandy, where he received him with much cordiality, and hinted to Lieutenant D'Auvergne at the inquiries he had instituted, and which he gave fresh orders should be continued with renewed diligence. Lieutenant D'Auvergne was, soon after his return to England, professionally employed until the Peace, when he again met with the Duke in London, who was still engaged in prosecuting his inquiries with regard to the stray branch of his family.

In 1786 the Duke's learned commissioners having completed, to his satisfaction, their research, which had occupied them ten years, Letters-Patent, under his personal signature, sealed with the great seal of the Sovereignty of Bouillon, acknowledging the descent of Charles D'Auvergne, Esq., and Major-General D'Auvergne his younger brother — father and uncle of Captain D'Auvergne (who had been promoted in the interim), "from the ancient Counts of Auvergne, their and the Duke's common ancestors, also confirming to them their common armorial bearings, and acknowledging them as cousins," were transmitted by the Duke to these two near relatives of the Captain, and which formal documents were, by his Majesty's most gracious Licence, of 1 January 1787, duly recorded and exemplified in the College of Arms, and also announced in the London Gazette. The Duke, moreover, by a formal act of adoption, with the full consent of his eldest son, Leopold, the States of Bouillon, and his Britannic Majesty, adopted Captain Philip D'Auvergne as his son, and as heir-apparent in the event of failure of issue male of Prince Leopold. Captain D'Auvergne, thus raised by good fortune from the rank of a private individual to be the prospective successor to one of the largest dependencies of France, continued in the British Navy, and was successively promoted in 1805, to the rank of Rear-Admiral of the Blue ; in 1810, to be Vice-Admiral; and in 1813, to be Vice-Admiral of the White, and was stationed in the Channel Islands in command of the " Nonsuch" and a flotilla of gunboats, for their defence, and to communicate with the Royalists of France on the opposite coast.

Godfroy, Duke of Bouillon, died in 1793, and was succeeded by his son, Prince Leopold, who himself dying without issue in 1802, during the short interval of peace. Prince Philip D'Auvergne repaired to Paris to claim the succession, but was arrested, thrown into prison, and his papers seized by the Consular Government. He was, however, released in a few days, but ordered immediately to quit France. After the Bourbon restoration, the Prince was, for a short time, put into nominal possession of his duchy; but, by an Act of the Congress of Vienna, upon " considerations of general policy," he was finally dispossessed of the Dukedom, which reverted to a member of the Rohan family, also descended from the ancient Dukes of Bouillon. He did not long survive these reverses, which were as sudden and unlooked-for as his previous elevation, but died in London, in 1816, and was buried at St Margaret's church, Westminster. Leaving no descendants, lineal or collateral, the representation of the family devolved upon his kinsman, Philip D'Auvergne, of Leoville, St Ouen, Jersey.

His Highness, during his official residence in Jersey, purchased a spot of ground containing the most interesting relic of mediaeval antiquity of which Jersey had to boast, being the remains of the Chapel of Our Lady de la Hougue Bie, or la Hougue Hambie, situated in Grouville parish. This chapel had been built at a very remote period, on one of the tumuli, of which the island at one time possessed so many, and was restored by Richard Mabon, Dean of Jersey, in the 16th century.

It is traditionally said to have been erected in memory of a member of the once powerful family of Paynel, of Hambye, by his widow. The circumstances connected with this event, and which are generally allowed to be founded on historical facts, form one of the most pathetic and touching of Jersey's heroic legends. The Prince D'Auvergne, however, with questionable taste, incorporated this interesting structure with a tower, which he built on its site, and which is generally called, from its first owner. Prince's Tower.

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