The Bulwer-Lyttons… remote aristocratic connections

Continuing the family history stories of my friend Heidi Mellings; this time starting with her great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, Sarah Earle Bulwer (top centre in the tree below).

Sarah’s elder brother was William Earle Bulwer, born in 1757 (top right hand side of the tree). After school at Harrow and then university at Pembroke College Cambridge, he elected to make a career in the army, eventually raising a regiment of infantry in 1794 at his own cost, known as the Norfolk Rangers.

William Earle Bulwer

On 1st June 1798 he married Elizabeth Barbara Lytton and this is where things become interesting. Elizabeth was heiress to the Knebworth estate in Hertfordshire and together, the couple had three sons.

William Bulwer was one of the four British generals entrusted with planning Britain’s defense against the menace of Napoleon’s France and was expected to be given a peerage imminently when he suddenly died, aged 50, in 1807, leaving his young widow to manage his estates and raise their sons.

The eldest son, William Earle Lytton Bulwer, went up to Cambridge in 1817, enrolling in Trinity College and, after graduating joined Lincoln’s Inn in 1820, thereafter combining a career as a lawyer with his responsibilities for his estate at Heydon in Norfolk. In 1827 he married Emily Gascoyne, daughter of Lieut.-General Isaac Gascoyne, with whom he was to have six children, three sons and three daughters.

The two oldest sons would become soldiers; Edward Earle Gascoyne Lytton Bulwer would reach the rank of General, and was appointed as Lieutenant-Governor of Guernsey, while William Earle Gascoyne Lytton Bulwer rose to the rank of Colonel. Their sister, Emily Rose Lytton Bulwer married a clergyman and another sister, Mary Eleanor Bulwer married a naval officer, Henry Caldwell who went to sea at the age of 13 and rose through the ranks to become a Commodore and Aide-de-Camp to Queen Victoria. The youngest sister Elizabeth Maude Bulwer was to remain single, living off her private income, presumably a share of the estate left to her by her father. The youngest sibling, Henry Ernest Gascoyne Bulwer, went on to become a distinguished diplomat.

“William” Henry Lytton Earle Bulwer

The middle son of William and Elizabeth, bizarrely also christened William, but universally known by his second name Henry (altogether less confusing), was, to give him his full list of names, William Henry Lytton Earle Bulwer. He married the niece of the Duke of Wellington and became one of the most respected diplomats of the Victorian age.

The youngest son of William and Elizabeth, Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer, was to become a successful novelist and politician who was made 1st Earl of Lytton.

Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer

He married a fiery Irish beauty called Ann Rosina Wheeler, a marriage that would ultimately be disastrous but which produced a son who would end up as Viceroy of India and would himself have children with fascinating and distinguished lives – one marrying Edwin Lutyens, perhaps the most famous architect of the age (he designed the Cenotaph in Whitehall), one marrying the brother of a Prime Minister, another becoming a leading suffragette, and yet another being a painter who exhibited all over Europe and who married Baroness Wentworth, the grand-daughter of Ada, Countess Lovelace, the eminent mathematician after whom the Ada programming language is named, and daughter of the poet Byron.

It is from the last couple that the present Earl Lytton is descended. The current 5th Earl Lytton, 18th Baron Wentworth is Heidi’s fifth cousin two times removed!


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