Levantine Heritage
The story of a community
Home | History of the community | Active Topics | Visiting the heritage | Registers | Economic analysis | Database | Newspaper archives | Links | Books | Levantine achievements
The Contributors
Rose Marie Caporal | Alessandro Pannuti | Ft Joe Buttigieg | Mary Lemma | Antoine ‘Toto’ Karakulak | Willie Buttigieg | Erika Lochner Hess | Maria Innes Filipuci | Catherine Filipuci | Harry Charnaud | Alfred A. Simes | Padre Stefano Negro | Giuseppe Herve Arcas | Filipu Faruggia | Mete Göktuğ | Graham Lee | Valerie Neild | Yolande Whittall | Robert Wilson | Osman Streater | Edward de Jongh | Daphne Manussis | Cynthia Hill | Chris Seaton | Andrew Mango | Robert C. Baker | Duncan Wallace QC | Dr Redvers ‘Red’ Cecil Warren | Nikolaos Karavias | Marianne Barker | Ümit Eser | Helen Lawrence | Alison Tubini Miner | Katherine Creon | Giovanni Scognamillo | Hakkı Sabancalı | Joyce Cully | Jeffrey Tucker | Yusuf Osman | Willem Daniels | Wendy Hilda James | Charles Blyth Holton | Andrew Malleson | Alex Baltazzi | Lorin Washburn | Tom Rees | Charlie Sarell | Müsemma Sabancıoğlu | Marie Anne Marandet | Hümeyra Birol Akkurt | Alain Giraud | Rev. Francis ‘Patrick’ Ashe | Fabio Tito | Pelin Böke | Antonio Cambi | Enrico Giustiniani | Chas Hill | Arthur ‘Mike’ Waring Roberts III | Angela Fry | Nadia Giraud | Roland Richichi | Joseph Murat | George Poulimenos | Bayne MacDougall | Mercia Mason-Fudim née Arcas | Eda Kaçar Özmutaf | Quentin Compton-Bishop | Elizabeth Knight | Charles F. Wilkinson | Antony Wynn | Anna Laysa Di Lernia | Pierino & Iolanda Braggiotti | Philip Mansel | Bernard d’Andria | Achilleas Chatziconstantinou | Enrichetta Micaleff | Enrico Aliotti Snr. | Patrick Grigsby | Anna Maria and Rinaldo Russo | Mehmet Yüce | Wallis Kidd | Jean-Pierre Giraud | Osman Öndeş | Jean François d’Andria | Betty McKernan | Frederick de Cramer | Emilio Levante | Jeanne Glennon LeComte | Jane Spooner | Richard Seivers | Frances Clegg
Resident in Bognor Regis UK

I am married to Charlotte Seaton, née Wratislaw, which maiden name is Czech in origin. The oral family history claims descent from early Medieval Bohemian kings including the be-carolled King Wenzel (the good king Wenceslas of Shakespeare), and latterly Counts of the Holy Roman Empire. A young son of the family, Marc (Count Marc Mari Emmanuel Wratislaw, 1735-1791) arrived as an émigré in England in the 1770s, in circumstances that are not clear but during a very turbulent period of history on the European continent. By the time Marc received his papers of denization from the Privy Council in 1793 he had been married and sired three children from his first wife before her death, had remarried and then fathered seven further children. He was a modern language teacher for over twenty years first in Birmingham and latterly in the prestiguous Rugby School (founded 1567). One of Marc’s sons, Ferdinand (Count William Ferdinand Wratislaw, 1788-1853), established a solicitors’ practice in the town.

This William Ferdinand took the family claim to Bohemian nobility very seriously and introduced himself as ‘Count’, something which his father seemed to do only in the latter stages of his life. He took several journeys (some at least with his eldest son, Albert Henry) to Bohemian, German & Austrian cities in the years 1847-1850 to attempt to prove his lineage as a descendant of the Bohemian noble family to all concerned. The family holds four original passports from those years all written in French and one or two were granted by Lord Palmerston, during what I think was his last tenure of the post of Foreign Secretary in 1846-51. They bear stamps from Dresden, Prague, Berlin, Vienna and many other places. It was William Ferdinand who wrote up the history under a “memoir” entitled Wratislaws of Rugby, a culmination on his study of the family history. He refers to a Wenzel Wratislaw (possibly Charlotte’s 8th great-grandfather and born c. 1575) as an ambassador to Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, who wrote a journal of his visit with the Habsburg entourage to the Ottoman lands where they were held captive. Happily this book, entitled The Adventures of Baron Wenceslas Wratislaw: What his Saw in Constantinople, In His Captivity, Committed to Writing in 1599 tr. By A. H. Wratislaw title is now available as a free download online. One significant note by William Ferdinand among his writings is this,

“The entire family are now reduced to the descendants of the third and fourth sons of Wenzel, who died 1554; the descendant of the other sons having become extinct. The Rugby family are descended from Stephen, the fourth son, who died in 1577, leaving four sons. The eldest son, Wenzel, although very young, accompanied the special embassy, sent in 1591 by the Emperor Rudolph the Second to Sultan Amurath [Murat] the Third. After they had remained nearly two years at Constantinople the sultan declared war against the emperor, destroyed the ambassador, and put all the members of the embassy into slavery. Wenzel was a slave for two years, and underwent most terrible hardships, but at length obtained his liberty; and he published a full account of the embassy and of his captivity, which was re-published at Leipzig in 1786, and is at Rugby.”

Notes: 1- In the book, ‘19th century Beyoğlu, by Mustafa Cezar p.282’, the author mentions the ambassadorial party of the Austrian embassy that arrived in Constantinople in 1591. Baron Wenceslaw Wratislaw (the full text translation to Turkish done by M. Süreyya Dilmen) lists the 69 persons present in this entourage that stayed in the old quarter of Çemberlitaş [within the walled city, about 1 km from the palace of Topkapı] and the members of the party wishing to seek drink and merriment with women would go to the old Genoese quarter of Galata. He describes the passage as, ‘reached by boat or rowing boat, the majority of the population of Galata are Christian merchants, Greeks, Italians and other nations. The French and English kingdom’s ambassadors and the balios of Venice and Ragusa republics all reside here...’ Surely this Wenceslaw is the same person (the Slavonic version of the same name) and if the dates hold true, he was clearly ‘very young’ as described in the WFW account, as he would have been 16.
2- Additional information from ‘Istanbul - Publication of the Ministry of Culture, 1993, Ankara’ (p.73): In the 15th and 16th centuries Rumelihisar was a place of internment for the staff of foreign embassies whose countries were at war with the Ottoman state. The memoirs of the Czech diplomat Wenceslaw Wratislaw provide information about life in the castle. An inscription written on the stone wall by Wenceslaw can still be seen in Zaganos Paşa Tower at the very top of the hill. In spite of the height of its walls there were cases of people escaping from this castle by bribing the guards.

One of Ferdinand’s sons, Alfred Henry (Rev. Alfred Henry Wratislaw 1821-1892) became a Headmaster of various minor public schools and an eminent Slavonic Scholar.

 Note: 3- There are minor references on the Internet to this: ‘The native literature of Bohemia in the fourteenth century – tr. Albert Henry Wratislaw – London 1878’ etc. Also tying with the above historical connection, held in the British museum library is a booklet entitled ‘Historical and Statistical sketch of the Slavonic Protestants in the north of the Austrian Empire – also account of residence and captivity in Turkey, in the days of Queen Elizabeth of England’, translated and extracted from the Bohemian of Baron Wenceslas Wratislaw by A. H. Wratislaw, M.A., head master of the grammar school, Bury St. Edmunds. London 1861. The latter section covers page 29-58.
Baron Watzlaw or Wenceslas Wratislaw was sent to Constantinople when quite a boy, in the year 1591, as an attaché of the embassy which bore the annual gifts or tribute to the Turkish Sultan Amurath III., from the Roman or German Emperor Rudolph II. The ambassador’s name was Frederic von Kregwitz. The title page of Baron Wratislaw’s work will give at once a concise summary of the contents. We translate it literally, and without reference to English idiom. “Adventurers of Wenceslas Wratislaw, Baron von Mitrowitz, which he saw in the Turkish metropolis, Constantinople, experienced in his captivity, and composed himself in the year of the lord 1599, after his happy return to his country.” It is divided into four books, the first of which treats of the journey to, the second of the residence at Constantinople, the third gives an account of the captivity of the ambassador’s suite, and the fourth of their deliverance and return.

One of Albert Henry’s sons, Albert Charles (1862-1938), joined the Levant Consular Service in the mid-1880s and he became Vice-Consul in Smyrna in 1888. Here he must have met the Cumberbatche family and in 1889 he married Gertrude Evelyn, one of Robert William’s younger daughters, although her father had died in office in 1876. Albert and Gertrude are my wife’s great-grandparents and Albert went on to become quite an eminent man working in the Levant Consular Service until 1920. After Smyrna he became vice-consul at Philippolis (now Plovdiv in Bulgaria, then part of Ottoman empire) 1892-1896, consul at Basra (southern Iraq then part of O.E.) 1898-1903, consul-general Tabriz (western Iran) 1903-1909, consul-general Crete 1909-1913, Turko-Persian boundary commission 1913-1914, consul-general Salonica (just as it entered Greece) 1914-1919, consul-general Beirut 1919-1920. All this detail is known since he published his memoirs under, ‘A consul in the East – Blackwoods – Edinburgh – 1924’. From page 2 of this autobiography, we know that, Albert joined the Consular service after his father wrote to an old school chum, who happened to be a Civil Service Commissioner. Alfred Henry had asked this friend to send down details of any examinations for public service that might seem suitable for the youth. From the bundle, Albert selected Student Interpreters in the Levant and his father commented unkindly that if, “Caligula had made his horse a Consul, ...there seemed nothing incongruous in even the baser quadruped to which he compared me aspiring to the office. So that was settled.” Albert was an enthusiastic writer (and indeed a photographer). He penned historical articles entitled ‘A Consul in the making’, ‘Smyrna in the seventeenth century’, ‘A seventeenth century merchant adventurer’ (all 3 published in various issues in 1922, Blackwood magazine), ‘Turbulent Tabriz’, ‘The Commodore’ (both published again in the Blackwood magazine, in January and May 1923 respectively). Later followed the books ‘Consul in the East’ (1924) which constituted an expanded version of the article ‘A Consul in the making’, ‘King Charles & Mr. Perkins’ (1931) and in addition a children’s fictional book as well.

 Notes: 4- It is presumably Robert William Cumberbatch’s son, Henry Alfred (British consul himself 1896-1908), mentioned in the memoirs of the famous English Middle-Eastern traveller and writer Gertrude Bell, whose relevant section mentioning her being hosted by him and his wife in 1907 on her expedition to a Hittite monument in the hinterland of Anatolia, is on line here. From the Internet we learn that the son of Henry Alfred, Henry Carlton became a prominent naval commander during the time of the Second World War.
5- A chance discovery of a postcard on an auction site confirmed that for schooling the sons of A.C. Wratislaw went to a boarding school in Norfolk, viewable here.

The Cumberbatches are related to many noble families (mainly through female lineage) back to William the Conqueror, Alfred the Great, King Canute, etc. There is a tree showing all the connections between William the Conqueror and Gertrude Evelyn Cumberbatch containing over 56,000 individuals! One of the most direct male lines goes through King Edward III, the Percy family, Ogles, Delavels, Greys, Bowes, Chalenors then to Cumberbatch, of course there are hundreds of other branches back to nobility. Later some of the Cumberbatches became prominent Caribbean plantation owners.

The son of Albert Charles was Harry Wratislaw (1890-1959), my wife’s grandfather. He was British but never lived in England for long. He was born in Smyrna, christened at Bournabat, was in England at a prep school in Norfolk during the 1901 census, (see Note 5 above), but does not feature in the 1911 British census (neither does his younger brother). One could therefore speculate how much the family travelled around the Turkey with Albert. At some point the family moved to Aleppo, Syria, where according to the daughters of Harry that I was able to interview (Sonia Journes and Lily Evans), he was kept as a ‘free prisoner’ by the Turks during WWI. Harry married into a French-speaking Cypriot ‘Prince’ family in 1915; allegedly T.E. Lawrence was a witness to the marriage but I have signally failed to find any official record of the marriage (any ideas from readers welcome). His reasons for being ‘caught out’ at in Aleppo are probably personal in nature as it was the home of his wife’s family. We know that that Sonia Wratislaw was baptised in San Sophia Church, Constantinople in 1916 and was presumably born in that city in 1916, where again the family were probably ‘free prisoners’ of the Ottomans. Harry landed what sounds like a peach of a job after the war, ‘Inspector of the Ottoman public dette’ - background -. He lived the rest of his life in Syria and Lebanon, and he probably socialised more with the French community there. Harry and Victoria had three daughters then one son, my wife’s father Charles Anthony Wratislaw (1925 Aleppo-1987 England). Charles served in Egypt during the war, and then came to the UK to study motor mechanics. Harry was buried, probably in a Catholic church, at the Lebanese mountain resort of Broumana [info], in 1959 aged 69. The Prince family were French-speaking and I guess that the Aleppo Wratislaws grew up with French as a first language with plenty of English and Arabic too. Harry’s four children drifted back to Britain or France where they married and settled and all had children. Charles Anthony continued to be mobile until he settled with his children in Essex, England in the 1970s, which is where I met my wife, Charlotte Claire.

The reader will gather that there is a realm of family legend involved in this account and my enquiries to evaluate these are continuing. There are apparently two branches of the noble French Prince family, that claim descendancy from the Crusader families who never made it home, one based in Cyprus and the other in Syria. Charlotte has a cousin, Roberto Prince, who still lives in Cyprus, and his valuable research and resulting family tree has revealed interesting Venetian links of the family. The Venetians ruled Cyprus for 82 years (and the lengthy Latin kingdom preceding would have had an ‘Italian contingent’) until the capture of the island by the Ottomans in the 1571, and it may be that French nationality was ‘bestowed’ as they took it on themselves to protect Catholics, as they did elsewhere in the Levant. However many ancestors of my wife’s grandmother, Victoria Claire Prince (born in Cyprus 1893), had Italian names, but there are also Slavonic names in there, most notably Bosgiovich (spelling varies, such as Bosovic) and Zirigovich, which families apparently hailed from Dubrovnic in Croatia, which was then the Ragusa republic of the Venetians. Intriguingly, there is also the Lebanese family name, Chaoul, and although yet unproven one ancestor may have born the evidently Muslim name, Ibrahim Chaoul.

Victoria Prince (spelt “Prens” on the baptism certificate) was the daughter of a Cypriot French speaking Catholic, Ernesto Prince (died around 1925), according to Lily Evans a family descendant from Crusaders - a French family that once originated near Toulouse (the Lusignans?). I don’t know much about Ernesto except that he moved to Aleppo (with his family) at some time and he died there in 1925 according both to Lily and Sonia. His wife hailed from Austro-Bosnian antecedents and was called Emma Cosma (born in Cyprus 1873), allegedly very beautiful, Italian and probably Catholic, presumably a descendant of Venetian and other settlers of the later Middle Ages. Another line has been introduced by Marie-Anne Marandet who informed me in October 2011 that a Cosma family arrived in Constantinople from Aleppo in 1830 – whether or not these are linked to my Cosma line is not yet clear.

Victoria was baptised in Nicosia in the 1890s. Emma’s father was Lorenzo Cosma and his parents were Michael Cosma and Marie (interestingly) née Prince. Lorenzo married a lady called Marianna Bosgiovich. She held a slavic name because her father, Giacomo Bosgiovich was from Dubrovnic (now Croatia), or Ragusa as it was known under Italian occupation. I have names of her ancestors in Ragusa back to mid-18th century. Lorenzo & Marianna Cosma had 5 children apart from Emma and from them (via the Santi family) is descended both Benito Mantovani, currently the political leader of the Cypriot Latins (2nd cousin to Charles Anthony Wratislaw) and Roberto Prince.

Roberto and his cousins are currently engaged in trying to track down a book detailing the history of the Prince family written by a separate branch of the family, a lawyer called Mussa Prince, who lived in Beirut. Roberto met Mussa in Beirut in the 1970s as a student. He certainly sought to prove that the name “Prince” originated from the fact that the family descends from an illegitimate child of a royal affair with a Cyprus girl.

 Notes: 6- Further information on the Latins of Cyprus here, military orders of Cyprus here and Christians of Syria here:
7- With my instigation, Mr Seaton contacted the T.E. Lawrence’s authorised biographer, Jeremy Wilson, who has studied in detail his wartime movements. His assessment is that ‘it is pretty well impossible that T.E.L. was in Aleppo anytime during 1915 or 1916. However if the date of marriage was in the period of 1911-14, when Lawrence was working as an archaeologist in Jerablus [on the Euphrates by the modern Turkish border, more than a 100 km from Aleppo], then it is quite possible he served as a witness, though the name Wratislaw doesn’t appear in any of Lawrence’s letters. The British consul at Aleppo at the time was Ralph Fontana, and Lawrence often visited the consulate. Fontana’s wife Winifred contributed to ‘T.E. Lawrence by his friends (1937)’ and if Fontana needed a British citizen to witness and Lawrence was around, he might well have asked him’.
8- To further help the investigation Mr Seaton has created a summary chart of the ‘Prince Family Research’ in 2011 to help elicit further information from interested parties out there. The eldest child (still living) was born in Constantinople in 1916, so he could have been married earlier than 1915.

It would be very interesting to learn more about the Hansons. All I have is that Louisa Grace (wife of RWC) was born in 1831 (I know not where) and that her father was Charles Simpson Hanson, a merchant banker from Constantinople.

 Notes: 9- From Yolande Whittall’s survey (pdf) we know that Charles Simpson Hanson is buried in Haydarpasha cemetery and from the gravestone, we know he was from Essex and spent 50 years in the country. Since he died in 1874, it seems almost certain Louisa Hanson was born in that city. This was checked by a volunteer in the parish registers of Christ church Istanbul. Louisa Grace Hanson was born in Pera of Constantinople on March 29th, 1831. She was baptized at the chapel of the embassy in Therapia (Tarabya) on July 2nd of the same year by Robert Walsh, Chaplain of the Embassy. Later (Jan. 2006) a family tree was unearthed in a London library providing more information on the background of Hanson family of Constantinople. Further information was gained (March 2006) when a deposition by a family descendant of files entitled the ‘Henry James Hanson Collection’ held at the Middle East Centre Archives within St Anthony’s college, Oxford was investigated, a segment is viewable here: In addition, a member of this family that settled in Smyrna also penned an article on aspects of life of the city during the early 19th century, printed in a Greek book, segment visible here:
10- Most of the above information was compiled by Mr Seaton’s private investigation, as there was little to go on from family papers. There are no photos of his wife’s family in her hands - she is the youngest of the daughters of that side so other branches seemed to have had first “shout” on them. Click here to view a simplified family tree constructed to aid visualization of the above account. Click here for a pdf document on the ongoing work on the ‘Ancestors of Charles Anthony Wratislaw’.
11- Through this page, in November 2006, contact was made with a ‘lost branch’ of the family, the Walkers & Lippietts, descendants of Alfred Henry’s younger brother Theodore Marc who, like his father, joined the legal profession. This branch of the family remained in the Rugby area well into the last century. A happy meeting and on-going family communication has ensued from this connection.
12- Mr Chris Seaton is one of the directors of ‘Peaceworks’, a multi-faceted mediation service committed to reconciliation and peacemaking both in the UK and internationally.

to top of page interview date 2002-12