Sunday, April 19, 2009

The necklace

A tantalising story that needs more research:

My aunt Victoria Woods has a necklace which was left to her by Aunt Vivian, the daughter of Nellie Grant and Algernon Sartoris, who died in 1933 . The necklace was kept until her 18th birthday, May 29, 1935, so she never had the chance to ask Aunt Vivian about its provenance, but the history related by her mother, my grandmother, Margaret Lady Stanley of Alderley (grand daughter of Adelaide Sartoris and daughter of Mary Theodosia Evans Gordon nee Sartoris) was that the necklace was given to Julia Dent Grant by emissaries of the Mexican Emperor Maximilian, as an inducement, to persuade her to influence the General not to support Juarez and the Republicans in the Mexican civil war. Grant of course had a close interest in Mexico stemming from his service there in 1845-47.

If the story is true, the bribe must have been tendered some time before the end of the US Civil War on April 9, 1865 , but after Maximilian came to the throne on June 10, 1864. When Lee surrendered, quite a few Confederates fled across the border and took service under Maximilian, and Grant actively supported the Republicans, with the tacit support of President Johnson. Less than a month after the surrender at Appomatox, Grant sent Sheridan with 42,000 men to the Rio Grande, hoping that a show of strength would persuade Napoleon III to withdraw the French troops propping up Maximilian’s puppet rĂ©gime . By that time it is inconceivable that the Emperor would have sent a delegation to Grant, or to have sought to influence him through his wife.

Ishbel Ross, Julia Dent Grant’s biographer, says that among the wedding presents given to Nellie was ‘a necklace and earrings of diamonds’ , but they are not in the long list of presents in the New York Herald . The Herald reporter says he was the only journalist invited to the great event at the White House, and if the diamonds were on display with the rest of the presents, he could not have missed them. Perhaps they were concealed because of the awkward problem of how to explain where they came from. The Grants did have a reputation for accepting unsuitable gifts, but if my grandmother’s story was accurate, it could have been really embarrassing.

Eric Avebury
September 20, 2004

No comments: