Select Chamberlain Miscellany

Here are some Chamberlain stories and accounts over the years:

The Lord Chamberlain

The Lord Chamberlain is the senior official of the Royal Household and oversees its business - including liaising with the other senior officers of the Household, chairing Heads of Department meetings, and advising in the appointment of senior Household officials.  The Lord Chamberlain also undertakes ceremonial duties and serves as the channel of communication between the Sovereign and the House of Lords.

The Lord Chamberlain’s Office
 is a department of the Royal Household and is responsible for organising ceremonial activities including state visits, investitures, garden parties, the State Opening of Parliament, weddings and funerals.  The Lord Chamberlain also regulates the design and the wearing of court uniform and dress and how insignia are worn.

The Licensing Act of 1737
 gave the Lord Chamberlain the authority to veto the performance of any new plays for whatever reason.  Theatre owners could be prosecuted for staging a play that had not received prior approval.  This veto power continued in limited form until 1968 when the veto was finally abolished.  The first London performance of the musical Hair had been delayed until the 1968 act was passed after its initial licence had been refused.

Who Was Henry Orland Chamberlain?

Henry Fane was from a noble family.  He was almost forty when he married Anne Batson, a banker’s daughter, in 1778.  By her he had fourteen children and they lived at Fulbeck Hall.

Henry Chamberlain, born in 1773, was brought up there with the rest of Fane's children as a supposed distant relative.  But when Chamberlain expressed an interest in one of Fane's daughters, he was informed of his true parentage and dispatched to Portugal, sailing there on the HMS Briton.

Was he a bastard son?  Henry Fane’s correspondence makes reference to a John Chamberlain and Hannah, his daughter perhaps.  Was she the mother?  Another source has the Chamberlain name as fictitious, given to him by his father after an illicit love affair with a young girl.  The identity of this girl, or even her name, is unknown.

In any event, Henry Chamberlain did well as a consul general in Portugal and later as charge d’affaires in Brazil.  He was made a baronet in 1828

Francis Chamberlain and the Invention of Snooker

While serving at Jubbulpore in 1875 Francis Chamberlain developed a new variation of black pool by introducing coloured balls into the game.  It was dubbed snooker - a derogatory nickname given to first-year cadets studying at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich that Chamberlain had heard about from a young Royal Artillery subaltern visiting the mess.

Chamberlain later retorted to a fellow player who had failed to pot a colored ball:

‘Why, you're a regular snooker.’

While explaining the term to his fellow officers Chamberlain - to mollify the officer concerned - remarked that they were all ‘snookers at the game’ and the name snooker or snooker's pool immediately stuck. 

The Chamberlaynes of Weston near Southampton

The Chamberlayne name in Weston may have dated from the early 15th century.  In 1781 William Chamberlayne inherited what was then the Weston Park estate.  His son William, later to become MP for Southampton, inherited the estate on the death of his father and built the Weston Grove estate, a marine villa on Southampton Water, in 1802.

His most prominent act of munificence was a gift of iron lamp-posts for Southampton, first lit by gas in 1821.  His generosity was commemorated the following year by the erection of Chamberlayne’s Column, an iron obelisk of some 50 feet which, after its removal to the quay in 1829, served as a landmark for shipping.

The Weston Grove estate was subsequently inherited by Thomas Chamberlayne, his cousin, in 1831.  Thomas’s son Denzil took part in the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War and survived.  In 1876 Tankerville Chamberlayne assumed the estate.  He too was to become MP for Southampton.  He died in 1924 leaving a daughter, Penelope, who married and they changed their surname to Chamberlayne-Macdonald.

The Murder of Jeremiah Chamberlain

On the night of September 5, 1851, Jeremiah Chamberlain was stabbed to death in front of his home on the Oakland College campus in Mississippi.  The assailant was a local man named George Briscoe.  Witnesses observed that Briscoe had stopped at the gate of the house and that Chamberlain had gone out to meet him.  After a heated exchange Briscoe stabbed Chamberlain in the chest.  Staggering back to the house, the victim died in the arms of his wife Catherine. 

The murderer rode away and hid for several days after the killing, but was himself found dead a week later having poisoned himself.  While a motive was never clearly established, many attributed the murder to the inflamed politics of the time. 

The newspaper accounts detailing the murder were filled with shock and remorse over the senseless killing.  The local Port Gibson Herald and Correspondent labeled it “a horrid tragedy” and closed its account by writing: “President Chamberlain has gone, but will never be forgotten.”  Even the New York Times had a mention. 

As for Jeremiah Chamberlain, his grave remains on the campus of Oakland College, now Alcorn State University.

Incorrect Reports of the Death of Joshua Chamberlain

In April 1864 Joshua Chamberlain was promoted to Brigade Commander in the Union army and given command of the 1st Brigade, V Corps.

In a major action two months later at the Battle of Petersburg, he was shot through the right hip and groin, the bullet exiting his left hip.  Despite the injury Chamberlain withdrew his sword and stuck it into the ground in order to keep himself upright to dissuade the growing resolve for retreat.  He stood upright for several minutes until he collapsed and lay unconscious from the loss of blood.  The wound was considered mortal by the division's surgeon who predicted that he would perish.

Chamberlain's incorrectly recorded death in battle was reported by the Maine newspapers and by General Ulysses S. Grant who gave him a supposedly posthumous battlefield promotion to the rank of Brigadier General.

Not expected to live, Chamberlain displayed surprising will and courage and, with the support of his brother Tom, was back in command by November.  Although many, including his wife Fanny, urged Chamberlain to resign, he was determined to serve through the end of the war. 

The courage that he displayed throughout the course of the Civil War made him a hugely popular figure in his home state of Maine.  After the war was over, Joshua Chamberlain served as Governor of Maine from 1866 to 1970 and later served as President of Bowdoin College.  He died in 1914 at the good old age of 86, due – it was said – to complications from the wound he had received at Petersburg.

Chamberlain Associations of America

The first Chamberlain Association of America was founded in 1897 by Joshua Chamberlain who served as its first President. They published some thirteen annual reports of their meetings held in Boston, Massachusetts.  The Association became inactive from the 1920's to the 1940's.

The Chamberlain Association of America, sometimes referred to as the New Chamberlain Association of America, was organized in 1980 in New York by Alison Chamberlain Ogilvie Ainsworth. They published the Chamberlain Association News three times per year from 1981 to 1993, but became inactive shortly afterwards.

Many of the first Association's collection was re-published by the World Chamberlain Genealogical Society.  This was established in 1996 to carry on the tradition of the original Chamberlain Association of America

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