Fred Weinstein, just back from London, snapped this photo of Lord Lansdowne at the National Portrait Gallery. He wondered if this could be the Lord Lansdowne that Lansdowne was named for.The story of Richard Griffith selecting the name “Lansdowne” is told in last year’s June 22 blog entry, but why he picked it is unknown. According to Wikipedia, Lord Lansdowne was a specific person before 1735, but afterwards, it referred to any holder of the title Marquess of Lansdowne. There is even a current Lord Lansdowne, a very pleasant-looking family man.
Fred’s photo is identified as the Third Marquess of Lansdowne, 1780–1863, a popular Whig politician. It was in 1875 that Richard Griffith made his suggestion. Perhaps he was thinking of this Lord, or of his estate.
Or maybe he thought, “What can we call this desolate patch of God-forsaken land on Darby-Radnor Road with nothing but a train station? Land Sakes? No. Land O’ Lakes? No, we have no bare-kneed Indian maidens. How about Lands down-the-road-from-Darby? Possible, but too long. What if we shortened it to Lands-down? Make it classy by giving it an English spelling—like ‘Lansdowne.’” Bingo!
But I like Fred’s photo of Lord Lansdowne. I always pictured somebody older and pudgier. This one looks young and dapper. Give him a monocle and a butterfly and he could be Eustace Tilly himself. Or the Scarlet Pimpernel. Let’s keep him.
Here’s the story we can tell: Richard Griffith was his bastard son from a brief liaison with a servant girl. Lord Lansdowne paid them to sail to the new world with the promise they would never tell, but Richard grew up always secretly proud of his royal heritage. Not only did Richard name Lansdowne, he even founded the Lansdowne Episcopal Church in his father’s honor where the very portrait that Fred photographed once secretly hung for several years.
We can add embellishments. Richard’s mother, a Latin girl named Margarita Cook, found happiness in the new world. She married a local schoolteacher, A. Todd Griffith, a man considerably older than she but undemanding and financially well-off from a legal settlement. They soon produced a half-brother for Richard. They named him Aldan.
Yes! Third Marquess of Lansdowne, we salute you as our true heritage.