The Lefroy family originally came from the town of Cambrai in North Western corner of France. They were affiliated to the House of Souastres, and Monstrelet's Chronicles (written in the fifteenth century) allude to the death of the then head of the family, the Lord L'Offroy, at the battle of Agincourt in 1415 (fighting on the French side, of course!). In 1585 the family had to flee religious persecution in France, and as refugees were not allowed to leave France with any property Jeffry's nine-greats grandfather, Antoine, converted the family money into five diamonds which he sewed into the pockets of his young son Esaie (shown on the left below, in a portrait from 1614) and escaped with his wife Marie (shown on the right below, in a portrait from 1600) to England.

 

Antoine sold the diamonds and the family set themselves up in the silk dyeing business, having anglicised their name to Lefroy (there is still a Lefroy Road in London). Esaie's son Jacques, grandson Israel and great-grandson Thomas carried on the business but with the collapse of the silk-dyeing trade in the early 1700s Thomas' son Anthony, the only male Lefroy left in the world at that time, left England to seek his fortune in Italy. There he met and married Elizabeth Langlois, the daughter of a rich Huguenot banker, and they had two sons and a daughter, Anthony, George and Phoebe. Anthony and Elizabeth are the two central figures in the portrait below, painted in 1738.

Both sons travelled widely and Anthony (shown in the portrait below from around 1780), upon arriving in Ireland in 1760 declared 'I have arrived in Paradise'! He married an Irish girl from Clare, Anne Gardiner, and they had five daughters, followed by five sons, the eldest of which they named Thomas, Jeffry's great-great-great grandfather. George settled in Hampshire, England, where he became a rector in the neighbouring parish to a Parson Austen at Steventon.

Thomas Lefroy, Anthony's son, was born in 1776 and after graduating from Trinity College, Dublin in 1796 went to stay with his relations in Hampshire whilst undergoing pupillage at the Lincoln's Inn Bar. There he met and enjoyed a brief romance with Parson Austen's daughter Jane; indeed Jane wrote in a letter to her sister Cassandra 'I am almost afraid to tell you how my Irish friend and I behaved... He is a very gentlemanlike, good-looking, pleasant young man... Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together.'(!) However, his aunt forbade the relationship and Thomas was sent back to Ireland forthwith. Jane based the character of Mr. Darcy, the hero of Pride and Prejudice on him, and on learning of her death Thomas travelled the considerable distance to England to pay his respects and at an auction of her effects bought a publisher's rejection letter - for Pride and Prejudice. (The family connection survives as Jane's niece married Thomas' cousin, Ben Lefroy). Thomas married Mary Paul, daughter of Sir Jeffry Paul, in 1799 and after a long and distinguished career was made a Baron of the Exchequer in 1841 as Lord Lefroy and in 1852 invested as Lord Chief Justice of Ireland.

The pictures here show Thomas (left) at the time of his acquaintance with Jane Austen and (right) near the end of his life. He died in 1869.

Both Thomas and his son, Anthony, were Members of Parliament for Dublin University and County Longford and privy councillors to Queen Victoria. Anthony married the Hon. Jane King, daughter of Viscount Lorton of Rockingham, a nearby estate, and the place settings that visitors see on the dining table are gifts given to them on the occasion of their wedding in 1825.

Further generations included General Sir John Henry Lefroy (shown above by Mount Lefroy in Canada in a portrait from1843), who became governer of Bermuda and Tasmania, and Captain Hugh Lefroy, who invented ground to air radio and was a pioneering scientist (whose erratic brilliance lead him to both important steps in the field of atomic science and also to planting potatos on the roof so they would benefit from moonlight!). Jeffry's great-uncle Edward drowned aboard the Titanic and his father, Lt- Colonel Patrick Lefroy, was awarded the MBE for his work in leading a commando unit organising partisan groups in Italy in the second World War.

Jeffry, a Major in the Irish Fusilliers, served in Kenya, Libya and Swaziland, in the Middle East, in Europe, and with the United Nations in Cyprus. In 1995 Jeffry established the Council for the Protection of Irish Heritage Objects (COPIHO) after the House suffered from the crimewave that hit Ireland that year where teams of fine art thieves targeted Ireland's historic houses and made off with a substantial amount of valuable Irish heritage, a lot of it stolen to order, to sell on the continental and American markets. In total over £15 million of Ireland's cultural heritage was stolen, yet COPIHO (Jeffry is pictured above with a recovered piece) has been succcessful in returning almost £1 million worth of stolen antiques to their owners, who range from occupants of cottages to big houses, to date. The organisation has been successful in persuading many potential targets to fit alarms and hidden security cameras and these have resulted in foiling at least three serious burglaries. Carrigglas itself pioneers the development of security cameras and alarms that are in keeping with architectural considerations. He and Tessa, great-great-grand daughter of Sir George Gilbert Scott, architect of St Pancras Station and the Albert Memorial in London, and niece of Sir Thomas Monnington, President of the Royal Academy, were married in 1964 and they have two sons, Langlois and Edward.

 

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