A Lady, her Maid, and her Male Servant – an urgent need for a new passport Lady Georgiana Grey
By the mid-ninetieth century, an ever-increasing number of Britain’s wealthy nobility traveled to Europe with servants, visiting the great cultural and religious centers, many “wintering” abroad to take advantage of the warmer climate.
One such individual was the unmarried Lady Georgiana Grey (daughter of Earl Grey 2nd, famous reformer Prime Minister), who from the 1840s frequently traveled to Europe with her mother, the Dowager Countess Grey. Following her mother’s death in 1861, Lady Georgiana continued to travel alone, accompanied only by her maid and a male servant, James Stiles. Lady Georgiana Grey
Lady Georgiana’s passport identified her by name, her maid (unnamed), and a male servant named James Stiles. Remark: It was customary at the time that maids/servants were included in the passport but it’s rather unusual to mention a servant by name! The following extract from her passport shows how this was recorded.
During one of Lady Georgiana’s tours in 1866, an urgent message from home reached the group in Austria, requesting that James Stiles needed to travel back to England immediately. To enable him to travel alone, it would have been necessary for him to obtain his own passport. This would have been possible by presenting himself at the British Embassy in Vienna and being issued with a Consular Passport to cover his trip back to England. That passport, No 284, was issued on 6th April 1866 by John Arthur Douglas Lord Bloomfield, the British Ambassador to Vienna, as seen below. Lady Georgiana Grey
Bloomfield was appointed ambassador to Berlin in 1851 and on this occasion was advanced to a Knight Commander (KCB). In 1858, he was further honored as a Knight Grand Cross (GCB). He reached his highest post as ambassador to Vienna in 1860 and was sworn of the Privy Council. . He represented Britain at many official functions, helped organize international conferences, and gathered information on Austria-Hungary, Prussia, and nearby smaller nations, sending daily reports to London. He supported the British policy of noninvolvement and saw the Emperor as essential to the balance of power and stability in continental Europe. On his retirement in 1871, he was created Baron Bloomfield, of Ciamhalltha in the County of Tipperary, this time in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, which enabled him to a seat in the House of Lords. He represented County Tipperary as a Deputy Lieutenant. Lady Georgiana Grey
Although the exact contents of the message that prompted James Stiles to leave Lady Gray and return to England alone are unknown, subsequent records give us some insight. James’s wife Maria and their two-year-old daughter Georgiana, likely named after Lady Georgiana Grey, lived in the St George Hanover Square District of London.
Maria Stiles death certificate reveals that she died 4th April 1866, aged 33 years, cause of death “inflammation of the veins after delivery 4 days Certified”. The death was registered, by a “Mary Forsyth, present at the death,” on 9th April 1866. “After delivery 4 days” suggest that Maria had given birth, but no record exists for an infant being registered. The Register of Burials in the West of London and Westminster Cemetery records that Maria Stiles No 44612 was buried in a common grave on 10th April 1866.
It is unclear whether James Stiles had received news of his second child’s birth or possibly the untimely death of his wife, but we now know that Maria had died two days before James was issued with his passport to return home to England on 6th April 1866. Sadly, it seems unlikely that James would have been back in London before Maria’s death was registered or in time for her burial the next day. Lady Georgiana Grey
We know that James Stiles continued to work for Lady Georgiana Grey for many more years and continued traveling with her to Europe on her passport. James remarried in 1885 and had four more children. When she died in 1900, aged 99, Lady Georgiana Grey left her faithful servant James Stiles £200 (about £25.000 today) in her will.
This great story and the fantastic passport is presented by Gary Hynard, a passionate collector who asked me earlier for consultation on his findings. Thank you, Gary, for sharing this wonderful history.
By the way, the two passports are for sale (the Lady’s passport is in a leather case and the Stines passport is a plain folio). You can contact Gary directly by email here.
Historical Background on American Traveling in the Early 19th Century
A brief summary of traveling and the impact of changing technology in the early nineteenth century.
Travel in the early nineteenth century was so much slower and more difficult than it is today that it is not easy to remember that it was also a time of significant change and improvement. In New England in 1790, vehicles were few, roads were generally rutted and rudimentary, and traveling any distance was both slow and difficult. Children and poorer adults walked everywhere, and only a minority of farmers had horses and wagons. Many loads of freight were drawn not by horses but by much slower-moving oxen. With a good horse, it took from four to six days, depending on the weather, to travel from Boston to New York. And this was on the best roads, which ran between major cities along the coast. Inland, the roads were even worse, turning to impassable mud when it rained or to choking dust when the weather was dry. Read the full article, here.
FAQ Passport History
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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?
The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...
2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?
Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...
3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?
"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...
4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?
Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...
5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?
Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.
6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?
7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?
During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...
8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?
Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.
9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?
Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.
10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?
A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉
11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?
First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...
Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.
Question? Contact me...