You will remember Novmber and December's article on the Hapsburg Dynasty of Austria, which received a positive response from our readers for its deep analysis of Empress Maria Theresa's moral dilemma in entering the War of the Austrian Succession.
Empress Maria's nobility in the the face of crisis remained an inspirational example for future European monarchs, and, as many of you commented, directly impacted Colonial relations with Europe at the time.
This month, the Eyre Dynasty of Britain, and later the United States, will be explored. The Eyres were instrumental in many aspects of British politics, and in the United States became a viable force as well. January's portion will focus on the Eyres' rise and apex, while February will record their fall from power.
Richard Negrin asks the question, "Why Do People Hate Them So Much?"
Why Do People Hate Them So Much?
At its height, the Eyre family was one of the most powerful in the history of the world. But today, seventy-five years after their empire fell, intense resentment persists. Why?
Few families today living on the face of this Earth can claim as impressive a pedigree as the (very few) remaining Eyres, under various surnames, who are scattered across some parts of Europe and North America. The family’s earliest confirmed ancestor is King Egbert of Wessex, who ruled in the 8th Century. Egbert’s descendant, King Alfred of Wessex, known forever to the English people as "Alfred the Great," united the Island’s various principalities to become the first-ever ruler of all England.
Alfred the Great was an Eyre, though the name did not exist then, and he passed his manners onto the great dynasty that would emerge from the smoky battlefields of Hastings in October of 1066. The House of Wessex, as the Eyres were then known, held the throne of England until the Danish invasion of 1016. Following the assassination of King Edmund II (known as "Ironsides" for his valiant resistance of the Danes), the monarch’s children and siblings fled to the Continent, holing up principally in the French kingdom of Normandy.
It was from this corner of the world, fifty years after the destruction of the House of Wessex, that the old monarchy’s scion would emerge to exact their revenge upon the usurpers in their native land. Truelove of Wessex, grandson of the murdered king; and William, Duke of Normandy and Truelove’s cousin, led an amphibious invasion of Britain in 1066 to unseat Harold Godwinson and return Edmund II’s relations to power. The Normans had assumed that once King Edward the Confessor, a half-brother of Edmund Ironsides, passed away, the crown would be handed to a blood relation. When it was not, the former heads of Wessex were profoundly displeased.
William’s battle to conquer England was successful, not least of all because of the efforts made by his cousin; Truelove saved William’s life during the struggle at Hastings, rescuing England’s next king from suffocation at the cost of his own limb. It was at this point that the modern Eyre Dynasty, the Eyre Dynasty as we know it today, was born. William sought out Truelove after Britain’s submission was secured and knighted him "Eyre, for giving me the air I breathe." The name Eyre has been used by the family ever since.
Truelove retired to Devon, satisfied with the contribution he had made to England’s future and with the crowning of his cousin as king on Christmas Day, 1066. The family, still de facto royalty, was able to amass enormous sums of money, fortunes upon fortunes and power nearly illimitable, through the use of key investments and shrewd management of the Dynasty’s massive estates across Britain. But for all that has been said about their cruelty and their aloofness, the Eyres have historically been profoundly egalitarian.
From the 11th Century, the Eyres were reserved hereditary seats in the House of Lords, a legacy that, combined with their service in the U.S. Congress, gives them one of the longest records of public service in history. The first bill ever introduced in Parliament for the abolition of the English slavery was proposed by an Eyre, hundreds of years before the practice actually ended in Britain.
This part of the family’s history is typically forgotten, though, overshadowed by what many perceive to be the monstrosities that the Dynasty visited upon those under its control throughout its existence.
Certainly, if any atrocities did occur, they must be attributed to the period of the English Civil War and that conflict’s immediate aftermath. Parliament rose up against King Charles I in 1644, and with it rose the Eyres. The Dynasty, eager to augment its power against a bitterly despised Catholic king, sided resolutely with Oliver Cromwell. In this respect, they betrayed their aristocratic truths, allying themselves with a commoner for the sake of destroying a monarch. Charles’s execution, a grim foreteller of the horrors to take place in France a century and a half later, was approved of by the family. In their efforts to supplant monarchical authority with legislative (and thus, noble) authority, they had sunk to levels of butchery belying their pristine ancestry and breeding.
The first instances of true hatred for the Eyres began in these years, and would only be increased as time went on. The restoration of the British monarchy in 1660 signaled peril for the Eyre Dynasty, which promptly fled the country to Ireland. A sort of genteel understanding, very much contrasting the savage nature of the recently-ended war, existed between the Eyres and King Charles II (to whom they were distantly related). Charles would allow them, as an ancient family of great wealth and great (though besmirched) standing, to continue living as they had before, provided that they did nothing to interfere with English politics for the foreseeable future.
An unspoken agreement was reached, and the Eyres were free to carry on in much the same way they had. Unexpectedly, the Eyres found in Ireland greater latitude and influence than they had ever been able to possess in their own country. The Eyres, English aristocrats and descendants of royalty to boot, discovered that they had a free hand among the Irish people. Their whims, whatever they were, could not be opposed, and they established on this smaller island a virtual kingdom of their own.
They purchased and extended a gigantic castle in the western part of the country, since named Eyrecourt, and assumed complete control over the peasants in their countryside. They demanded nothing less than absolute adherence to their commands, and dealt harshly with serfs who defied them. Hundreds of Irish peasants were executed to quell the Eyres’ displeasure, and hundreds more suffered horrific torture at the family’s hand. The Eyres clearly disdained the Irish and did not believe that it was necessary to afford them the same basic considerations that would be extended to most human beings. In their eyes, anyone outside of their own class had but one function: servitude. While advanced in some respects, they were very much of their time and of their rank, and believed firmly that the ruling of a country should be left in the hands of its richest, best educated, and oldest families.
This was an attitude that, despite their tremendous contributions to the cause of freedom (the United States very likely could not have achieved independence without Eyre assistance), they maintained far longer than was normal, even into the 1920’s. If Ireland was the foundation of the Eyre family’s barbarity and autocracy, it was a marvelous one to build upon. Far from declining, as many had predicted the Dynasty soon would once evicted from England, they prospered as never before. Their vast new holdings merely added to one of the largest fortunes in Europe, and allowed them, just forty years after their exile, to return to Britain.
In 1700, the Eyre family vacated Eyrecourt and occupied once more their property in Devon. Returned to their ancestral home, they assumed almost immediately the powerful and prestigious position that had been taken from them in the aftermath of the English Civil War.
Even then, though, even following the ease with which they slipped back into English society, the Eyres would remain in the United Kingdom for just one generation before they made a third, more monumental transition.
George Eyre, born shortly after the Dynasty’s return to Britain, would be the man to spirit the family across the Atlantic Ocean to what would one day become the United States. He made his fateful decision for several reasons. Relations between the Eyres and the British monarchy had been, though civil, decidedly strained since the English Civil War six decades before. Political disagreements with the king, religious differences from the majority of the British population, and the prospect of fresh business opportunities in a land of many natural resources all motivated George to leave Europe for the New World.
In 1727, the Eyres sold their numerous estates and lands in Britain, Ireland, and France, augmenting an already sizeable monetary arsenal and ensuring their status as a heavily influential family in the American Colonies.
Upon their arrival in America, the fortune of the Eyres was without equal. They arrived in October of 1727 and took up residence outside of Philadelphia while their permanent home, the Eyre Mansion (today still standing) was constructed in the city. George Eyre occupied the mansion in early 1728 and quickly established a routine and retinue mirroring his dealings in England. The only difference, if any, was that the Eyres had access to even more money; the stigma that hindered aristocrats from openly engaging in commerce in Britain simply wasn’t present in America, and George Eyre exploited his new social freedom for all it was worth.
By 1730, he had established the Eyre shipping yard in Kensington, which within two generations would grow from a local Philadelphia enterprise into a mammoth, an Atlantic titan that was a worthy precursor to today’s massive multinational corporations. At the dawn of 1735, George Eyre was raking in millions from the commerce that his vessels helped to propel, and his influence was slowly snaking its way back across the mighty Ocean to England herself.
In 1738, George’s wife gave birth to a bouncing baby boy, a healthy child named Jehu who was to change the course of all American history. Of all the figures of the American Revolution, Jehu Eyre remains a profoundly vexing enigma. Born into one of the wealthiest, one of the most powerful, one of the most imperialistic families in the world, he was nonetheless an ardent democrat whose sympathies with the common man would lead him to sacrifice everything, including his life, for the birth of the American Republic to which he would eventually make invaluable contributions.
Jehu Eyre led an extraordinary life, if not in the critical role he played in the Revolution, certainly with regard to having the political opinions he did given the background he came from. The incredible wealth of the Eyre family cannot be stressed enough. By the time of Jehu’s birth, the Eyre family had gathered into its hands enormous political power and a tremendous, unrivaled fortune. Looking at the figures with modern eyes, they do not seem like anything special. George Eyre had a few hundred thousand pounds in this bank, a few hundred pounds in that one, and some trans-Atlantic investments. Inflation, however, paints a very different picture. The Eyre family’s bank accounts alone would today qualify them as some of the richest people in the world; combined with their land holdings, their numerous homes, their involvement in the stock markets, and the burgeoning income from their ever-expanding shipping industry, they had at their command the 18th Century equivalent of hundreds of billions of dollars. Were they living today, they could practically be their own country. Even the wealth of Bill Gates, by far the most prosperous figure of the 21st Century, pales in comparison.
Jehu Eyre grew up in a world of palatial estates, reverent servants, worshipful admirers, elite tutors, grand balls, power politics, and absolutely unimaginable privilege. His considerable financial interests would have been better protected had he sided with the British whose soldiers were then pouring into the Colonies. The Intolerable Acts that so enraged middle class merchants had no tangible effect on Jehu’s revenues, being as they were so awesomely vast. Imperial rule meant the continuation of the lifestyle that Jehu had always known, the protection of the upper class, and the preservation of prosperity in America. Rebellion meant the ire of the most powerful army in the world, the bombardment of American cities by the globe’s fiercest navy, and the utter ruin of Colonial life. In short, Jehu Eyre had much more to lose than he had to gain. So why did he do it?
His ancestry can give us part of the answer. An Eyre, and thus, a descendant of the royal House of Wessex, Jehu loathed the ruling British monarchy, the Germanic House of Saxe-Coburg Gotha. A relationship that had always been difficult soured greatly as diplomatic relations between Britain and her colonies deteriorated. The two rival Houses glared at each other from across a boiling Atlantic, George III hating the Eyres from their perch atop a new America and the Eyres hating George III as a pompous upstart unworthy of the throne that their ancestors had once held.
Given the complex and venomous history between the Eyres and the monarchy, it is then inconceivable that any heir of Truelove could possibly defend the British royal family. Other reasons were present as well, though. The desire to embarrass George III and spite his will cannot have been adequate cause for Jehu Eyre to risk everything and engage in open defiance. He seems to have genuinely seen himself as the bearer of a great responsibility to the common people, who, while they couldn’t be trusted to entirely govern themselves, certainly shouldn’t be left at the mercy of the British government. He wanted Americans to have the final say in running their own lives. He believed in self-determination (though at that time he wouldn’t have called it that) and was opposed to taxation without representation. He was, at the end of it all, a liberal in the style of John Locke, and he had had enough of what he saw as British tyranny.
And so, when the First Continental Congress met in 1774, Jehu Eyre was immediately receptive. When that Congress authorized the creation of a Continental Army under George Washington in 1775, Jehu enlisted without question. Before long, he had become one of the General’s most trusted advisers. The Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 finalized the situation. With the Thirteen Colonies now fighting for their national life as the United States of America, Jehu threw himself completely into the Revolution.
The Eyre shipping yards in Kensington opened wide to accommodate the needs of the new Continental government. Eyre money financed a boom in American armaments, while Kensington pumped out ship after ship to buttress the fledgling (but vital) American Navy. By Christmas of 1776, Jehu Eyre and Philadelphia were indispensable to the Revolution, and it was in that hallowed winter that the scion of Truelove, the spiritual son of Edmund, would weather his finest hour and prove his greatness.
With 1776 rapidly drawing to a close and 1777 looking bleak, George Washington was in a bad way. The British had advanced on all fronts, taking New York and advancing on Philadelphia. American casualties had been high, and the Continental Army’s tour of duty was to expire in ten days. At that time, the United States would effectively be without a military force, and would be left with no recourse but surrender. To the most devout patriots, this was unacceptable. Jehu Eyre decided to do something about it.
Recognizing that the Americans needed a morale victory more than a tactical one, Jehu Eyre proposed a bold and dangerous idea: lead a raid across the Delaware River in the dead of the winter, when no one would expect it, and take the city of Trenton, New Jersey. The initial conviction of Washington’s cabinet was that Mr. Eyre was insane. Before long, however, the rest of General Washington’s advisers came over to Jehu’s side, fully understanding how vitally any American win was needed.
Thus, at Jehu Eyre’s suggestion, Washington himself climbed into a Kensington-made boat aside Eyre brothers Jehu, Manuel, and Benjamin, and rowed his way across the icy Delaware. The result was a brilliant American triumph, the capture of thousands of British soldiers, the retention of the Continental Army, and success in one of the most critical battles in the history of the world.
Had the Battle of Trenton not taken place, had Jehu Eyre not conceived the blessed idea in some wondrous corner of his mind on a frigid night in 1776, there would be no United States. Three hundred million Americans today owe this little-known man a greater debt than they can ever possibly imagine.
In his selfless manner, Jehu Eyre continued to fight, continued to give all he had. When the Continental Congress was verging on bankruptcy, Jehu forwarded the government a huge loan, without which it could not have continued to function. (It is a testament not only to his generosity but also to his gargantuan wealth that a nation’s government actually turned to him to bail itself out)
Yet heroism came, then as now, at a high cost. In October of 1777, British armies swooped into Philadelphia. One of their first targets was the Eyre Mansion, residence of that hated, utterly reviled noble (now American) family. Though the British were under the impression that the Eyres had fled in cowardice weeks before, the family in fact barely escaped. The great mansion had been converted, at the insistence of the Eyre family, into a hospital for wounded American soldiers. Lydia Eyre, a lady in every sense of the word, exchanged her ball gowns for a nurse’s apron. Her daughters donned the same attire and literally bloodied their hands in the service of that most sanctified of nations, the United States. It is a profound statement of egalitarianism that the Eyre daughters, the closest thing at the time to American princesses, pulled up their sleeves and worked with as much exertion as the lowliest seamstresses.
Soldiers were being moved out of the mansion at the British approach, but Lydia Eyre refused to flee until exactly the last moment. She would not hear of leaving the city until all of her home’s inhabitants had been safely evacuated. Her youngest children were under protection on the outskirts of Philadelphia (among them Jehu, Jr., at that time three years old), but her older daughters stood by her. At the end, they were exiting the back door of the mansion literally as British forces were entering the front.
Imperial forces stormed the house, looking on with amazement at the fine tapestries and furnishings. Art decorated the walls and jewels bedecked the rooms of the upper floors. Priceless chandeliers hung from the dining and reception rooms. Rapidly, in the course of about an hour, the Eyre Mansion was sacked, looted in the most brazen fashion possible, essentially robbed of everything that wasn’t nailed down. This having been accomplished, the commanding British officer ordered the gorgeous manor torched. Philadelphia itself was spared much physical damage, but in English eyes there could not be vengeance enough against the Eyres.
Lydia Eyre and her daughters, spirited away in a carriage from the chaos in the city, watched in horror as their elegant home blazed afire, the flames roaring into the air. The inferno illuminated the night sky, as if to signify to the whole world that something beautiful was being destroyed.
Eyre losses in the Revolution were staggering, even by today’s standards. Their principal residence obliterated, their shipyards devastated (the British knew where so many American vessels were coming from, and laid Kensington to waste first thing), their coffers lightened by grants to the Continental Congress, the Eyres suffered astoundingly. The amount of money the family sacrificed, adjusted to today’s standards, comes to two billion dollars. Only the fact that they entered the war with such Herculean reserves to begin with saved them from utter ruin. Some of the Colonies’ richest families saw their fortunes take a dramatic turn for the worst as the conflict dragged on. Many were wiped from the face of the Earth or reduced to poverty. The Eyres, though their difficulties were great, emerged from the Revolution intact.
The ultimate price paid, however, could not be measured in gold; Jehu Eyre died in 1781, a victim of the malaria that claimed so many American lives. American victory came mere months after his demise, and his family, intensely proud of what he had done, lived vicariously for him in the Republic that he had given so much to defend.
Jehu Eyre, Jr., son of the great patriot and hero, had his formative years fired by the turmoil of the Revolution. A year old when fighting broke out, two when independence was declared, and three during the occupation of Philadelphia, his earliest memory was of the traumatic evacuation from the Eyre Mansion. His father’s death in 1781 profoundly affected the young boy, and it was years before he fully recovered. In addition to the emotional shock of losing a beloved parent, he was left, at the age of seven, inheritor of one of the largest fortunes in the world. His mother, a wise custodian, guided him through a childhood that was, the Revolution aside, quite idyllic. He enjoyed all of the comforts that money could provide and was reared in a household of doting nannies, tutors, and older sisters. Despite the feminine slant of his upbringing, he nonetheless matured into a robust and strapping youth. Jehu, Jr.’s early manhood happened to coincide happily with the emergence of the early American Republic and the full fruition of his father and grandfather’s insightful investments.
After the Revolution, the Kensington shipyards were rapidly rebuilt, as was the Eyre Mansion. By 1792, when Jehu was eighteen years old, the Eyre facilities in Philadelphia were completely restored. Two years later, in 1794, Kensington was booming as never before. Under a liberal constitutional form of government that stressed freedom of thought as well as of enterprise, American markets flourished. The Northeast was beginning to industrialize, and demand from overseas for American products was higher than it had ever been. The result was an unprecedented increase in trans-Atlantic commerce, and, consequently, the further augmentation of an already mountainous Eyre fortune. In George Eyre’s day, Kensington had begun tentative shipments of raw materials to England. Jehu Eyre, Sr.’s tenure was marked by the destruction of such oceanic trade. Under Jehu Eyre, Jr.’s stewardship, however, Eyre shipyards sent and received goods to and from India, the East Indies, Africa, South America, Britain, and all parts of Europe. What had started as a flow of money between a colony and a mother country had turned into an international operation that was soon the crown jewel of the Eyre apparatus. In the early years of the 19th Century, with Philadelphia’s sway felt throughout all corners of the world, with literally limitless sources at their disposal, with political power that would be unheard of today, the Eyre family had truly become an empire.
In 1818, when Jehu, Jr.’s daughter Anne was born, the Eyres were unchallenged as the dominant family in the United States. They financed virtually the entire city of Philadelphia, had founded Delaware City, Delaware, and owned so much land in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware that, had their territories between combined in one area, they literally could have created their own state. The Northeast today is dotted with this legacy, housing literally dozens of former Eyre manors and estates.
The Eyre Empire can be said to have reached its height under Anne Eyre, Jehu, Jr.’s daughter. Anne was an anomaly, both in American history and in the history of the world. A woman, she was regarded by the laws of her own country as intellectually inferior to the male species, as unworthy of holding property in her own right, as incapable of even casting a vote in a presidential election (that right would not be granted until many years after Anne was dead). Nevertheless, Jehu, Jr. seemed to favor her, and certainly trusted her above her many (male) siblings. While this caused deep resentment within the family and a scandal in high society, Jehu’s will had been clear: on his death, his daughter Anne was to take control of the Eyre family assets.
Anne, a fiercely independent girl who giddily flaunted her disregard of society’s expectations, was delighted with the decision. The woman and her father seemed to understand each other completely. Even Anne’s mother, Martha Eyre, was a bit confused by the relationship and on Anne’s outlook, but she trusted her husband’s judgement. Sparking furious gossip among Philadelphia’s elites, Anne did not marry until the age of thirty.
Though it was never confirmed then (and it would be impossible to do so now), Anne was rumored to have deliberately delayed betrothal, taking the opportunity of her first three decades to, as it were, sow her oats. Jehu, Jr.’s daughter was known for her celebrated sexuality and her casual use and disposal of powerful lovers from the highest echelons of the American aristocracy. Fully committed to enjoying her youth, Anne conducted herself with a frivolity and decadence that scandalized her entire class. To her credit, though, she took her work quite as seriously, if not more so, as her play.
When she at last did settle down in 1848, she devoted herself to her husband. Their marriage was a grossly morganatic one, and seems to have been pursued out of genuine love. Jehu approved, while his peers were appalled. Anne, of course, was blissfully uncaring. The lucky man of her choice was Amos Heller, a moderately wealthy merchant and farmer whose grandfather had immigrated from the Palatinate in 1738. The Hellers were a fairly prominent family in America, having founded Hellertown, Pennsylvania, and then taken up residence in the huge Delay Estate. They were nothing, however, compared to the Eyres (no one was), and, as Amos Heller’s critics frequently pointed out, they had no significant noble or royal lineage in Europe. These decriers were also fond of reminding Jehu, Jr. and anyone else who would listen that one of Amos’s ancestors had been burned at the stake in Holland. This, certainly, disqualified him.
To be fair, the list of people who would have been perfectly acceptable suitors for Anne Eyre was a short one. The Eyre family’s wealth alone precluded the vast majority of young men seeking Anne’s hand, and the Eyres’ royal ancestry further narrowed the field. Had her family followed all of the arcane societal rules regarding Miss Eyre’s future husband, only a handful of men nationwide would have qualified. It was not a prospect that she found appealing, and, as always, she did as she pleased.
Anne was wed, and she then became Anne Eyre Heller. Because she was the heiress to her father’s hulking financial estate, her decision to drop the last name "Eyre" was deeply controversial. What had been known as the Eyre Dynasty since 1066 was suddenly to be personified in a minor German surname. Honestly, where was the panache in the "Heller Dynasty?" It was never referred to as such, assuming instead the name "Eyre/Heller Dynasty" or simply "Eyre Empire," as always before.
Anne, like her father, was a business genius who wisely managed the hegemon that she inherited. She would be the leader to attain the apex of her family’s might, which apex her son would sustain until the early part of the 20th Century. It is worth noting that Anne Eyre Heller, the only woman to preside over her family in its 1,100 year history, is also considered one of its ablest administrators.
Franklin Pierce Heller, born in 1848 (the year that his parents married, which certainly raised some eyebrows), was groomed by his mother to maintain the glory that she and her ancestors had procured. Franklin’s legendary frugality became his trademark early on in life, and a popular joke circulating Philadelphia in the 1870’s held that, "Only in America could a Swede who once ruled England marry a German and give birth to a Pole."
Franklin was a stern, some might say dour, figure, who possessed all the professional precision of his mother without any of her gaiety or flamboyance. He married Gertrude Vanderslice, heiress of the Vanderslice law dynasty, in 1876, and their son Leroy was born in 1877. Franklin had no qualm in expending his money, but he did so strategically, and from the outset was dismayed by his son and heir’s taste for the outrageous and grandiose.
Leroy was one of those maddening historical figures, a playboy born to wealth who, though intelligent, had very little work ethic and not the patience to cultivate the talents that he actually had been blessed with. For a family approaching the 20th Century, his accession would be a disaster.
Great as the Eyre family had been, great as the Hellers were, the Dynasty had passed its intellectual prime. It was a clearly a giant on the world stage, but its influence was backed now by the sheer power of its money, not by the thoughtful eloquence of self-sacrificing warriors like Jehu Eyre. Franklin Pierce Heller lived and breathed in the 1880’s but seemed to think as if he were in the 1780’s. The growing labor movement within the United States appalled him, as did the accession of progressive politicians like Grover Cleveland. Frightened by the power of the people that he saw as threatening to envelop him, Franklin retreated into reaction and authoritarianism. He refused to negotiate with the unions that were stubbornly forming in his factories, and on more than one occasion had police fire bullets at unruly workers.
Leroy personified all of his father’s political qualities but made them worse. Eventually, Franklin’s violent conservatism, combined with Leroy’s apathy and arrogance, would spell doom for the Eyre/Heller Dynasty.
Disastrous, even tragic a development though this was, all empires must eventually come to an end, and the empire of the Eyres was no exception. The horror of the collapse, the terrible anguish that it caused in so many thousands of lives, is magnified by the awful fact that it very likely could have been prevented. To the end of his life, Franklin Pierce Heller would be tortured by memories of warning signs that he should have heeded, cues that he should have taken and that could have saved his family.
During Leroy’s entire adolescence, his every action showed that he was at best a grossly selfish man whose bloated self interest would not permit him to look after the welfare of an entire dynasty, and at worst a ruthless tyrant whose near-sadistic emotional cruelty would lead him to deliberately do harm to his own relations. In the end, a dark national catastrophe would coincide with Leroy’s maladministration to bring a weakened Heller family to its knees and eventually into the gutter at a time when it most needed solidarity and strength.
Certainly, the signals in Leroy’s childhood that should have foretold the kind of leader he would become were not lacking. A mischievous child whose initially playful antics quickly progressed into highly abusive behavior, Leroy was compelled to control every situation imaginable, and could be terribly nasty when denied his way.
At twelve, he tripped a servant off the South Balcony of the Grange Estate and into a vat of tar. At fourteen, he pushed a teacher who had dared to scold him before his classmates into a bucket of water. The instructor was too terrified of Leroy’s powerful father to complain of the incident, but Franklin learned of it anyway and was furious.
Leroy’s father and predecessor did everything he could think of to bring his unruly son into line, but it was to no avail. He lectured Leroy until he could barely talk, doled out outrageously-lengthy punishments (commensurate with Leroy’s outrageous stunts), and even on occasion threatened physical violence. None of it worked. Leroy ignored his father’s words, flagrantly disobeyed the restrictions put in place as consequences for his behavior, and on the rare times that he was beaten often hit back.
Leroy was passionate about one thing in life, and that was his ability to do whatever he wanted whenever he pleased. He was a womanizer from very early on, and by the time he reached maturity in 1895 was already an experienced sexual bon vivant. He sampled young women as a connoisseur might sample fine wines, and discarded them just as easily when he was done. His father, exhausted very early in Leroy’s life with his manner, consigned him to long stays with his Ashhurst cousins at the Grange Estate in Haverford. Away from Philadelphia and from his father’s eye, Leroy engaged in lewd adventures all the more easily, enjoying an exceptionally raunchy existence for the first eighteen years of his life.
Upon completion of his secondary studies, Franklin urged him to attend a university, but Leroy spurned the idea, reasoning (incorrectly) that he would never have to work and that any additional education would be superfluous. It thus came as a surprise to some when the noncommittal Leroy enlisted, at the age of twenty-one, in the United States military.
Next month's intallment will be "Leroy's Folly: The Tragedy of the Eyres"