WHO WAS LOLA?
Though it is impossible to prove without doubt that the Edward Gilbert who was a clerk in the Ordnance Office was Anton Kammell’s grandson, Edward George Antonio Gilbert, there is no other candidate, in all the archives accessible on the ancestry websites, who seems to fit. The coincidence that both he and his step-father (and the husband of his sister) had posts in the military civil service, and the remarkable musical life of his family, make the identification very attractive.
There is, though, another Edward Gilbert to consider. Of course, only one these Edwards can be Kammell’s grandson. If this second, even more elusive, Edward is Edward George Antonio, then everything which seems to support the case for the military clerk has to be dismissed as pure coincidence. Alternatively, if the Tower of London clerk is Kammell’s grandson, then everything that seems to support the case for the mysterious Ensign Gilbert has to be rejected.
The notorious dancer, mistress of Ludwig 1st of Bavaria and Franz Liszt, Lola Montez, was born Elizabeth Rosanna Gilbert in Cork, Ireland
Her real name was identical to the name of Anthony Kammell’s daughter in her first marriage.
Lola’s father was certainly an Edward Gilbert. This Edward Gilbert was an Ensign in the British Army, and, though the records of his military career survive, his actual origins have never been traced. There is no one in the ancestry records who could be he – apart, perhaps, from Edward George Antonio Kammell. Lola, who was a habitual liar, told people her father had been an illegitimate son of the aristocracy, but there is no evidence to support this at all.
Lola Montez’s biographer Bruce Seymour has never managed to identify Lola’s father despite his very intensive research. All his research documents are available on his website and I gratefully acknowledge his help in this investigation.
The only facts about Lola’s father that Bruce Seymour has established are that Edward Gilbert was given an ensign’s commission by the Duke of York without having to purchase it. This was unusual and indicates influential connections of some sort.
Lola’s mother was born Eliza Oliver. She was the illegitimate daughter of Charles Silver Oliver, former High Sheriff of Cork. She was only 15 in 1820 when she married Edward Gilbert, then with the 25th Regiment of Foot, having arrived in Ireland on peace-keeping duties in December 1818.
Lola, really Elizabeth Rosanna Gilbert, was born on 17th February 1821. Her father was soon on the move, and she was baptised in Liverpool on 16th February 1823. Her name is clearly given on the register as “Elizabeth Rosanna Gilbert”, precisely the same as the usual spelling of Kammell’s daughter.
After only three years of marriage Ensign Gilbert died in India, shortly after arriving there with his young wife and daughter.
Following her husband’s death his widow, who had already re-married, had to swear that she was the legal widow of Ensign Gilbert in order to be able to claim a pension. In fact her marriage had been reported in the newspapers, though there was no explanation of who Ensign Gilbert actually was.
The apparent impossibility of finding any trace of Edward George Antonio Gilbert after his baptism and the complete lack of any clues to the origin of Ensign Gilbert proves nothing, but it does leave the possibility open that they were the same person.
The only evidence of Ensign Gilbert’s age is his gravestone in India, which gives an age of 26, implying a year of birth of 1777. This is three years younger than Edward George Antonio Gilbert, who was born May 9th 1794. There are no army documents giving Ensign Gilbert’s age and it is perfectly possible that no-one knew his actual age at the time of his death, including his wife.
Eliza Oliver was only 15 when they married. Could he have pretended to be a few years younger than he was? The application for Anton Kammell’s wedding licence reduces the composer’s age by 11 years to lessen the contrast with Ann, who was only 17.
One other piece of evidence, though again suggestive rather than any kind of proof, is that Elizabeth Rosanna Kammell’s second husband, James Brown, had been a “clerk in the late Duke of York’s office”, according to her own death certificate.
Edward George Antonio would have been brought up, after the age of ten, by Elizabeth Rosanna and her second husband, James Brown. Prince Frederick, Duke of York, died in 1827 so it is reasonable to assume that James Brown was working for him when his step-son was a teenager. This was the period of the Napoleonic Wars, when the Duke was Commander in Chief of the army. Edward George Antonio would have been 21 at the time of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Could it be that the explanation of the mystery of how Ensign Gilbert was given a commission without having to purchase it was that the Duke of York arranged a commission for the stepson of one of his staff?
Ensign Gilbert is not recorded as having risen from the ranks. He is listed in the London Gazette for 19th July 1817 as “Edward Gilbert, Gent. To be Ensign, vice Pigott, deceased. Dated 3 July.” The appointment depended on a vacancy due to a death. This date is confirmed by the regimental Commissioning Book.
Edward George Antonio would have been 23.
Ensign Gilbert’s name first appears on the muster account of the 25th Regiment of Foot on 29th June 1818 at Hilsea Barrack, Company 4.
“From 31 December 1817 to 8 Jan 1818 he marched with the regiment 102 miles in 8 days from Weedon to Chatham. From 19 May to 26 May he marched with the regiment from Chatham to Hilsea.
“Ensign Gilbert sailed on the Borodino from Portsmouth to Coves on 25 December 1818 and joined the Battalion during that reporting period. Regt marched from Coves to Fermoy on 24-25 December 1818.”
After their daughter’s baptism Ensign Gilbert, Eliza and the two-year-old Elizabeth Rosanna sailed to India. His brief service in India was gruelling. There were occasions when he was absent without leave. Only seven months after the baptism Ensign Gilbert was dead.
The list if his property at his death shows him to have been interested in the arts. There were colours and pencils for drawing, a flute, and no less than ten volumes of “New British Theatre”, which is presumably the series of new plays edited by John Galt and published 1814-15. The “Essay on Physiognomy” is almost certainly Lavater’s essay which promoted the idea that facial characteristics were indicators of individual characters rather than generic types. Most editions were popular because of their illustrations.
The only book I can trace called “Rhyme and Reason” from before 1823 is a collection of humorous poetry, “Rhyme and Reason, Short and Original Pomes” by Philip Smyth published in London by Blacks and Parry in 1803.
There seem to be no further avenues that have not been explored by Lola’s biographer and by those interested in Anton Kammell. Nothing can be proved, but the coincidence of Lola’s real name and Elizabeth Rosanna Kammell, the coincidence of name and similarity of age of Edward, and the very extraordinary coincidence of the connections with the Duke of York means that the possibility remains that the composer Anton Kammell’s great-granddaughter was the one-time mistress of another composer, Franz Liszt.
Lola died in New York 17th January 1861. The name on her gravestone is “Mrs Eliza Gilbert”. She had no known children.