Rags to Romance

cottage orne

A fanciful place for the future Lady Glengall.

Emily Jeffereys led a hard life as a child, living on the streets of Cahir, Ireland, with her brother Richard and mother, a mendicant who winnowed corn for her family’s survival. Overnight Emily went from rags to riches to romance when rescued by a wealthy aristocrat.

When she was about nine and her brother was twelve, they were kidnapped by evil relatives who wanted to cut them out of their inheritance. Richard stood in line to become the baron and lord of Cahir Castle. The relatives spirited them to France where the boy and girl were garrisoned in an attic and faced starvation.

Meanwhile, their mother continued to fend for herself, leading a hand-to-mouth existence. She, too, did not know that she was the mother of an heir to Cahir Castle and its vast lands.

The estate dates back to the 14th century when it was awarded to the Butler clan who played an important role throughout Ireland’s history. In 1543 the family was awarded the title of Baron Cahir and the estate continued to pass from father to son. In 1786, the ninth baron of Cahir, James Butler, died, leaving the title and estate to his brother Piers who died only two years later in Paris. The barony passed next to a distant cousin, James, who died shortly afterward in the East Indies, probably unaware that he had been elevated to the peerage. His son Richard, who was scratching on the streets of Cahir, stood next in line.

By chance Mrs. Jeffereys, perhaps from Blarney Castle, heard the story of the children who had lived on the streets and suddenly vanished. She was searching for a title and suitable match for her son, also named Richard. She engaged the help of her brother Lord FitzGibbon, the Chancellor of Ireland, who issued warrants for the children’s return. Mrs. Jeffereys brought Richard and Emily back to Ireland and raised and educated them as her own. When Emily became of age, 16, Mrs. Jeffereys oversaw her marriage to her son, Richard, 17, in London.

The Swiss Cottage

cottage orne

A rustic style inside and out.

Richard and Emily became leading members of London’s high society, and Richard rose quickly through the ranks of political power. When he was about 30 years of age, Richard had the Swiss Cottage constructed as a weekend getaway for him and his bride.

It’s known as a Cottage orné, a cottage designed in a rustic style suitable for a bucolic setting, which appealed to the Irish aristocracy. Marie-Antoinette popularized the fashion at the Royal Palace of Versailles where she ordered the construction of the Hameau de Trianon. There she could escape the annoyances of her office and relax by dressing up as a peasant.

John Nash, a prominent London architect, probably designed the Swiss Cottage. It features a thatched roof that undulates over the building, and every mullioned window has a different shape. The cottage has only four rooms: two bedrooms, a music room and one other. Most likely Emily and Richard, soon to become the Earl and Lady Glengall, used the cottage during the day, escorting guests via carriage for picnics, hunting and musical performances. The cottage is perfectly sited for such entertainment, sitting on a knoll overlooking the River Suir. Below lies a placid lake and rolling pastures studded with black-and-white spotted cows.

The Lezovi are circumnavigating Ireland, the ninth country in their tour of Europe.


About Cheryl Crockett Lezovich

Mom, first mate and writer aboard a 40' Manta catamaran, S/V Happy Times.
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