Wedding of the century

George Augustus Constantine Phipps, the 2nd Marquess of Normanby and previously the Earl of Mulgrave, was not a wealthy peer. When presented with an opportunity by the British prime minister Gladstone, he said that he would prefer an overseas appointment, attracted by the large salary given to colonial governors. Gladstone obliged, and in 1871 Normanby set sail for the Australian colonies where became the third governor of Queensland. The Mulgrave and Normanby rivers were named after him, and even Brisbane’s Normanby Hotel. But that’s not all he left behind. I told a version of this story live on West Bremer Radio.

Governor George Phipps, Marquess of Normanby

The Marquess’s fourth son was Lord Hervey Phipps who became his father’s aide-de-camp. In 1878 Lord Hervey Phipps is reported to have visited the Ipswich racecourse for a pigeon shooting match. This may actually have been an older brother Lord Henry Phipps. “Lord Henry was well known for his shooting prowess and won this competition with his Henri Martini rifle which he had won in a shooting competition in England,” a great-grandson wrote recently. There was a good attendance, but it was reported that the shooting was “not very brilliant”. The Cup was won by Lord Phipps grassing all his seven birds, which was well ahead of the colonials. Frederick Orme Francis Darvall was a distant third. He was Queensland’s Chief Inspector of Distilleries and the second cousin of poet Banjo Patterson.

That same year the governor’s third son twenty-seven-year-old Lord Henry George Russell Phipps was certainly a regular visitor to Ipswich. In November 1878 at Ipswich’s St Paul’s Church, he married twenty-one-year-old Miss Norma Caroline Georgina Leith-Hay. The new Lady Phipps was born in Ipswich, the daughter of a police magistrate, and the granddaughter of Colonel Gray who the first police magistrate of Ipswich and a veteran of the Battle of Waterloo. Her younger brother Charles, also born in Ipswich, was the future Laird of Leith Hall in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

Brothers Lord Harvey Phipps (left) and Lord Henry Phipps.

The wedding ceremony from the social standing of the parties excited more than the usual interest and was witnessed by a huge concourse at St Paul’s Church. The bride had six bridesmaids, and there was scarcely standing room inside where the elite of the community being fully represented. Crowds also filled the surrounding streets, jostling for a glimpse of the Marquess, Lords, Ladies, and Lairds present. The groom’s best man was the notable George Evans Labertouche who had travelled up from Sydney for the event. However, thirteen years later when he was in charge of the Imperial Pensions Department in Sydney, Labertouche would plead guilty to stealing £15,000 and be sentenced to five years imprisonment.

Lord and Lady Henry Phipps

After the wedding, Lord Henry Phipps and his bride travelled to their new home at Beaudesert on the Logan River. Once there, Henry became a very popular leader of the community, including being a founding member of the Logan and Albert Jockey Club and the Logan and Albert Gun Club, both of which continue today albeit under different names.  

In 1905, Lord Henry Phipps died when sitting in the Brisbane Botanic Gardens. He had suffered for a considerable time from consumption of the throat which is chronic inflammation of the larynx. He was reported to have been survived by his wife and six children living in Beaudesert.

Today the 5th Marquess of Normanby is Constantine Phipps who lives in lives in London and at the seventeenth century Mulgrave Castle in Yorkshire, England.

Mulgrave Castle, Yorkshire

If something awful happens to his four English heirs in the line of succession – or none of them have any male heirs of their own, which is always entirely possible – then the title of Marquess of Normanby will pass to the unlikely Queensland city of Ipswich. That’s because the next seven in line to inherit the title are the descendants on the male line of Lord Henry Phipps of Beaudesert and his Ipswich wife Norma.

The Phipps boys in the line of succession come from families of tradies, having worked as carpenters and electricians and living in Brisbane suburbs like Chermside, Bracken Ridge, Acacia Ridge, and Morningside. It’s an interesting possible succession that has fascinated newspapers for over a century.

Newspaper fascination with the possible peerage

Douglas, Paul, Russell, David, Anthony, Paul, and John are in line to one day become Marquess of Normanby and inherit a magnificent seventeenth century castle in Yorkshire. That would be another incredible piece to the story that began with the wedding of the century in Queensland’s Ipswich almost one hundred and fifty years ago.

This article was updated 16 Feb 2021 thanks to the assistance of a great-grandson of Lord Henry Phipps.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A VERSION OF THIS STORY TOLD LIVE ON WEST BREMER RADIO.

Photo credits:
Mrs Henry Phipps and grandson 1907 – beau_family via Ancestry 2011 / accuracy of Ancestry being researched
George Phipps 2nd Marquess of Normanby – Wikipedia Commons
Lords Hervey and Henry Phipps from the family album – leith-hay.org
Lord and Lady Henry Phipps – gaylephipps18 via Ancestry 2019
Goathland Hunt Leaving Mulgrave Castle Near Whitby, 1 January 2016 – Whitby Photography
Plough to Peerage – Truth (Sydney) 31 December 1933, page 1

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