William Kirkpatrick is usually referred to as William Kirkpatrick of Malaga.
The Kirkpatricks are a Scottish lowland family with connections to many of the notable families of the area. Although never having a peerage, they were an ancient and important family. It was their loyalty to Robert the Bruce had led to their motto ‘I mak siccar’; this is a reference to the murder of one of Bruce’s rivals, the Red Comyn, a murder which was completed by a Kirkpatrick with the remark translated as ‘I’ll make sure’. Incidents like this may explain the reputation of the Kirkpatricks as violent, in the words of Blind Harry the Minstrel, the 15th century Scottish poet (who also mentions their connection to William Wallace).
Kirkpatrick that cruel was and keyne,
In Esdaill wod that yer he had been;
With Englishmen he could noch weill accord;
Of Torthorwald he baron was and lord;
Of kyne he was to Wallace modyr ner.
By the 18th century the family had expanded into a number of lines, although all had links to the ancient Closeburn family. Some lived in Ireland, others in England and some had gone further afield including William who became a merchant in Malaga. In the very early 18th century Robert Kirkpatrick, a younger son of the 4th Baronet had gone to Spain as a merchant, and it is likely a number of Kirkpatricks were already established there by the late 18th century. A lot of Scots were working as merchants in Europe and beyond during the 18th century.
William Kirkpatrick was born in Glasbury, Scotland 24th May 1764 and died in January 1837 in Malaga (although Blackwood’s refers to him as ‘the late’ in reporting the death of his daughter in 1824). His father was William Kirkpatrick of Conheath and Newton (1736-1787) who lived and died in the Dumfries area; he was Surveyor of Customs for the port of Dumfries. His mother was Mary Wilson of Kelton (1739-1785), Kirkcudbright and cousin of her husband. William was one of nineteen siblings, of whom fifteen survived. One was his brother Thomas (1766-1837), who also lived and traded in Malaga. Another was John (1760-1828), British Consul at Le Havre, and Vice Consul at Adra, Spain. William was a wine merchant, business man and American Consul at Malaga. William had converted to Roman Catholicism, which helped his success in attaining social status for himself and his family in Spain.
How William came to receive the appointment of American Consul is set out in a letter addressed to President Washington by George Cabot, United States Senator from Massachusetts:
Beverly, January 28, 1791.
Sir: Mr. William Kirkpatrick, a member of the house of Messieurs Grivegnée & Co., of Malaga, wishes to have the honor of serving the United States in the character of consul for that port. Should it be thought expedient to institute such an office, it may be found that Mr. Kirkpatrick’s situation, as well as talents and dispositions, peculiarly enable him to fill it with propriety. Permit me, therefore, sir, to request that, when the qualifications of candidates are under your examination, his also may be considered.
If any apology is necessary for this freedom, I hope it may not be deemed insufficient that, having been led by my profession to make frequent visits to Spain, among other intimacies I formed one with the principals of the commercial establishment to which Mr. Kirkpatrick belongs; that these have desired my testimony on this occasion, and that my experience of their integrity and their friendship to the people of this country constrains me to think well of a gentleman they recommend, and to confide in one for whose faithfulness they are willing to be responsible.
I am, with the most profound respect, sir, your most faithful and obedient servant,
He married his Liege-born wife, Dona Francesca ‘Fanny’ de Grivegnée (1769- 1822) the daughter of one of his trading associates. Her sister Catherine married the French diplomat, Matthieu de Lesseps and their son was Ferdinand, the engineer of the Suez Canal. William and Fanny had three surviving daughters – Marie Manuelita Elizabeth Kirkpatrick ( 1794-1879), Henriquetta Kirkpatrick (b.? -1824) and Carlotta Catalina Kirkpatrick (1796-1831).
William was a skilled and successful business man, besides being a wine merchant and American Consul he had a range of interests including cotton cultivation in Spain, trying to introduce its growth and production into the Malaga area where he had a cotton plantation. He also managed a sugar plantation at Marbella that belonged to his father-in-law and was still active in 1806.
His wife, Fanny, died in 1822 as the result of an accidental poisoning. In a brief death notice in Blackwood’s Magazine her death is described as being “from the fatal effects of arsenic, given by mistake for a dose of cream of tartar.”
William Kirkpatrick’s main claim to fame is that his grand-daughter was to become the Empress Eugenie. His daughter Maria Manuela married a Spanish grandee, Count de Montijo. Legend claims that William used his Closeburn ancestry to convince the King of Spain that his family had the nobility for such a marriage. Maria Manuela was a lively woman and may have been the inspiration for the novel Carmen by her friend Prosper Mérimée. A daughter of this marriage Eugénie de Montijo, Countess de Teba, became the Empress Eugenie. It has been suggested that Eugenie’s true father was actually a British diplomat, George William Frederick Villiers (1800-1870), later 4th Earl of Clarendon, who gained fame as British Foreign Secretary. Eugénie’s older sister, Maria Francisca de Sales Portocarrero y Kirkpatrick inherited her father’s titles and married Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart, the 15th Duke of Alba.
William’s younger daughter, Carlotta, married one of her Kirkpatrick cousins, Thomas James. His daughter Enriquetta, married the Count de Cabarrus, whose sister was the celebrated Madame Tallien.
In 1853 Washington Irving wrote of William Kirkpatrick , in a letter to Mrs. Pierre M. Irving
I believe I have told you that I knew the grandfather of the Empress–old Mr. Kirkpatrick, who had been American Consul at Malaga. I passed an evening at his house in 1827, near Adra, on the west of the Mediterranean. A week or two after I was at the house of his son-in-law, the Count Téba, at Granada—a gallant, intelligent gentleman, much cut up in the wars, having lost an eye and been maimed in a leg and hand. His wife, the daughter of Mr. Kirkpatrick, was absent, but he had a family of little girls, mere children, about him. The youngest of these must have been the present Empress. Several years afterwards, when I had recently taken up my abode in Madrid, I was invited to a grand ball at the house of the Countess Montijo, one of the leaders of the ton. On making my bow to her, I was surprised at being received by her with the warmth and eagerness of an old friend. She claimed me as the friend of her late husband, the Count Téba (subsequently Marquis Montijo), who, she said, had often spoken of me with the greatest regard. She took me into another room and showed me a miniature of the Count, such as I had known him with a black patch over one eye. She subsequently introduced me to the little girls I had known at Granada–now fashionable belles at Madrid.
After this I was frequently at her house, which was one of the gayest in the capital. The Countess and her daughters all spoke English. The eldest daughter was married, while I was in Madrid, to the Duke of Alva and Berwick, the lineal successor to the pretender to the British Crown. The other now sits on the throne of France.
Closeburn, which had been sold by the Kirkpatricks in the 18th century was re-purchased by one of the branches of the Spanish family in the late 20th century.
(William Kirkpatrick of Malaga is linked to my tree through my husband’s family. Linked names are Bryce, McLennan, Clark and Hogarth).
A recent book by Colin Carlin,William Kirkpatrick of Malaga Grimsay Press, 2011 deals with William Kirkpatrick and his circle in great and accurate detail.