Saturday, February 13, 2010

Culzean Castle and American Aristocracy

Around the beginning of the 20th Century, as the influx of immigrants, particularly from Eastern European counties, was reaching its apex, native-born Americans seemed to have had need to distinguish themselves above the immigrants. This behavior was more evident in the eastern states.

Organizations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution, Colonial Dames, Sons of the American Revolution, Mayflower Society, etc. were founded at this time. While some people were proving lineage to join such societies, others were looking to find a connection to European royalty.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of those who came to America in the early days of European colonization of North America were common people seeking a chance for a better life. A whole industry of finding one's "family crest" emerged to take advantage of this intense interest in finding a connection to important families of Europe in the 1600 and early 1700s. This desire still exists today. I typed my maiden name and the words "family crest' and voila a page with my "family crest" appeared. However, none of the facts relate to my father's family.

Most Americans who can trace their family to the pre-Revolutionary days of the United States have no connection to the aristocracy of Europe. However, there are a few Americans who have become titled. One of the most recent is Queen Noor of Jordan and Grace Kelly of Monaco. A colonial American who inherited both property and title was Archibald Kennedy. He married Arent Philipse Schuyler's granddaughter, Catherine Schuyler. Archibald inherited his cousin's estate in Scotland and became the 11th Earl of Cassilis and owner of Culzean Castle in Scotland.

The castle is pronounced culain. It was designed by the Scottish architect, Robert Adam, and was completed in 1792 as the home of the 10th Earl of Cassillis who died that year. The title then passed to Archibald Kennedy of New York who was a Captain in the Royal Navy. His townhouse in New York, No.1 Broadway, was requisitioned by George Washington after the War of Independence.

The castle remained in the family until 1945 when the 5th Marquess gave it to the National Trust of Scotland with the stipulation that an apartment in the castle should be given to General Eisenhower for his lifetime to show Scotland's gratitude for his role as Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during the Second World War. Today visitors can see an exhibition on the life of General Eisenhower as well as rent the suite for the night.

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