Coke-Smyth family history
Most families, I suspect, generate myths about their origins, often of doubtful truth. In that the Coke-Smyth's are no exception. The largest myth was that relating how we cam by such a strange hyphenated name. The story was that an erstwhile Lady Anne Coke married a Mr Smyth, considered probably to be Irish, and to preserve the distinction that her name gave, had the two brought together by deed poll for her children. The story continues that her father, an Earl of Leicester and descendant of the Stewart Lord Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke and Coke of Holkham, that prime mover in the agricultural revolution, was having trouble getting his son to marry. Should he not do so and have children, then Lady Anne's children would have inherited. However, the desperate Earl, finally giving up, married his preferred potential daughter-in-law himself, had an enormous progeny of children to the great disappointment of Lady Anne and her progeny.
Sadly, the tale is totally untrue. The Coke-Smyth's are descended from the Coke's of Trusley in Derbyshire, not the Coke's of Norfolk, and as far as my researches go, I can find no link between the two families. Of course, the Coke's of Trusley also had illustrious members like Sir John Coke, "the last Elizabethan" who succeeded Morton as Principal Secretary of State to Charles I in 1625, and his descendants include Lord Melbourne, after whom the Australian city is named and remembered for his association with the Great Reform Bill of 1832, his wife, Lady Caroline Lamb and close friendship with Queen Victoria. However, we are descended from Sir John's elder brother, Sir Francis Coke, whose progeny did not achieve the quite the same prominence. An interesting footnote is that neither the Norfolk or the Trusley Cokes have achieved a clear descent through the male line.
Coke and Smyth came together in 1807 with the marriage of Elizabeth Coke and Richard Smyth. A son, John Richard Coke Smyth was born in 1808 who was to become an artist whose Canadian sketches are amongst the most important for early Canada, who was commissioned by Queen Victoria for her Costume Ball. Although he never used the hyphen, which was adopted by his son Walter Saunders, Coke Smyth was clearly used as a surname.
Walter Saunders Coke-Smyth (1856-1934), my grandfather, was a bank manager for Barclays in north London and Weybridge, Surrey, whose marriage to Yorkshire born, Louisa Florence Batley, produced my father and his elder sisters, Doris and Enid. Doris, never known as anything but Dee, had been a solo violinist, married a Polish entrepreneur doctor, Herman Diamant, living in Mayfair and after his death and the demise of his enterprises, took over the mantle of care for the Saunders family of Gordon Saunders, managing partner of the estate agency, John D Wood . Enid married John Morgan with whom she emigrated to South Africa in the early sixties. John, known to all as Jack, was still running TOCH in Johannesburg in his 90ies. John Richard Coke-Smyth, my father, worked for the Bank of England from 17 to 60, followed by a secondary career working for the Northern Trust Bank of Chicago until his 70ies.