Sir John Roper Parkington and Montenegro

For reasons that still remain unclear, John Roper Parkington was the Consul General for Montenegro in the United Kingdom.  Montenegro spent the best part of a decade at war from the First and Second Balkan Wars of 1912-1913,  through World War 1 when it was at war with the Central Powers [Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire], and then finally a civil war about whether to join Serbia. It became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918. JRP was on the side of the Montenegrins favouring independence.

Claridge’s – Lobby

He did issue press releases, from time to time, regarding the situation in Montenegro. The following three are from the Tablet. At the time of all three, the Roper Parkingtons were living at Claridge’s.

AUSTRIANS AS BABY-KILLERS.

Sir J. Roper Parkington, Consul General for Montenegro, has received the following official telegram from Cetinje :

The Austrians have again been busy with wanton attacks on undefended towns. About half-past four on Thursday an aeroplane passed over Cattaro, and seven bombs were thrown on the market place at Podgoritza, killing or wounding seventy-two women and children. One poor woman gave birth to a dead child before she could be removed to hospital.

Podgoritza

These repeated attacks on women and children of entirely unfortified towns cause the most intense anger and indignation throughout Montenegro, as no military purpose whatever is served. The ravages of typhus and typhoid are spreading greatly, aggravated by some seventeen thousand refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina recently driven across our borders by the Austrian troops.  [The above text was found on p.15, 17th April 1915 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .]

 

SERBIAN TERROR IN MONTENEGRO.

Cetinje, Montenegro

Sir Roper Parkington, Consul General for Montenegro, has received the following official communique :— Montenegrin men and women, who refuse to testify their loyalty to the King of Serbia and to admit the justice of the seizure and annexation-of their country, are daily arrested and forced into Serbian prisons, notably at Podgoritza, Cettigne, Nikchitch and Kolachine. General Vechovitch, formerly Montenegrin War Minister, who led the guerilla warfare against Austria, has been arrested and taken before a tribunal at Belgrade accused of high treason. Martial law has been proclaimed throughout the country, and all those who decline to recognize the Serbian authority are condemned to death. The stores of the American mission have been burnt ; and reports from other Red Cross missions confirm the carnage and misery which reign supreme throughout this unfortunate country. It is reported in Montenegro that the British Government has addressed a serious remonstrance to the Serbian authorities. [The above text was found on p.10, 25th September 1920 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .]

THE SITUATION IN MONTENEGRO.—Sir Roper Parkington, Consul General for Montenegro, has received the following official communiqué :—The news that the ” Montenegrin Army ” is being armed in Podgoritza, under the command of General Mitar Martinovitch, with the intention of attacking Albania is utterly false, because in Montenegro there is no army except the insurgents who are in the mountains, and who have been struggling against the terroristic Serbian army of occupation.

General Mitar Martinovitch (1870 -1954)

General Mitar Martinovitch is a Montenegrin renegade, in pay of the Serbians. The above news is intentionally circulated by the Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs with the intention of impairing the friendship and destroying a proposed agreement between the Montenegrins and Albanians, for which both sides have lately been feeling the necessity. The Serbians want to turn the dissatisfaction which is felt, especially in Rome, against their expedition in Albania, onto the Montenegrin people, whom they wish to represent as the instigators of these attacks. [The above text was found on p.29, 16th October 1920 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .]

 

Col. Sir John Roper Parkington. 1843 – 1924.

Medal worn by a Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion d’honneur.

The enigma that is Col. Sir John Roper Parkington. 1843 – 1924. [Hon. Colonel of the 7th V.B. Essex Regiment, late Major in the Royal Surrey Militia, a Lieutenant for the City of London, J.P. and D.L. for the County of London, and Vice-President of the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce, Officier d’Academie Francaise, and of the Royal Orders of Serbia, Montenegro, and the Red Cross of Spain and a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour.]. This is the first of a series of posts to see if we can uncover who he really was.

John Roper Parkington has been a source of fascination for some time. We have some family stories, though how true they are remains to be seen. But up until now, you run up against a brick wall again and again. One side of the family says the following “ Google him and up comes the Black Hand over Serbia. Why he was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to Monte Negro is an absolute mystery to me and he was obviously a spy. How much do you know about him? All I know about him from my father is that he was totally bilingual English / French and his Who’s Who entry says educated privately in England and France. He was the absolutely archetype ariviste Victorian, obviously illegitimate, and the first thing we know is that he blew into London as a rich young man of 30 odd. Where he had been previously is unknown. He got the agency for various wine houses particularly champagne Deutz & Gelderman and the Lalliers who owned it was our grandmother’s almost sole topic of conversation, and they were always referred to as cousins. I would not be surprised to find out they actually were.”

Major John Roper Parkington.

“I had no idea that Lady JRP came from Chiswick. I have (I think) his birth certificate somewhere – have you got their marriage certificate? I knew her father was a stockbroker and I wonder where they met and whether he was a rich young man already when they got married. The source of his fortune intrigues me as to me he is the archetypal arriviste Victorian blown in from nowhere. I have thought of writing a book about the multitude of arrivistes like him who made fortunes and then vanished into the dustbin of history.  An idea for you? Without too blatant a name drop, I was chatting to Simon Schama yesterday evening after a talk he had given, and he was saying that the 19th century was becoming a totally neglected period for historians. Perhaps a way of reversing that would be through the study of the achievements of now forgotten plutocratsMy father pointed out the enormous house JRP had lived in in Addison Road before WW1 when he moved into Claridge’s full time as he couldn’t get the staff. He also told me of the agony as a child of having to sit through enormous multi-course Sunday lunches there.”

Claridges lobby

We had a slightly different version of the Claridge’s story; that he and a manservant moved into Claridge’s once he had become a widower. Sadly not true, he died a year before Lady RP. But the wartime stay has some mileage. There are also family stories of them being fleeced by Montenegrin servants at the end, which may or may not be true.

So let’s see what is down on paper. The first is from the Catholic Who’s Who, and the second from his obituary in the Tablet.

Parkington, Colonel Sir John Roper, J.P, and D.L. for the County of London from 1898, and one of H.M.’s Lieutenant’s for the City from 1895; Hon. Colonel of the 4th V.B. Essex Regiment; late Major 3rd Batt. East Surrey Regiment 1891-98 — born 1845, son of John Weldon Parkington; was Ruling Councillor of Primrose League; Member of several City Companies, and of the London Chamber of Commerce; Fellow of the Royal Colonial Institute, and of the Royal Geographical Society; is a convert to the Church; knighted 1902; married (1873) Marie, dau. of A. Sims Sylvester. [From THE CATHOLIC WHO’S WHO & YEAR-BOOK 1908 Edited by Sir F.C. BURNAND ,LONDON. BURNS & OATES, ORCHARD STREET, W.]

COL SIR ROPER PARKINGTON, J.P.; D.L..  We regret to record the death of Colonel Sir John Roper Parkington, who passed away on Monday night at his residence, Broadwater Lodge, Wimbledon, in his eighty-first year. He had been ill since the previous Wednesday. Sir Roper Parkington was a convert to the Church, and had been a Catholic for many years. He was the son of John Weldon Parkington, and received his education at private schools in England and France. For a long period he was Consul-General for Montenegro, and he took an active part in aiding the work of the Montenegrin Red Cross. Among many offices and distinctions held by him, he was Hon. Colonel of the 7th V.B. Essex Regiment, late Major in the Royal Surrey Militia, a Lieutenant for the City of London, J.P. and D.L. for the County of London, and Vice-President of the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce. Sir Roper was an Officier d’Academie Francaise, and of the Royal Orders of Serbia, Montenegro, and the Red Cross of Spain and a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. He founded, in 1896, the Anglo-French Association, l’Entente Cordiale. A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Colonial Institute, he was also Past-Master of several City Companies. Sir Roper Parkington was a devoted and generous Catholic, and his death will be widely regretted.

Sacred Heart, Wimbledon

A requiem Mass was celebrated on Thursday at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Wimbledon, in the presence of a large number of mourners, and the interment followed at Mortlake Cemetery.—R.I.P The above text was found on p.19, 19th January 1924 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

So far, so good. On paper he appears to be one of the Catholic great and good, but when you start to look things unravel quite fast, or hit that brick wall. He “was educated at private schools in England and France”.  This just doesn’t ring quite true. But we’ll come back to this in another post.

The Marylebone Fair – December 1916

Queen Amelie of Portugal was present on Wednesday and formally opened the Marylebone Fair at Claridge’s Hotel, Brook Street, which this year devotes its energies to the aid of the Church of St. Charles, Ogle Street. There was a brilliant gathering assembled on the occasion. Sir Roper Parkington presided, and in his opening remarks said he wished in the name of the committee to express his high delight at such a distinguished and large gathering. He thought the committee were to be congratulated on having obtained the kind assistance of Her Majesty Queen Amelie. ” We all desire to express,” he said, ” in no measured terms our sincere and grateful thanks to Her Majesty, and offer her a most hearty welcome. Her Majesty, like all the members of our own Royal Family, is always willing to aid the cause of charity, no matter at what inconvenience to herself.” Sir Roper referred to Queen Amelie’s recent visit to Southend, and to King Manoel’s visits to Liverpool and Leeds, and said, ” These gracious acts deserve the gratitude of the English nation, more especially in these anxious and troublous times.”

St Charles Ogle Street

Speaking of St. Charles’ Church, he said :—” It is undoubtedly one of the poorest, as well as one of the most deserving churches in London. It was built by a student of the English College in Lisbon, and most of the money was collected in Portugal fifty-five years ago. Some of the statues in the church are by Portuguese artists. Unfortunately, this church is now in difficulties owing to several reasons, among which are the departure for the war of the many foreigners in North Soho who used the church and contributed largely to its upkeep ; the number of factories and shops replacing houses, causing people to live away from their work, and be no longer able to use the church; and the gradual and constant increase of the Jewish element, which is driving out the Christians from the neighbourhood of the church. St. Charles’ Church must, however, continue to exist, for it serves, and has served for the past fifty years without any financial assistance, the Middlesex, University, and Orthopedic Hospitals, all of which now accommodate many sick soldiers requiring the comforts of religion. The income of the church does not even cover current expenses. Then there is the interest on a mortgage of £1,000, and the interest on a loan of £500. The restoration of the outside of the church owing to the serious decay of the stonework will cost at least £500, and it is a work now absolutely necessary.” After setting forward- thus clearly the needs of the church, Sir Roper said he could not sit down without voicing the feeling of gratitude of Father O’Connor to those distinguished persons whose names were on the programme for so kindly associating themselves with the Fair. Their help and support was much appreciated.

Queen Amelie of Portugal

Queen Amelie then declared the Fair open, and wished it every success. After being presented with a number of purses towards the object of the Fair, and listening to a few words of special thanks from Father O’Connor, Her Majesty proceeded to inspect the stalls. The Fair was opened on Thursday by Lady Roper Parkington, Mr. Ernest Oldmeadow presiding.

The above text was found on p.26,16th December 1916 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .