The scandalous Jewish ancestors on Queen Camilla’s family tree

The daughter of the King's wife has Jewish links through her son-in-law - and his ancestors had a turbulent history


She blended in perfectly when she linked hands with residents of a Jewish Care home to gleefully dance along to the Hava Nagila last year.

Now there’s a possible explanation for Queen Camilla’s enthusiasm that day: there are Jewish forebears in her extended family tree.

Her grandchildren, Eliza and twins Louis and Gus — both pages of honour for King Charles at the coronation — have notable, if not entirely kosher, Jewish ancestors.

Camilla’s daughter Laura is married to model-turned-chartered accountant Harry Lopes. The Lopes family (also spelt Lopez) are of Sephardi descent and feature in Debrett’s, the guide to British aristocracy. Among Harry’s ancestors is Judah Menasseh Lopes, one of the first Jewish capitalists in England.

He came to prominence — and some notoriety — during the reign of King Charles II when he lent money to the Duke of Buckingham, a powerful courtier and the king’s chief minister, who had provided valuable deeds as collateral.

When the deeds mysteriously disappeared, uproar ensued before a scrivener (a professional scribe) came forward and confessed that Lopes had hidden the documents with him.

Lopes’ reputation was tarnished further when rumours circulated that some of his clients’ health had rapidly declined after they had taken out life annuities with him.

More infamy for the Lopes family followed during the reign of Queen Anne when a messenger rode down the monarch’s highway, shouting, “Queen Anne is dead!”

In the ensuing pandemonium, stock prices collapsed and the Menasseh Lopes of the day snapped them up, later reselling them at a handsome profit.

Many thought Lopes was behind the hoax, but this was never proven and he was able to re-establish his good name in the City of London.

By the reign of King George III, the family had settled in Clapham and the Georgian-era Manasseh Lopes (whose sister Ester was Harry Lopes’ great-great-great-great grandmother), the Jamaican-born son of a plantation owner, had married into a non-Jewish family.

When his father died, leaving him a considerable fortune, Lopes bought the Heywood estates in Maristow and land around Plymouth, becoming one of the largest landowners in Devon.

He also invested in the East India Company, which dominated global trade at the time and was heavily involved in the slave trade.

A politician, he was at the centre of vote-rigging scandal of the day, and later became MP for New Romney in Kent. A supporter of prime minister William Pitt the Younger, he was rewarded with baronetcy and the royal licence to change his name to Manasseh Masseh Lopes.

At the general election of 1818, he found himself accused in a “cash for votes” controversy after his agent paid 40 voters to elect him. Found guilty of bribery, Lopes lost his seat, was fined £10,000 — a considerable sum at the time — and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.

After his release in 1820, he was again elected as an MP, this time for his own borough of Westbury in Wiltshire. He resigned the seat in 1829 to make way for Robert Peel, who later became prime minister. Lopes went on to serve as a magistrate for Devon and Wiltshire and as recorder for Westbury.

His only child had died at the age of 24 and so he left his fortune to his nephew, Ralph Franco, the son of his sister, Esther.

Ralph changed his surname to Lopes, succeeded Manasseh as second baronet. He also served as MP for of Westbury. Fortunately, by then, the Lopes name was no longer marred by sleaze.

Ralph Lopes’ older son, known as Lopes Massey Lopes, was appointed as civil lord of the admiralty by prime minister Benjamin Disraeli and his younger son, Henry, the first Baron Ludlow, sat as a judge in the Court of Appeal.

Henry’s son, the second Baron Ludlow, was also a well-respected judge.

Doreen Berger is a genealogist at the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain

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