Famous Du Canes
The Du Canes were French Protestants, or ‘Huguenots’, who had fled from their homeland to escape persecution. Numerous members of the Du Cane family have made significant contributions throughout history. The family’s estate details, transferred to the London Record Office at County Hall, Westminster Bridge on November 26, 1959, spanned an impressive 40 pages.
Richard Du Cane (1681 – 1744): Politician
Richard Du Cane (13 October 1681 – 3 October 1744) was a distinguished British businessman and politician, known for his prominent role in both the business and political spheres of his time. Born into the esteemed Du Cane family, with Huguenot descent, he was the son of Peter Du Cane, the elder, and Jane Booth, daughter of the renowned London merchant Richard Booth. Richard Du Cane’s family had a significant presence in Essex, where they were respected merchants and influential figures in politics.
On 17 August 1710, Richard Du Cane married Anne Lyde, daughter of Nehemiah Lyde of Coggeshall and Priscilla Reade, thereby adding considerable property to his wealth near Colchester.
Richard Du Cane had a notable career as a successful businessman in the City of London and served as a director of the prestigious Bank of England from 1710 to 1730. His astute business acumen and involvement in financial matters earned him recognition and respect within the financial community.
In addition to his business endeavours, Du Cane delved into the world of politics and was elected as a Whig Member of Parliament for Colchester (Essex) during the 1715 general election. During his term, he actively participated in parliamentary proceedings and voted in favour of important bills, such as the septennial bill and the repeal of the Occasional Conformity and Schism Acts.
Richard Du Cane’s contributions were not limited to business and politics alone. He held positions of responsibility as Governor of Christ’s Hospital and Guy’s Hospital, further exemplifying his commitment to public service and charitable causes.
From Burke’s Landed Gentry, we know that Peter Du Quesne was elected Alderman in 1666, and Richard Du Cane served as MP for Colchester from 1715 to 1722. Richard also held esteemed positions as Director of the Bank of England, Governor of Christ’s Hospital, and member of the Grand Committee of St Thomas’s and Guy’s Hospitals.
Throughout his life, Richard Du Cane garnered recognition not only for his achievements but also for his distinctive portrait, which remains a renowned artwork by the talented painter Ignaz Stern.
Peter Du Cane (1713 – 1803): High Sheriff
Peter Du Cane (22 April 1713 – 28 March 1803), a notable figure of the 18th century, was a prominent British merchant and businessman, hailing from a lineage connected to Jean Du Quesne, the elder, and being the son of Richard Du Cane, M.P. His entrepreneurial prowess enabled him to amass immense wealth through lucrative ventures in land, fund holdings, and marine insurance.
Throughout his illustrious career, Peter Du Cane held various esteemed positions, reflecting his influence and involvement in both business and public affairs. He served as the High Sheriff of Essex in 1744-5, demonstrating his commitment to civic duties. Additionally, Du Cane held directorships at the Bank of England and the East India Company, institutions of great significance during that era. His engagement in philanthropy was evident as he assumed the role of Vice-President of the London Infirmary, further contributing to the betterment of society.
In 1745, Peter Du Cane established his family residence at Braxted Park in Essex, becoming an integral part of the local community and assuming the lordship of the manor. His marital union with the wealthy heiress, Mary Norris, daughter of the esteemed businessman Henry Norris, added to his considerable wealth and social standing.
Several portraits of Peter Du Cane exist, attesting to his prominence and influence in society. Painted by Austrian artist Anton von Maron during his travels in Italy, one such portrait adorns the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Another captivating painting, known as the ‘Du Cane Triptych’ (1747) and created by Arthur Devis, depicts the Du Cane family amidst the scenic grounds of their Braxted Park residence, providing a glimpse into their affluent and accomplished lives.
Peter Du Cane of Braxted Park, Essex, held the title of High Sheriff in 1745 and served as Director of the Bank of England and the East India Company. He was also Vice-President of the London Infirmary. Another family member named Peter became High Sheriff of Essex in 1826 and MP for Steyning in 1830.
Sir Edmund Frederick Du Cane (1830–1903): A Prison Reformer
Sir Edmund Du Cane was a notable British military officer and prison reformer. He held the title of Knight Commander of the Bath (KCB) from 1877 and made significant contributions to the improvement of the prison system in the United Kingdom.
Sir Edmund Frederick Du Cane earned the esteemed title of Chevalier of the Imperial Order of the Rose of Brazil served as the Inspector-General of Military Prisons and was responsible for overseeing military prisons and their conditions. His work focused on implementing reforms to ensure better treatment and living conditions for inmates while emphasising the importance of discipline and hard labor.
One of Sir Edmund Du Cane’s notable achievements was the design of Wormwood Scrubs, a prison located in London. He aimed to create a penitentiary that would serve as an example of the principles of deterrence and punishment, ensuring that inmates faced tough conditions as part of their sentence “ensuring a system of ‘Hard Labour, Hard Fare, and Hard Board’ “.
Du Cane’s approach to prison reform emphasised the concept of “Hard Labour, Hard Fare, and Hard Board,” meaning prisoners would endure physically demanding work, receive basic and simple meals, and live in austere conditions to deter future criminal behaviour.
While his methods were considered strict, Sir Edmund Du Cane’s efforts played a role in shaping the development of the British prison system. His influence extended beyond his time, leaving a lasting impact on penal policy and correctional practices in the UK.
Major General Sir John Philip Du Cane, GCB (1865 – 1947): A Distinguished British Army Officer in World War I
Major General Sir John Philip Du Cane, a prominent figure in the British Army, left a lasting legacy for his high-ranking roles and significant contributions during World War I. Born on 5th May 1865, he embarked on a military career that would see him excel in various capacities.
Joining the Royal Artillery as a lieutenant in February 1884, Du Cane steadily climbed the ranks, becoming a captain on 4th March 1893 and a major on 14th February 1900. His service extended to the Second Boer War, where he served as a staff officer for lines of communication in South Africa in September 1900. His exceptional performance earned him mention in despatches and a brevet promotion to lieutenant colonel in June 1902.
Du Cane’s commitment to excellence was further evident during his time at the Staff College in Camberley, where he served as Deputy Assistant Adjutant General from 1905 to 1907. In 1911, he took on the role of Commander Royal Artillery for the 3rd Division, showcasing his strategic acumen and leadership.
During World War I, Du Cane assumed the role of a brigadier general on the General Staff of III Corps. In 1915, as Major General Royal Artillery, he became the Artillery Advisor at General Headquarters, playing a crucial role in the organisational groundwork for the significant expansion of BEF artillery throughout the war.
His expertise led him to the Ministry of Munitions in 1916 and later as General Officer Commanding XV Corps in the same year. Notably, he was involved in Operation Hush, a planned invasion on the Belgian coast. In April 1918, amidst the German “Georgette” Offensive and the need for French reinforcements, Du Cane was appointed liaison officer between Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig and the Allied Generalissimo General Foch.
After the war, Du Cane settled in London and held significant positions, including Master-General of the Ordnance in 1920 and General Officer Commanding-in-Chief for Western Command in 1923. He later assumed the role of General Officer Commanding-in-Chief for the British Army of the Rhine until 1927, when he became Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Malta. He also served as Aide-de-Camp General to the King from 1926 to 1930, retiring in 1931.
Major General Sir John Philip Du Cane’s distinguished military career left an indelible mark on the British Army, and his strategic brilliance and leadership continue to be revered by generations of military enthusiasts.
Peter Du Cane CBE (1901–1984): A Pioneer in Naval Engineering and High-Speed Boats
Peter Du Cane, a distinguished figure in both the Royal Navy and the engineering realm, left an indelible mark on the world of high-speed boats and naval architecture. Born in 1901, he hailed from a notable lineage, with his father Charles Henry Copely Du Cane, and grandfather Sir Charles Du Cane, holding significant positions in politics and colonial administration. At the young age of thirteen, Du Cane joined the Royal Navy, where he excelled and eventually rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander before his resignation in 1928.
Following his Navy career, Du Cane’s passion for aviation led him to the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, where he fearlessly flew Westland Wapitis in No. 601 Squadron RAF. However, his journey took a thrilling turn when he crossed paths with Glen Kidston, inviting him to the prestigious Vosper Shipyard. Despite Kidston’s unfortunate passing and changes in ownership, Du Cane’s expertise and dedication were recognized, and he was offered the esteemed position of Managing Director while retaining his role as Chief Designer.
At Vosper, Du Cane spearheaded groundbreaking projects, securing high-speed boat contracts that brought international acclaim. One of his most notable achievements was the construction of the legendary Blue Bird K4, expertly piloted by Malcolm Campbell, which claimed the world water speed record in 1939. For his remarkable contributions, he was honored with the prestigious Segrave Medal by the Royal Automobile Club.
Du Cane’s genius extended beyond boats, as he masterminded the high-speed torpedo boat MTB 102, playing a pivotal role in the D-Day landings with 350 vessels procured by the Admiralty. His passion for innovation was evident in the design of the super-yacht Brave Challenger, with a top speed of an astonishing 60 knots (110 km/h; 69 mph), and powerboats Tramontana and Tramontana II, with the former securing victory in the inaugural Cowes–Torquay race in 1961.
In the later stages of his illustrious career, Peter Du Cane’s expertise was sought after in the Fleet Air Arm, further cementing his reputation as a versatile and accomplished pioneer. In recognition of his outstanding contributions, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1964.
Peter Du Cane’s legacy lives on in the world of naval engineering and high-speed boats. His remarkable journey came to an end on 31 October 1984, at the age of 83, with a burial at sea, a fitting tribute to a man whose life was intricately tied to the vast waters he so passionately explored.
Sir John Du Cane
Additionally, Sir John Du Cane took on the prestigious position of Governor of Malta in 1927, while Commander Peter Du Cane (C.B.E., 1964; O.B.E., 1942) served as Managing Director of Vosper Ltd from 1931, overseeing the design of the Bluebird, which enabled Sir Malcolm Campbell to achieve the world water speed record.
- Alfred du Cane (1835–1882), English clergyman and cricketer
- Charles Du Cane (1825–1889), British politician
- Edmund Frederick Du Cane (1830–1903), British Army major general
- Ella Du Cane (1874–1943), British artist
- John Du Cane, American entrepreneur
- John Philip Du Cane (1865–1947), British Army general
- Peter Du Cane, the elder (1645–1714), Huguenot businessman in London
- Peter Du Cane Sr. (1713–1803), British merchant and businessman
- Peter Du Cane (boat designer) (1901–1984), British boat designer
- Richard Du Cane (1681–1744), British politician