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Cyrus Griffin

 

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Cyrus Griffin was born in Farnham, Richmond County, Virginia in 1749 and died in Yorktown, Virginia on December 14th, 1810. He was educated in Britain, studying law at the University of Edinburgh and at the Temple in London. In Europe Griffin was admired for his fresh, untrammeled colonial spirit and his bright mind at the University of Edinburgh. It was at the University he became a close friend to Charles Stuart, Lord Linton, first son and heir of the Earl of Traquair. During the Christmas holiday, with Cyrus being so far from home, Charles invited him to his family's Traquair estate. 

 

 

Traquair Family Estate

 

 

John Stuart, the Earl of Traquair had three daughters, the Lady Christina, the Lady Mary and the Lady Louisa. The Lady Christina was strikingly beautiful and her personality so magnetic that the handsome Cyrus Griffin couldn't resist making a bold, but private, declaration to win the Lady's heart. Cyrus, during the holidays, secretly courted the Lady Christina as any talk of a matrimonial alliance between the two young lovers would not be tolerated by the Earl. Christina also knew that if her brother, Lord Linton, discovered the couple's courtship plans the Griffin Stuart friendship would end abruptly and Cyrus would be asked to leave Traquair. Neither this, nor the fact that the Lady Christina had been properly reserved for a nobleman of fame and fortune dissuaded the young Virginian from falling in love. 

 

The Earl of Traquair was a formal man, who was very attentive to the romantic and business customs of its ancestry. His family had a line of nobility stretching long before Columbus even discovered this new land everyone called America. He was determined to wed Lady Christina to man whose family would enhance Traquair's social standing in Great Britain. The idea of a colonial plebian, no matter how dignified his status was in Virginia, courting any of his daughters let alone the stunning Lady Christina was blasphemous in the European world of aristocracy.


These customs, obviously, didn't deter Cyrus as his ancestors had been aristocrats not only in Virginia but in Europe too! Maternally, Griffin was part noble and part Huguenot as well. His grandfather was John Bertrand, the Huguenot who sought safety in Virginia. His grandmother Bertrand, Charlotte Jolie, was the daughter of a French Nobleman. Mary Bertrand married the Huguenot's son Leroy Griffin, of Rappahannock County. They were the parents of Cyrus and his sister Elizabeth, who married the wealthy Colonel Richard Adams, of Richmond Hill. This Hill was later named Church Hill, after Patrick Henry made his famous speech in Old St. John's culminating in immortal disjunctive enthymeme, "Give me liberty or give me death."


Cryus' belief in his nobility emboldened a declaration of his intentions to the Stuart Family after he won Christina's heart. Griffin believed that the Stuart Family would accept his noble lineage once they learned how deeply in love the Lady Christina was with a noble blooded Virginian. He couldn't be, however, more wrong as the Earl was furious upon receiving the news. He immediately admonished his son, Lord Linton, for allowing this Virginia plebian to enter Traquair's sacred gates. The Earl reportedly raved and ranted at the rest of his family, for not uncovering this mischief sooner as such a scandal threatened the social standing of his noble house. Cyrus straight away escorted off the estate and never invited to Traquair again. The Earl forbade Christina from ever seeing Cyrus again and did everything in his power to end the love affair.

The courtship did not end and became real runaway months later through the forests, over hill and dale in a wild flight from Traquair on a spring day in 1770. In the escape, the Lady Christina fell and broke her ankle. Family legend has it that Cyrus, under-determined to let the event spoil their passionate plans, scooped her up and carried his lover through the countryside not to a doctor but to a parson. [2] The minister, despite their disheveled appearance and her swollen ankle, united them in the bonds of British matrimony on April 29th.


This act initially estranged the couple from Earl and Christina Anstruther Weir Stuart, her mother. News of the courtship and marriage of the Griffins finally reached America through the business contacts of Colonel Richard Adams. Griffin's brother-in-law, upon learning of the noble yet struggling marriage, wrote this letter to his London merchant:
  

Mr. Cyrus Griffin, who has been several years at Edinburgh studying the law, and we expect at this time is at the Temple, has lately been privately married to the oldest daughter of the Earl of Traquair; and we suppose his lordship may have some struggles to reconcile himself to such a connection with a plebian, we are apprehensive that Mr. Griffin, from this unexpected event, this extraordinary call, may have occasion for more money than he can readily command, especially as he has been so unfortunate as to have some bills remitted him, return protested. I shall, therefore, esteem it a great favor if you will present him the enclosed and give him any assistance in this way in your power. You will find him a solid, sensible young man well worthy of your notice and friendship.

The Griffin marriage blossomed and one year later Lady Christina bore her first child, John on April 20, 1771 at Traquair Castle.

 

In 1774, Cyrus Griffin and Lady Christina bore a second child, Mary. Historians are not sure how long the couple remained in London.   In this 1774 letter to Burgess Ball Griffin writes.  "My wife is now safely delivered of a stout girl and continues at present very hearty and shall be prepared for the first ship."   



 

Cyrus Griffin, 1774 autograph letter signed, to Burgess Ball concerning the birth of his daughter Mary and the family seeking passage from London to Virginia.  - copyright Klos Yavneh Academy Collection  


it is not known when the family set sail for Virginia.  We do know, thanks to the acquisition of a 1776 London Complaint by Burgess Ball, that the couple had financial difficulties in the year of Independence. According to this legal document, Cyrus Griffin defaulted on his January 6th, 1776 "First Bill of Exchange for one hundred pounds sterling/ for one Hundred and thirty pounds current money here received…" in London, England. The complaint was filed by wealthy Ball's agents on June 14, 1776 after the collector went to number 3 Fig Tree Court in the Temple where 


 

"Cyrus Griffin, Esq., on whom the same is Drawn, "lodges to which he had removed from Grange Court Cary Street where having knocked several times at the Door and no person appearing to give an answer I exhibited the said Bill to a man belonging to the Chambers a Story Lower and demanded from him if he could inform me where the said Cyrus Griffin was or where I might procure payment of said Bill…"


 

 


 

 

June 14th, 1776 default on a Bill of Exchange legal document in favor of Burgess Ball on Cyrus Griffin, Esq. of 3 Fig Tree Court at the Temple in London. - copyright Klos Yavneh Academy Collection  

 

 

Griffin, who returned with his family to Virginia, opened a law practice and became a staunch supporter of the cause of colonial independence. In 1777, 1778, 1786, and 1787 Griffin was elected a member of the State House of Delegates. He was also a member of the Virginia legislature.

 

 

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