Beaulieu, County Louth is one of Ireland’s most distinguished early houses with a superlative double-height entrance hall. It has been owned by successive generations of the same family since the lands on which Beaulieu stands were granted to Sir Henry Tichbourne by Charles II in 1666. The building is believed to have assumed its present form at the start of the 18th century during the time of Sir Henry’s grandson, also called Henry, first (and last) Baron Ferrard of Beaulieu; the name of John Curle is usually cited as probable architect. Most recently Beaulieu has been under the care of the tenth generation of Sir Henry’s descendants, Gabriel de Freitas, who very sadly died this week.
Here is a photograph of Gabriel (standing left) in 2010 when she kindly hosted the Irish Georgian Society’s summer party at Beaulieu. She was a wonderfully forceful character who in earlier decades had been a well-known racing driver and had built up an impressive collection of classic cars. I remember the first time we met, at lunch in Leixlip Castle, mentioning to her Fiona MacCarthy’s 2006 book The Last Curtsey, in which both Gabriel and Beaulieu appear. The response could best be described as trenchant: Gabriel was most displeased that the author had failed to consult or notify her in advance. (Incidentally, another debutante of 1958 discussed by MacCarthy in the same work was Rose Dugdale, who later joined the IRA and took part in the 1974 art robbery at Russborough, County Wickow).
Having returned to Ireland only a few years ago to assume responsibility for Beaulieu, it is cruelly unfair that Gabriel, who was so dynamic and vital, should have been denied the opportunity to do more for the place where her family has lived for almost 350 years. One hopes that with her customary speed she has gone to enjoy the company of her angelic namesake.
Above photograph courtesy of Barry Cronin, http://www.barrycronin.com