In a letter dated March 6, 1968, Dr. Arnold Stewart Breakey, 718 Park Avenue, New York, N.Y., 10021, sent me a photograph of a portrait said to be that of Guillaume de Brecey, a French Huguenot who went to Ireland about 1660 and settled in Monaghan. Dr. Breakey’s letter also included the statement, “It was from this line that the Breakey family stemmed.”
Since my researches into the Breakey family’s history had not disclosed a Guillaume de Brecey, and all family histories and traditions held that the Huguenot Breakeys (de Brequet), two brothers and a cousin, had come to Ireland as soldiers (cavalrymen) in Schomberg’s French Horse in 1689, I found it difficult to accept this claim. We were in the midst of preparations for a return to Britain on a search for any and all significant elements of our family’s history, so decided to check on the reality of Guillaume de Brecey while in London.
When working in the War Office Library, Whitehall, London, on the 10th April 1968, I showed the photograph of the portrait purported to be that of Guillaume de Brecey to Dr. D. W. King and asked him to read Dr. Breakey’s letter. He did this; then said the uniform and badge were of much more recent date than 1660, being a 19th Century English uniform. He then went to find a Major Dawning, who is considered the authority on British military uniforms and decorations and was somewhere in the Library at the time.
Without hesitation, Major Dawning said the uniform was of quite recent date, 1814 to1828, and the badge or medal was that of the Order of the Garter. Major Dawning also identified the portrait as that of Field Marshall, Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany, K. G., 1763-1827, second son of H. M. George III. This Duke of York worked to improve the lot of the common soldier and that of the common man and became very popular with the masses. His portrait was in considerable demand and many were produced and generally distributed.
When working in the Library of the Huguenot Society of London on 22nd April, 1968, we found these references to De Brecey: In the publication, “Nobiliaire de Normandie” published by Une Société de Généalogistes, avec le Concours des Principales Familles Nobles de la Province Sous la Direction de E. De Magny, in Tome 1, page 32, these descriptions of the Arms of Brecey are given:
(1) Brecey (de) –Seigneur de Isigny, Élection de Mortain:
D’or, à la croix de sable, cantonnee de quatre merlettes de gueules.
(2) Brecey – Election d’Avranches: De gueules, à deux badelaires en sautoire d’argent.
Neither of these coats of arms remotely resembles that of Breakey (de Brequet). The heraldic description of the Arms of Breakey reads: Argent, on a chevron azure, between three eight-pointed mullets, a fleur-de-lis or.
Some pertinent questions: Who associated the portrait of the Field Marshall, Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany, K. G., with one Guillaume de Brecey? Are not De Brecey and De Brequet distinct family names representing two unrelated families?
Edward P. Breakey, PhD
The following photograph, courtesy of Mrs. Jane Breakey Poor of Missouri (J.B. Poor to M. J. Breakey, 1980), is a snapshot of a painting that her brother, Dr. Arnold Breakey, New York City, had done in Ireland and shipped to him. Family tradition is that the portrait is of William (Guillaume) de Brecey, French Huguenot ancestor of the Breakey family. Mrs. Poor relates the original paining is done on wood. She describes the deep red of the uniform, the gold braid and badge, the blond curly hair, and the bright blue eyes. Mrs. Poor tells of her father referring to the gentleman in the portrait as “Monsieur le General.”