The title of the Viscount Saint Davids was created in 1918 and is in the possession of the Philipps family. However despite the fact that the title is of comparatively recent origin, the Philipps family can trace their descendant back to both the Plantagenet Kings of England and the line of the Welsh Rulers of Deheubarth, and therefore whilst there are other peers who might well claim that their ancestors came over with William the Conqueror, the Philipps family can confidently assert that the their ancestors were already here.
The origins of the Philipps family lie with the eleventh century figure of Cydifor Fawr, the Lord of Blaencuch in Dyfed, who it is said married Elinor, the daughter of Llwch Llawenfawr of Cilsant. It appears that the family of Cydifor Fawr supported the claims of Gruffudd ap Maredudd ab Owain to the throne of Deheubarth, rather than those of his rival Rhys ap Tewdwr who eventually succeeded to the title, which probably explained why they later sided with the Normans rather than Gruffudd, the son of Rhys ap Tewdwr. Indeed Cydifor Fawr's son, Bledri ap Cydifor become known as Bledri Latimer, the 'interpreter', because he could speak French, whilst his son Rhys ap Bledri was appointed Lord Justice of South Wales by Henry II. It was also Rhys ap Bledri who married Angharad, the daughter of Llywelyn Ddiriaid, son of the aforementioned Rhys ap Tewdwr, and thereby established the family link with the royal house of Deheubarth.
The first of the family to be honoured in any fashion was Aron ap Rhys, who went on Crusade with Richard I in 1190 and was said to have been made a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre. Eight generations later in the early sixteenth century, Thomas, the son of Philip ap Maredug, decided to abandon the Welsh tradition of patronymics and rather adopted the surname of Philipps in the English fashion. He was knighted in 1513 and by marriage to Joan, the daughter and coheir of Henry Dwnn, obtained possession of the manor and castle of Picton in Pembrokeshire. His grandson John Philipps was created a baronet on the 9th November 1621 and took for his first wife Anne Perrot, the daughter of John Perrot of Haroldston in Pembrokeshire, one time Lord Deputy of Ireland and allegedly an illegitimate son of Henry VIII.
The baronetcy duly passed into the hands of the 12th Baronet of Picton, James Erasmus Philips (1824-1912) who married Mary Margaret Best and fathered six sons, amongst whom were; Ivor Philipps who had a distinguished military career and became the Liberal Member of Parliament for Southampton; Owen Cosby Philipps who became the Conservative Member of Parliament for Chester and later Baron Kylsant, having enjoyed a business career that appeared to be distinguished but ended with a conviction for publishing a false prospectus in 1931; and Laurence Richard Philipps who became the first Baron Milford.
As far as his eldest son, John Wynford Philipps, 13th Baronet was concerned he was initially a barrister, but later became a financier and businessman largely thanks to the £100,000 he obtained by his marriage to Nora Gerstenberg, the younger daughter of Isidor Gerstenberg, the founder and chairman of the Council of Foreign Bondholders. John Wynford went into the shipping business with his brother Owen, but also moved into the field of investment trusts, where he "became a power in the trust companies" and was at one time a director of twenty-nine companies, and chairman of twenty of them. He was also a Liberal politician who became a close friend of David Lloyd George and having sat as the Member of Parliament for Mid-Lanarkshire in 1888-1894 and Pembrokeshire in 1898-1908, was subsequently created the Baron Saint Davids on the 6th July 1908, before being granted the title of the Viscount Saint Davids on the 17th June 1918.
By first wife the 1st Viscount had two sons, both of whom were killed in action during World War I, whilst his wife also died on the 30 March 1915. He subsequently remarried, his second wife being Elizabeth Frances Rawdon-Hastings, who was the second daughter and coheir of Paulyn Francis Cuthbert Rawdon-Hastings, who was a nephew of the 4th and last Marquess of Hastings. Together with her sister the Countess of Loudon, Elizabeth was declared by a resolution of the House of Lords dated the 17th December 1920 as a coheir to the Baronies of Botreaux, Hastings of Hastings, Hungerford, Moleyns, Stanley and Strange of Knokyn. The two sisters therefore shared the titles between themselves, and on the 23rd February 1921 Elizabeth became the Baroness Hungerford, Baroness Moleyns and Baroness Strange of Knokyn in her own right on the termination of the abeyance in those titles.
The 1st Viscount died on the 28th March 1938, and was succeeded by his only surviving son by his second marriage. He bore the name of Jestyn Reginald Austen Plantagenet Philipps, where the Plantagenet recognises the fact that through his mother he was descended from the Hastings line of the Earls of Huntingdon and therefore possessed a smidgen of Plantagenet blood. Having succeeded his father as the 3rd Viscount in 1938, he later succeeded his mother as the 22nd Baron Hungerford, 21st Baron Moleyns and 14th Baron Strange of Knokyn at her death on the 12th December 1974.
Sadly he did not inherit his father's business abilities as he later went bankrupt when his company that provided pleasure trips on the Regent's Canal failed. As it turned out the 2nd Viscount appeared to be at his happiest when he avoided dry land; he was a lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve during World War II, helped found the Inland Waterways Association and was also the patron and founder of the Pirate Club, a floating youth club based at Camden Town in London. Having tired of his second wife, he informed her that he was going to buy a newspaper, only to sign up as a deckhand onboard a merchant ship bound for Africa. Politically speaking he accepted the Labour whip in the House of Lords, but defected to the Liberal Party in 1974, only later to declare himself a convert to Thatcherism.
The 2nd Viscount died on the 10 June 1991, and was succeeded by his eldest son Colwyn Jestyn Philipps. The 3rd Viscount had followed a career in the City, becoming a member of the London Stock Exchange in 1965 and was a partner in Scrimgeour Kemp-Gee and later a director of Citicorp Scrimgeour Vickers in 1985-1988 and Greig Middleton in 1989-1990. He also enjoyed a brief political career as a Lord-in-Waiting or Government Whip between 1992 and 1994, and was a Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords from 1995 until 1999 when he lost his seat as a result of the House of Lords Act 1999. He also possessed an interest in music, and took a career break to attend King's College, London where he received a Certificate in Advanced Musical Studies in 1989, and became a great collector of musical manuscripts, Baroque wooden flutes and recorders, before later moving on to Welsh ceramics. He died after a heart attack on the 26th April 2009, being survived by his wife Augusta Victoria Correa Larrain, the daughter of one Don Estantislao Correa Ugarte of Santiago in Chile, and his two sons.
Rhodri Colwyn Philipps is the present and 4th Viscount Saint Davids, and also holds the titles of the Baron Saint David, Baron Strange of Knokyn, Baron Hungerford, and Baron Moleyns as well as being a baronet. The 4th Viscount is keen polo player whose team, Prodigal often features Jack Kidd, brother of the model Jodie Kidd, who often turns up to support the team. Unfortunately in the world of business, the 4th Viscount appears too taken after his grandfather. He was made bankrupt in 2001 after the failure of Crownridge Steel as a result of the imposition of "punitive" US duties. None of which prevented him from relocating to Germany where he acquired the long established Nuremberg based construction firm of Hans Brochier for the sum of one euro. Hans Brochier collapsed in the following year and it was claimed that Philipps had used company funds to finance his lavish life-style. He was arrested at Frankfurt Airport, denied bail and held in prison for a year before being given a two-year suspended sentence in September 2008 for "jeopardising" the company's finances. An appeal is pending.
The heir to the title is his younger brother Roland Augusto Jestyn Estantislao Philipps, who is a blues guitarist and has perhaps understandably adopted the stage name of Todd Sharpville, under which name he has recorded the albums Touch Of Your Love and The Meaning Of Life.
THE VISCOUNTS SAINT DAVIDS
As Baron Saint Davids
- John Wynford Philipps, 1st Baron Saint Davids (1908-1918)
As Viscount Saint Davids
- George Edward Cokayne, Vicary Gibbs, et al, The Complete Peerage (St Catherine's Press, 1910-1959)
- The entry for SAINT DAVIDS from Burke's Peerage and Baronetage 107th Edition
- Terrence James, ‘Bleddri ap Cadifor ap Collwyn, Lord of Blaencuch and Cilsant: Fabulator of Arthuriam Romance?’ The Carmarthenshire Antiquary, xxxiii (1997)
- Viscount St Davids - Obituary, The Times, June 13, 1991
- James McCarthy, Heir blows firm’s cash on polo and jets, Wales On Sunday, Mar 16 2008
- Viscount St Davids - Obituary, Daily Telegraph, May 18 2009