10th Earl of Essex (1981-2005)
Born 1920 Died 2005

"My title is the Earl of Essex, but call me Bob"

Bob Capell, as we shall therefore call him, was born on the 13th January 1920 at Petersfield in Hampshire, the son of an Arthur Algernon de Vere Capell and Alice Ann Pine. His father was head parcel porter for the London and South Western Railway and died when he was three years old, after which Bob spent some time at an orphanage. He was a keen footballer in his youth, but an ankle injury prevented him from taking the game up professionally and so he took a position at Sainsbury's first store in Bournemouth before World War II intervened. Bob joined the Royal Air Force as a PT instructor and was posted to Morecambe in Lanacshire which is where the young Flight Sergeant met a Doris Tomlinson of Hornby whom he married in January 1942.

Bob remained in the Morecambe area after the war and spent the next twenty-five years employed as a clerk in the savings department of the Post Office before leaving to run a grocery store at Torrisholme, Morecambe in partnership with his brother-in-law. But despite his apparently humble origins and life, Bob Capell was related to the rather more illustrious Capells who held the title of Earl of Essex and were descended from Arthur Capel, 1st Baron Capel of Hadham, executed for his loyalty to king Charles I in 1649.

As the twentieth century wore on it became clear that Reginald George de Vere Capell, 9th Earl of Essex was not going to produce the necessary heir and there was also a distinct lack of eligible brothers, nephews etc who might alternatively inherit the title. At some point during his life Bob became aware that he stood a chance of inheriting the title; the head of the orphanage where he spent part of his childhood once told him that he would one day be the Earl of Essex, but the crucial point appears to have been in 1966 when he was sent a newspaper clipping reporting on the claims of an American branch of the family to the title. Thereafer Bob appears to have spent much effort in researching his family tree in an attempt to establish the correct destination for the title.

Thus when his third cousin once removed, the 9th Earl of Essex died in 1981 there was some dispute as to who was the legitimate heir to the title. Bob spent the next eight years completing his genealogical researches before he could prove his claim to the title, demonstrating that, although both he and his American rival were descended from younger brothers of the 6th Earl, his great-grandfather Algernon Henry Champagne Capell (born 1807) was the older brother of his rival's great-grandfather Adolphus Frederick Charles Molyneux Capell (born 1813).

Of course all that Bob Capell inherited was the title, the family money remained with the 9th Earl's widow, though she did give him some of the family silver. But in March 1989 Bob duly received his writ of summons and took his seat in the House of Lords on the 7th June, sitting as a crossbencher. He regularly attended the house until 1997, although he never quite got around to making his maiden speech, and otherwise does not appear to have made a great fuss over his title; a neighbour described him as a "nice man" who "loved pottering about in his garden".

Bob Capell died on the 5th June 2005 at the age of eighty-five and was succeeded by his only son Frederick Paul de Vere Capell, 11th Earl of Essex.


  • The obituary of the 10th Earl in the Daily Telegraph, 16th June 2005
  • New Earl of Essex is ever so humble, also from the Daily Telegraph, 16th June 2005
  • Our Earl of Essex dies, aged 85 from Lancashire Today at http://www.lancastertoday.co.uk/ViewArticle2.aspx?SectionID=31&ArticleID=1056932
  • Capell genealogy from http://www.william1.co.uk/w6.html