It is with great sadness that this newspaper must report the death at his London home on Saturday last of Robert James Augustus Hugh St John Bathley Crane Rassendyll, 12th Earl of Burlesdon and 29th Baron Rassendyll.
Countess Burlesdon has confirmed that the Earl became ill during a stay at Burlesdon House over the New Year. Returning to London to consult with the Earl’s doctor, it was found that the illness had rapidly progressed, and after too-vigorous a Burns’ Night Supper on Thursday last, the Earl took to his bed, and gave up his life during the night of Saturday 27th.
The late Earl’s eldest son, John Heatherley St. John Augustus James Hannay Rassendyll succeeds his father as the 13th Earl of Burlesdon and 30th Baron Rassendyll.
Born at the family’s London residence in Park Lane in 1840 to his parents James, the 11th Earl and Lady Charlotte, daughter of Augustus and Philomena Bathley-Crane of Devonshire, and named for his late uncle Robert, the 10th Earl who had died two months before, the young Robert Rassendyll spent much of his childhood in North Surrey, at Burlesdon on the family estate.
He was educated at Rugby, Jordan College Oxford, where he studied Political Science, Divinity and German Literature, and the English University of Weser-Dreiburg. Following his successful matriculation, he achieved a commission in the Royal North Surreys, a regiment with which his family has been intimately connected, and served with distinction in the First Kamistan Campaign and then the Matoboland Wars, rising quickly to the rank of Major.
After resigning his commission in 1867, he returned to Burlesdon and married Miss Rose Virginia Constance Heatherley, daughter of Jebediah Heatherley of Esher, the noted manufacturer of marmalade. Over the next eight years, the Countess bore him six children, John, William, Henry, James, Constance and Gustave, who were brought up at Burlesdon in the idyllic surroundings of the family estate.
Following his marriage he stood for election to the North Surrey parliamentary constituency in June 1868 for the Liberal Party, and took the seat with a majority of 3,461. A follower of the maxim ‘change is too important to be rushed’ he was also the author of several works of political philosophy, including ‘The Ultimate Outcome’, and ‘Ancient Theories and Modern Facts’.
The late Earl regarded himself as a ‘conservative Liberal’ and served under Prime Ministers from both parties. His first government position, serving under Lord Fotherington-Thomas, in the Liberal administration of Lord Marlingbury, was from 1869 as Under-Secretary for Indian Affairs, where he put his intimate knowledge of the Kamistan situation to good use. In 1873 he joined the first Conservative administration of Lord Crindlehurst, also holding a position in the Imperial and Foreign Service. He resigned from his post on the death of his father, the 11th Earl, the following year, and returned to Burlesdon.
The life of the Earl has not been devoid of tragedy. Nine years ago, the Earl’s brother Rudolf Rassendyll, a former Captain of the 27th Lancers, was killed during a visit to Ruritania. The exact circumstances of Mr. Rassendyll’s visit have never been made public but the Ruritanian Government has issued a statement to the effect that Mr. Rassendyll was working in a personal capacity for the Royal Family, when he was attacked by agents of Count Rupert of Hentzau, a notorious villain who was later killed by the late King, Rudolf V of the House of Elphberg, in a duel occasioned by an attempted assassination.
Lord Robert will be fondly remembered, especially by the inhabitants of Great Burlesdon, for his generosity and concern for the welfare of the simple folk who live there. He sponsored the provision of the electrical and gas supplies to the village, and no blame can be attached to the late Earl for the unfortunately fatal incident that occurred shortly after the supplies were connected. A patron of the Parish Church of St. Igwulfa and St. Michael at Burlesdon, his strong singing voice was a welcome addition to morning Psalms and will be sorely missed by the congregation there.
The body of the late Earl will be conveyed to Burlesdon House, where it will lie in state until the morning of the 17th of February; the funeral will take place at the Church of St. Igwulfa and St. Michael at 1 o’clock.