... to remember his fame his picture was painted ... Vertue notebooks

into the past

Pierre or Peter Monamy of Guernsey and London
1652 - 1???

In 1973, on the 4th of April, an unframed picture, 50 x 40, lot 12, was put up for sale by Sotheby's auction house in London. It was described as "A Portrait of a Gentleman, three-quarter length, seated, holding a letter in his left hand, a yacht and other shipping beyond". The explicit attribution was to Peter Monamy. This attribution, to an artist known exclusively for marine paintings, was, on the face of it, quite remarkable, not to say utterly astonishing.

By 1980 I had met the seller of the painting, and asked him how this attribution could possibly be accounted for. Unfortunately, his memory was a blank, and he could offer no explanation. In default of an answer, it occurred to me that the portrait might conceivably be not by Peter Monamy, but of Peter Monamy --- the artist's father, a person otherwise totally unknown outside the pages of the State Papers Domestic of Charles II. Perhaps a label reading "Peter Monamy" had been attached to the portrait, on a frame since vanished, which designated the sitter, not the artist.

Peter Monamy 1681-1749
by Thomas Stubley

? Pierre Monamy: born 1652 ? André Monamy: 1661-1727 ?
by ----- ?

By staring at the two portraits I convinced myself not only that the elder, wearing the older style of full-bottomed wig, was the father of the younger, but that the artist of the latter had deliberately set out to emulate the image of the former. In 1981 I suggested that the "gentleman", clearly a merchant of some description, could have been portrayed by Thomas Murray, 1666-1724, as there are some not dissimilar portraits by Murray. I was also infected by an otherwise ridiculous proposal that the sitter represented William Dampier, the famous subject of a very fine portrait by Murray.

William Dampier
by Thomas Murray

On reconsideration, and without having seen the painting of the heavily bewigged merchant in the flesh, I could now be persuaded that both portraits are by the same artist, the patently excellent Thomas Stubley, fl 1710-1730. Another remotely possible candidate for the sitter might be Peter Monamy's uncle, André or Andrew Monamy, also a permanent resident in London. This conjecture is only mentioned in order to be relegated to a mental back room.

January 2008. New note. Further information leads me now to suspect that Pierre Monamy died between 1682 and 1684. This entails wholesale revision of much of the speculation voiced below. At some point there will have to be considerable re-writing, but the immediate correction will have to be that the portrait mysteriously attributed to "Monamy" is unlikely to be of Peter's father Pierre.

Both Andrew, and Peter, or Pierre, Monamy were merchants. From the historical footprints left by these brothers, native Guernseymen living in London, it is apparent that Andrew was much more respectable and conformist than Pierre. This need not mean that Pierre was any less prosperous, however. In the Chichester catalogue I noted that "the career of Peter Monamy the elder is a good deal more complex and mysterious than at first appears", and I will here throw caution to the winds and speculate wildly on what that career might have been. All discovery proceeds by hypothesis, investigation, correction, modification and reformulation. Here is the hypothesis.

In 1723 a Peter Monyman is recorded resident in St Margaret's Lane, Westminster. He is again recorded in 1725, and, as Peter Moneyman, in Fish Yard, in 1728. In 1731, 29th January, the first issue of the Gentleman's Magazine records the death of a Stephen Monomee Esq at Chelsea. There is no record of any person bearing the names Mon(e)yman or Monomee in any other documentation that I have so far come across. These are non-names, and the simplest explanation is that they are misspellings of Monamy. The painter's name also occurs, in print, spelt "Monemie" and "Monemy".

But who exactly are "Stephen Monomee" and "Peter Monyman"? One hypothesis is that they are not Peter Monamy, the painter, but Pierre Monamy, his father, the unscrupulous, ruthless and commercially enterprising Pierre. Vertue says that the painter "livd some years latter part of his life at Westminster near the River side". The General Advertiser, 26th July 1750, informs the public that the sale of the deceased sea painter's effects would take place "at his late Dwelling-House, adjoining to King Henry VII's Chapel in Old Palace-Yard, Westminster." See here.

Neither Fish Yard nor Old Palace Yard would be rightly described as "near" the riverside, although Vertue has other inaccuracies. "Adjoining King Henry VII's Chapel" would seem to imply the shaded area north of the chapel.    

Pierre Monamy, aged 24, had shown precocious business acumen. He had sold sixty or more forged customs clearance documents for an average of 55 each, a tidy sum in 1676. Twenty years on, a husband and father, he binds his son, Peter, apprentice to one of London's leading tradesmen, and is described simply as "merchant".

Pierre's ex-jailbird career is shrouded in darkness, although a few hints may yet come to light. Many fine men experienced a spell in prison in post-Restoration Stuart England, including John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe, and Richard Hogarth, William's father. The financially shrewd Robert Walpole, England's future Prime Minister and the very model of a modern politician, was expelled from the House of Commons in 1711 on charges of embezzlement and misappropriating public money. It seems these charges were politically motivated. In 1712 he was committed to the Tower, but released after 6 months. Pierre Monamy, if alive, would have been 68 in 1720. He might have sold out at the top of the South Sea Bubble boom, and moved to Fish Yard in 1721 or '22, with son and family, in order to continue the Good Old Cause. In 1728 he retires to Chelsea, where he adopts an ancestral alias, Stephen (Étienne), and dies in 1731, aged 79. (Secret agents are addicted to pseudonyms. According to John Carey, Andrew Marvell, poet, puritan, politician and patriot, when acting as a secret agent in 1673-74, adopted the code name "Mr Thomas". Daniel Defoe had several, and the habit goes far back, as investigations by John Bossy into the identity of an Elizabethan known as Henry Fagot have recently shown.) Pierre's son Peter eventually moves next to King Henry VII's chapel, perhaps Knyff's former studio, where he dies, 18 years later.

In this scenario, Pierre Monamy is seen as the guiding muscle behind the painter's rise to fame. "Slow rises worth by poverty depressed" is Samuel Johnson's oracular pronouncement. The lives of many 18th century Englishmen of spirit were dominated by a search for patronage. Peter the painter's transition from London Bridge shopkeeper and tradesman to artistic pre-eminence in Westminster, in about 1720-1722, would not solely have been due to his deft pencil, and financial and/or political backing cannot be discounted. A character reading of the face of the unknown gentleman suggests, to me, a hard and ruthless dealer, partially redeemed by the hint of a lurking sense of humour. Could that ship in the distance be the Rose and Crown? Is the document in his left hand a ship "freedom"?

André Monamy the Guernsey Jurat

Pierre's father, the Guernseyman André Monamy, was a totally committed Cromwellian Parliamentarian, it may well be for deep-rooted, atavistic reasons. The genealogical details I am relying on for most of the rest of this family history are contained in notes compiled in 1927 by Colonel de Guérin, including three separate family trees, which do not agree in all details. (Here). On 21st May in 1927, the Guernsey Society reports that "at the Monamy Stone ... Colonel de Guérin told what is known of the extinct family of that name".

These family details were very briefly summarized by Edith Carey, in her comments on André's life, published in the Society's Transactions, in connection with Major Rybot's article on the marks, and the meaning of the Sign of Four, above the monogram.


Major Rybot notes that "these Marks, though but the heraldry of trade, are symbols of courage, enterprise and adventure"; and Miss Carey usefully comments "that, in Plantagenet, Tudor and Stuart times, the feeling against 'soiling the hands with trade' did not exist", but she adds that the continental nobles brought to England by William of Orange "introduced the prejudice of commercial pursuits into England". On this second point I suspect she is wrong, since in my understanding it was the earlier Stuarts, before William, whom it suited to believe that they and their bastard offspring were divinely privileged to rule over and live off others, a belief not shared by a large portion of their subjects, and which finally ensured their permanent banishment. See the works of Andrew Marvell.

This André Monamy was the son of Elie. His activities are covered in my 1981 article, see here. The Monamy Stone used to be cemented above the door of an ancient farmhouse in St Jacques, Guernsey. I believe it has now been moved inside the house, to save it from being weathered beyond legibility. It is worth recording some opinions on it.

The names André Monamy and Rebecca Guille are hopefully still faintly discernible on the left-hand stone, above a sundial. The date, apparently 1312, is on both stones. 1312 seems far too early, and perhaps it should read 1512. In a letter dated June 12, 1981, Mr Jean LePelley of La Société Guernesiaise remarks that "the coats of arms ... have always attracted my curiosity as they are obviously in Spanish style". Could these stones point to some remoter Spanish or Portuguese ancestry for the Monamys? Is this André Monamy a forefather predating the Elizabethan André, perhaps his father?

Elie Monamy of Guernsey
1589 - 1613

Two of Colonel de Guérin's family trees say that Elie, father of the Cromwellian Jurat André, and son of the Elizabethan André Monamy and Bertranne Estur, was baptised 17th Oct 1589, but on the third chart the year has been changed to 1579. He was married to Susanne Martin on 20th Nov 1611, when he was either 22 or 32. His son and only child was baptised on 19th August the following year. I am now (Oct 2002) greatly indebted to Mr Graham Guille, of Guernsey, for confirming to me that the Town Church Register records the death of Elie Monamy on 30th November 1613. His wife Susanne is recorded on one of the Colonel's charts as being married "thrice": secondly to a man named de Rosil, by whom she had a child, Thomas de Rosil; and thirdly to a Pierre E(s)tur. At present, this is all that is known about Elie.

André Monamy

"In the Guille-Allès Library (St Peter Port, Guernsey) there is a sablière from the Savings Bank, that is, one of the beams running across the frontage between the side walls to support the overhanging or jettied first floor. This sablière bears the inscription La Paix de Dieu soit ceans, fait le 18 Octobre 1578 de par André Monamy". From The Guernsey House, by John McCormack.

"God's presence dwells in a peaceful and loving home", says the Talmud. On the first Sunday in April, 1569, Andrieu Mon Amy was one of a group of eight Channel Islanders who professed their faith and were admitted to Holy Communion in the "Wallonne" church at Southampton. This church was established par patente du Roy Edouard Sixe et de la Reine Elizabeth.


From The Guernsey House, by John McCormack, Phillimore 1980, pp 245-251

Note: Sablière, in the above extract, does not appear to be the right word, since it seems to mean "sand-pit". Perhaps sommier "joist" is the word intended. To be checked.

This André Monamy must have been an enterprising and dynamic Elizabethan merchant. He "settled in Guernsey" before, or in, 1569, which is the year he is said to have bought the house in the High Street. He married, first, Elizabeth Perrin, on 29th June 1572; and, second, Bertranne Estur, on 17th November 1577. He died in 1591, and his widow later married John Fautrat. There seem to have been no children of the first marriage, but by his second wife Bertranne he had, besides André and Elie, two daughters: Elizabeth, born 5 July 1584. who married Pierre Bonamy on 5th February 1605/6; and Marie, who married Jean Guille. A web search has revealed that Jean and Marie (born "about 1577") Guille had 10 children. Their marriage is dated 1597.

Étienne Monamy
fl 1540

Below is a family tree, based, with a few additional details, on the Colonel's three versions. In one of them, probably the earliest version, he writes: "André Monamy (fils Etienne) of St Clements Jersey settled in Guernsey". In what seems to be the third version he gives "Etienne Monamy of St Saviour's, Jersey". Edith Carey writes: "André, son of Etienne Monamy of Jersey". Delving into the genealogical reources of the web it was a shock to be presented with an Etienne, in the right era, of St Saviour's, Jersey, who was said to be a woman. Here are the details from the records of the Church of Latter-Day Saints: Etienne MONAMY (AFN: 961X-T0); Sex: F; Birth: about 1516; of St. Saviour, Jersey, Channel Islands; Parents: ? Marriage(s): Spouse: Benoiste AUBIN (AFN: 961X-SS). However, after re-checking, it is clear that Étienne is purely and exclusively a man's name.

More unravelling remains to be done, and if there is any genealogical expert out there with special knowledge of Channel Island familes would they please contact me here

Note, 16 November, 2006. Since writing the above I have heard from two residents in Guernsey, who have generously provided me with additional valuable information and corrections. For incorporation of these new details, see here, here, here and linked pages. The tree given below, as anticipated, is not entirely accurate, and I am extremely obliged to my correspondents for their help.

Note: January 2008. Much new genealogical information has now generously been provided by Mr Terry Dowinton, of Guernsey, which has meant revision of several of the details given on this page. See new page: here.

Note, 12 December, 2006. From scouring the internet, a very curious additional item has come to my notice. In The Environs of London, Volume 3, by Daniel Lysons, 1795, there is mention of the burial of a "John, son of Peter Monamy, buried Mar. 31, 1680." An accompanying footnote states "A celebrated painter of sea-pieces", but the author, Lysons, has evidently confused the painter with his father. Besides suggesting that Pierre/Peter Monamy, the elder, was possibly living in Stoke Newington at the time, it is difficult to fit this son, John, into the sequence of births recorded between 1677 and 1681, as given on the tree, below. All the children mentioned on the tree were baptized at St Botolph's without Aldgate: see here. Various explanations come to mind, but the simplest is that John is actually James. It is worth noting, however, that Stoke Newington was a centre for Dissent during this period.

January 2008: For a comprehensive update of Monamy genealogy, with many additional details, and differing in several ways from the above, see new page. Click.

From a few hints contained in the above family history, together with other reading on this topic, it seems to me quite possible that the earliest Monamys in the Channel Islands, along with other early 16th century settlers, were Marranos or Conversos, that is forcibly converted, or semi-converted Jews expelled from Portugal or Spain in 1492. Memories of the "Inquisition dogs and the devildoms of Spain" lasted at least until Tennyson wrote The Revenge: A Ballad of the Fleet.

Sink me the ship, Master Gunner --- sink her, split her in twain!
Fall into the hands of God, not into the hands of Spain!

"The conclusions I have arrived at in these researches differ so widely with commonly held views, that I do not delude myself with the hope that they will be easily accepted. No doubt they will encounter, apart from fair criticism, that opposition which seems to be the fate of every new idea." B.N. September 30, 1965. From the foreword to The Marranos of Spain, from the Late 14th to the Early 16th Century, by B.Netanyahu, New York, American Academy for Jewish Research, 1966.

descent to the present
article 1981       article 1983
transcription of notes of colonel de guérin
note on smuggling
detailed monamy chronology
artistic range
monamy website index


© Charles Harrison Wallace 2001/2006/2008/2013
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