Thomas Hay Ritchie (1858-1894)
A young Irishman who married into American society – and notoriety.
A basalt pillar, from the Giant’s Causeway on Ireland’s County Antrim coast, marks the grave of Thomas Hay Ritchie.
It appears that Thomas is descended from a family of industrialists and engineers, best known for building the Queen’s Bridge in Belfast. Thomas made the news himself in 1884 when he married Fannette Ronalds (1861-1940) in Chelsea. Fannette was the daughter of Peter Lorillard Ronalds of New York and the famed socialite Fanny Ronalds.
The papers reported the rich array of wedding presents that arrived for the happy couple from well-wishers, who included ‘the Prince and Princess of Wales, the Duchess of Albany… the nobility of France and Italy and prominent New Yorkers’. Tragically, the couple enjoyed only ten years of marriage; Thomas died in 1894, aged just 36.
Thomas lies beneath the basalt pillar with his wife. Her younger brother Reginald Ronalds (1865-1924) is also buried there, beneath a recumbent cross. Reginald was a ‘Rough Rider’, a member of the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry raised in 1889 to fight the Spanish-American War. He died in Mexico.
In the grave beside Thomas and Fannette is her mother, Fanny Ronalds. Fanny was a popular singer, renowned for her beauty and the parties she threw in London and Paris. Her social circle included Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales and Napoleon III. However, Fanny is best remembered for her long-term affair – while she was still married – with Arthur Sullivan, of Gilbert & Sullivan fame.