Catherine Hayes and the Da Vinci Code

For those of you who love a mystery and solving puzzles, here’s a nice one to be getting on with. Unlike the fictitious Da Vinci Code, this one is for real.The document reproduced below was worth about a million dollars in today’s money to Catherine Hayes. It gave her back control over her assets which had all been transferred to her American husband William Avery Bushnell on their marriage in accordance with English law as it was in 1857.

A lovely and very helpful assistant in the Mairie in Biarritz, spent about an hour of her time getting out the original register of deaths in 1858 and trying to find other information for me from her colleagues.In addition to that, she gave me a free certified copy of the entry. Such a level of service was exceptional in my research although the majority of libraries, archives and others were indeed helpful.

Here is a scanned image of the document which is of course in French which Catherine was fluent in. Your task is to translate and find out what is wrong with it. I’ve given you enough information above to check its validity. One thing which I guess I should tell you because you haven’t got the registers is that entries were signed by the Mayor and only the Mayor for any year I looked at going back to 1790. (I’d already scanned through the registers on microfilm in London before going to France.)

This is the famous document:  (Will be uploaded again soon)


Catherine Hayes World Travel Itinerary

Catherine Hayes travelled the world at a time when the bell tolled almost every day at Lloyds in London to signal the loss of yet another ship. She was lucky not to have been lost at sea. She knew the dangers well enough and no one can doubt her courage and determination. The itinerary which follows is one of my working documents and will be expanded with notes in the published text. I thought it might be useful here to indicate those places in the world which she visited and where my biography should be of most interest. Some people may notice that certain dates and places disagree with all other published accounts. This is to be expected because ‘Virtue and Vice’ will be the first true account of her life.


1839  Limerick- Dublin.Training under Sapio.First public concerts.

1840-1842 Dublin – Belfast – Dublin.Concerts during training.

1842- 1st Limerick Benefit Concert

1842 Dublin – Paris. Opera training under Garcia.

1842-44 gave at least two public concerts in defiance of Garcia

1844 Paris – Milan. Opera underRonconi.

1845 Milan – Marseilles1st Public Opera Performance.

1846 Milan – Vienna and Venice

1847 Venice- Vienna- Bergamo-Verona-Milan.

1848 Verona-Milan-Florence- Bergamo-Florence-Genoa

1849 Genoa-London. (Bishop Knox died in May 1849)

1849Tour of England

1849 Tour of Ireland (incl. Waterford)

1850 Tours of England Scotland, Ireland (incl. Waterford)

1850 Dublin – Rome

1851 Rome – London UK Tour (July/August in France)

1851 Liverpool – New York

1852 New York . Eastern and Southern States. Canada.

P T Barnum’s daughter’s wedding  at Bridgport 1852

1852 NY-Panama- San Francisco.  via Panama Canal

1853 San Francisco – Sacramento-SF- Grass Valley-SF – Chile – Peru

1854 Peru – SF

1854 SF-Hawaii – Australia (Sydney) –Melbourne-Adelaide

1855 Adelaide – Calcutta- Singapore-Java-Melbourne-Sydney.

1856 Australia – England.

1856 Trip to Paris.

1856 Irish Tour

1857 Tours of UK and Ireland. Never returns to S. Ireland again.

1857 Marriage in October. Leaves London for Pau and Biarritz

1858In France until July.  Hasty return to UK from Bayonne

1859-61. Concerts in UK only until DEATH in August 1861

1860 Trip to Paris for Wieniawski’s wedding.

Catherine Hayes Devonshire Origin

Catherine Hayes Devonshire Origin  I’ve an email from a gentleman who said I was doing a rehash of the Catherine Hayes story. I quite agree with him that what has been written by others up to now was a hash i.e. mess up of her true life history. However, I’m not rehashing their efforts. If that was all I had to offer readers, I’d have packed it in years ago. People should know that I started to study Catherine Hayes because there was talk in our family about a great singer from Limerick who was part of our ancestry. So far, I’ve been able to trace my great grandfather to Tipperary which is the next county to Limerick. His father or grandfather might well have moved over the county line. I haven’t yet found the missing links but I sure found out plenty about the life of Catherine Hayes and those who were close to her.

Looking for the Truth

Anyone who undertakes a serious study of the life of Catherine Hayes will be forced to conclude that a lot of rubbish has been written about her. One author admitted to me that his researcher failed to find the records. I’d asked because his book didn’t agree with what I’d seen and copied from the archives . Not that all official or Church records are true. Wealthy and influential people paid to have records lost, altered or replaced when it suited their purpose.The preservation of family honour or obtaining a legacy were very compelling reasons to hide or destroy the truth.

One of the many mysteries surrounding Catherine Hayes is her birth date and parentage. Her mother Mary claims to have been born in Devonshire on the English 1861 and 1871 census returns shown here: (To be replaced soon)

The above is from the 1861 return and below is 1871 when Mary and Henrietta are living together with no servants.



It would appear that Mary Hayes was really born in Devonshire since there can be no transcription error. I have since found her baptism as Mary Carroll in Devon. She was always imaginative about ages  as you can see by comparing the two returns  which are 10 years apart. It’s not clear whether it’s 76 or 70 on the form but a lot nearer the truth than the 50 declared in 1861. It would appear now that Catherine Hayes was  both Anglo-Irish and Church of Ireland.





Catherine Hayes in Paris Arcades

Catherine Hayes would have been familiar with the 19c Paris arcades. They were very popular for shopping and socialising since they provided shelter from the elements and a clean tiled floor to walk on. At the height of their popularity, there were over 150 of them providing short cuts linking the streets of central Paris. Some would have been lost in the Haussmann reconstruction which occurred after Catherine Hayes left Paris in 1844 but she would have seen the effects on her later visits which ended in 1860. Relatively few remain today and a selection of those is shown above. Well worth visiting especially on a rainy day.

In Pursuit of Bushnell in Biarritz

Most people go to Biarritz to gamble or to enjoy the surfing. You’ll never guess what I was doing there so I’ll tell you.  I was looking for Willy Bushnell’s grave and I spent two weeks  searching every graveyard in Biarritz and Bayonne. I braved mad dogs, the midday sun and wild boar to trace every 19c burial place there is. I suffered cuts and bruises, dehydration and the loss of my precious research papers which were stolen from my car along with my camera and passport.

You may be wondering if I looked in the registers before going on this physically tough tour. I certainly did and they told me that nobody had bought a permanent plot for any Hayes or Bushnell in 1858. Unfortunately, the burial registers run from 1859 only so there was no hope there either.  So I searched and searched to prove or disprove a point.

Biarritz is a pleasant place with many Victorian villas still standing  and they are all strictly preserved now by order of the Mayor. I couldn’t pinpoint the precise location of the one  in which Willy died but I found the census showing it was a small place occupied only by the owner, his wife and a 16 year old maid in a poorer quarter of town.

I tried hard but did I find Bushnell in Biarritz?  Yes and no. All will be revealed in due course.

Religion of Catherine Hayes and Lola Montez

Many writers appear to have been under the impression that one or both of these two Irish women were Catholics. Let me tell you here and now, the religion of Catherine Hayes and Lola Montez  was Church of Ireland into which they were born and bred but at times they pretended otherwise. In parts of the world, Catholics were in the majority and it was best to appear to be of that faith.

Catherine Hayes helped Father Matthew, the temperance advocate, when she was in New York and gave a concert to raise money for the roof of a Catholic church in New Orleans. Lola Montez had to pretend to be a Spanish Catholic to become a Countess of Bavaria. Imagine an Irish protestant from a lower class background being able to achieve that status in a country which was then violently anti-protestant. She must have been a very good actress to fool everyone including the Jesuits. Neither Catherine nor Lola cared much about any faith.

In the 19c, the official religion in Ireland was the Protestant Church of Ireland and the ruling class belonged to it. There was bitter animosity between Catholics and Protestants which continues to the present day in some areas. A mature student at a local Adult Education Centre wrote some essays which have been published in a booklet. This is what she says about going to school in the 1950’s at the age of four.

“My oldest sister carried me to the school on the carrier on the back of the bicycle. I will always remember my sister ( name removed) leaving me at a neighbour’s gate. I would go through the neighbour’s yard. I never stopped to play with the children there. There were nine children in that family and they went to a different school. We were Church of Ireland and went to the Church of Ireland school.”

That’s an example of the deep divisions in Irish society which prevented even the children from mixing and perpetuated the hatred and suspicion which fueled the Northern Ireland troubles.

Perils of Publishing

The perils of publishing  is a little humourous article inspired by a question on a forum and ‘Up Pompeii’. Actually it is also meant to highlight the exceptional and non-commercial returns policy in the industry and the plight of writers who often receive least for their creative effort.

Sinister,dexter,sinister,dexter.  A funny thing happened on my way to the forum this morning. I met Youngus Foolius, the scribe. He was pushing a cart piled high with odes to the Gods. “Wherefore art thou bound, Youngus”  said I. “ To deliver these odes to my friends and the booksellers who have all promised to buy them”  said he. I wished him good luck.

In the forum, we had a lengthy debate on whether the Vestal Virgins gave good value for money. I knew one who certainly did and I daresay one or two other Senators and especially Caesar himself could give an informed opinion.  Prudently, we kept our intimate secrets to ourselves and the Virgins kept their positions.

Wending my weary way home, Youngus Foolius nearly ran me over with his now empty cart.  “Hail Youngus, you seem to have had a good day” said I.  “Yes and no” Senator said he.  I wondered how he’d learned to talk like a Senator and bid him explain.  “Well, Sir I sold all my odes bar two that I donated to the Temple of Hymen but no one has paid me yet. They say I must wait until the Christians eat the lions in the Circus Maximus. The worst thing is that the Tax Collector saw me and he wants Caesar’s share tomorrow and I only have five cistercii”

“Don’t fret, Youngus,  odes are books and, according to the Senate law of  Junius 30, they can be returned for full credit within six months. Therefore, you may make a loss and owe no tax at all. That being so, you can defer payment now and pay more with interest later if you manage to make a profit.”    “Thank you, Senator, said he. I’ll write an ode to you”  I considered charging him five cistercii for my advice but my kinder nature prevailed and I bid him farewell.

Sinister, dexter, sinister…