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.

Book Research Tip

  When I found a Memoir of Catherine Hayes published by her agents, Messrs. Cramer & Beale of London, I thought now I can get the facts and eliminate all the silly stuff printed elsewhere. It turned out that all the other wrong short biographies of Miss Hayes had been largely based on this Cramer & Beale one. I won’t go into all it’s shortcomings here but let’s consider one major issue i.e. her education and early childhood in Limerick.

The traditional and, I have to say, accepted view to date is that she was a poor widow’s or deserted wife’s daughter with a natural talent for singing and that she was discovered by Bishop Knox as he was boating on the river Shannon. She was overheard as she sung in a bower in the Earl’s garden where she was helping her aunt who was a domestic servant there. They remarked on her fine trill.

No dount about her talent but the rest is humbug. Miss Hayes was never a servant, neither was her mother and Mrs. Daly was only an honorary aunt. The truth is that Catherine was brought up as an aristocrat’s daughter as was her sister Henrietta. They went to a young ladies academy where they learned Music, French, Italian, English and Elocution. Their mother was a rich man’s mistress whose husband had mysteriously disappeared and was never seen again.

The question now is: How do you, as a researcher, decide that all is not well with the generally accepted view of events? When you study life in Limerick in the 1820’s it should soon become apparent that there was great poverty, no schools for the poor, deserted wives could barely live never mind pay for an education. If they had the money, their children would be refused admission because only a gentleman’s daughters would qualify. By now, you should be seriously querying the published accounts of your subject’s early life and looking for alternative answers.

We have those alternative and correct answers provided for us by a close friend of the family. He details the education enjoyed by Catherine and Henrietta at a private academy and even describes their Italian and French teachers. There is later evidence in the form of letters and the employment of Henrietta that she knew French very well.

The moral here is that if the supposed facts don’t fit, you must look for alternatives which will. As a mistress, Mary Hayes didn’t work and was provided with everything she wanted. It’s doubtful if she lived in Patrick St. at all because her lover had many properties in the country which offered better privacy for his visits which had to be kept discreet.




Book Content – Does It Matter?

I said in a recent discussion that it’s the content which matters but is that true today? We have the situation in which bookshops are trying to keep afloat and the books they display prominently are those which will bring them the most revenue. This means the ones from publishers who give them a regular extra discount for putting their books on display in the window and/or inside and promote them in the press etc. It doesn’t matter if they are chick-lit, non-fiction or fiction masquerading as truth. So long as it sells, it’s manna from heaven.

At a recent meeting in Dublin, I heard that 9 in 10 of ‘celeb’ books fail but the 10th hits the big time and pays for the others. What does that say for content? At Famous Biography, we’d like to think that content is king and that books like our ‘Virtue and Vice’ will prove the point. There is no doubt that in Catherine Hayes and Lola Montez, we have great characters to work with.

Please comment.

Catherine Hayes

Miss Catherine Hayes – from a Portrait by A. Salome 1849

Courtesy of the Mander & Mitchenson Theatre Collection -London

Catherine or Kate Hayes is the principal subject of ‘Virtue and Vice’ to be published by Suir Vista later in 2015. This portrait of her is one of the very few that can be said to be based on original art work although the location of the original by A. Salome remains unknown. Several altered copies and mirror images of this picture are to be found in various collections. This is the oldest dated that the author can find.

There was a portrait painter called Anthony Salome who studied in Munich and practised in London in 1849. His painting of Tyutchev’s daughters is in the Tyutchev State Museum at Muranovo near Moscow.

It seems therefore that we can be reasonably sure that this is a good likeness of Catherine Hayes in 1849 when she was at the height of her fame. She sang at Buckingham Palace for Queen Victoria on 1st June 1849.

All rights reserved: TA Hayes 2014



Catherine Deneuve

Catherine Deneuve is a stunning French actress/model/singer who has lived a fascinating life, having been romantically involved with Marcello Mastroianni, Roger Vadim, and François Truffaut. Ms. Deneuve got a career boost in 1965 by playing a virgin (yes, imagine that) in Roman Polanski’s brilliant psychological thriller titled “Repulsion”, a clip from which is featured in this video. The sound track is “Joy” by Isaac Hayes.

Duration : 0:3:53

Continue reading Catherine Deneuve