Banks, Thomas Christopher (DNB00)

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BANKS, THOMAS CHRISTOPHER (1765–1854), genealogist, claimed by his father connection with the family of Banks of Whitley in Yorkshire whose descent he traced from Richard Bankes [q. v.], a baron of the exchequer in the time of Henry IV and Henry V; and he asserted that his maternal ancestors were the Nortons of Barbados, baronets of Nova Scotia. He was educated for the law, and on the strength of his genealogical knowledge proffered his services as an agent in cases of disputed inheritance. From 1813 to 1820 he practised at 5 Lyon's Inn, and subsequently he took an office, called the Dormant Peerage Office, in John Street, Pall Mall. Although none of the cases he undertook possessed more than the very flimsiest claims, and there was scarcely any genealogical will-of-the-wisp which he was not ready, if the fancy struck him, to adopt ns a reality, his researches, when his imagination was left unbiassed, were of the most thorough and painstaking kind, and many of his published works possess a very high degree of merit. The ‘Manual of the Nobility,’ his first publication, appeared in 1807. The same year he brought out the first volume of the 'Dormant and Extinct Baronage of England,' a second volume following in 1808, and a third in 1809. In 1812 he published the first volume of a corresponding work on the 'Peerage,' nearly one half of the volume being occupied with an account of the royal families of England down to the death of Queen Anne, and the remainder by the peerage from Abergavenny to Banbury; but the work was never carried beyond this volume. The same year he edited, in one volume, reprints of Dugdale's 'Ancient Usage in bearing Arms,' Dugdale's 'Discourse touching the Office of Lord High Chancellor,' with additions, together with Segar’s 'Honores Anglicani.' The first of his pamphlets in support of spurious claims to peerages appeared also in the same year under the title 'An Analysis of the Genealogical History of the Family of Howard with its Connections; showing the legal course of descent of those numerous titles which are generally, but presumed erroneously, attributed to be vested in the dukedom of Norfolk.' In 1815 the pamphlet was republished with the more sensational title, 'Ecce Homo, the Mysterious Heir: or Who is Mr. Walter Howard? an interesting inquiry addressed to the Duke of Norfolk. A third edition appeared in 1816, with a copy of Mr. Walter Howard's petition to the king. The same year there was published anonymously the 'Detection of Infamy, earnestly recommended to the justice and deliberation of the Imperial Parliament by an Unfortunate Nobleman.' The author of the pamphlet, as attested by his own hand in the British Museum copy, was Mr. Banks; the unfortunate nobleman was Thomas Drummond, of Biddick, who, as a descendant of the junior branch of the Drummonds, claimed to succeed to the estates in preference to James Drummond, who had been recognised as heir in 1784, and was created Lord Perth in 1797. About this time Banks was also engaged in compiling the cases printed by Lewis Dymoke on his claim to the barony of Marmion in right of the tenure of the manor of Scrivelsby, Lincoln. In 1814 he published an 'Historical and Critical Enquiry into the Nature of the Kingly Office, the Coronation, and Office of King’s Champion; ' and in 1816 a 'History of the Ancient Noble Family of Marmyun, their singular Office of King's Champion.' In 1825 he brought out 'Stemmata Anglicana; or, a Miscellaneous Collection of Genealogy, showing the descent of numerous ancient and baronial families, to which is added an analysis of the law of hereditary dignities, embracing the origin of nobility.' The second part contained an account of the ancient and extinct royal families of England, re-embodied from the 'Extinct Peerage.' In 1887 this was republished as a fourth volume of the 'Dormant and Extinct Baronage of England,' and continued down to January 1837, with corrections, appendices, and index. In 1880 he undertook the case of Alexander Humphrys, or Alexander, who laid claim to the earldom of Stirling, as descended from a younger branch of the family by the female side; his mother, who died in 1814, assuming to be Countess of Stirling in her own right. In support of the claims of Humphrys there appeared in 1830 'Letters to the Right Hon. the Lord K—on the Right of Succession to Scottish Peerages,' which reached a second edition. The letters were by Mr. E. Lockhart; the advertisement, pp. 1-8, and the appendix, pp. 43-118, by Banks. The same year Banks published on the subject a 'Letter to the Earl of Roseberry in relation to the proceedings at the late election of Scotch peers,' and this was followed in 1831 by an 'Address to the Peers of Scotland by Alexander, Earl of Stirling and Dovan,' and in 1832 by an 'Analytical Statement of the Case of Alexander, Earl of Stirling and Dovan.' Banks gave proof of his own personal faith in the claims of Humphrys by allowing the pseudo-earl, in accordance with rights conferred on the first Earl of Stirling by King James, to create him a baronet, and by accepting from him, in anticipation, a grant of 6,000 acres of land in Nova Scotia. When the documents on which Humphrys founded his claims were discovered to be forgeries, Banks ceased to make use of his own title; but in his obituary notice he is styled 'a Baronet of Nova Scotia and Knight of the Holy Order of St. John of Jerusalem.' While the Stirling case was still in progress. Banks published the imaginary discovery of another unrecognised claim to a peerage, under the title of a 'Genealogical and Historical Account of the Earldom of Salisbury, showing the descent of the Baron Audley of Heleigh from the William Longespe, Earl of Sabsbury, son of King Henry II by the celebrated Fair Rosamond, and showing also the right of the Baron Audley to the inheritance of the same earldom.' In 1844 he published, in two parts, 'Baronia Anglica Concentrate.' He also published, without date, 'Observations on the Jus et Modus Decimandi,' an' Account of the ancient Chapel of St. Stephen's at Westminster,' and a 'Poem on the Family of Bruce.' During his later years he resided near Ripon, Yorkshire. He died at Greenwich 30 Sept. 1854.

[Gent. Mag. New Series, xliii. 206-8.]

T. F. H.