QUEBEC-RESEARCH-L ArchivesArchiver > QUEBEC-RESEARCH > 2005-07 > 1122332324
Date: Mon, 25 Jul 2005 18:58:44 EDT
Blueblood Named Bill Is in Line to Be Called Earl
By Ann M. Simmons, Times Staff Writer
YUBA CITY, Calif. — He could be addressed one day as "My Lord." But retired
grocery store worker William Jennings Capell would prefer to be known as just
A lifelong resident of this farming town 45 miles north of Sacramento,
Capell always knew he had noble blood. What he didn't know was that he might one
day assume the title of England's Earl of Essex.
Then last month a British newspaper reporter called to inform Capell that
the 10th Earl of Essex had died and the 11th had inherited the title. As the
new earl's fourth cousin once removed, Capell was next in line as the 12th Earl
"I was still half asleep," recalled Capell, 52, an affable, heavyset man, as
he lounged in an armchair at his home. "I acknowledged it. But that was all.
It wasn't until later that I got to thinking about it, that 'Wow, I'm next
in line.' It started to sink in a little."
An earl is a member of the British peerage — a nobleman of high rank.
According to Burke's Peerage & Gentry, whose books have recorded the genealogy of
titled and landed families in the United Kingdom and Ireland for some 175
years, the title can be inherited or bestowed upon an individual by the state.
Capell stands to succeed the current Earl of Essex, Frederick Paul de Vere
Capell, a 61-year-old retired elementary school assistant principal, who lives
near Lancaster (the one in England, not the Antelope Valley).
According to Burke's and Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, Frederick
succeeded his father, Robert Capell, the 10th Earl, who died in June. (The late
earl was a distant cousin of the 9th Lord Essex.)
The 11th Earl is a bachelor and has no children. With no other apparent
successor in sight, Capell is the new heir to the earldom. His aristocratic
genealogy is documented in the 106th edition of "Burke's Peerage & Baronetage."
"I'm excited about it," said Capell, who has never met or corresponded with
his British kin and has never visited England. "I'm planning a trip to meet
the earl, to say hi and let him show me around."
"I think we should send him a family photo," said Capell's wife, Sandy, 53.
"We've got the address."
She would become Lady Essex, a countess. Her husband's full title, at least
for correspondence, would be The Right Honorable Earl of Essex.
Capell believes his great-grandfather emigrated from England to Canada, and
then to Idaho. He doesn't recall what the patriarch did for living, but he
did know his grandfather — an Idaho cattle rancher and potato farmer.
"I met him once," said Capell, who used to check and stock shelves and do
managerial duties at a local supermarket. "He died when I was 7 years old."
Capell (pronounced KAY-pull), whose father was an Army clerk, was born in
Spokane, Wash. The family moved to Yuba City when he was an infant.
Capell's father rarely spoke about his noble family tree.
Until recently, peers of hereditary titles, like that of earl, were entitled
to a seat in Britain's House of Lords — the second chamber of the British
Parliament, which normally has to consent before Acts of Parliament can be
But the House of Lords Act of 1999 removed the right of most hereditary
peers to sit and vote in the House. Other reforms of the Lords are still being
It's unclear whether Capell would be entitled to sit in the House of Lords,
now with 731 members, but he said he would seriously consider moving to
England to fulfill his role of representing the County of Essex.
Even if Capell did get a chance to serve, membership in the House of Lords
is unpaid. Nor does Capell stand to inherit any land, estate or crown jewels.
"There's no castle, no money," he said. Previous earls have been politicians,
military commanders — even farmers.
The best-known Earl of Essex is the 2nd, Robert Devereux, who was a favorite
courtier of Queen Elizabeth I. Eloquent and vivacious, he subsequently fell
out of favor and later attempted a coup, for which he was convicted of
treason and executed in the Tower of London in 1601.