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Caroline Florence MOURILYAN (née GARDINER) (1841-1922)

Known As
Florence; Aunt Florence
Biographical Details

Caroline Florence Mourilyan, née Gardiner (1841-1922), known as Florence, was the sister-in-law of Eugénie Sladden (née Mourilyan).  She is mentioned in a number of letters written by her husband and her in-laws.

Florence was born at Bath, Somerset, on 9th November 1841, the second of nine children of the Reverend George Gregory Gardiner and his wife, Frances Mary.  Florence’s father was Minister of the Octagon Chapel, Bath, having succeeded his father, the Reverend John Gardiner, as proprietor and incumbent.

For the first ten years of her life, Florence lived in Bath; at the time of the 1851 census the Gardiners were living at Cavendish Road.  Later in 1851, Florence moved with her family to Bonn, Rheinland, Prussia, where her father was the English Chaplain until 1859, the English colony comprising some 300 people at the time.

From 1859-1872, the Gardiner family were in Paris where Reverend Gardiner was Chaplain of the English Protestant Chapel in Avenue Marboeuf, Champs Elysée.  This chapel had been built in 1844 at 10 Rue Marboeuf to replace an earlier building which had been established in 1824. Reverend Gardiner is mentioned briefly in An Anglican Adventure by Father Michael Harrision (2006).  The chapel where the Gardiners worshipped was demolished in 1883; it was replaced by the present-day St George’s Anglican Church which was developed on a new site.

Whilst living in Paris, it is most likely that Florence met Frederick James Mourilyan, the man she was to marry.  The Mourilyans, a Kentish family, had moved to Paris in 1853 when Fred’s father had set up a law practice on Rue St Honoré.

The Siege of Paris, which lasted from 19th September 1870 to 28th January 1871, put an end to the Gardiners’ time in Paris.  They left Paris in a hurry, shortly before the capture of the city by Prussian forces which led to French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and the establishment of the German Empire.

Returning to England, Reverend Gardiner was offered locum positions at Worcester and Plymouth.  At the time of the 1871 census, Florence and her youngest brother, Robert, and their parents, were living in Chapel House, Princess Square, Plymouth.  Her father’s occupation was still given as “English Chaplain, Paris”.  Whilst it is likely that the Gardiner family as a whole remained in England, there is evidence that Florence’s father returned to Paris for a short time as newspaper notices of weddings at the British Embassy in Paris in October 1871 indicate that Reverend Gardiner conducted at least two weddings.  (Coincidentally, one of the weddings was that of Baron von Ziesegar and Susan Lardner who were to become the parents of Alice who would, in 1896, marry his youngest son.)  In 1872 George Gardiner became Rector of St Leonards-on-Sea, a position he kept until his death in 1890.

On 27th June 1872 Florence married Frederick James Mourilyan at Trinity Church, Worcester, where her father was working as a locum.  Fred worked for the National Bank of Roumania, so the early years of Florence’s married life were in Galatz, Roumania.

Florence and Fred had five sons and one daughter:  Arthur Frederick Henry (1873-1879), Hubert Lionel (1875-1900), Harold Austin (1877-1880), Ethelwyn Florence (1879-1965), Charles Archibald (1882-1920) and Evelyn Gordon (1886-1886).  The four eldest children were born in Galatz; two of the boys died in infancy in Roumania.

Florence and Fred Mourilyan left Roumania in 1882 with their two surviving children, Hubert and Ethelwyn, and returned to England for a short time.  Their fifth child, Charles Archibald, was born at St Leonards-on-Sea, which was the home of Florence’s parents.

Fred’s job then took them overseas again, this time to Belgium; he was by now working for the Continental Gas Company.  In Belgium, the Mourilyans lived firstly at Rue des Drapiers, Brussels, and then at Rue du Châtelain, off Avenue Louise.  A sixth child, Evelyn Gordon, was born and died in 1886.

Further tragedy hit the Mourilyans when their eldest surviving son, Hubert, who was with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, was killed in action in South Africa in 1900.

The First World War changed everything and Florence and Fred were forced to abandon their home in Brussels and remain in England where they led an itinerant lifestyle, staying with various different relatives.  The war had a severe effect on the operations of the Imperial Continental Gas Company, so they lived in straitened circumstances.

Florence and Fred suffered another tragedy after the war had ended when their only surviving son, Archie, committed suicide in 1920.

Florence died on 21st October 1922, aged 80, five years before her husband. 

Letters mentioning this person: