Saturday 17 March 2012

Extraordinary Lives -Brian de Breffny

With 12½% Irish blood in my veins I thought I’d celebrate St. David’s Day by looking at an extraordinary Irish life. Actually, I think “astonishing life” would be more accurate because I’m astonished he managed to get away with it! His name is Brian, Baron de Breffny of Castletown Cox, County Kilkenny, Ireland.

Brian de Breffny was born in 1931. Throughout his life he formed strong friendships with influential men and women, among the first being the composer Sir William Walton. Walton became a kind of mentor and helped Brian to forge connections throughout Europe. These included politicians, royals and Hollywood legends.

Promiscuously bisexual Brian married twice, first to an Indian princess, secondly to a widowed Finn. With his second wife Brian moved to Ireland having by now become Baron and Baroness de Breffny, an ancient title descending from the Celtic O’Rourke royal family. At the stately Castletown Cox the de Breffnys entertained the glamour and royal sets of the world.

As a keen historian Brian de Breffny wrote extensively on Irish heritage and genealogy. He was co-editor of “The Irish Ancestor” for which he wrote many articles (including new research he undertook into the ancestry of Oscar Wilde). Another passion was art and he filled his home with paintings and statues, and was a generous patron of the arts in general. In 1984 he founded “The Irish Arts Review”.

Brian, Baron de Breffny, died in 1989.

But what is so extraordinary about his life, you may ask? To which I reply …

… it was all a con.

He wasn’t Irish. He wasn’t called de Breffny. And he didn’t have a real title. What he did have was charm.

Brian de Breffny was actually born Brian Michael Lees, the son of a London taxi driver. His mother’s family did have Irish blood, but not the Breffny’s. With his father’s secondary career as a bookmaker Brian had more money than the typical working-class Londoner, and with it he began to create a new identity and background for himself.

The first advantageous marriage to an Indian princess gave him more income from the marriage settlement while giving her a way out of India.

What led Brian to adopt the title of Baron de Breffny was his relationship with Hon. Guy Strutt, who taught Brian everything he needed to know to pass in aristocratic circles. It was like a real-life gay version of “My Fair Lady” – but without the songs! It was Strutt who may also have suggested he take a title. The Breffny title had been extinct since the 1930s so Brian saw no reason why he shouldn’t use it, mainly because there was nobody left in the real Breffny family to challenge him or complain about it. There’s nothing to stop you giving yourself a title in a republic like Ireland because they don’t officially recognise them: in places like the UK you have to prove you’re entitled to a title.

Having reinvented himself in Ireland Brian lived the life of a millionaire. Some of his friends, even his wives, knew his real background, but his charm opened door after door and he eagerly went through all of them. It was only after his death in 1989 that his real identity and background was revealed.


  1. Identify myself? I shall of course, but in the context of your blog and my desire to question you on the content of your post. I am not a troll, this is all you need know. What you wrote Tony makes you a troll, a troll named Tony. I ask that you understand this in the true spirit with which it is intended. Think of this not as a personal attack, but rather as a conceptual challenge. The dead have the right to be defended even from beyond the grave. I trust you are, ultimately, a good enough person to understand and respect this It is obvious from what you write about Brian de Breffny that you have gathered information and misinformation here and there and mixed it all together. This is very unfortunate as you have got so many facts wrong. This fact undermines whatever facts you have right. Let me see if you can answer the following? Some of the questions may appear generic, forgive me if some of them appear somewhat banal but it will give me a clear indication of how much you really know.

    1. Where did Brian go to University?
    2. What was Brian's sister's name?
    3. When and where did Brian marry his first wife? What evidence do you have that this was a marriage of convenience rather than love?
    4. When and where did Brian marry his second wife? Was this also a marriage of convenience, or was Brian in love with Ulli Castren?
    5. Did Brian have any children with either of his wives?
    6. With whom did Brian have the longest relationship with? Was it a man? Was it a woman? How long did the relationship last? Is the person still living?
    7. What were Brian's religious beliefs? Was he Jewish or Christian?
    8. Where did Brian live in 1950?
    9. Where did Brian live in 1960?
    10.Where did Brian live in 1970?
    11.Did Brian like Oscar Wilde?
    12.How did Brian's second wife Ulli Castren meet her second husband Sir Stafford Sands?
    13.Did Brian ever have an affair with you?
    14.Why did Brian change his name from Lees to de Breffny?
    15.What evidence do you have that Brian's father's second career was that of a bookmaker?
    16.Why would his first wife the Indian Princess, need to marry Brian to find a way out of India and what was the nature of their divorce settlement?
    17.What connections did Sir William Walton help Brian "forge throughout Europe"and to what end?
    18.What makes you think that it was Brian's relationship with the Hon Guy Strutt that "taught Brian everything he needed to know to pass in aristocratic circles"?
    19.Do you think that being bisexual automatically means that Brian was promiscuous, or do you have evidence that he was promiscuous?
    20.If you met Brian did he like you, if you didn't do you suppose he would like what you write about him?

    Now Tony let's see how you do. If you aren't sure of an answer, please answer "not sure", that way you can increase your chances of having a high TRUTH rating.

    Good luck, trying to be truthful.

    1. Dear Tara, it is very interesting that you put such effort into it. Is there any way we can get in touch? Marina