The De Fraine family

The name de Fraine is a familiar one to anyone who has studied Victorian Berkhamsted and in the Society’s archives are a number of slides of members of the family, including one of William de Fraine, apparently the first generation of de Fraines to settle in Berkhamsted. A helpful note in our museum database states that William de Fraine came over with the French court of Louis XVIII when he was living in exile at Hartwell House, near Aylesbury. On Louis’ return to France to take over the throne William stayed in this country and after his marriage in 1821, later settled in Berkhamsted. William was a perfumer and hairdresser, and it is nice to think of him dressing Louis’ wig and speaking to His Majesty in French. There are a number of stories associated with Louis and his exile in the neighbourhood. That associated with Polly Page, the inn keeper’s daughter has some basis in fact but does that of William de Fraine stand up to further investigation?

De Fraine family

Following the de Fraine family through successive censuses and other records, Jenny’s conclusion was: “that de Fraines have been born, married and lived in Aylesbury and the surrounding area at least from 1744 when Thomas de Fraine was baptised at St Mary’s Aylesbury. Although we are not able to say categorically that an Aylesbury de Fraine did not attend on Louis XVIII whilst he was living at Hartwell House, there is no question of a de Fraine arriving in this country as part of the French court. I am afraid this story cannot be substantiated!”

Jenny Sherwood, Chronicle, v.XII, pp.19-22.