The Origin of the Caesars

Mary Ellmore has lucidly described the immediate ancestry of Ann Caesar who married William Linfield in 1850. But what are the origins of this family and how did they adopt such an extraordinary surname?

A newspaper cutting from December 1928 (believed to be from the Weymouth Observer) is a useful beginning. It reads: “The fact that a new member of the Weymouth Town Council bears the name Julius Caesar prompted an “Observer” contributor to remark that most of the Caesars – the name is so uncommon that it appears only twice in the London Directory – were from West Surrey, and that early in the 19th century eleven Caesars played All England at cricket on Tilford Green.”

Writing in the “Observer,” Mr H A Neale, of Bexhill-on-Sea, who was born in Guildford, and whose mother’s name was Caesar, points out that there is a reference to the cricket team of Caesars in the book on Surrey cricket written by Sir Richard Webster (afterwards Lord Alverstone). Mr Neale’s father died in 1912. He had lived in Guildford for 65 years, and occupied only one office. Mr Neale continues:-

My grandfather, on my mother’s side, William Caesar, was the first postmaster at Guildford. I well remember my mother telling me that he had to get out of bed in the night and drop the mail bag out of the window to the night mail-man, who, I believe, then carried on to Ripley, or possibly Woking, to transfer. That was about 1840. Some of our ancestors rest in Peperharow churchyard. My uncle, Francis Tutton Caesar, was the cricket coach to the old Grammar School at Guildford. He had the reputation of teaching hundreds of Guildford boys to swim.

There is also a Mr Julius Caesar at Southsea. He writes to the “Observer:

I think all Surrey Caesars could trace their relationship to Joseph Caesar, who died in 1825. Joseph Caesar is said to have lived to the age of 89. If that is correct, the year of his birth would be 1736 (or 1737) but, at present, there is a difficulty in tracing his registration. In 1757 he married Mary Coles, of Godalming. In 1758 the overseers of the parish of Godalming acknowledge to the overseers of the parish of Elstead that “Joseph Caesar and Mary, his wife, are legal inhabitants of Godalming.” It would be interesting to discover the names of Joseph Caesar’s immediate ancestors of the first and second generations, because only two generations separate him from another “Joseph Caesar (born 1662) and Mary his wife” – this Joseph Caesar being a lineal descendant of Thomas Caesar, brother of Sir Julius Caesar, physician to Queen Elizabeth. Surrey Caesars living today will trace their ancestry to Joseph Caesar by remembering their relationship to one of the bearers of the following somewhat unusual Christian names – Stephen (son of Joseph Caesar), born 1770; Stephen (grand-son), born 1796; Benjamin Julius (great-grandson), born 1827. Julius Caesar, the well-known cricketer of the ‘fifties and ‘sixties, was the son of one of Stephen’s brothers. ”


This tells us quite a bit more about the Caesars. Some forty years ago when Peggy Champ began her researches, she came across Sir Julius Caesar in a book she was reading and set out to try and find if there was a family connection. It certainly seemed highly probable because the likelihood of two separate families adopting such a very unusual surname was remote. Sir Julius Caesar (1557-1636) held some very important posts in his time, the most significant being Chancellor of the Exchequer and Master of the Rolls. He was also a Privy Counsellor to King James I and King Charles I. Peggy wrote to the Inner Temple who obligingly gave her more information, including details of a book15 about the Caesars published in 1810. She managed to obtain a copy through her local library, and so began the task of unravelling the mystery of how this strange family name originated and whether our humble Caesars were in any way descended from such illustrious forebears.

My grandfather was very interested in the Caesar connection, and later obtained two copies of this book, one of which he gave to Peggy. He later gave me his own copy, which I still have, and the first chapter describes the origins of the family: “The family of Caesar was of Italian origin, and its ancestors, under the surname of Adelmare, had long been seated in the city of Treviso, twelve miles from Venice, in the rank of nobility… Of these, Peter Maria Adelmare, of that city, a doctor of both laws, and particularly eminent as a civilian, flourished towards the end of the fifteenth century. He married Paola, daughter and coheir of John de Paolo Caesarino, and had by her three sons, Claudius, Caesar, and John Baptist, of whom the second, CAESAR ADELMARE, having been educated for the medical profession, in which he had taken his degree of doctor in the university of Padua, came into England in the year 1550… Having practised largely for some time in London, he was appointed a physician to Queen Mary; and in the following reign was at the head of the medical department at court…”

Doctor Adelmare married Margaret, daughter of Martin Perin, or Perient, by whom he had five sons and three daughters. The sons were Julius, Thomas, Henry, Charles and William. According to the will of Julius Caesar, chemist of Chippenham (about 1920), Queen Mary paid the record fee of 100 to her Italian doctor, Caesar Adelmare, and playfully, in appreciation, called him her Julius Caesar. He apparently begged her to authorise him to use this name, and she granted him letters of naturalisation. According to Lodge, however, it was Sir Julius who dispensed with his father’s surname; he was baptised at St. Dunstan’s on February 10 1557 by the names of Julius-Caesar, the latter of which he adopted as a surname. Certainly, some of his brothers and their issue retained it by using the designation “Caesar, alias Adelmare,” whilst in the epitaph he wrote for his altar tomb in St. Helen’s Church, Bishopsgate he is styled as “Julius Dalmare, alias Caesar.”

Sir Julius Caesar 1557-1636

Julius lost his father at the age of 12. He was sent to Oxford, where he took the degree of BA in 1575 and MA in 1578. He was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1580. His first public appointments came in 1581 when he became ‘Justice of the Peace in all cases of Piracy’ as well as Chancellor to the Master of St. Catherine’s near the Tower. He married Dorcas Martin in 1582, and two years later he was made Judge of the Admiralty Court (and he was still only 27!). In 1593 he was elected Treasurer of the Inner Temple. His wife died in 1595, and during the following year he married Alice Grene. In 1598, Queen Elizabeth paid him the dubious honour of a visit to their house at Mitcham – the bill for the ‘privilege’ of entertaining their royal guest came to 700!

He was knighted by King James on 20 May 1603. On 11 April 1606, he was made Chancellor and under-Treasurer of the Exchequer, and in the next year he became a Privy Counsellor. In 1614 he was made Master of the Rolls. Four months before he took up his new appointment, he lost his second wife, but some seven months later he married yet again – she was Ann Wodehouse, daughter of Henry Wodehouse of Waxham in Norfolk. Sir Julius Caesar was Master of the Rolls for the next 21 years, until his death (Ref 2). He did not have any great reputation as a judge; in fact, Counsel would occasionally make a joke at his expense. On one occasion during a rowdy court scene, one of them shouted out: “Silence there, my Masters, you keep such a bawling, the Master of the Rolls cannot understand a word that is spoken.” He was also the subject of another amusing anecdote: during a time of political unrest, some joker slipped a note into his pocket which read: “Beware the Ides of March.” Being a somewhat cautious man, he interpreted this as a threat and refused to leave his house for the next fortnight.

Of his several children, his first son, Charles, died an infant in 1586. His second son, Julius, born in 1587, was tragically killed in a duel at Padua when he was twenty. His third son, Charles, who thus became his heir, was born in 1589. Following in his father’s footsteps, Charles also became Master of the Rolls, in 1639. However, unlike his father, he purchased the title from a cash starved monarch for 15,000 in gold pieces which, not surprisingly, caused widespread condemnation. His premature death in 1642 from smallpox denied him much satisfaction from his investment.

Having traced all the lineal descendants of Sir Julius Caesar to extinction, Lodge concludes that, apart from Charles Augustus Caesar, an unmarried Attorney at Law living in Cambridge, and a direct descendant of Sir Thomas Caesar, younger brother of Sir Julius, the family name has virtually died out. No doubt if he had looked at some of the parish records for Hampshire and Surrey, he would have retracted this statement. So where could our humble Caesars have originated? My own belief, given the scarcity of the name, is that they probably descend from one of the brothers of Sir Julius Caesar, perhaps the most likely being Sir Thomas (1561-1621), who was married three times. Lodge actually says in his book: “Our information as to the issue of Sir Thomas Caesar, in spite of considerable pains, remains somewhat defective.” He had three sons, of whom the two youngest, Augustus and Ferdinando, died unmarried. However, his eldest son, Thomas, who married Frances Philpot, had four children, one of whom, John Caesar, was alive in 1640 but of whom there is no further information. They had another son, Gerard, who also had children; but, apart from a daughter, Philadelphia, we have no idea of even the sex of their fourth child.

Of Sir Julius’s remaining brothers, Henry, Dean of Ely, died unmarried in 1636. But we know absolutely nothing of Charles Caesar, a soldier, or William Caesar , a merchant. Did they marry and raise families of their own who would have perpetuated the Caesar name? If anything, this lack of information tends to favour the possibility of a genealogical link between our Caesars and their more illustrious namesakes. Perhaps the Caesars of Hampshire and Surrey may simply descend from an illegitimate branch, which could easily explain Lodge’s failure to pick up the relevant information.

Part 3 of this article will appear in the next issue of Longshot. It will tell the tragic story of the Surrey and England cricketer, Julius Caesar (1830-78), younger brother of Ann Linfield.

Ancestry of Ann Caesar, who married William Lindfield in 1850

One thought on “The Origin of the Caesars”

  1. As a Caesar whose grandfather (Benjamin) migrated from Surrey to Australian in the late 1990’s I would appreciate any information that is available about my family.

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