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Baron C. Ver Heyden De Lancey

Baron C. Ver Heyden De Lancey (1889-1984)

Cornelius Ver Heyden De Lancey was a man of many talents. Apart from his gift of fluency in languages, for he spoke Dutch, German, French, and Italian besides English, he qualified as a Doctor of Medicine, in Dentistry, as a Barrister-as-Law and as an Advocate of the Royal Courts in Jersey. He was also a keen collector of French historical books letters and manuscripts, particularly of the times of Louis XIII, Louis XIV and Napoleon. In addition he was a connoisseur of Art.

Cornelius Ver Heyden was born in 1889 in Middleburg in the Netherlands, a small town near Flushing, which in those days had many close cultural and trading contacts with England. He was one of three sons of a physician, who had himself completed post-graduate studies in Edinburgh. His brother Everard Ver Heyden graduated from Trinity College Cambridge, while Cornelius commenced his own studies in medicine and in dentistry in the University of Leiden, before obtaining his dental qualification in the U.S.A. He then came to London and practised as a dentist in the West End, becoming a British Citizen. During the First World War he obtained his medical qualification, specialising in surgery of the mouth and jaw.

Due to an injury to a hand he had to abandon surgery for a period. He came to Cambridge, forged links with his brother's college, Trinity, and was called to the bar in the Middle Temple. He practised as a barrister for some time, specialising in medico-legal cases.

There followed a period when he practised as a dentist in Rome and in Florence. (He was by now Baron Ver Heyden De Lancey.) He was able whilst there in Italy to develop his intense interest in the History of Art, in which he researched collections of letters and published monographs.

In 1935 his practice among expatriates in Italy declined as a result of the Ethiopian crisis and he moved to Monaco. On the outbreak of war in 1939 he returned to the United Kingdom, and the War Office gave him work to do in connexion with the opening up of convalescent homes for war-wounded in Jersey.

By then he was married to the Baroness Josephine, an American lady, formerly De La Hanty. Following the occupation of the Channel Islands by the Germans he escaped deportation through there being a shortage of doctors in Jersey. He became the partner of a Jersey doctor, and later took over the practice on the death of his colleague. Following the Liberation of the island he changed back to being a practising dentist. He took up the study of the Norman-French laws of Jersey and was enrolled as an Advocate.

The De Lancey and De La Hanty Foundation was founded in Jersey by the Baron in 1970, with the encouragement of Josephine, to stimulate studies in medicine and the law, their inter-related ethics and to promote links between these disciplines. Numerous scholarships and prizes are awarded annually, and lecture courses are promoted, through bodies such as Cambridge University and Trinity College, the University of Leiden, the Inns of Court, the Royal Society of Medicine and schools in Jersey.

In 1972, following the death of the Baroness Josephine he married a childhood friend Henrietta, herself a widow, who took much personal interest in the work of the Foundation.

Cornelius died in July 1984 on his 95th birthday, survived by Henrietta, who subsequently died in September, 1993, at the age of 104, being by then the oldest person in Jersey.

John Owen Davies

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