LADY VERE DE VERE (1896)
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At the turn of the twentieth century, there was considerable variation in the coloration of Silver Longhairs, and particularly so among what were generally accepted and registered as 'Chinchillas'.
Although a fully clear silvery-white under-coat, delicately tipped in black was the ideal; many cats registered as 'Chinchilla', were by today's standards shaded silvers, and some were shaded silvers with varying degrees of barring on the head and legs, from a minimal expression of the agouti tabby, to a relatively heavy expression. Victorian era breeders, simply accepted that such was the case, and forged ahead regardless, seeking to select for the desired clearer coats, free from tabby barring.
In fact, the breeders of the era were selecting for the effect and strength of the 'Inhibitor' gene, which was not well understood at that time. But that selection never-the-less began influencing the polygenes for pattern expression, and ultimately the longer-term goal was generally achieved. However; during this process, a very large number of cats were registered as Chinchilla's, when phenotypically at least, they could have been anything from poor silver tabbies, to shaded silvers with varying degrees of barring, to relatively clear coated shaded silvers.
'Lady Vere de Vere', falls into this wide category, being variously described as a Chinchilla on one hand, and a silver tabby on the other! She was however, fruitfully bred, and thus played her small part in contributing to the overall establishment of the Chinchilla Longhair, on both sides of the Atlantic.
CH Silver Lambkin Lord Argent | Sylvia Lady Vere de Vere, Aug-22-1896, Silver Tabby Persian, F | Greville Chiponap Sylph Greville Pearl
Born on 22nd August, 1896 and registered as a Silver Tabby (NCC:31434) 'Lady Vere de Vere' traces her ancestry to some of England's leading cats of the 1890's.
Her sire was Mrs. Florence Champion's 'LORD ARGENT' (NCC:30884), one of the key sons of the immortal 'father of the Chinchilla' breed, Miss Gresham's 'Champion Silver Lambkin' (Ch. Perso x Beauty of Bridgeyate). Another paternal forebear is her sire's maternal grandsire, which was Miss S. Anderson Leake's 'Champion Topso of Dingley', considered in his day to be the best Silver Tabby Persian male of his era.
Her dam, Mrs. Lely's 'Sylph'(colour unknown), was descended in a direct line down from 'Champion Birkdale Ruffie', a Brown Classic Tabby male, who arguably had the best head on any tabby cat in Britain. In fact, she was line-bred upon him, her dam being 'Greville Pearl' (a Blue), whose dam 'Birkdale Queenie'(Sable Tabby), was also by 'Champion Birkdale Ruffie'. Although 'Lady Vere de Vere' was bred by Mrs. Lely, she became the property of Mrs. Florence Champion, with whom she remained.
Early photos of her, as a young queen with kittens, show that she was more Silver Tabby at that stage of her development than any other colour, but as she grew older, she lost the tracings on the face and appeared more as a Shaded Silver with considerably less barring.
Mrs. Champion was a rising 'tour de force' in the English fancy, during the late 1890's and at the turn of the century, especially in the breeding of White Persians and Silvers, and one of the early members of the newly formed Blue Persian Cat Club. She appears to have mounted a temporarily successful coup d'etat, in opposition to the supporters of Miss Frances Simpson. But this was short-lived, and not long after the somewhat tumultuous re-establishment of the club as the Blue Persian Cat Society, she and her family elected to emigrate to the United States, taking up residence at Hart Park, on Staten Island in New York State. When she left with her husband and two daughters, they took with them, a fine selection of some of the best Silver Persians, and Blue and Odd-eyed Whites to arrive in that country. She left behind in England, in the care of Miss Mary Hunt and Mrs. Finnie Young, her 'Champion White Friar', a Blue-eyed White male who would ultimately leave an indelible mark and remarkable legacy, on the breeding of Persians on both sides of the Atlantic. The family's departure and arrival in the United States was reported 'back home' in the 16th November 1901 issue of Our Cats:
"Mrs. Champion and her family have arrived in New York, per S.S. Cymric and have caused quite a flutter in catty circles across the water, their advent being heralded by exclusive telegrams in the 'New York Herald' and 'Field and Fancy', our enterprising trans-Atlantic contemporaries. They took out with them eleven cats and four Pomeranians."9
One of the eleven cats was Lady Vere de Vere.
Mrs. Champion and her daughters, Dorothy Bevill Champion and Ethel R.B. Champion were all heavily involved in the affairs of the growing Fancy in the United States. All three acted as judges in the early American fancy at the beginning of the new century.
Although we have no show wins of any note for 'Lady Vere de Vere', there is considerable information on her siblings, which are divided into three categories - 'littermates' (a full sibling from the same litter), then 'full siblings' (same sire and dam but from a different litter), or sire siblings only,(Half siblings by the same sire).
Her litter brother was a Silver Tabby male named 'KOHINOOR' (NCC:31474), also bred by Mrs. Lely, with owner listed as Mis Hunt, and previous owner as Mrs. Champion. He was probably retained along with his litter sister up until Mrs. Champion's move to the United States, and then prior to that, moved to Miss Hunt along with 'Champion White Friar'.
Other full siblings include 'ARGENT NYMPH', a Silver Tabby, female (CCRv4, v510) and 'LADY VIDA', a Black Smoke female, from a litter born a year later on 12th August, 1897. Both 'Nymph' and 'Lady Vida' are shown as bred by Mrs. Champion, so their dam must have moved from the ownership of Mrs. Lely to Mrs. Champion in the intervening period. 'Nymph' was owned by Mrs. G.S. Fleetwood, while 'Lady Vida' is shown as owned by Mr. Thomas Irvine (CCRv310)).
Lastly, 'LORD CAISTER' (CCR:v410). Date of birth and pattern unknown), is likely to have been another Silver Tabby male, possibly from the same litter as 'Nymph' and 'Lady Vida'. He is shown in Register of The Cat Club, as the sire of another Silver Tabby male, named 'Lord Sampson' and his parentage confirms him as another full sibling. His owner is given in Volume 4, as Mrs. Burton.
The list of sire siblings is more considerable, as 'Lord Argent' was a very popular son of 'Champion Silver Lambkin' and one of his more prolific sons. He sired many cats of good repute, mainly Chinchilla's, but also Silver Tabbies and Smokes.
Just a few among these high-profile half siblings to 'Lady Vere de Vere' were cats such as Mrs. Geo Wilson's 'ARD PATRICK OF ARRANDALE' (Chinchilla), Mrs. Champion's own 'ARGENT MOONBEAM' (Chinchilla male), Mrs. G. Boutcher's 'Champion LORD SYLVESTER' (originally registered as a Smoke, but later changed to a 'Mask Silver') and who also became the property of Mrs. Champion, moving with her to the United States as one of the eleven. In time, he sired 'Argent Glorious', then became the property of Mrs. Park, of Montecito, California. Others included Lady Marcus Beresford's Chinchilla male 'WINDSOR PRINCE OF THE FAIRIES', (formerly owned by Mr. C.W. Witt), and who was out of the delightful and incomparable 'The Seraph'. Yet another was Mrs. Hodgkin's Chinchilla female, 'QUEEN MAB', also Miss Horsman's 'THE ELDER MISS BLOSSOM', and not forgetting Mrs. Wellbye's 'SILVER EMPEROR'.
From a number of these cats, some of the greatest Chinchilla's to grace the show bench, were ultimately descended; including, as we shall see, Mrs. Champion's own 'ARGENT GLORIOUS', 'ARGENT BRILLIANT' and 'Champion ARGENT GLORIOSO'.
There can be little doubt that 'Lady Vere de Vere' had litters on both sides of the Atlantic, but there are no records extant of such on the English side. However, she was around four years old when she moved to her second home 'across the pond'. There never-the-less does exist, an early photograph of 'Lady Vere de Vere' with two of her earliest unnamed kittens. This photograph was taken by E. Landor, in England, while she was still quite young. It was subsequently published as the frontispiece, in the 1901 edition of J. Woodroffe Hill's Diseases of The Cat, and captioned 'A Mother of Two'.
In the United States, we can find records for three of her progeny, born at Hart Park, in Staten Island, New York. The first two, were a litter-brother and sister born on 22nd April, 1902. The sire on that occasion was Mrs. Champion's 'Silver Flash', (ACA:91)* a Shaded Silver male bred in England by Miss J. Cox. In 1899. From this combination were born 'ARGENT LADDIE' (BCC:803)* a Chinchilla male, and 'ARGENT PUFF BALL' (BCC:609), a Shaded Silver female. The former was sold to Elizabeth and Mary Sill, of Geneva, New York; and the latter was sold to Mrs. C.W. Lavers of Plainfield, New Jersey. Both families were committed breeders of Silver Persians.
Her third and last known kitten, was 'ARGENT DE VERE' (CFA:25)╣?, a Shaded Silver female, born later the same year, on 6th October, 1902. On this occasion, the sire was Mrs. Champion's lovely Chinchilla male, 'Argent Moonbeam II'.
This daughter, 'Argent De Vere' would in her turn, become the dam of both 'ARGENT PRETTY LADY' (a Shaded Silver female sired by 'Silver Flash'), born 29th March, 1904; and also the dam of the chinchilla male 'ARGENT GLORIOUS' (sired by Ch. Lord Sylvester), born 4th April, 1906. In his turn, 'Argent Glorious' went on to sire both the Chinchilla males, 'ARGENT BRILLIANT' and 'Champion ARGENT GLORIOSO'.
This pretty and unassuming little Silver Tabby female bridged the gap between her famous grand-sire, 'Champion Silver Lambkin' and her grandson, 'Argent Glorious', and by doing so, she helped to also bridge the gap between the Silver Tabby and the Chinchilla. Her siblings, half siblings and progeny all played a role in making the dream of the silver without barring possible. They were in effect, very much the product of 'selection', and the unwitting feline pioneers of a human dream - to create the silver Persian cat, green-eyed, clear coated, eyes lined with mascara, a brick red nose leather and a long flowing coat of pure silvery white, delicately tipped in just enough black to create that glimmering silvery effect that spoke of glamour, class, and distinction. In just five generations down from the Smoke Persian 'Champion Perso' and 'Beauty of Bridgeyate', (the daughter of "Chinnie"), that dream - was now edging slowly but surely toward reality.
Registers associated with this article include The Incorporated Cat Fanciers Association of Great Britain (TICFAGB), National Cat Club (NCC), The Cat Club (CCR), Beresford Cat Club (BCC), Feline Federation Francaise (FFF), Siamese Cat Registry (SCR), US Register & Studbook for Cats (USR)including Supplement(USRS), The Studbook of the American Cat Association (ACA), and the Studbook & Register of the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA).
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