Norway to Dover

Captain Henry Hammond Shott DSO was, by all reports, an extraordinary man. Not only did he survive the Boer War and various African uprising, he also learned to fly a Bristol Biplane shortly before heading over to France for the beginning of the Great War. It wasn’t long after he arrived that he died while being particularly heroic.

He was the son of one Nils Schjott, a Marine Insurance Agent working out of Dover with his partner, a Mr Hammond. Henry Anglicized his name at some stage to become Shott but, so far anyway, I’ve not found out when or why. Nils was born in Norway but was a British Subject, having been naturalised in September 1877.

According to some things I’ve read Nils was labelled ‘Chevalier’ which means he was a recipient of the French Legion of Honour at knight level. While generally for French nationals, there are many instances of the award going to non-French people as well. As long as the recipient has served the French or French ideals over a significant period of time. Like 25 years.

In saying that, I have been unable to find him mentioned as receiving the award.

Regardless of his Chevalier status, Nils was very successful in the ship insuring game and provided well for his family. Though his family life was clearly not altogether blissful. He filed for divorce in 1881 and one was granted in 1882. He accused his wife of adultery. While being successful in his petition, Nils had to pay court costs and damages.

He had married Marianne Nichols in an Anglican church in Marseille back in July 1865 and had subsequently had a few kids, Henry being the third of them. The family spent a lot of time travelling throughout Europe and the Near East before settling down in Dover.

All seemed fine until 1879 when Nils accused his wife of carrying on an affair with someone called RM Cumming (his first and middle names have been redacted from the divorce papers) and someone called R Gordon who may or may not have been, the same man.

Marianne and RM appear to have had a jolly time in various places in France including The Grand Hotel du Louvre in Paris. She was also having a great time in the US with someone called R Gordon (again his name has been redacted) travelling through New York and Chicago and various other places, cohabiting as husband and wife.

In response to the charges of adultery, RM Cumming (or R Gordon) denied them, claiming that Nils and Marianne had been living separately since September 1880. Gordon claimed that Nils, in a statement made at that time, maintained that they should lead separate lives and no longer act like husband and wife.

Accordingly the court held in favour of Nils for the divorce but had him pay all costs. Seems fair.

But then, strangely, they were still living together in the 1891 census and had had more children. Perhaps they made it up. Perhaps the children were fathered by RM but supported by Nils? Who knows? I haven’t found anything that suggests they remarried.

Marianne died on Dec 9, 1909 still using the surname Schjott. Nils died three years earlier on 23 May 1906 aged 75. Sadly, I think their stories will never be fully revealed.

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