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Birth and Parentage-Descent-His Mother-Education-Early Business
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JOHN CHARLES MOLTENO was born on the 5th of June, 1814, three months before the final cession of the Cape of Good Hope to England, and one year before the battle of Waterloo. The stirring events of the time in which he was born were reflected in his christian names. It was said he was called · John Charles' after Napoleon's General Bernadotte, who at this time was making a considerable stir, and who became King of Sweden in 1818. These were the days of Catholic disabilities. His father, John Molteno, was a Catholic, and the boy's birth was registered at the Bavarian Ambassador's Chapel in Warwick Street. Mr. Molteno was in the home Civil Service at Somerset House, and he died at an early age, but he had already attained to the position of a Deputy-Controller of Legacy Duty, while he had also qualified himself to practise as an attorney of the King's Bench. His wife was Caroline Bower, a daughter of Mr. George Bower, whose family have been connected for generations with the Bank of England, and who himself occupied the VOL. I.
position of head of one of the legal departments in that great institution.
As the surname indicates, the family was originally of Italian descent, though already settled for some generations in England. Three brothers had come over from Italy with their friends the Colnaghis, the founders of the wellknown firm of printers and lithographers in Pall Mall. Italy is a country of very ancient memories and records. Leland tells us that there are still families extant whose names are to be found written in Etruscan characters on ancient monuments upon the estates of which they are still in possession. If this cannot be said of the Molteno family, it is nevertheless sufficiently ancient. An old chronicler thus explains the origin of the name: “The noble signors, after the destruction of Milan by Uraja, who had retired among the surrounding villas, seeing the danger of their situation, turned to Milan, and, that they might be distinguished family from family, preserved, every one of them, as a distinctive name, the name of the district or villa from whence they came. And in this manner many of the Milanese families had their origin from the Brianza : such names are the Pirovano, the Brevio, the Osnago the Molteno. . . all noble families whose names occur in our most ancient charters and historical documents, and all now extant.'
If we ascend to the roof of the Cathedral at Milan and look northward to the line of Alps, we are struck by the peculiar serrated ridge of the mountain Il Resegone (the Saw), which marks the extremity of the Lecco arm of the Lake of Como. All who have read Manzoni's novel, The Betrothed,' will remember the description of the country
! • Englishmen and Frenchmen are the result of modern mixtures of people, but the Italians, like Hawthorne's Marble Faun, are absolutely ancient, if not pre-historic. There are families in Italy who find their family names in Etruscan monuments on their estates.' P. 11 of Introduction to Etrusco-Roman Remains, by C. G. Leland.
with which he opens the narrative. In this neighbourhood the crested Alps cease, and are represented by subdued ridges and isolated hills, interspersed with small lakes, together comprising a country celebrated for its beauty and fertility. This is the Brianza or Bel Paese. The hills finally pass into the level plain in which lies the great city of Milan. If we proceed over the bridge at Lecco along the Via Promessi Sposi, passing the lakes of Anone and Pusiano, very charming in their quiet beauty, after traversing a distance of nine miles we arrive at the small town of Molteno, situated on one of the isolated hills, the slopes of which are covered with vines and mulberry trees; the church towers above the town, crowning the hill top and commanding extensive views from its broad steps. The houses cluster in narrow, crooked streets about the lower slopes and base of the bill. This is the spot which gave its name to the family of Molteno. It must have formed a strong position as a fortress, and though the castle has disappeared, the spot is still known as the Piazza di Castello. Here they founded a church, and for many years held the patronage in consequence.
The name of the family of Molteno occurs frequently in the early history of the Brianza. While retaining possession of Molteno they were among the leading families of Milan, and came into especial prominence at the time of the great struggle between the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and the municipal towns of Lombardy. The family of Molteno are specially mentioned as having taken part in the negotiations with Frederick relative to the surrender of their native city in the year 1162.2
See Teatro Araldico, Lodi, 1843, vol. iii. ? Milan was at this time the first city of Italy, and headed the league which had for its object a determined resistance to the pretensions of the Emperor to the exercise of rights which had long fallen into abeyance. Frederick Barbarossa, the imperious and energetic representative of the Roman Emperors, led from Germany seven successive armies against the Lombard towns; the brunt of the struggle fell upon Milan. Having attacked her with an army of 15,000 cavalry and 100,000 foot she successfully repelled his assault, and so little was