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Conrad Fulke O'Brien-ffrench. Artist and Spy.

Lineage and Birth

The O’Brien Ffrench Lineage

Conrad's Father

Conrad's Mother Winnifred ffrench nee Thursby

The Ffrench lineage stems, Conrad tells us in his book, from Theophilus Ffrench, who came with William the Conqueror to England in 1066. The Ffrench contingent eventually settled in the city of Galway. A Patrick Begg Ffrench bought Monivea Castle in the early 1600s, and his son, Percy, went on to develop the land into a well appointed estate. The ffrenches were established as a great Irish family. Conrad's branch of the family married with the O'Briens of Thomond. Donough O'Brien had gone to Rome to seek a pardon from the Pope for having killed his brother. He became a monk and in 1064 he was interred in the Rotund chapel of St Stephen's.


In the 17th century, Moirough O'Brien "Swept Ireland end to end with fire and sword burning the cathedral of Cashel with all priests and the people were taking refuge therein. He professed his repentance on becoming a Catholic and by way of propitiating Pope Alexander VII was opposing his appointment as Viceroy of Catalonia.  He erected a monument overlooking Lake Bolsena to the memory of Donough." (DM p10) From the epitaph on this monument, "Rex Cashel et Thomond", the property took its name by a local corruption as "Castel Thomond". Hence the ffrench family inherited the title of "Marquis de Castel et Thomond". Conrad's father inherited this title shortly after his birth and in due course Conrad himself became the Marquis.


In 1863, Robert Percy ffrench married Sophia Kindiakoff a Russian heiress whose family had large estates in the region of Simbirsk on the Volga River.  The following year, they had a daughter, Kathleen. Back in Monivea, his brother Acheson, Conrad’s grandfather, also had a daughter - Rosemont,. Kathleen was brought up in the utmost luxury in Russian Palaces. Rosemont became the custodian of Monivea.

(Below is a link to a radio documentary about Kathleen Rosemont and Monivea)

Robert Percy ffrench

The ffrench connection.
Speaker 1
A radio documentary broadcast on May 4th 2009 by RTÉ

Conrad's father, Harry, came over Britain from Australia in the mid-19th century, Acheson Ffrench – his father – having established a successful sheep farming business outback, Monivea Station.  Harry lived there during his youth, and then set to exploring Australia and the South Seas before turning his eyes to his ancestral roots. He came to England and met and married an heiress, Winifred Thursby of Ormond House in Lancashire – this, despite being seen by the family as an Australian fortune hunter. Conrad was born on 19th of November 1893 at No 5 Montpellier Square, London. He was the ffrenches’ second child, Conrad’s elder brother Rollo born the preious year.  In his infancy, they moved to Italy and took the Villa Torlonia in the Albany hills east of Rome.



* 'Delicate Mission' {first published in 1979 by Skilton & Shaw (Fudge & Co Ltd) of London} hereafter DM. Conrad was given a grant from The Royal Mounted Police to write this memoir of his life.     

At a Glance

Date of Birth:11/19/1893 London
Date of Death:10/23/1986 Loveland Colorado
Education: Slade & Byam Shaw London. Andre L'Hote acadamie of Modern Art Paris

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