When the 1959 Broadway musical ‘Sound of Music‘ was transformed into a movie in 1965 it is unlikely that the audiences who viewed it in Midleton’s Ormonde Cinema ever imagined that there was an indirect family link between the grandest mausoleum in St John the Baptist’s Churchyard and the singing von Trapp children depicted in the movie. Sadly, there is some confusion over the Brodrick link to the von Trapp family, not helped by incorrect information being put out on the web (wikipedia is a prime culprit), information that has, admittedly, left your author confused. So this post is all about resolving the confusion.
Let’s start with the children depicted in the musical. The movie depicts Korvettenkapitän Georg Johannes Ludwig Ritter von Trapp introducing his seven children: Rupert, Agathe, Maria Franziska, Werner, Hedwig, Johanna and Martina. These were von Trapp’s children by his first wife: Agathe Whitehead. And SHE is the source of our problem – what exactly was her connection to the Brodrick family, Viscounts Midleton? Or, to be more precise, who exactly were Agathe Whitehead’s parents? This is exactly where the web falls down. Too many sites indicate that Agathe was the daughter of Sir James Beethom Whitehead, a diplomat, and his wife Marian Cecilia Brodrick, daughter of William Brodrick, 8th Viscount Midleton.
In fact, Agathe Whitehead seems to have been the daughter of JOHN WHITEHEAD, the older brother of Sir James. John Whitehead was a key figure in developing the world’s first workable torpedo. The eldest son of Robert Roger Whitehead, the man who actually developed the torpedo into a deadly weapon, John was his father’s most important assistant in developing the torpedo.
Curiously, the Royal Navy rejected this invention but the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Navy was interested, and so it was in Trieste and Fiume (now Rijeka, Croatia) that the Whiteheads actually developed their torpedo. The chilling irony of Agathe’s marriage to Georg Johannes Ludwig von Trapp is that Captain von Trapp was a submarine ace during the Great War – he actually sank eleven merchantmen, a French cruiser and an Italian submarine as well as capturing a Greek vessel! Six of the merchantment he sank were British, three were Italian (allies of the British) and one was French while another was Greek. (Just a pedantic point: von Trapp was NOT a baron, he was a Ritter or baronet in British and Irish aristocratic terms.)
Agathe inherited a lot of money from her grandfather, and that was the source of the von Trapp fortune for a period. Sadly, Agathe died of scarlet fever in 1922 at the von Trapp house at Martinschloessel in Klosterneuburg near Vienna. So traumatic was her death to the family that her husband sold the house and moved the family to a new house, later renamed Villa Trapp, in the suburbs of Salzburg.
A younger son of Robert Roger Whitehead was the diplomat Sir James Beethom Whitehead KCMG who married Lady Marian Cecilia Brodrick, the youngest daughter of William Brodrick, the 8th Viscount Midleton. Marian was the aunt by marriage of Agathe von Trapp. Marian’s father, William Brodrick, was the son of the Very Rev, William Brodrick, 7th Viscount Midleton, who had been Dean of Exeter and an Honorary Chaplain to Queen Victoria. The 7th Viscount’s father was Charles Brodrick, 6th Viscount Midleton who succeeded his brother, George Brodrick, 6th Viscount. In 1848, George had succeeded his cousin George, 5th Viscount Midleton, following the latter’s suicide.
The real Midleton connection resides in the parents of the 6th and 7th Viscounts. Their father was the Most Rev Charles Brodrick, Archbishop of Cashel, who was the husband of Mary Woodhouse. Archbishop Charles and Mary are buried in a grand mausoleum in St John the Baptist’s graveyard in Midleton. The archbishop and his wife had spent a lot of time in Midleton during the time he was Rector of the parish and when he was archbishop.
So there it is: Agathe Whitehead, first wife of Georg von Trapp and the mother of his first seven children, was the niece by marriage of Marian Brodrick, daughter of the 8th Viscount Midleton. But she wasn’t actually a Brodrick!
Note: the genealogical information on Agathe Whitehead was derived from GENI UK.