Brett Autograph Letters

Scope and Content

The Brett Collection is comprised of 170 autograph letters, some with photographs attached, the majority of which are addressed to William or Reginald Brett (first and second Viscount Esher) or their wives. Both William and Reginald Brett associated with important people from the period including royalty and politicians, this has been reflected in the collection of the letters that both men had assembled.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Baliol Brett first Viscount Esher was born on the 13th August 1817, he was a lawyer and master of the rolls. He went on to become a Q.C. and between 1866-1888  became a member of the House of Commons for Helston, Cornwall. In 1868 Brett was appointed Solicitor-General,and in the same year became a Justice of the Court of Common Pleas. He was later raised to the House of Lords as a Baron Esher. After resigning office he was to become the first Viscount Esher in 1897 . On 3 April 1850 he married Eugénie Mayer (1814-1904), only daughter of Louis Mayer, and stepdaughter of Colonel Gurwood CB. William Brett was a devoted father and was succeeded by his only surviving son, Reginald Baliol Brett.

Reginald Brett the second Viscount Esher was a man of some standing, his biographer James Lees-Milne confirms that he "exerted an incredible influence on royalty and politics. The intimate of every Prime Minister from Rosebery to Stanley Baldwin, of Kitchener, Haig and Lord Curzon, he always declined high ministerial and diplomatic office, convinced that he could manipulate events more effectively from backstage". Reginald Brett had been a confident to kings and politicians and even edited volumes on Queen Victoria, in 1908  he became Keeper of the Royal Archives and was to become a Privy Counsellor in 1922. He was married to Eleanor (Nellie) Frances Weston Van de Weyer (d. 7 February 1940), third and youngest daughter of Sylvain Van de Weyer, the Belgian ambassador, with whom he had two sons and two daughters. Reginald Baliol Brett died in London in 1930.


The letters have been arranged in alphabetical order.

Access Information

Access is open to bona fide researchers an appointment must be made in advance to use the Brett Collection.

Acquisition Information

The collection was purchased from E.Hall in 1960 .


Where the addressee cannot be confidently identified, the name is marked with a question mark

Information on each individual is generally recorded in the following order: surname, forename, date, epithet.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has been used as a source to identify the majority of individuals. However, a few have remained unidentifiable; in this instance the name is recorded without biographical detail.

Other Finding Aids

A finding aid is available for consultation in the reading room.

Archivist's Note

A collection-level description was created for the Archives Hub in January 2004  by Roy Lumb. This item level list was creating in 2007 using Xemacs Open Source Text Editor, by Josephine Dodd, and is based on an earlier typescript alphabetical list.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction and licensing rules available on request

Appraisal Information

All of the material deposited with the Brett Collection has been preserved.


There are no anticipated accruals.

Related Material

The archives of Lord Esher (Reginald Brett) at Cambridge University Churchill Archives Centre


Lees-Milne, James, The enigmatic Edwardian: the life of Reginald 2nd Viscount Esher, Sidgwick & Jackson,  1986