Peter and Siân Maxwell still live at the ancestral family estate of Old Court, beside the village of Strangford, County Down.
The barony was created in 1264.
Since the history of the de Ros barony is already well documented I shall begin ca 1806, when Charlotte Boyle-Walsingham, Lady Henry FitzGerald, became the 21st Baroness de Ros in her own right.
The connection with County Down seems to commence at this point, when she married into the illustrious FitzGerald dynasty, Dukes of Leinster, Marquesses and Earls of Kildare, who owned the barony of Lecale in County Down; indeed the de Ros coat-of-arms has many similarities with that of the Dukes of Leinster, including the motto.
Lord Henry FitzGerald’s wife Charlotte, whom he married in 1791, established her (and her descendents') claim to the barony of de Ros in 1806.
Lord Henry and his elder brother, Lord Charles, who died in 1810, were endowed by their eldest brother William, 2nd Duke of Leinster, with the northern part of the family estates, mainly consisting of the barony of Lecale in County Down.
By the end of the 19th century the estate of Lord Henry's descendant, the 24th Baron de Ros, amounted to 2,952 acres in County Down and ca 1,250 acres in County Meath.
The principal family seat was Old Court in Strangford, County Down. The Meath estate was completely sold by 1929.
The Old Court estate was modest in size, by Victorian standards. Despite its size though, the de Ros estate easily compensated for this with its beauty and charm.
Few peerages - even baronies by writ - have passed through so many heirs female as this one.
As a consequence, it had been enjoyed by the Manners, Cecil and Villiers families prior to the FitzGeralds' succession to the title.
It was to fall into abeyance once more in 1939 on the death of Mary Frances, 25th Baroness de Ros; but was again successfully called out of abeyance in 1943 in favour of her eldest daughter, Una Mary; and, in 1958, in favour of the latter's granddaughter, Georgiana Angela Maxwell, 27th Baroness de Ros.
The relationship between the two families was compounded in 1824 when William Lennox Lascelles de Ros, later 23rd Baron, son of Lord and Lady Henry FitzGerald, married his cousin, Lady Georgiana Lennox, daughter of 4th Duke of Richmond, Lennox and Aubigny.
Lord de Ros, a grandson of the Duke of Leinster, became the 23rd Baron de Ros in 1839 and inherited the port and village of Strangford, which he decided to make his principal seat.
In 1844, he built Old Court (above) and surrounded it with pleasant walks and gardens.
Lord de Ros also made many improvements, extended Payne's Chapel at Old Court and built Katherine's Quay as his own private harbour.
Dudley, the 24th Baron, was equerry to HRH The Prince Consort (Prince Albert) 1853-74.
His life at Court during the period c.1850-62, and his manuscript account, give interesting personal reminiscences of certain events which occurred while he was acquainted with, and in the service of, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, as well as dinner and shooting lists, etc.
The 26th Baroness, Una Mary, attended court in an application for compensation for criminal injury to property, after a malicious fire by the IRA had destroyed Old Court at the end of 1921, together with two lists of articles lost.
Nevertheless, it seems that the family were popular with the villagers generally and there was much sadness at the time, when the old house was burnt.
Old Court House was a low, rambling two-storey house with many gables, some of them set on three-sided bows, the angle walls of which curved outwards under the eaves, so that some of the upstairs windows were bent in a vertical plane, like the windows at the stern of an old man-of-war ship.
There were barge-boards on the gables and hood mouldings over the windows. It was located at the site of the present, 1970s house in a most picturesque setting overlooking the harbour and Strangford Lough.
In the grounds, nestling in a glade nearby, there is a splendid little private chapel originally built in 1629, surrounded by an old graveyard. It is believed that the chapel is still used regularly by family and villagers.
Today the estate stretches from Strangford Bay to Strangford village, skirting the shore-line.
In the 1980s Georgiana, the 27th Baroness, and her husband (Commander J D Maxwell) lived in the present Old Court House while their son (the Hon) Peter Maxwell had a "bachelor pad" down in the little boat-house at Katherine's Quay.
When he married and succeeded to the title he built a relatively modern house in the grounds, not far from the delightful little Old Court chapel.
Peter Maxwell, the current Lord de Ros, runs a reproduction furniture company called Seventeen Hundreds (XVII) Furniture Limited.
First published June, 2009. De Ros arms courtesy of European Heraldry.