Earlier this year a book was published titled “Agustín Edwards Eastman. Una biografía desclasificada del dueño de El Mercurio” by Víctor Herrero, a Chilean journalist with an international background. For those that don’t know, Agustín Edwards Eastman is arguably one of the most powerful men in Chile and has been that for the better part of a century. He is the current owner of the media conglomerate of “El Mercurio” and it is alleged that he was the driving force behind the coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende and installed General Augusto Pinochet as the Head of State of Chile.
Normally, I wouldn’t write about a book published that writes about such a public figure. However, this is an exception because (a) Agustín Edwards Eastman is a relative (3rd degree cousin of my maternal grandmother) (b) I was contacted by the author last year while he was doing his research and my name is listed in the book.
The book was the #1 best seller in the non-fiction category in Chile for several weeks and, as of this writing, it is still in the top 10 after 7 weeks. It has had a mixed reception in the country with a broad range of reactions on either side of the political divide. I know that the reception among the Edwards family members hasn’t been entirely positive.
I won’t go into the “meat” of the book which is the actual life of the man but just the genealogy listed. I have not had the pleasure of meeting him though I think my grandmother probably did. In any case, let’s move on.
I have written several articles about the Edwards family of chile:
- An overview of the Edwards line in Chile, with a special coverage of the founder of the Chilean line George Edwards.
- An article of some of the inaccuracies one finds in the bibliography about the Edwards.
- A refutation of the”Mostyn de Vaux” legend of the Edwards family.
On pages 102-113 of the first edition of the book, the author goes over the origins in Chile and the family legends that are prevalent in the Edwards family. As the author says, though the founder George Edwards was humble about his origin, his descendants created many stories about a noble past and an exotic origin.
Herrero starts with the story of how George Edwards arrived in Chile in the beginning of the 19th century and then goes into several of the myths that exist. The principle of which is the claim that George Edwards was really the 4th son of Lord Hugh Mostyn, Baron de Vaux and of Elizabeth O’Higgins and not the humble son of the working class George Edwards and Elizabeth Brown.
One of the tantalizing details written in the book is how the first Agustín Edwards in Chile (George Edwards’ 6th born child) married his niece Juana Ross Edwards who was his elder sister’s daughter. It caused a huge scandal at the time considering that the Edwards family was one of the richest in the country and Agustín the richest man. Because they were to marry in the Roman Catholic Church, they needed to get a special dispensation to be allowed to marry. Even though they were very rich, it was not easy (and it shouldn’t be) but they were eventually successful. Juana Ross Edwards, was a very religious woman and there have been many books written about this extremely interesting woman.
Herrero accurately recounts the conversation I had with him regarding the origins of George Edwards, at least according to the available documentation and my 4th great-grandfather’s own words. George Edwards was of humble origin, the son of a carpenter, and grew up in a working class family. He was a barber/surgeon (they were the same thing in the 18th century) and sailed with various ships serving the Crown against the Spanish. There are various stories of how he ended up in Chile, most very romantic speaking of love at first sight, etc. Whichever the truth he deserted his shipmates and chose to stay in “enemy” territory and after spending some time in a Chilean prison, he ended up marrying the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in the area and becoming a very successful businessman himself. However, he never forgot his enmity towards the Spanish Crown and when the Chilean Revolution broke out, George Edwards was one of the principle financiers of Bernardo O’Higgins’ enterprise and because of that was granted citizenship in the new republic.
He also summarizes well my refutation of the Mostyn de Vaux myth where I demonstrate that not only is the legend false, it’s also a really bad story that has all facts going against it. As the author states, the particular branch of the Edwards family was among the richest and its scions studied at Eton and Oxford, their members were regulars in the highest aristocratic circles of London and socialized with members of the Royal Family there. The author speculates that they felt they needed a backstory to make them fit in better and, considering it was the late 19th century/early 20th, it may or may not be true. What is true is that when a professional genealogist was hired to research the family, the findings were discarded and never spoken of again because, presumably, the findings were not liked.
What was news to me and pleasantly surprised me was that the famous writer Joaquín Edwards Bello (1st degree cousin to my grandmother’s father) shared the same opinion as I. If someone like him reached the same conclusion as I did, I know I am on the right track!
Now to the disappointing part…
However exciting it was that my name was in such a popular book, it was a bit of let down to see that my name was written incorrectly (my name is “Kimon Andreou” and not “Kim Andreou”), had my nationality wrong (I am not English but an American of Greco-Chilean parentage), and I am not a distant relative of the Edwards.
However, the citation in the bibliography has my name correct.
To the author’s credit, when I reached out to him he did commit to working with his publisher to correct the mistakes in the next edition. Hopefully, the edits were submitted in time.
Again, as mentioned at the top of this article I am only discussing the sections relevant to the subject area of the blog and not the rest of it. I leave that criticism to others more qualified than I and I will keep my own personal opinions to myself, though my family is aware.
In any case, I would recommend to anyone that is interested in the subject matter to pick up a copy regardless of one’s personal political affiliation and opinion on Agustin Edwards Eastman.
Links of interest:
- The author’s Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/VictorHerreroA
- The web site of El Mercurio: http://www.elmercurio.com/
- Link to the book at of the largest booksellers in Chile: http://www.antartica.cl/