Stephen Delancey

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Stephen Delancey and his wife, Anne van Cortlandt

Stephen Delancey (Etienne de Lancy in French) (October 24, 1663, Caen – November 18, 1741) was a major figure in the life of colonial New York. His children continued to wield great influence until the American Revolution.


Coat of arms of the House de Lancy

Born in Caen, France, on Oct 24, 1663[1] as Etienne de Lancy, he was the only son of Jacques de Lancy and Marguerite Bertrand. The de Lancy family were minor French nobility ("Noblesse de France Royale") and, despite being of the Huguenot faith, served the French Crown as administrators and bureaucrats for over two hundred years.

Jacques De Lancy, esquire, was descended from Guy de Lancy, esquire, viscount of Laval and of Nouvion (1432), whose son Jean, succeeding him in 1436, had a son Jean (1470). Charles, son of Jean, (1525), was married twice. By his second marriage, to Marie de Villiers he had two sons: Charles, fifth viscount of Laval, (1535), and Christophe (Christopher), lord of Raray. Charles married Isabeau Branche, daughter of Fourcy Branche, esquire, lord of Bréau, April 15. 1534. They had three sons: Charles, Jacques, and Claude. The second son, Jacques, Crown prosecutor in the provost, had a son Pierre, lord of Niville, whose son Jacques was the father of Etienne, the refugee. There is a Bahamian branch of the De Lancy family through grandson of Etienne de Lancy; Stephen DeLancey from his time as Chief Justice of the Bahamas going by Delancey or Delaney.

Dating back to the early 15th century, successive generations of the de Lancy family (or de Lanci in elder texts) held the titles of Viscount of Laval-in-Laonnois and of Nouvion, Baron of Raray, Lord of Nery and of Faverolles, Verines, Ribecourt and Haramont. (Vicomte de Laval-en-Laonnois et de Nouvion-le-Vineux, Baron de Raray, et Seigneur de Néry et de Faverolles, Vérines,[2] Ribécourt, et Haramont)

The family coat of arms is described as follows: Arms: Or with Sable Eagle beaked and membered of Gules charged in the heart of an escutcheon of Azure overloaded with three spears of Or raised in pale. (Armes : d'or à l'aigle de sable becqué et membré de gueules chargé en coeur d'un écusson d'azur surchargé de trois lances d'or posées en pal.)

The castle of Raray in Picardy

Around 1600, the land of Raray is sold to Nicolas de Lancy, advisor to the King, treasurer of the Ordinary of the War, Chamberlain of Gaston, Duke of Orléans. It is he who is the builder of the present castle of Raray and the two hurdles with hunting dogs that will make the reputation and honor of the castle. Raray Castle was the scene of shooting in 1945 of some scenes from the film Beauty and the Beast by Jean Cocteau.

In 1686, Etienne de Lancy was forced to flee bitter persecution by French Catholics following the Oct 18, 1685 revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV, in which some two hundred thousand Huguenots left their native land. Escaping first to Rotterdam with a portion of the family jewels which his mother had given him[3] sewn into his clothing, Etienne sailed to England, obtaining an "Act of Denization" (naturalization) from King James II on March 3, 1686.

New York[edit]

Soon afterwards, Etienne sailed for the English Colonies in America, landing in New York City on June 6, 1686. Almost exactly one month later (July 7), he obtained additional letters of denization in New York from Governor Dongan, and on Sept 9th, 1687, took the Oath of Allegiance to the British Crown under the Colonial Act of 1683. It is at this time that he anglicized his name, becoming Stephen Delancey. He sold his portion of the family jewels for 300 British Pounds and became a merchant.[3]

On Jan 23rd, 1700, Delancey married Anne van Cortlandt (1676-1724). In the summer of 1700, Delancey began construction of a house at 54 Pearl Street in New York City, on land given to his wife by her father as a wedding gift to the young couple. In 1762 the house was sold at auction by Stephen's heirs to Samuel Fraunces, who converted it into the Queen Charlotte Tavern. (The house still stands today, and is known as Fraunces Tavern.)

Delancey was to become one of the most successful merchants in the colony of New York with his well-known granary, warehouse and retail store, known to all as "Delancey and Co." During Queen Anne's War, letters of marque against the French served as a cover for DeLancey to engage in trade with Red Sea Pirates. By the 1730s, he had become such a prosperous merchant that he was able to build a large mansion on Broadway, just above Trinity Church. The mansion was eventually demolished in 1792 to build the City Hotel, and the site is now occupied by the Boreil Building.

Stephen Delancey played an active role in the life of the city, serving as an Alderman[1] for several years, and both a member of the New York Provincial Assembly and the Governor's Council.[1] He is also credited with having presented as gifts to the city its first Town Clock and its first Fire Engine. At the time of his death on November 18, 1741, the erstwhile immigrant Etienne de Lancey left an estate valued in excess of £100,000 British Pounds (approximately $18,000,000 in US Dollars today).


On Jan 23rd, 1700, Delancey married Anne van Cortlandt, third child of Chief Justice of the Province of New York Stephanus van Cortlandt, and his wife Gertrude Schuyler. They had ten children, only five of whom survived infancy. The three surviving sons (James (1703–1760), Peter (1705–1770), and Oliver (1718-1785)) and two daughters (Susannah and Anne) all married and had issue.

James became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for the Province of New York, in addition to serving as Lieutenant Governor of New York. Peter became a merchant, maintaining a large mill in what is now the Bronx, and served in the New York Provincial Assembly for many years. Oliver, also a merchant, became a Brigadier General in the British Army during the American Revolution.

Stephen and Anne also had two daughters: Susannah de Lancey (1707–1771), who married Admiral Sir Peter Warren, and Anne de Lancey (1723-?) who married John Watts, a prominent businessman of the day.


  1. ^ a b c Kenneth T. Jackson: The Encyclopedia of New York City: The New York Historical Society; Yale University Press; 1995. P. 324.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "De Lancey, Étienne". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton. 


  • D.A. Story, The de Lancey's: Romance of a Great Family, Toronto: Nelson & Sons, 1931.
  • George Lockhart Rives: Genealogical Notes (New York: Knickerbocker, 1914).