Lord Fairfax, for whose family Virginia's most populous county and its county-seat city and this San Francisco suburb are named, still lives.
No, he's not the same Lord Thomas Fairfax, Baron Cameron, who in colonial days was proprietor of all Northern Virginia, and a friend and neighbor of George Washington.
The current Lord Fairfax, Baron Cameron -- by given name Nicholas John Albert Fairfax, age 29 -- is a stockbroker in London. The 14th in his line, he never has visited either of the places that bear his name (or the Fairfax neighborhoods of Oakland and Los Angeles, for that matter), and didn't even know of this California town's existence until Patricia Arrigoni, a local resident, contacted him.
Arrigoni, writing last month in this county's local daily, the Marin Independent Journal, recounted her search for Lord Fairfax while on a study program in Britain a few years back. A friend checked a reference book and found that there was a young Lord Fairfax living in Holyport, a town in Berkshire, north of London. Arrigoni reported:
"We found our way down a narrow country lane to a gatehouse which identified the Fairfax house. A long sweeping driveway led up to the red brick manor house set amid acres of manicured lawns and colorful gardens."
The lord's younger brother answered a knock on the door and said "the lord's not here," and invited her to return, which she never did. But she later sent the Fairfaxes a local guidebook that contained information about Charles Snowden Fairfax, the Virginia-born 10th generation heir who declined the lordship and who came to California in 1849 and bequeathed his name to this town. (Charles Fairfax's nephew returned from Virginia to Britain to claim the title, and his heirs have carried it on.)
"Although the British Fairfax family knew all about Fairfax, Va.," Arrigoni wrote, "they did not know anything about Fairfax, Calif.
"We corresponded briefly . . . with the current lord and I asked if he knew the name of the Fairfax Lord who had returned to England and resumed the title. He replied a couple of months later from London. He said he had gotten married, was living in London and worked as a broker in the stock exchange."
He said it was his grandfather, Albert, who returned to England in 1908 to claim the title.
Fascinating. Arrigoni offered in her article to host the incumbent lord if he should ever find his way to California. Wouldn't it be great fun if Fairfax County, Va., were to find some excuse -- is there a fund to promote tourism? -- to invite Lord Nicholas Fairfax for a high-panoply ceremonial visit, and then send him on a super-saver trip out here to California. Metro Scene would go along for the ride.