Tag Archives: William Saville-Kent

Writing v Researching: two lives of Constance Kent

On the morning of 30 June 1860, a servant discovered the body of a little boy in the outside privy at Road Hill House in Wiltshire (now in Somerset), his throat cut.

Francis Savill Kent was 3 years old.  He was the son of Samuel Savill Kent, a factory inspector, and his second wife, Mary Drewe Pratt.  Mary had been governess to Samuel’s older children, and the couple had begun an adulterous relationship during the first Mrs Kent’s lifetime.  When she died, they married, and Francis was their second child.

The mysterious murder set Victorian society aflutter.  Some murders attract more attention than others, and the murder of little Francis hit all the right buttons: the death of an innocent child; a deeply dysfunctional middle class family; an increasingly literate general public with a thirst for gossipy scandal; and a new detective unit at Scotland Yard, that was called in by the local magistrates after the Wiltshire police got nowhere with the investigation.

The detective sent from London, Jonathan Whicher, had his suspicions, as did the magistrates, but they were unable to crack the wall of silence within Road Hill House, apparently instigated by Samuel Savill Kent.

English: contemporary portrait of child-murder...

Contemporary portrait of child-murderess Constance Kent (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then, 5 years later, Francis’s half-sister Constance confessed, claiming that at the age of 16, she and she alone had killed her little brother. Continue reading

The cost of a pearl of great price

The actress Elizabeth Taylor’s art, clothes, furnishings and jewellery are being sold by Christie’s auction house this week and next, with the best of the jewellery to be auctioned in New York on 13 December.  Lot No. 12 is La Peregrina, meaning ‘the wanderer’ or ‘the pilgrim’, a pearl of impeccable provenance.  Christie’s estimates it will sell for $2-3m.

The pearl was found in the Gulf of Panama during the first half of the 16th century. Spain was then colonising Central America, and Spanish colonists presented the pearl to the Spanish king, Philip II. Continue reading