your money or your life

Sir Leo Money (1870-1944) was an English politician and economics journalist who had a taste for the ladies. He was once caught in a compromising position with a young woman in Hyde Park.

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“Sir Leo gave evidence that he had known the young woman who was of unquestionable reputation for 18 months. On the night the charge was made they had been sitting in adjoining chairs in the park for 10 minutes when a plainclothes policeman appeared. The father of Miss Savidge stated he had had long correspondences with Sir Leo on the subject of economics and he considered him a family friend. His daughter was also interested in the subject of economics.”

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***Chief Inspector Alfred Collins‘ reputation was challenged by the notorious case when it was alleged Miss Selvidge had been made to show her pink petticoat to police without a female witness in attendance.

Sir Leo not only fought the charges, but demanded an apology from the police. Collins was accused of badgering the witness, and faulted for not having a female police officer remain for the interview (Inspector Lilian Wyles). A Parliamentary inquiry ensued, at which the police were largely exonerated, and the Met changed its policy to mandate that women officers always be present when women were giving statements. Wyles and Collins remained on good terms after the inquiry was concluded, and he always carried, in his waistcoat pocket, a “lucky” mahogany bean which Inspector Wyles had given him during the hearings.

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In 1935 Sir Leo was again arrested for “wilfully interfering with the comfort of a passenger, Miss Ivy Ruxton” on a train travelling between Dorking and Ewell. After some consideration, Sir Leo, who admitted kissing the woman, was fined 50 shillings. He decided not to appeal and spent his last years writing rambling political treatises and serving as an editor for the Encyclopedia Britannica.

***Chief Inspector Collins was also responsible for uncovering crucial evidence in the “Bloody Belgium” murder trial of a French butcher. A very interesting story which you can read here

(the barrel on the right contained the head and hands)

Published in: on July 20, 2010 at 8:07 am  Comments (33)  
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beware the unauthorised hole

Old Etonian Horace de Vere Cole was widely known as a practical joker.

“His pranks are legendary. The most well-known is probably the Dreadnought hoax of 1910, in which Cole and five friends (including a young Virginia Woolf) disguised themselves as the Emperor of Abyssinia and his posse, and were given a full VIP tour of the British warship, the H.M.S. Dreadnought.

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My favourites were more low key:

The Time-Life Library of Curious and Unusual Facts reports that “Cole often targeted his peers. For example, playing on the innate good manners of the well-bred English gent, Cole would pose as a surveyor on the street and politely ask a passing swell to help by holding one end of a string for a moment. Then the prankster would disappear around the corner, find another man to hold the other end of the string, and walk away.

Learn how to play cat’s cradle here

“He was also fond of spontaneous pranks. When he stumbled on a road crew without a foreman one day, Cole leaped into the breach and directed the men to London’s busy Piccadilly Circus, where he had them excavate a huge trench in the street. A nearby policeman obligingly redirected the heavy downtown traffic all day, and it was several hours before the city noticed the unauthorized hole.”

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The Museum of Hoaxes also lists three more, including the infamous cow’s udder trick

He once stood in the street handing out free theatre tickets to a series of extremely bald passers-by with the result that, when viewed from the dress circle, the assembly of shiny bald heads in the carefully chosen seats clearly spelt out an expletive – complete with a dot over the ‘i’.

He used to wander the streets with a cow’s udder poking through his flies. At the moment of optimum outrage, he would then produce a pair of scissors and snip off the offending protrusion.

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More adolescent pranks ranged from organising a large party where all the guests were called Ramsbottom or Winterbottom to driving around London in a taxi with a naked tailor’s dummy. Whenever he saw a policeman, he would stop the cab, open the door and beat the dummy’s head on the ground, shouting: ‘Ungrateful hussy!'”

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Published in: on July 17, 2010 at 9:02 am  Comments (40)  
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slim, silky Argentines

On July 8 1922, attention turned to the divorce courts where the strange marriage of Mr and Mrs John Russell came under public scrutiny. It was stated that the day before her wedding, Christabel Russell had obtained a promise from her future husband that there should be no question of their having children, at least to begin with. Having apparently complied with this request, Mr Russell was shaken by the arrival of a child and thus was suing his wife for adultery. After a lengthy hearing it was decided that there was no evidence of adultery and Mr Russell, heir to Lord Ampthill, lost the case.

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Fast forward to 1976

The House of Lords hearing resurrected one of Britain’s most publicized scandals of the early 1920s, a story that has since been tagged as “The Case of the Virgin Birth.” It involved a young aristocrat, John (“Stilts“) Russell then heir to the Ampthill title, his vivacious and liberated wife Christabel and her baby Geoffrey, who was born in October 1921. Soon after Geoffrey’s birth, John Russell filed for divorce charging that the baby could not possibly be his. He claimed that he and his wife had agreed before the wedding to lead separate lives and leave the marriage unconsummated.

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Christabel Russell admitted that she had never had full intercourse with her husband. But she insisted that she had not had sex with any other man either. Her proof: after learning that she was pregnant, she had undergone a medical examination. Doctors testified that she was still technically a virgin; her hymen had been only partly perforated. How then had the baby been conceived? During a night of “Hunnish” behavior ten months before Geoffrey’s birth, she testified, when her husband tried to force her to have intercourse, but succeeded only in an incomplete act. He flatly denied any such behavior occurred.

Attila the Hun

One divorce trial ended without a decision, but a second in 1923 explored the details again. Christabel, her husband charged, had cavorted across the Continent, writing home about “slim, silky Argentines” and “marcel-waved” Italians who courted, wined and dined her. She still insisted that they had not slept with her; medical experts conceded that her story of Geoffrey’s conception might be true. A ten-month gestation was not unknown, they said. Impregnation without penetration, though rare, was possible. Still, the jury in the second divorce trial found her guilty of adultery with an unnamed man.

slim silky Argentinian?

Christabel Russell appealed the divorce decree to the House of Lords and won. In 1924 a panel of lords, Britain’s highest court, ruled that no child born after a marriage could be declared illegitimate merely on the testimony of his mother or father. Two years later, a High Court judge reinforced this decision by issuing a certificate of legitimacy for Geoffrey. Not until after John Russell succeeded to his title as the third Baron Ampthill in 1935 did the redoubtable Christabel finally divorce him.

Published in: on July 12, 2010 at 8:32 am  Comments (39)  
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