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 Porchey Carnarvon

 

‘Hunting, Shooting and Flirting’

 

Henry George Alfred Marius Victor Herbert

 

Names are deceptive. Take the Sixth Earl of Carnarvon: his full baptismal names were Henry George Alfred Marius Victor Francis Herbert but he was better known as just ‘Porchey’ Carnarvon. The name Porchey was a nickname derived from his courtesy title of ‘Lord Porchester’.[i]

 

Informally, family and friends addressed Henry as Porchey before and after 1923. This was the year  when on 5th  April ( at the age of twenty-four) he became  the Sixth Earl of Carnarvon, succeeding his infamous predecessor  George  (the Fifth Earl) who was  the  Lord  Carnarvon who discovered the priceless Tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings.

 

The Fifth Earl had used the same nickname of Porchey before he succeeded his father, Henry, the Fourth Earl.[ii]   No doubt it continues for the Carnarvon heir-in-waiting who is currently the eldest son of George, (Jordy) the present Eighth Earl of Carnarvon.

 

The Carnarvons are a cadet branch of the Herbert family which is headed by the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery and whose seat is at Wilton House, Salisbury, Wiltshire.  The Carnarvon earldom was created in 1793, and with this thrown into the marriage wheeling and dealing came a large house and country estate at Highclere Castle, Hampshire.[iii] Highclere is the backdrop to  British television’s period-piece drama Downton Abbey which is allegedly a product of HM Queen Elizabeth II commanding  the screenwriter (Julian Fellowes, famed for his Oscar-winning script  Gosford Park [iv]  which is set in a stately home), to write something similar to raise the revenues at Highclere,  for her godson, Jordy, Eighth Earl of Carnarvon). [v]   The rest is history, as they say! And thank you, Ma’am!

 

The Carnarvons’ other past family seats were at Pixton Park, Devonshire and Bretby Park, Derbyshire. Pixton remains in the possession of a branch of the Herbert family but Bretby was sold-off by the Fifth Earl and his wife Almina (the Fifth Countess) to help make ends meet during the Great War.

 

Besides names, appearances are deceptive.  The Sixth Earl of Carnarvon was small, thick-set and a bright and breezy sort.  But this jovial persona hid a less adorable feature:  he was a born philanderer. One observer records that he was “a most uncompromisingly direct ladies' man”[vi] whilst another describes his life as one spent largely hunting, shooting and flirting.[vii]

 

He was tagged by his fellows as ‘Lusty Carnarvon’ or ‘Randy Carnarvon’, especially in the all-male Gentlemen’s Clubs such as Whites in London. This was probably out of envy because his scatter-gun approach to the fairer sex meant (amidst many knock backs) that he occasionally ‘got lucky’.  He was by most standards a nuisance around women and one who, being titled, was rarely brought into line.

 

Among the women Porchey pursued two were unfortunate enough to be cajoled into marriage. First, in 1922, he wooed an American-born beauty named Catherine Wendell and second, in 1939, he persuaded the well-known Austrian dancer Tilly Losch, if not to the altar, then at least to the Registry Office at the famous Caxton Hall in London. [viii] 

 

When they married Porchey both women were vulnerable and penniless. Their marital capitulation into the chore of being Porchey’s bedmate was nothing to do with his looks or magnetic sex appeal or of being wonderfully romanced: it was instead all down to a personal/familial requirement to acquire a husband who was better off than they were financially.

 

Socially both women had a public profile and had made an impact on many suitors.  Whilst Porchey made reasonable husband material on the grounds of title, money and property, neither relationship was a love-match and, to some extent, both women were duped by their family and friends into risking the holy state of matrimony.



 

END NOTES

 

[i] The courtesy title of Viscount Porchester was given to the eldest son of the Earl of Carnarvon. Second or third etc sons were termed the ‘Honourable’. In 1780 the original title granted was Baron Porchester. Simon Winchester explains in his excellent book  “Their Noble Lordships” Random House (1982) that “It became customary ... to give heirs to some of the more celebrated peerages monikers that derived from their courtesy titles.”

[ii] Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert, (1831-1890). Fourth Earl of Carnarvon.

[iii] Before the  structural changes made by Sir Charles Barry,  began by the 3rd Earl  of Carnarvon ( from 1842) and finished on behalf of the 4th Earl ( after 1849),  the building was called Highclere House.

[iv] Gosford Park (2001) won Julian Fellowes the Best Original Screenplay Oscar at the Academy Awards. 

[v] The Author was told this by a collateral member of the Carnarvon family.

[vi] Attributed to the journalist and author, the late Hugh Massingberd (1946-2007) in the Daily Telegraph.

[vii] Attributed by the journalist Brian Appleyard in The Sunday Times.

[viii] Caxton Hall was built in 1878; it originally served as Westminster Town Hall. It took its name from Caxton Street, renamed from Chapel Street to mark the 500th anniversary of William Caxton’s first printing press, which he had installed in the old Almonry of the Abbey, just to the east. During the Second World War the building was used by the Ministry of Information as a secure venue for Churchill to hold press conferences.  After decades of weddings, the Registry Office closed in 1979. It was completely redeveloped and converted into flats in 2006.

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Catherine Wendell and Tilly Losch
 
Porchey Carnarvon's Two Duped Wives  
 
 

ISBN 10 1-905914-25-3

ISBN 13 978-1-905914-25-8

Published by

William P. Cross

Book Midden Publishing

58 Sutton Road

Newport Gwent

NP19 7JF, United Kingdom

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Author William Cross, at the grave of  Reginald (Reggie) Lee Wendell ( 1898-1928) .
 
Reggie died suddenly at  Highclere Castle in 1928.  He was the brother of   Catherine Wendell, the  Sixth Countess of Carnarvon, from 1922 until 1936.
 
Reggie's life and death are covered in " Catherine and Tilly : Porchey Carnarvon's Two Duped Wives."  By William Cross

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A MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHOR WILLIAM CROSS
 

I am pleased to add this new title on Catherine Wendell and Tilly Losch,  the two Sixth Countesses of Carnarvon to that of my four other books on the Herbert family of Highclere Castle, Hampshire, England.   Highclere's fame is almost entirely built these days around it being the backdrop to ITV's period drama " Downton Abbey".
 
"The Life and Secets of Almina Carnarvon", published in 2011, charts the nine decades of the life and times of  Almina Wombwell, the Fifth Countess, which is supplemented by my book " Lady Carnarvon's Nursing Homes. Nursing the Privileged in Wartime and Peace ", also published in 2011. Of note the latter title also has several pages devoted to Elizabeth ( Elsie ) Howard, the Fourth Countess of Carnarvon from 1878 until 1929.  There is also considerable coverage elsewhere on Elsie and the other Fourth Countess, Lady Evelyn Stanhope, who died in 1875. Evelyn was the mother of George Edward Stanhope Molyneux, the first husband of Almina Wombwell and co-discoverer with Howard Carter of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. The various Countesses of Carnarvon,  George's early life and much about his relationship with Howard Carter ( and others, including his intimate friendship with Prince Victor Duleep Singh )  is contained in my book " Lordy! Tutankhamun's Patron As a Young Man", which was published in 2012 to mark the 90th anniversary of the discovery of the treasures of the boy King, in Egypt's Valley of the Kings.  

Over the course of my five books I have now placed in the public domain an account of  the two Fourth Countesses, the Fifth Countess, and the two Sixth Countesses, and of course their husbands and their lovers.

Do please feel free to contact the Author, William Cross, with any queries, questions, or comments.  Best way is by e-mail
 

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Books From William Cross, FSA Scot