Photo by Candia Dixon-Stuart
Just finished reading Elif Shafak’s novel about Shams of Tabriz and his
relationship with Rumi, the Sufi poet.
Angouleme, carpet bag, Cinderellas of the Forces, Circuit des remparts, Concours d'elegance, Delahaye, Freedom of Information Act, General Registrar, Her Majesty's Passport Office, Istanbul, Land Girls, National Trust, Ouspensky, perjury, Pierre Loti, release certificates, Rumi, Russell Square, Simon Bolivar, Snodland, Sufi, T S Eliot, theosophical, Women's Land Army
Sonia said, Yes, I’ve heard of Ouspensky. He was theosophical, was he
I died a mineral and became a plant
I died as plant and rose to animal
I died as animal and I was Man..
-sort of Sufi-inspired Rumi concepts..
Something like that, said Dru. She had dropped in at Royalist House
to see her mother and to discuss the latest proceedings.
I had a look at some newspaper cuttings which were in the envelope that
Bunbury, Quatrefoil and Quincunx, Solicitors gave us. There were some
leaflets for a series of lectures that Ouspensky gave at Lady Rothermere’s.
I think that Augusta- she of the Bosphorus- attended when she came over
to London to arrange the birth of her first child. It was all the rage to go
and hear him at the time. I think T S Eliot and other literary figures went
along. Augusta had heard him first of all in Istanbul.
So, Diana tried to keep on track, she gave birth in London to Augusta 2?
Yes, said Dru. She had taken a room in Russell Square, near to
Ouspensky’s lodgings. Lord Wyvern arranged it. I think it was in his
town house. Some of her letters were on his notepaper.
Lord Wyvern? How did he come into it? asked Diana.
Well, she had had a fling with him a good few years before, but they had
parted amicably, before he married Aurelia Tindall. Augusta’s baby wasn’t
his; it was definitely the rug seller’s; his name was on the birth certificate.
She popped Augusta 2 into a carpet bag and bounced back to the Bosphorous
to live the female equivalent of a Pierre Loti dream.
How had they- I mean Lord Wyvern and Augusta1- come across each
I think Aurelia’s mother and Augusta worked on the land during
World War 1. Lord Wyvern’s first wife and Aurelia’s mother had been
friends at a London Finishing School. The Land Girls used to hang about
The Red Lion Pub, spending some of their 18/- a week. Because Augusta
1 used to nostalgically talk to her daughters about the rural idyll that was
Kent, they developed a fascination for it and, after Augusta 2 left St Vitus’,
having been Head Girl, she went to join the WLA, as one of the Cinderellas
of the Forces and headed for the hop-picking. She didn’t want to live in
WLA? queried Diana.
Women’s Land Army, Sonia butted in.
She wrote to Berenice and told her what larks she was having and
Berenice got herself expelled and, once she was seventeen and a half,
she signed up too. Wearing breeches appealed to her. She had an
affair with Anthony for a couple of years. Of course, her mother hadn’t
given her any moral compass.
So, that’s why he recognised the family resemblance in Augusta 2 in
Snodland Nursing Home?
Yes, I suppose so. The sisters were alike.
When did he take up with Aurelia? Sonia was a stickler for detail.
Oh, not till about 1948 or 1949-after he rescued Peregrine.
And Gus was born in 1950, added Diana. She had always
remembered his birthday, if only to supply him with socks.
Correct. Aurelia paid Berenice to pretend that the baby was hers,
but Berenice took Father to Istanbul. Her mother wasn’t interested
in him and so Augusta 2 eventually arranged his enrolment into St
Birinus’ pre-prep department, Dru explained.
And Berenice took the money and ran off? Sonia frowned.
..to Venezuela, to follow romantic dreams about Simon Bolivar, taking
after her vagabond mother, Dru clarified. The sisters had received
their release certificates from the WLA in 1950.
But Berenice was born in Istanbul? Diana probed.
In 1923. Lord Wyvern married Aurelia in 1934 when he was
How old was she? Sonia asked.
About eighteen, Dru looked disapproving. Some of her girls in the
boarding house were of a similar age.
And when did he die? Sonia was analysing every detail.
Well, the boys were born in 1935 and 1936..
Lionel and Peregrine? Diana checked.
Yes, in quick succession! But Lord Wyvern died on his way to the
Circuit des Remparts, in Angouleme, in 1939.
Angouleme? Sonia couldn’t quite place this French city.
‘Monaco without sea’, as it was known. In the Charente.
He was travelling in a Concours d’Elegance and he got a flat
tyre. He jacked up his Delahaye, but it collapsed on top of
him and crushed his chest.
So Lady Wyvern had been a widow for six years when Anthony
arrived to tutor the boys? Sonia was on the ball.
She was thirty-six when Father was born. By 1955 she was dead and
the house and estate given over to The National Trust. Except for
grandfather being allowed to remain in the stable block apartment
until his decease, by special arrangement. Lionel had gambled away
most of his inheritance.
What I can’t understand is why Berenice, or the others, were not
prosecuted for perjury on the registration document? said Diana.
Mum, there may be a warning about criminal offences and falsification
on the certificate itself, but no one has been prosecuted for the last
thirty-five years for faking parentage. Under The Freedom Of
Information Act, I checked all this from her Majesty’s Passport
So, there isn’t much incentive to tell the truth? remarked Sonia.
‘The Registrar General does not routinely investigate the
circumstances in which erroneous information came to be given
at registration’ were the exact words, as I recall, said Dru. And,
anyway, there is a time limit of three years to report suspicions
to the police. You would need DNA from all involved and Anthony
and Aurelia are dead, as is Berenice.
So, the records are not likely to be changed? Diana said.
You’ve got it! replied Dru.