No, no, no I’m not in Cheltenham but I got this postcard sent from there. To slip in a quick digression, Gustav Holst was born there in 1874. Fancy that. I’d thought he was German and indeed on his father’s side he is a Latvian, Swedish, German mongrel.
The statue is of Edward Wilson an artist and zoologist who perished in 1912 on Scott’s tragic Antarctic Expedition. It is sculpted by Kathleen Scott, widow of the expedition’s leader, Captain Scott. The postcard inscription calls her Lady Kathleen Scott which is utter tosh. Wiki, not infallible, has got it right this time.
In 1913, she was granted the rank (but not the style) of a widow of a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. This meant that, for the purposes of establishing official precedence, she was treated as if she were the widow of such a knight. However, she was not entitled to be called Lady Scott merely by virtue of this, and it did not amount to Captain Scott being posthumously knighted.
Her second husband became Lord Kennet so she can be called Lady K. Let’s press on but before we do, she did a bronze of the Indian actor Sabu. If Sabu’s name is familiar it may be from this post: The Empire Trilogy. Frankly it looks kitsch.
Lady K was already on my mind before I got the postcard. James Lees-Milne was devoted to her and very distressed when she died in 1947. After visiting her in Paddington hospital, he writes in Caves of Ice:
I left and walked home across the Park sick at heart and again impressed by the realisation that this woman is dear to me because with her I need never dissemble – which is a very rare thing – in mind or spirit; with her there is no call for flattery or insincerity; with her there are no barriers of any kind. Yet I can’t determine precisely wherein the intimacy between us lies.
Her son, artist and naturalist Peter Scott, married (first) Elizabeth Jane Howard. EJH paints a picture of a difficult, interfering and critical mother-in-law. Strangely, James Lees-Milne was an usher at the wedding. It’s hard to reconcile how the same person can be seen so differently through two sets of eyes.
Here is another of her bronzes, in Waterloo Place. It is of her husband and the inscription is rather famous.
Robert Falcon Scott, Captain Royal Navy, who with four companions, E.A. Wilson, H.R. Bowers, L.E.G. Oates, E. Evans, died March 1912 returning from the South Pole.
Had we lived I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale.
From Scott’s diary.