Magazine article The Spectator

Cherchez la Femme

Magazine article The Spectator

Cherchez la Femme

Article excerpt


by Paul Spicer

Simon & Schuster, £14.99, pp. 308,

ISBN 9781847377821

£11.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

The 22nd Earl of Erroll, Military Secretary in Kenya in the early part of the second world war, was described by two of his fellow peers of the realm as 'a stoat - one of the great pouncers of all time' and 'a dreadful shit who really needed killing'. The deed was duly done one night in 1941: Erroll's body was found in his Buick on a road outside Nairobi with a bullet in his head, his lover Diana's husband, the seemingly complaisant cuckold Sir 'Jock' Delves Broughton, was tried and acquitted of the murder and, despite years of speculation and gossip, the mystery remains unsolved.

We have had books naming Broughton (jealous husband, or agent of MI6) and Diana (because Erroll couldn't afford, and refused, to marry her) as guilty of the murder. Now Paul Spicer weighs in to assert that Alice de Trafford, an old friend of his mother, was the one who done it.

Born into a wealthy American family, Alice Silverthorne married Count Frederic de Janze in Paris. Together, but without their two daughters, they moved to Kenya in 1925, staying for a time with Idina and Joss Hay (as Erroll was called before he inherited the title) at their house which became known as the centre of Happy Valley, notorious for its heady combination of Altitude, Aristocracy, Alcohol and Adultery. Alice's willowy beauty attracted a number of men, including Erroll, with whom she had an affair which continued at irregular intervals for the next 15 years. She also fell for the raffish charm of a young remittance-man, Raymund de Trafford, before returning to Paris with de Janze and preparing to leave him.

But when de Trafford told her their relationship must end because his Catholic family would cut him off if he married a divorcee, Alice decided that the best way to resolve this difficulty was to shoot both de Trafford and herself so that they could be reunited in what she called the Great Beyond.

She went ahead with her plan, as her lover was boarding a train at the Gare du Nord, but succeeded only in wounding them both, for which at her subsequent trial she was fined 100 francs - 'a fraction of what she would have paid under French law for shooting a deer out of season'.

Alice did marry de Trafford, once her marriage to de Janze had been annulled, but they remained together for only a few months after they went back to Kenya. …

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