Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Inspiration for "Brave New World"?


As this blog has a focus on historical women who have not been properly acknowledged for their achievements or contributions, this recent article from The Guardian captured my interest:-
 "forgotten feminist dystopian novel, a story of eugenics and newspaper manipulation that is believed to have influenced Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four, is coming back into print for the first time in a century, complete with pages that were suppressed in 1918." (Read article in full here.)
Rose Macaulay may not be as well-known today as she once was, and her arcane writing style can be dense and difficult for modern readers.

Still, if her themes did influence some of the most famous dystopian novels written by men, then it is good to know that she is now being given her due.

The Towers of Trebizond is considered her masterpiece but I have lost count of the number of times I have picked it up and then persevered to a certain point where it defeats me because I have lost patience with its privileged characters and/or their religious arguments. Clearly, I’m too much of a philistine to truly appreciate Macaulay - and thus hover around a B- in her A to C Ministry of Brains - but many others do appreciate and enjoy her work.

The new version of What Not has now been published by Handheld Press.









Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A family connection to "The Lady in White"


A few days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, my mother sailed into Durban on SS Tegelberg, a Dutch vessel that had left Batavia [now Jakarta] on 15th November. She had transferred there from another vessel, SS Tjisadane, which had sailed from Shanghai on 17th October, one of the last passenger ships to escape the Chinese city before the Japanese took control. 

It was a bold risk she was taking; leaving behind her family and all she knew, travelling across a dangerous war-time ocean to a foreign country to marry a man she had not seen for some years. 



First voyage on SS Tjisadane



SS Tjisadane


Passage ticket for second part of journey Batavia-Durban 1941


SS Tegelberg

As my mother sailed into Durban, she would have been thrilled  - and relieved no doubt - to see her future husband waiting for her on the wharf. One wonders what she would have made of the woman who was also there singing her heart out with the aid of a megaphone.

The story of Perla Siedle Gibson will be well-known to South Africans and many servicemen and merchant navy personnel who served during World War II and transited the port of Durban. 









All images Vintage News Stories (link below)

She was born Perla Marie Siedle in Durban in 1888, the daughter of Otto Siedle, originally a London watchmaker turned prominent businessman and shipowner. Her mother Mary served for a time as Deputy Mayor of Durban. Perla had two brothers, Karl and Jack. Karl died in World War I but Jack Siedle became a famous cricketer.

Perla had a voice with a register somewhere between soprano and contralto. She had studied singing in Europe, but did not follow a professional career for long as she married and raised a family in South Africa.

It is said that when World War II was intensifying, she had seen off a young Irish friend at the harbour and as the ship pulled away from the quay, the young man shouted down to Perla to sing “something Irish”. She immediately burst into “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” and it was a big hit with the departing sailors. After that, she made up her mind to greet and farewell all ships that entered Durban Harbour for the duration of the war.



She could see the daily shipping movements from her house on a hill, and she’d jump in her car and drive down to the docks. She always wore the same costume - a white dress, red hat and necklace. Her distinctive (and ample!) figure could be spied from a long way off and she became known as “The Lady in White”.

Between April 1940 and August 1945, it has been estimated she sang to more than 5,000 merchant and navy ships and more than 250,000 servicemen. She even sang her husband (Clement Walter “Jack” Gibson) and two sons and daughter off on war service. When she received a telegram to say that her son, 2nd Lt. Clement Roy Gibson had been killed at Anzio in March 1944, even though her heart must have been breaking, that didn’t stop her and she continued singing to the ships.


Post-war - two very different "Forces Sweethearts" - Perla and Vera Lynn

There don’t appear to be recordings or films of Perla’s singing available on the internet, and I wonder what she sang that day as the SS Tegelberg arrived bringing my mother to her new life? Sarie Marais? Auld Lang Syne? Land of Hope & Glory? Maybe all of them, and more. 

Ironically, I made a similar reverse journey to that of my mother when I sailed out of Durban 30 years later also to start life in  a new country with a new husband. There was no operatic send off by that time. Perla had in fact died just a few months previously in 1971.

Statue to Perla at Durban, unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II in 1995
Now removed to the Durban Maritime Museum 

Perla had written an autobiography, and there are a number of articles and blog posts about her online. 

With many thanks to major source: Vintage News Stories - The Lady In White



Sunday, July 8, 2018

Hush WAACS - Secret service women in the family tree



Since the lifting of the official secrets embargo on the history of code-breaking during World War II, there have been numerous books written about Bletchley Park, plus a number of documentaries, TV series and films, many of them about female code-breakers.

What is much less known is that women were also involved in a similar service during World War I. They were called the “Hush WAACS” but the information on them is rather scanty. Rather than describe here what they did in too much detail, see this link:-

GCHQ page on the Hush Waacs 


Imagine my surprise and delight, then,  while doing family research I would discover that two of the 17 only known Hush WAACS were distant cousins of my late husband and they came from the same area of Tyneside that features strongly in both our family trees.

WAACS off to help with the war effort

The two women were sisters, Violet Munby (1884-1974) and Gladys May Munby (1887-1955). Neither sister ever married. 

Their names appear on this list Hush WAAC Roll of Honour as follows, showing the dates they were associated with the intelligence services in WW1.

Name: Gladys Mary [sic] Munby
Age in 1918: 30
Arrived I(e)C: October 1917
Departed: November 1918
Notes: Pianist educated in Germany; YMCA work before 1917
Name: Violet Munby
Age in 1918: 33
Arrived I(e)C: March 1918
Departed: November 1918
WAACS off duty in France
Their parents were John William Munby (1855-1946) and Anne Bates Walker (1849-1915). John William Munby was a prominent figure in North Shields/Tynemouth area.


Anne Bates Walker's mother, also Anne Bates (1816-1853), was the sister of my husband’s great-great-grandfather, Matthew William Bates (1820-1860). (See below for the story of how she died and also an uncanny link to my own ancestors.)

The Munby family lived at 16 Northumberland Square, North Shields, considered to be a quality address described as “the closest thing on Tyneside to the iconic Georgian squares of Edinburgh, Dublin, London and Bath.” Sadly, No. 16 has only just been demolished in 2017 - read here.



Northumberland Square, c. 1960s

There are many references to J.W. Munby and his services to the community in the local newspapers from 1904 when he first stood for council, culminating in him becoming Mayor of Tynemouth in 1923, although he appears to have kept working in various capacities until he died aged 90 in 1946.


North Shields store owned by the father of Gladys and Violet Munby


Family vault of Annie Bates and J W Munby, Preston Cemetery, North Shields


The two sisters clearly received fine educations, being fluent in languages and talented musicians. There are a number of newspaper references to both of them being awarded prizes for their piano playing. 

Gladys studied musicianship in Germany and returned to England at the outbreak of World War I. She advertised lessons in the local Tyneside newspapers and after the war was over, appeared to do a fair bit of travelling. She made the news columns when she arrived in Sydney, Australia, in 1923. This from the Sydney Morning Herald of  29 December 1923:

LAST NEW ARRIVAL OF 1923
Miss Gladys Munby arrived in Sydney during the week as the last English musician to put in an appearance during 1923. 
This young artist was trained at the Dresden Conservatorium as a pianist under Miss Rappoldi, a venerable virtuoso who studied under Liszt, and also with Emit Kronke, a pupil of Grieg, with whose works he is much identified. 
After 18 months at Dresden the war broke out, and Miss Munby beat a hasty retreat to her home in Newcastle-on-Tyne, where she studied with Mr. E.L. Bainton, and took her A.R.C.M. [Associate of Royal College of Music] by examination. 
Her musical career was then submerged by the calls of her country. She first went to Etaples, the great reinforcement base for the British army, and did canteen work with the Y.M.C.A [Young Men's Christian Association] until the authorites were apprised of her fluency in speaking German. Miss Munby at once joined the Q.M.A.A.C. (Queen Mary Army Auxiliary Corps), and was attached to the Intelligence Department at St. Omer to decode German wireless.This department was colloquially designated the "Hush Waacs". 
After the Armistice the pianist was transferred to the British Army of Occupation on the Rhine and was employed in the Censor's Office to read Germany correspondence. 
Miss Munby then left on a visit to friends in New Zealand and now proposes settling in Sydney, where her knowledge of music and languages should be of the utmost service to her.

Gladys was appointed Music Teacher at the prestigious Sydney Presbyterian Ladies College and in 1926 was transferred to the new PLC in Orange, New South Wales - that school is now known as Kinross-Wollaroi.


She continued to pop up in Australian news reports over several years, with descriptions of her playing at recitals in places like Gunning and Goulburn, New South Wales, and she is even listed in programs for Sunday night concerts on Radio 2BL in Sydney.


The last we hear of Gladys in Australia is this report from Sydney Sun 16 March 1930:



Gladys Munby 
Further study on the Continent is the mission of Miss Gladys Munby, who is leaving immediately for Paris and Vienna. 
For the past six years Miss Munby has successfully taught pianoforte playing and music in leading schools of Sydney and country districts, and she has much excellent work to her credit, her students having given proof of this by results at examinations .... 
... Miss Munby is an associate of the Royal College of Music, London, and she has already had four years' study with eminent masters at Dresden and elsewhere on the Continent.

So where did Gladys go after that? Did she really do further study in Europe as stated in the article? Although she popped up on Australian Electoral Rolls during her stay in that country, there is no sign of her in the English ones. 

Nothing else can be found for her until the 1939 Register in which she is listed as a School Teacher living at a boarding hotel in Montague Street adjacent to the British Museum.


In the 1939 Register next to her entry there is handwriting - "QM[sic]MAC Administration Temporary Unit". This suggests her previous war experience with the Queen Mary Army Auxiliary Corps may have come to the notice of someone. Did she then go to Bletchley Park or somewhere similar to do translation or other covert work?


Gladys died in 1955 in a nursing home in Cinderford, Gloucestershire, which is a long way from her family connections in North Shields. She left an estate valued at £14,000 (at least £300,000 today) and her executors were her half-brother Robert Pickering Munby and sister Violet Munby. 



Meanwhile, Violet Munby had a similar background to Gladys, with a few newspaper reports of her piano playing locally on Tyneside, but she is even more mysterious. 


The passenger ship records show that after World War I, Violet travelled back and forth across the Atlantic between the UK, France, Italy and New York regularly. Her occupations are as numerous as the  crossings she made. She's a "maid", or "journalist", "housekeeper" or "housewife", "companion" or "governess", even a "proof-reader". Her addresses on arrival are rarely the same either and they 
included flats in Kensington and Hampstead in London as well as 317 West 45th Street, New York, an apartment complex originally built by Vincent AstorOthers are just shown as Washington DC, or random places such Birmingham or Crookham in the UK. 


By 1955, she gave the address of her brother, Dr. William Maxwell Munby, who lived at 12 Mill Grove, Tynemouth. There is also only one passenger list showing her sister Gladys heading for New York to stay at the W. 45th Street address. 


Violet also acquired an American Social Security Number, likely to have been issued in New York some time after 1936 and before 1951. 



Name:Violet Munby
SSN:050-22-3716
Last Residence:
800 (U.S. Consulate) London, United Kingdom
BORN:25 Apr 1884
Died:Dec 1974
State (Year) SSN issued:New York (Before 1951)

What was she doing going back and forth so frequently and doing different, rather humble, jobs? Could she have been some kind of courier? 


The most telling evidence that Violet may have been involved in some sort of covert travel is this extract from 1943 of a rare Pan American Airways manifest of people flying from Darrell Island, Bermuda, to New York. 


Violet is accompanied by another woman and both are described as "Civil Servants" with their Bermuda address as "Imperial Censorship Bermuda".






So this proves that during World War II Violet continued to be involved in similar work to that she did in World War I. 

Most of the censors were women, called Examiners or "Censorettes", with the majority being older spinsters chosen for their world knowledge and language skills ... one wonders if Gladys might also have been there? Other censors included:



... a Swiss florist, the former manager of the Anglo-Czechoslovakian Bank of London and a Cambridge University professor with a command of 30 languages including rare Indian dialects.
Others who have worked for the Imperial Censorship in Bermuda are Val Gielgud, a BBC producer, Eric Maschwitz, author of Balalaika, a doctor who was at Dunkirk, a biographer of obscure French philosophers and a Scottish girl with a command of 10 languages. Age was no issue with several eminent language scholars over the age of 80.

Read more here
Censorship Department in Bermuda
Bermuda's Espionage Role
The Man Called Intrepid - the "boss" at Bermuda


It may well be that Violet even crossed paths with Elizebeth Friedman, recently the subject of a fascinating book  by Joseph Fagone entitled The Woman Who Smashed Codes  - read my book review here.



Princess Hotel, Bermuda, HQ of the WW2 Censorship Department


Violet died in North Shields in 1974, her last address being the same as that of her brother, William Maxwell Munby. Her estate was just over £53,000 [around £600,000 today], so either she came into family money from her father or she earned a very good income doing whatever it was she did.

From what I have discovered about these two spinster sisters, it may be that there is a book waiting to be written on them!


My research into Gladys and Violet is ongoing as there is probably much more to be found on them in the archives of the intelligence services but which are not easily accessible to hobbyists like me and it will require the skills and contacts of an investigative journalist to really find out what the pair of them were up to. 



---oOo---

As to the family connection:

The mother of Anne Bates Munby, Anne Bates Walker,  ran a shop selling flour at 154 Buckingham Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, where she was blown up in a gas explosion in 1853 when her daughter was only about 4 years of age. 


The inquest found that Anne's husband William Walker was to blame as he obviously wasn't very smart, having gone looking for a gas leak with a lighted candle! 

Anne’s brother, Matthew William Bates, my husband’s ancestor, rushed to her aid but she died soon afterwards. 





By a truly bizarre coincidence, my own g-g-grandmother Julia Atkin (1803-1861) lived just a few doors away from that very shop around this period and no doubt she may have known Anne Bates Walker or even bought supplies from her. She may even have been a witness to the explosion.

See this relevant page of the 1851 Census. Little Anne Bates Walker on the first line, my own g-g-grandmother [sic. Judith Aikin] fourth from the bottom.





One final twist in this uncanny tale of family connection is that Violet appears to have lived out her later years with her brother, Dr. William Maxwell Munby, at 12 Mill Grove, Tynemouth.

In the early 1960s when I was a teenager, and many years before I met my husband or had the slightest inkling we had ancestors who'd once lived close to one another, I'd just started my first job in Newcastle on Tyne during which time I lived briefly in a rented house in Tynemouth with my parents prior to us moving to Canada to live. 


I can't now recall the exact number, but the house was a corner one in Mill Grove, possibly quite close to, maybe even right across the road, from the Munbys. 








Sunday, February 25, 2018

Remarkable Women. Queen's House, Greenwich

For those lucky enough to live around London and able to attend, a series of lectures on Remarkable Women is taking place for National Women's History Month, March 2018, at Queen's House, Greenwich, London. Some of the women are already very well-known, but a couple less so. 

If I had the chance to attend, I'd be particularly interested in these two sessions to learn more about Sarah Sophia Banks, another woman in the shadow of a monumental historical male, being Sir Joseph Banks, and also the unknown architect, Mary Slade.


8 March
From Out of Her Brother’s Shadow: The Life and Collections of Sarah Sophia Banks (1744-1818) – Arlene Leis
The British Museum’s Trustees Report dating February 12, 1819, notes that John Thomas Smith, the Keeper of Prints and Drawings, was preparing a “catalogue of Miss Banks’s truly interesting collection of visiting cards and Co.” The collection to which the report refers is that of Sarah Sophia Banks (1744-1818), sister of the well-known botanist, collector and President of the Royal Society Sir Joseph Banks. During the two centuries since her death, Sarah Sophia, also an avid collector has remained for the most part in her brother’s shadow. However, as my talk will demonstrate, Sarah Sophia was an active collector in her own right, and to regard her projects as mere offshoots of her brother’s ventures would be to grossly underestimate their independent importance. At the time of her death, her stockpile of paper items boasted well over 19,000 articles; now housed at the British Museum and British Library, it comprises admission tickets, playbills, fashion plates, political caricatures, satirical prints, ballads, political prints, watch plates, trade cards, newspaper clippings, bookplates and visitor cards, amongst other items. Sarah Sophia also collected coins and medals: over 9,000 specimens are divided between the British Museum and Royal Mint.During Sarah Sophia’s life, her large collection was stored alongside her brother’s herbarium, library and printing press in the house that she lived in with Sir Joseph at 32 Soho Square, London, a thriving scientific hub where natural history specimens where collected, studied, and exchanged.Focusing on Sarah Sophia’s collection of printed materials alongside her surviving hand-written inventory, my talk will explore Sarah Sophia’s complex and innovative collecting practices and methodologies. Importantly, it will consider the Banks siblings’ collections as meaningfully interconnected but also distinct, reclaiming Sarah Sophia’s place in the house as an authoritative collector and ‘curator’. In doing so, it will demonstrate that women participated in and helped shape scientific and cultural pursuits in ways often undocumented by traditional narratives of the eighteenth century.  
Sarah Banks, The Royal Mint Museum

22 March
Working Women in Eighteenth-Century Deptford – Margarette Lincoln
This talk will focus on Mary Slade, often confused with her namesake, the cross-dressing female shipwright who also lived in Deptford. Slade was related to the greatest naval architect of the age, Sir Thomas Slade; she had relatives in high office in the naval dockyards, and was a considerable businesswoman in her own right, constructing properties that still stand today. Why is her achievement so little known? Based on research for a larger study of maritime London in the age of Cook and Nelson, this session offers insights into the neglected lives of local women who contributed to London’s maritime power in the time of those celebrated heroes.
Click here for more information, times, ticketing details, etc.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

An unknown needlewoman

Since it began, this blog has featured the stories of many women from history, some little-known and others with minor claims to fame, but all of them left enough tantalising traces to make them worth investigating and then writing about.

As part of my interest in family history, I do indexing for various archival institutions, and I am currently transcribing a series of Southern African births, deaths and marriages records. Each certificate has a story to tell - if there was only time to delve into them all!

I’ve come across many entries for men and women who lived a precarious existence in tough and harsh conditions in the towns, mines and in remote areas of the veld; families with 15 or more children and interrelated to a degree that might raise eyebrows. I've come across girls as young as 13 being married off to widowers old enough to be their grandfathers, surprising interracial marriages before the strictures of Apartheid, and just too many who died far too young from infections, child-birth, accidents, and even murder.

There are also individuals who were incarcerated on Robben Island (best known as where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned). A leper hospital was founded on the island in 1845. Originally, this was not strictly controlled and lepers arrived and left more or less on a voluntary basis. However, by the 1890s, a Leprosy Repression Act was introduced and the detention and movement of lepers became tightly controlled. During 1891-1893, close to a thousand lepers were admitted to the island. Their inevitable death notices are stark reminders of those times gone by. 

  

   

One example that I transcribed today had me wondering about just this one woman lost to history, who died in the Leper Ward at Robben Island on this day (3 February) in 1897. No doubt she was lost to her family as well, as leprosy was a curse that no-one wanted to be associated with and families often cut all ties to the afflicted, out of both fear and shame. Often, they were never mentioned again and even all memory of them wiped from family records.

This particular death entry is for Helena Johanna Cornelissen, place of birth unknown, parentage unknown. Age is put at 71 years and 11 months (so there must have been some evidence of her actual birth date). Status is Married and her occupation “Needlework” but her husband is not named and no children are listed. She had no known property. The certificate was signed by the Medical Officer in Charge, Walter H. Thurston.

"Cape Malay Woman Crocheting", Copyright Lucy Mary Wiles

Further investigation of the actual death certificate via Ancestry, shows that she had suffered other complications apart from leprosy. She was a Widow, but also a Cape Coloured [i.e. mixed race, also possibly identified as Cape Malay]. 

The Leper Graveyard, Robben Island

What kind of needlework did Helena do? Did she sew dresses, knit or make fancy lacework for privileged white residents of Cape Town? What had her life been like before she fell ill? Was it an ongoing struggle, or had she been able to make ends meet due to her skills? Did anyone else in her family suffer from leprosy? It will be impossible to answer such questions. 

If we believe that all lives matter, then I hope that Helena's life did have some positive aspects, that she had her share of happiness and that she shouldn't just be defined by a faded old document and a disease that caused her to be feared and shunned by others.

 (The novel "The Island" by Victoria Hislop is worth reading to gain some understanding of what it was like for families afflicted by leprosy.)

Here are some links about Robben Island.

A Handbook On Leprosy (contains many graphic images of Helena's contemporaries, fellow sufferers whom she may have known - they are black, white, and mixed race).














Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The mysterious Miss Jewell and her Prince

At time of writing, one of the most popular films on the planet is The Greatest Showman which is very loosely based on the life of P.T. Barnum. While it is a fabulously enjoyable movie, it shouldn't be relied upon for historical accuracy, although no doubt the infamous "King of Humbug" himself would have approved of its ability to hoodwink and entertain the masses.

There were several other similar showmen during this era and one of the lesser-known was Frank Fillis (b. London 1857 d. Bangkok 1921) whose circus company toured throughout the world, in particular the UK and far-flung corners of the British Empire. 

Every bit as colourful and outrageous as P.T. Barnum, having had three wives and children with links to the stage and movies, he is worthy of a blog post in his own right, but is probably best remembered in South Africa where he came up with the idea for the spectacle Savage South Africa that he brought to Britain at the turn of the previous century. 

Image in TROVE

Here is an early moving image of the arrival of the cast at Southampton docks, 1899 prior to its debut at Earl's Court.




But it was events that took place during the tour of Savage South Africa when two individuals were destined to become notorious celebrities and which, in the moralistic and racist attitudes of those long-ago days, created a huge scandal.

An attractive white woman, Florence Kate ("Kitty") Jewell, supposedly a respectable piano player and teacher, daughter of a Cornish mining engineer, had met and fallen in love with the star performer. His name was Peter and he was touted as a Prince, a son of Lobengula, King of the Matabele. When the couple tried to get married in London all hell broke loose.

The Evening News screamed that there is something inexpressibly disgusting in the idea of the mating of a white girl and a dusky savage. The Daily Mail added to the fire stating that such behaviour would weaken and lead to the downfall of the Empire. The snootier Vanity Fair proclaimed the New Woman was unable to tell a savage from a savant ... and so on. The Reverend who had been going to take the marriage service got cold feet and found an excuse not to marry them (the groom was likely to have other wives left behind in Africa).

Searches of old newspapers online will provide many similar reports on the scandal.




In the book by Ben Shephard, Kitty and the Prince, the story is described in great detail and it is -
"A heart-breaking tale, a real mystery, and a window into Victorian attitudes to race, the beginnings of tabloid journalism, and feminism, in the 1890s. In short, a true story that has everything."
It makes absorbing reading for anyone who wants to know more of the historical background to the couple's relationship, how they were forced to abort their first attempt at marriage in the glare of media, their public and violent spats, passionate reunion and marriage, acrimonious parting and divorce.

The cancelled entry in the parish records for the first marriage:


The second marriage was a low-key affair at the Holborn Register Office on 28 February 1900. It didn't make waves, possibly because of the Boer War raging in South Africa taking up most of the print space, although Kitty did manage to return to the headlines when she staged a suicide attempt by leaving some of her belongings, plus a "letter of a tragic character" addressed to her husband, on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal. Some of her other letters to Peter (whom she called "Blackchops") were reproduced in the newspapers of the day - even as far away as Australia - see TROVE.

Copyright National Archives UK

In Kitty's divorce petition of 4 November 1901, she accuses Peter of adultery with two other women and also that he bit and kicked her, gave her "two black eyes" and even tried "to stab her with an assegai". Peter did not defend the case, but the press had a field day with justification for the case against mixed marriages, lecturing white women not to marry "natives", that they would only have themselves to blame when they were treated badly.

After Kitty left the divorce court in February of 1902, she completely disappeared from all the records and was never heard of again, leastwise not as Kitty Jewell or Kitty Lo Ben.



The true character and ancestry of the Prince has been questioned by historians although the truth went to the grave with him when he died in 1913 aged 38. Some say he was an imposter, his persona created by the showman Fillis to draw the crowds, others say he could well have been a son of one of King Lobengula's lesser, or non-official, wives. Peter had married an Irish woman and settled down in Salford where he was reduced to menial jobs. Three of his four children died young and a son, also Peter, lived until 1977 but does not appear to have any descendants. 

Here is another Youtube video about Peter Lobengula from SalfordOnline (contains some errors of fact - Kitty and Peter definitely did marry and later divorce, also Kitty did not commit suicide).




Kitty is a mystery waiting to be solved by some family historian. Although Shephard could confirm her birth in Redruth, Cornwall in 1873, he had difficulty in verifying certain aspects of her past and was unable to trace her movements accurately - nor was he able to confirm beyond doubt that her father, Joseph Jewell, was a Cornish mining engineer in South Africa.  Some newspaper reports said Kitty was Jewish, which is doubtful, but other American reports state her father worked in mines in Mexico, not South Africa.  

A public Ancestry family tree for the Jewells reveals that others in Kitty's family skirted around scandal involving Princes, as can be seen by a divorce petition brought in 1895 by John Corrie Woolston, the husband of one of Kitty's sisters, Emily Jane, with one of the named co-respondents being none other than the claimant to the French throne, Louis Phillipe Robert, Duc d'Orleans !

Copyright National Archives UK

From that family tree, it appears Emily had an interesting life as well with another marriage and divorce in Canada. The case against Prince Phillipe was dismissed, but was it a complete fantasy? Did she really snag the attention of the French Prince, and how? Did Kitty start her romance with the "Black Prince" in order to gain a bit of oneupmanship over her sister?

Then to add another layer of intrigue, Kitty's only brother was also a bit of a shady individual. In 1893, Joseph Stanley Jewell  was sentenced at the Old Bailey to 18 months' hard labour for deception and fraud.

All of this suggests that perhaps Kitty herself wasn't quite the "respectable" young lady she made out to be and may have had a colourful past she needed to cover up. 

Kitty's mother, Frances Jewell, is in the 1911 Census Return as a widow and sole lodger of "private means", aged 69 and living at 41 Trinity Square, Lambeth. She declares that she had 4 children, one of which is dead. Without delving deeper into family research (another sister Alice Maud is said to have lived to the age of 102), it cannot be known which child this was, but perhaps Kitty was "dead" to her mother after what happened.

There is every possibility Florence Kate ("Kitty") Jewell also decided to put all the turmoil of her relationship with Prince Lobengula behind her and went on to completely reinvent herself somewhere else in the world.