BERYL MARKHAM

1902-1986

In 1929, Stuffynwood born Mansfield Markham, aged 27, became embroiled with his wife of 2 years, Beryl Markham, in a high profile scandal involving the Royal House of Windsor. Rather than ramble on in a 'he said she said' fashion, I've captured the story from an autobiographical film of Beryl's life that recreated the scandal. The extracts from the film shown below are provided on a non-profit educational basis. The film is called 'A Shadow on the Sun' available on two DVD's in PAL, region 2 format and can be obtained from Amazon UK.

Firstly - an introduction. Beryl Markham b.1902 was a remarkable woman. So much so that in 1988 Hollywood producers read her autobiography, 'West with the night' and decided her eventful, action-packed life was worthy of a Hollywood mini-series. The series was created hot on the heels of Out of Africa that captured 7 Oscars and in which, the character named Felicity, was based on Beryl herself. The series was later edited into 2 feature length films called 'A shadow on the sun' and released by LWT for the UK in the early 90's.

Beryl's retired military father, Captain Charles Clutterbuck, decided to take up the British Goverment's offer of free land to encourage settlement in British East Africa (later Kenya) to start a horse farm and saw mill. The family left their home in Rutland, England in 1904 to begin their new life in Kenya when Beryl was just 2 years old. Two years later her mother decided that equatorial, colonial life was not for her and returned to England with Beryl's sickly elder brother, leaving her hunting-obsessed husband struggling to make a living, although he did ensure that Beryl was reasonably educated. Eventually, harsh reality prevailed and almost bankrupt in 1919, he left Kenya for a job opportunity in Peru while encouraging Beryl aged just 16 to marry his friend, Jock Purves, a wealthy race horse trainer. Beryl had grown into a true Kenyan. In the absence of her mother and distracted father, her very tall, athletic frame enabled her to adopt the physical Maasai tribal life and fluently speak their language. With the help of her lifelong Maasai tribal friend, Kibii, she gained a reputation for selecting, capturing and taming wild horses that could win on the race track. The powerful aristocratic landowner, Lord Delamere, became Beryl's surrogate father, helping her achieve her horse training ambitions while introducing the now confident, articulate, attractive blond to his affluent partying social circle, labelled the 'Happy Valley Set' by the scandal hungry press. The subject of her numerous affairs is central to the Hollywood produced film but moreover it portrays her as a couragous, adventurous woman............when crash-landing her fuel-starved plane into a bog in Nova Scotia in 1936, she subsequently became the first person to fly non-stop east to west across the Atlantic into the prevailing head wind. While freeing herself from the wrecked aircraft and amazingly in one piece, albeit a head wound, she declared to the farmer who ran to her aid..." Hello I'm Missus Markham from England".

 

The first of 8 short video extracts taken from the 4 hour CBS Hollywood mini-series, begins at the point Beryl Purves (nee Clutterbuck) has left her first husband, Jock Purves, after a heated row about her "interfering" in his racehorse business. After packing a few clothes, she rides out to an abandoned farm where she immediately begins building her own racing stables. Her lifelong friend, Kibii, a Maasai tribesman, begs her to return to her husband but she was having none of it. She visits her close friends Lord & Lady Delamere, Kenya's most powerful landowners and strikes up a deal to train his horses if she could obtain a license from the Jockey Club, which he doubted.......... PLAY

The continuation from the first video shows the race followed by Lord Delamere's introduction of Stuffynwood born Mansfield Markham to Beryl. The introduction is proceeded by their whirlwind romance. Mansfield was probably out there visiting his brother, Stuffynwood born, Sir Charles, 2nd Baronet of Arusha, East Africa and his wife Lady Markham although they are not characterised in the film. Mansfield is played by James Fox and Beryl by Stefanie Powers.

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The immensely wealthy Mansfield Markham sweeps Beryl off her feet and the couple marry in Nairobi in 1927. The couple honeymoon in Paris before Mansfield takes Beryl to the Markham family home to intoduce her to his mother, Lady Markham, the widow of the late Sir Arthur Markham, 1st Baronet and Member of Parliament for Mansfield in Nottinghamshire. The Markham's wealth was derived from the coal, iron & steel industries in which, Arthur, his father, Charles, and elder brother, Charles Paxton Markham, had made a significant pioneering contribution. Arthur's father, the epitome of the strict Victorian patriarch, believed his son should learn every aspect of the coal mining industry and that included the coal face....... a far cry from his grandson, Mansfield Markham's privileged lifestyle............PLAY
The couple return to Kenya where Beryl resumes her horse training career. She announces to Mansfield that she's expecting their child. Delighted with the news, Mansfield upsets Beryl by telling her they must return to London to have the baby......PLAY
Lord Delamere invites Mansfield & Beryl Markham on a Safari hunting trip for the Prince of Wales and his brother Prince Henry. Mansfield refuses the offer and prefers Beryl to rest to avoid pregnancy problems, however she is determined to go.......PLAY
Beryl attracts the Princes' attention and Henry barely leaves her side during the Safari trip. The Princes receive an urgent request to return to London due to the King's illness and depart quickly. On leaving, Henry says he wants to meet her in London. In 1929 Beryl returns to London and has a baby boy named Gervase but quickly becomes bored with her new sedate lifestyle with Mansfield who was indifferent to her complaints. She meets Prince Henry and begins a relationship with him......PLAY
...the party continues in full glare of high society London but the pair attract the attention of a Daily Mirror journalist who confronts Beryl. The rift between Mansfield and Beryl grows after he tells her that he will not return to Kenya and the baby will remain in London with him. Beryl continues to meet Henry in secret........PLAY
Henry declares his love for Beryl and wants to marry her. Mansfield is summoned to the Palace where he discusses the "crisis" with the Prince of Wales and his lawyer. In return for an annuity paying £500 a year for life (£12,000 in 2009 values), she was to end the relationship with Henry and return to Kenya immediately without her son who was to remain with Mansfield......PLAY

 

Beryl returned to Kenya in 1929 with her annuity cushioning her from the economic affects of the Wall Street Crash. Lord Delamere and the partying Happy Valley Set on the other hand woke up to the largest hangover ever! The global slump and currency collapses brought financial ruin to many but Beryl assisted by another infatuated male, made herself a new career flying anyone and anything around the country. Mansfield Markham became a film director/producer involved in 5 films from 1931 to 1933. Sir Charles Markham's 8 year marriage ended in divorce in 1928 as did Lord Delamere's 29 year marriage. Lord Delamere remarried Lady Markham the same year but the marriage was shortened by Delamere's death in 1931.(source: http://www.thepeerage.com/p7255.htm#i72548)

The book 'The Family - Markham' by Anthony J Hallam reveals letters written c1930 by Sir Charles Markham to his Aunt Violet admitting that he and his brothers must be seen to be failures for frittering away their father's fortune. In another letter to Violet's husband he admits to being too ashamed to ask his aunt for money so could he, Uncle Jim, loan £100 to pay off his debts!!