What do Queen Mary, Lloyd George, G K Chesterton, Popes PiusX1 and Benedict XV, Rudolf Hess, Herman Goering, the Black Magician - Alistair Crowley, and Mike Keyton have in common? We all have a connection, in some way or other, with Evan Morgan - an unassuming name but a most unusual man.
Evan Morgan, or to give him his full title the 2nd Viscount of Tredegar was born in 1893 and by the time of his death in 1949 had run a large and wealthy estate into the ground. Luckily he had no children to inherit the mess. That honour went to his elderly uncle Frederick who promptly sold the entire estate to avoid death duties.
So far, so dry, but if his friend, Alastair Crowley, was the ‘wickedest man’ in Europe, Evan must count as one of the weirdest. An ancestor, Godfrey Morgan had buried his Sir Briggs, a favourite horse, in his grounds. The honour was deserved. Both Godfrey and Sir Briggs, named after one of Godrey’s servants, had survived the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade.’
But what was Evan Morgan’s excuse? Evan amassed a small private zoo, which included wild cats and monkeys, baboons, ‘Soames’ the boxing kangaroo, a honey bear called Alice and a foul-mouthed parrot aptly named ‘Blue Boy’.
It is clear from the picture that Blue Boy has just said something quite ripe, but the two ladies could have experienced something worse. So, too, could Evan had things gone wrong. One of his favourite tricks was to have his parrot crawl up the inside of his trouser legs and unexpectedly pop out from his half-opened flies. In the early 1930’s he dined with Ernest Rohm, Hess, and Herman Goering, but his relationship with the latter soured when, on a later occasion, his parrot bit Goering on the nose.
Catholics are broad minded, and Jesus dined with tax collectors and sinners. But even he might have thought twice about Evan Morgan, though I am sure he would have laughed at the parrot. Evan Morgan was a confirmed occultist, even creating a ‘Magik Room in his ancestral pile, Tredegar House. His interest in the dark arts had begun in his youth, when, as the thirteenth member of the Black Hand Society he was known as the ‘Black Monk’.
Despite, or because of this, Evans was converted to the Catholic Church by the Bishop of Algiers in 1914. Evan never did anything by halves. He went to Rome to study for the priesthood, driving round with a portable altar at the back of his limousine and sending his valet to the lectures he should have attended. For fifteen years he was Chamberlain to the Pope but never let that get in the way of his ‘Black Magic’.
During World War II, Evans served in MI8 – monitoring carrier pigeons - but narrowly escaped a full court martial in 1943 after letting slip secrets to…two girl guides. Miffed and nursing his wounds, Evans retired to his ‘Magik Room’ and invited Crowley to help him bring down a dreadful curse on the commanding officer responsible for his dismissal.
Details of the rite are sketchy but they were potent enough to scare Crowley and send him off running. Perhaps more significantly the offending officer was struck down by a serious illness only narrowly escaping death. Not bad for a Papal Chamberlain.
Not bad at all when you consider this Papal Chamberlain was also notoriously gay, entertaining male lovers in hotel bedrooms throughout Europe. The writer and aesthete Ronald Firbank rhapsodised on Evan, referring to him as ‘Heaven Organ’. Unfortunately neither of Evan Morgan’s two wives enjoyed much of Evan’s. ‘Heaven Organ’. His first marriage with the actress, Lois Sturt, ended in divorce. His second, to the stunningly beautiful Olga Dolgorouky, a Russian princess, ended, too, in amicable separation.
There is so much more. A second, shorter post to follow next week.
Oh…and my connection? I taught a lesson once in Tredegar House. By then a Girls School run by nuns.
Many thanks to the links from where these photos originated.