Evan Morgan’s mother, Lady Tredegar – the former Lady Katharine Carnegie - had her peculiarities. She believed herself a bird. Not a sparrow or starling, a woodpecker or wren, not an osprey or raven, not even an eagle. Lady Katharine believed herself to be... a Kingfisher.
On arriving at Tredegar House, guests would be given a small gift: a handmade bird’s nest. She was practising. Before very long she had made a very large bird’s nest for herself – complete with eggs. There she sat brooding and communing with her avian sisters…perhaps dreaming of a male kingfisher.
It perhaps explains the general demeanour of her son, along with his interest in parrots.
Virginia Woolf once described Evan as: ‘a little red absurdity, with a beak of a nose, no chin, and with the general likeness of a callow but student bantam cock that has run to legs and neck.’
Gore Vidal, too, described Evan as: ‘A birdlike sort of man. Possibly because of his mother; the dowager Lady Tredegar, built the biggest bird’s nest in all world. She apparently hatched nothing in it except – who knows – Evan?’
Despite her title, Lady Tredegar seemed to have little love for Tredegar House, preferring instead her refuge, Honeywood House in West Sussex. What it is to have choice.
Tredegar may have held bad memories; she may have found Courtney, her husband, a bore or may have just disliked the Welsh; whatever the case she died in 1949 (the same year as her son Evan) with the explicit instruction that her ashes were never to be taken to Wales.
Eccentricity has its charms but the Morgan family had one little secret it tried to manage and suppress. Evan Morgan had a sister: the honourable Gwyneth Ericka Morgan, a high spirited society beauty with a mutinous soul.
Gwyneth craved adventure and lived a ‘bohemian’ life. She loved dangerous people, alcohol and drugs. Her family, concerned and appalled in varying degrees, tried desperately to rein her in – and at last succeeded. Frail and in ill health her final years saw her a virtual prisoner, moving from one guarded house to another and receiving medical care from leading physicians. She vanished in December 1924, her body later pulled from the Thames in May the following year.
The official line is that she overdosed in a London opium den, her body dumped in the Thames. A turquoise amulet was found on her corpse, a present from her brother Evan, complete with wire from a ginger-beer bottle that held it together.
Her father, Lord Tredegar tried all in his power to get an open verdict on her death, ‘Suicide’ being unthinkable, and she was quietly buried in London. Only after her brother succeeded to the title was her body (unlike her mother's ashes) brought back to Wales and buried in Bassaleg churchyard.
Mystery surrounds the death of Gwyneth Morgan, not least how one so frail could have so easily escaped and avoided recapture, and there have long been rumours of something more sinister It’s a mystery subtly explored in a fine book - ‘The Beautiful Nuisance’ by William Cross and Monty Dart. A rather less subtle explanation is provided by an anonymous 'shouty' comment in Paul Busby’s blog:
GWYNNETH MORGAN DID NOT DIE DUE TO ILLEGAL DRUGS. SHE DIED BECAUSE THE FAMILY PRACTICED A STYLE OF MONARCH MIND CONTROL AND GWYNNETH WAS A SLAVE, HER BROTHER WAS HER MASTER, AND THE FAMILY KNEW HER TORTURE-INDUCED MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER WAS BREAKING DOWN, AND SHE WAS REMEMBERING THE ABUSE. Evan Morgan and Aleister Crowley created the Hitler we knew, and WWII went down the way it did because of this.
Clearly eccentricity attracts…eccentricity. Then again, who knows? The whole thing is just begging for a Francis Cottam novel.