Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

A restless, curious spirit

Romantic figure: Jennie, Lady Randolph, Churchill. In 1914 Hugh Frewen introduced her to Montagu Porch who would become Jennie's third husband. This is the fourth in a short series on the life and times of Captain Hugh Frewen 

In 1944, Hugh Frewen published an autobiography, Imogene an odyssey. In her forward to the book, Dame Mary Gilmore wrote that it was a record of impressions and reflections in verse during journeys across four continents and over many countries.

It is also the story of a man from his birth to his arrival on “the rolling hills and downs of Dorrigo” where he would spend the last years of his life.

It is clear from the story that Frewen had inherited his father’s love of travel, his restless spirit and his insatiable curiosity.

In 1908, the 25 year old Frewen was appointed as an assistant resident and private secretary to Sir Percy Girouard, the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Nigerian Protectorate. When Girouard left in 1909, Frewen became a political officer in charge of a Nigerian hill station.

In Nigeria, Frewen met Montagu Porch who was also working in the Colonial Service. Porch was six years older than Frewen and had an equally restless spirit. They became friends.

This was a fateful friendship.

Randolph Churchill had died in 1895. Jennie, Lady Randolph Churchill, then married the much younger George Cornwallis-West, a captain in the Scots Guards. The couple drifted apart, divorcing in 1914. 

Frewen then introduced Porch to his Aunt Jennie. She was 23 years older than Porch. As had happened with Cornwallis-West before him, Porch was instantly smitten and pursued her over the next four years. The couple finally married in 1918.

He has a future”, Jennie said, “and I have a past, so we should be all right.” This proved to be the case. “My second marriage was romantic but not successful, my third marriage was successful but not romantic”, Jennie later wrote.

 In 1913, Frewen resigned from the Colonial Office and returned to England.

He had become concerned about what he saw as British profiteering on Nigerian currency issues, concerns that he raised with father Moreton who was briefly a British MP.

Hi father raised the matter in the House of Commons, leading to the appointment of a commission of inquiry. Frewen felt obliged to resign his position as a consequence.

The next year, 21 February 1914, Frewen married donna Maria Nunziante, the daughter and co-heiress of the Italian Duke of Mignano. War clouds were now looming over Europe, clouds that would soon sweep up Hugh Frewen.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 31 July 2019. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019   

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