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Aug 31 2019

A very english affair

A <a rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="very" href="">very</a> <a rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="english" href="">english</a> affair-A <a rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="very" href="">very</a> <a rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="english" href="">english</a> affair
The true story behind Amazon’s excellent new miniseries starring Hugh Grant as British politician Jeremy Thorpe and Ben Whishaw as his secret lover.

The Secret, Real-Life Love Affair Behind A Very English Scandal

The true story behind Amazon’s excellent new miniseries starring Hugh Grant as British politician Jeremy Thorpe and Ben Whishaw as his secret lover.

Amazon’s A Very English Scandal has all the elements of premiere peak TV programming: pedigree (it hails from Oscar-nominated director Stephen Frears and BAFTA-winning Doctor Who screenwriter Russell T. Davies); an impeccable cast (Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw star); an enthralling tragicomedy of a plot; and enough sumptuous period trappings to compete with The Crown. But the most astounding aspect of A Very English Scandal is that its unbelievable story line—adapted from John Preston’s 2016 book—stems from the real-life chaos that erupted after Jeremy Thorpe, a dashing British politician and leader of the Liberal Party between 1967 and 1976, broke off a secret affair with his lover Norman Scott. (The breakup occurred in the early 1960s, before homosexuality was decriminalized in the U.K. in 1967.)

The byzantine sequence of events that followed spanned decades and all manner of soap-opera-primed plot points, including a political cover-up, an alleged murder plot, and an adorable, ill-fated dog who meets an untimely end. Ahead, a timeline to help untangle the bizarre real-life events that inspired A Very English Scandal.

1959: At age 30, Thorpe wins the North Devon seat for the Liberal Party. Born into a highly political family, Thorpe studied at Eton and Oxford before segueing from a brief law career into politics. His charm, gift for mimicry, and “flamboyant dress” (according to The Telegraph, “frock coats, stove-pipe trousers, brocade waistcoats, buckled shoes, and even spats”) qualified him as one of the most promising politicians of his generation.

1961: While visiting a friend at Kingham Stables in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, Thorpe is introduced to a stable boy named Norman Scott. Scott, who had been raised in less fortunate circumstances than Thorpe, is 11 years younger than the politician. During a brief conversation, Thorpe suggests Scott stop by the House of Commons should he ever need help, and presents him with his business card.

Several months later, after a fight with his boss, Scott reportedly has a nervous breakdown and is admitted to Ashurst Clinic. When he discharges himself weeks later, feeling as though he has inconvenienced his previous landlord, he retrieves his Jack Russell, named Mrs. Tish, and takes a train to London to take Thorpe up on his offer.

Decades later, Scott told The Sun, “I was 19, my confidence had been undermined in a way I’d never thought possible. I was unraveling. I contacted Thorpe and he swooped in.”

At the House of Commons, according to Preston’s book, Thorpe invites Scott to stay with him at his mother’s house for the night. Thorpe tells Scott to introduce himself to his mother as a cameraman who will accompany Thorpe on an international trip the next day. Later that evening, Thorpe offers Scott a book about a love affair between two men, and later is said to begin a physical relationship with Scott. (Thorpe acknowledged a friendship with Scott, but maintained the relationship was not physical.)

1961: Thorpe writes a letter to a friend, exclaiming, “How I adored SF [San Francisco] . . . Certainly it is the one city where a gay person can let down his defenses and feel free and unhunted . . . If I’m ever driven out of public life in Britain for a gay scandal then I shall settle in SF!” (The emergence of the letter, published decades later by the BBC, is reportedly why Thorpe’s lawyers did not let him testify in Thorpe’s 1979 criminal trial.)

1962: “The Chelsea police [are] handed missives written by [Thorpe] to Norman Scott,” according to The Economist. One of the letters, which contained the phrase “bunnies can (and will) go to France,” became infamous when it was leaked nearly 15 years later. (“Bunny” was reportedly Thorpe’s pet name for Scott.) The letter also includes this tender sign-off: “Yours affectionately, Jeremy. I miss you.” Scott is not taken seriously by the police.

Thorpe sends his friend and fellow Liberal M.P. Peter Bessell to collect his letters to Scott and to pay him for his silence. Per The Telegraph, “Peter Bessell became one of Thorpe’s closest allies and made it his business to protect Thorpe from Scott’s attempts to go public with the alleged gay affair.”

Scott later told The Sun that the payments covered “my rent, but I was still owned by [Thorpe]. He kept me in a position where I couldn’t help myself or be free of him. He was always in the shadows.” Scott claims that Thorpe prevented him from getting a national insurance card, which he needed to find a job.

1964: Scott reportedly continues to try to tell his story to the police, as well as press, but he is still not taken seriously.

1967: Thorpe becomes the Liberal Party leader, the same year that homosexuality is decriminalized in the U.K.

1968: According to Bessell, Thorpe tells him, referring to Scott, “We’ve got to get rid of him . . . It is no worse than shooting a sick dog.” Bessell also alleges that Thorpe suggests several means of disposing of Scott’s body.

The same year, Thorpe marries Caroline Allpass. Though the wedding is called “a secret” by press, news cameras are on hand to capture the happy bride and groom.

1969: Scott marries Sue Myers, who is pregnant with the couple’s son Benjamin at the time. According to Preston’s book, the bride’s father declares the marriage doomed in his wedding speech. Later, the bride’s father allegedly tells the bride, “I wish you were coming home with me instead of that dreadful homosexual.”

The same year, Thorpe and his wife welcome their own son, Rupert.

1970: Allpass dies suddenly in a car crash.

1971: The Liberal Party reportedly conducts an internal inquiry into Scott’s allegations, but finds nothing. Other investigations are launched over the years, including one by Sir Ranulph Bacon, the chief constable of Devon, “after a report from the F.B.I. about an indiscretion with a rent boy when the politician had visited the U.S.”

1973: Thorpe marries again—this time to Marion Stein, who was previously married to Queen Elizabeth’s first cousin, George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood.

1974: Thorpe’s friend David Holmeswho was the best man in one of Thorpe’s weddings—approaches several men about silencing Scott: John Le Mesurier, George Deakin, and Andrew Newton, the last of whom is allegedly paid £10,000 to murder Scott. (Holmes, Le Mesurier, and Deakin are later co-defendants in the attempted murder trial with Thorpe.)

1975: “On October 23, 1975, Scott me[ets] Newton, who was posing as a minder hired to protect Scott from a hit man,” according to The Telegraph. “Newton [drives] Scott out to Dartmoor where he sho[ots] Scott’s pet Great Dane, Rinka, then allegedly trie[s] to shoot Scott himself, only for the gun to jam and Scott to run away. Newton was later jailed for two years, but did not at that stage mention his connection to Thorpe, instead saying Scott was blackmailing him and he wanted to frighten him off.”

The same year, an antique-firearms dealer named Dennis Meighan claims that he is approached by representatives of Thorpe who want Scott “silenced.” Several days later, Meighan allegedly has second thoughts and confesses the plot to the police. Later, Meighan claims that all references to Thorpe have been removed from the police report in what he believes to be a cover-up. Four years later, Meighan will not be called to give evidence at Thorpe’s high-profile trial.

1976: While Scott appears in court on an unrelated fraud charge, he announces, “I am being hounded by people the whole time just because of my sexual relationship with Jeremy Thorpe.” Newspapers publish the claims for the first time.

In May, after The Sunday Times publishes Thorpe’s incriminating “Bunnies” letter to Scott, Thorpe resigns as Liberal Party leader.

1979: In a national election, Thorpe loses the parliamentary seat from North Devon that he has had for 20 years.

Thorpe stands trial on charges of inciting and conspiring to murder Scott. The Washington Post reports his fall from grace: “Just five years ago, as the charismatic leader of the resurgent Liberal Party, he was Britain’s most dashing young politician. Now, ashen and hollow-cheeked, he is a ruined man who looks older than his 50 years and seems to be receding inside himself.”

Thorpe does not testify. His lawyer denies his client was engaged in a physical relationship with Scott, though he concedes his client had “homosexual tendencies.” (Years later, it is reported that the defense lawyer made that admission in exchange for the prosecution not presenting a four-page “love letterfrom Thorpe describing a trip to San Francisco in front of the jury.)

Scott does testify, but does not appear to win himself much sympathy, according to the same Washington Post report: “The star witness once again was tall, angular, and nervous Norman Scott, failed social climber, frequent psychiatric patient, sometime male model, itinerant show-horse trainer and financial parasite of a succession of male and female lovers and benefactors. He repeated in the same sniffling manner, often barely audible in the hushed courtroom, his detailed account of being seduced, kept, and abandoned by Thorpe, then a young member of Parliament.”


A very english affair


Written by American News

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