Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Titanic Tuesdays; L’Amour de la Mer

I have been woefully lax in updating my blog lately. Frankly, I’ve been lax in most things related to writing. Work is busier, and I recently began planning a vacation, which seems to have overrun my brain. I’m treating myself to a week-long trip to Paris in May for the birthday. It’ll be my third trip there, but my first time traveling overseas by myself. Should be an adventure! Now that I’ve settled on and booked an apartment, I can take a step away and focus on other things for a little while. First order of business: dust off the blog.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s a story I found that’s rather intriguing. A couple of Second Class passengers named Henry & Kate Marshall boarded at Southampton, only Marshall was not their real name. They were, in reality, Henry Morley and Kate Phillips, and were not married but rather eloping to the United States. Morley, nearly 40 years old, was already married, and had left his wife and daughter for his much younger mistress,19-year-old Kate, whom he met while she was working in one of his confectioner’s shops. He was a wealthy man, and gifted her with a beautiful sapphire necklace (sound familiar?) on board the ship. I have only found one photo of it online, and suspect there is copyright involved, so rather than post it here, I’ll link to it instead: L’Amour de la Mer (Love of the Sea).

As with most TItanic stories, this one ends in tragedy. Henry Morley was not allowed on the lifeboat with his mistress, and died in the sinking. Not long after that, Kate discovered she was pregnant. She gave birth to a daughter, Ellen, on January 11, 1913. Some like to say Ellen was conceived on board the ship, because it’s more romantic that way, but there’s no way to know for sure. It’s just as likely she was already a few weeks pregnant when the Titanic set sail. Some even say that her child might have been conceived after the sinking, but I find that less likely. Kate was a grief-stricken young woman, alone in an unfamiliar country in the early 1900s. When would she have the opportunity to start another love affair? She always insisted her child was Morley’s, and gave Ellen’s birth date and the fact that first pregnancies are said to stretch longer than 9 months (most people I know had their first children after their due dates), it stands to reason that Morley is the most likely paternal candidate.

The tragedy continues: according to Ellen herself, Kate Phillips never quite recovered from what happened to her. She was distant, abusive and self-destructive, and ended her life in a mental institution. Some reports say that Kate sold the sapphire necklace when she fell on hard times, while others say before she died, Kate gave the necklace (as well as the purse and cabin keys she had on her when put in the lifeboat) to Ellen. Ellen’s own granddaughter confirmed part of this, saying that she personally saw the cabin keys, but said that the necklace went down with the ship and was later recovered with other artifacts. It has popped up from time to time as part of Titanic artifact exhibitions.

Ellen’s paternity was never proven. Some say there was a DNA test done, but the results were never publicized. Ellen’s granddaughter as well as a member of Morley’s family have both said that DNA was never done, however, because the Morley family did not agree to it. So unless someone has kept some of Ellen’s hair, it may never be known for sure if she was the result of her mother’s Titanic elopement or not.

Some more links that might be of interest on this story:

Ellen’s story, in her own words: http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/ellen_phillips_story.html
Kate’s biography, along with some photos: http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/kate-phillips.html
The ET thread where both Ellen’s and Morley’s family weigh in: http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/5811/99997.html?1137698196
Another ET thread where Ellen’s granddaughter pops in: http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/5811/54465.html?1089621227
One more ET thread that discusses the DNA rumors further: http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/5811/50812.html?1190633087

And then it got stranger. While searching the forums for other posts on the subject, I found a topic from someone else claiming to be descended from Morley. What makes it so strange? They claim he was in Papua New Guinea in 1913-1914, where he married and had 5 children. A year or two after he supposedly died on the Titanic. Hm. Makes for a good story, at least: http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/5667/92353.html?1154695187

This blog started out as a romantic tale, but somehow it descended into weirdness. Still, it’s mysterious and intriguing (and the tale of Henry and Kate is still a romantic one, if you ignore the adultery), like many of the other mysteries that came out of the disaster. It’s no wonder I’ve been so fascinated by the ship for so long. I kind of wish I knew about Henry and Kate while I was still writing DESTINED. I could have given them a cameo. ;)


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