"Drugs, guns and the torment of his only son" -- Caspar Fleming (1952-75)

edited March 2014 in Literary 007 Posts: 2,613
Yesterday a surprisingly good article appeared in The Daily Mail. Its subject was the sad, brief life of Caspar Fleming. The author made skilled use of Ann Fleming's diaries and a recent interview with Caspar's half-sister Fionn. I have reprinted the full article (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2569783/Drugs-guns-torment-son-As-James-Bond-author-Ian-Flemings-life-dramatised-true-story-family-proves-just-captivating.html) below, along with an extra.

Drugs, guns and the torment of his only son: As James Bond author Ian Fleming's life is dramatized, the true story of his family proves just as fascinating

By Natalie Clarke. Additional reporting: Adam Luck
27 February 2014

One of Caspar Fleming’s favourite places in all the world was Shane’s Castle, a ruin steeped in legend on the shores of Lough Neagh in County Antrim.

The castle and its 1,800-acre estate is the family seat of the illustrious O’Neill family; Caspar — the only son of James Bond creator Ian Fleming — was, through his mother, Lord O’Neill’s half-brother. During a visit in September 1975, Caspar would venture out each day, searching for old arrowheads from battles fought long ago.

To the outside world, he seemed in high spirits. Yet, at that point, he had almost certainly made the decision to kill himself. A week later, he returned to his mother’s flat in Chelsea, wrote a short suicide note, took a massive quantity of barbiturates and lay down to die. He passed away on October 2, 1975, aged just 23

Caspar Fleming was a young man as brilliantly clever as he was tortured and, until now, the full tale of his tragically short life has never been told.

The story of his father Ian’s life is currently the focus of a new four-part TV drama, Fleming. The plot of the Sky Atlantic show follows a familiar path: Fleming’s glamorous life in London; the louche parties at GoldenEye, his Jamaican retreat; his womanising and his predilection for being spanked by his lovers.

But Caspar’s story is not so familiar to Bond aficionados. Ian Fleming’s name is synonymous with 007, but few identify him with an equally famous story, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, about the car that could fly. That was the tale he wrote especially for his son.

Any suicide is unbearably sad, and Caspar’s left a deep wound within the Fleming family that has never truly healed. Only now can the true story of what drove him to commit such a desperate act be told.

Caspar’s life was always going to be complicated as he was born in such tangled circumstances. His mother, Ann Charteris, was a beautiful socialite. She married her first husband, Shane — Lord O’Neill — in 1932, and the union produced two children: a son, Raymond (the present Lord O’Neill), 80, and a daughter, Fionn, now 78.

By the start of World War II, the marriage was over in all but name and, while O’Neill was in action abroad, she began a relationship with Esmond Harmsworth, Lord Rothermere.

Around this time, Ian Fleming also became a regular visitor to Ann’s Oxfordshire farmhouse and the pair were aware of a strong mutual attraction. But after O’Neill was killed in action in 1944, it was Lord Rothermere who proposed, and they married in 1945.

Ann and Fleming were irresistibly drawn to one another, however, and began an affair in New York the following year. Lord Rothermere eventually gave an ultimatum to his wife to stop seeing Fleming. After she became pregnant with Caspar in 1951, he divorced her.

Ann and Fleming married on March 24, 1952, and Caspar arrived five months later, on August 12. The same year, Fleming wrote his first Bond novel, Casino Royale. The Flemings divided their time between their London house in Victoria Square, where they entertained at least twice a week, and a large property in Kent, where they spent their weekends.

Caspar was based full-time in Kent, in the care of his nanny, Mrs Sillick, and a housekeeper. He was never permitted to visit GoldenEye, where his father liked to write.

Fleming was strangely over-protective of Caspar, arguing that the tropical sun and shark-infested seas would make it too dangerous. Or perhaps he just didn’t like the child around while he was working.

Certainly, the Flemings’ domestic set-up has given some the impression that Ann and Ian were somewhat distant parents. But Caspar’s half-sister Fionn refutes this.

"With my mother and stepfather, people forget about the domestic side," she says. "Yes, my mother led this glitzy life, but she had a domestic side to her, too. She was mad keen on us being properly educated, going to the dentist and what not.

"I’m a very objective person and I absolutely adored my stepfather. He was a devoted father to Caspar, who he would jokingly call 003-and-a-half. And, of course, he wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for him."

The book, published in 1964, became a children’s classic and, four years later, a film. But it began life as an impromptu bedtime story about a magic flying car, told by Fleming to his son. Chitty was based on a composite of the author’s own Standard and a more traditional vintage sports car of the same name, which Fleming had seen and admired in the Twenties.

It confirms, in Fionn’s mind, that Fleming ‘adored’ his son. Letters by Ann and Ian support this view.

Writing from GoldenEye in January 1956, Fleming told his wife: "It was horrible leaving the Square [the house in Victoria Square]. I said goodbye three times to your room and stole the photograph of you and Caspar."

But perhaps it’s fair to say that, like many men of that class at that time, he was not especially adept at the practical side of parenting.

Returning from a visit to GoldenEye, Fleming presented Nanny Sillick with a copy of Dr Benjamin Spock’s book, Baby And Child Care, in a clumsy attempt at showing an interest. Unimpressed, she told her employer she knew enough about babies not to have to study a book.

When he persisted, she placed a towel on his knees, as though it were a nappy, and said: "If you think one can learn from this book, perhaps you should give it a try."

Fionn adored her little brother. "He was an enchanting boy, an exceptional person, very clever. I would pick him up from school sometimes and all he wanted to do was to go to antique shops. He loved history."

In the late Fifties, the Flemings moved to Wiltshire. They pulled down a 16th-century manor, Warneford Place, in Sevenhampton, and built an avant-garde property, rather Bondesque in style. But the passion the couple had felt for one another during their affair soon waned once they were married.

In Jamaica, Fleming took a mistress, Blanche Blackwell, a socialite from a prominent family who lived on the island. There had been other women, but he was serious about Blanche, which caused Ann much anguish, though she, too, later began an affair with Hugh Gaitskell, the leader of the Labour party.

During the Fifties, Fleming had written many more Bond novels. But it was only in 1961, after U.S. President John F. Kennedy declared From Russia With Love to be one of his favourite books, that the Bond phenomenon began. Today, more than 100 million Bond novels have been sold worldwide.

Caspar, by all accounts, had difficulty coming to terms with the fame it brought his father, and is said to have taken barbiturates while at prep school to help him sleep.

After leaving that school at 11, Caspar was sent to Eton. At the end of Caspar’s first year, while he was enjoying the summer holidays, Fleming had a heart attack. He died the following day, on August 12, 1964 — Caspar’s 12th birthday — aged 56. Caspar inherited £300,000, which was put into trust.

His father’s early death affected the boy deeply. Ann wrote to her friend, the novelist Evelyn Waugh, around this time: "Caspar hates me and talks of little but matricide. What shall I do?"

According to Ian Fleming’s biographer Andrew Lycett, Caspar began to take an unhealthy interest in guns while at Eton. In one letter, the boy wrote to his Uncle Hugo about a "flourishing black market" in guns. One boy was offering to sell him a Luger.

When Caspar was 16, a loaded revolver was found in his room at Eton. The police were called and it was discovered the boy owned five automatic pistols. The local juvenile court fined him £25.

Visitors to the family home also noted he was obsessed with all manner of weapons. One, the author Patrick Leigh Fermor, wrote that Caspar had a Bond-like passion for "swordsticks, daggers, pistols, guns and even steel crossbows that sent glittering arrows whizzing at high speed across the croquet lawn at Sevenhampton and thudding into tree trunks".

After Eton, Caspar went to Oxford University, but dropped out after two years. "He studied some obscure subject — Egyptology, I believe," says Georgina, Lady O’Neill, wife of Raymond, Caspar’s half-brother.

"There were only one or two other boys studying the same subject and I think they dropped out and he was the only one. The tutors put a lot of work on him and he left as well. He was a perfectionist and put a lot of pressure on himself."

Caspar said shortly after leaving Oxford: "It wasn’t the life for me. It was pretty hard work. I didn’t take any exams — I don’t like them. The reasons why I left are quite complicated but I left of my own choice. I certainly feel no nostalgia for university life."

In 1972, Ann and Caspar visited Patrick Leigh Fermor in the Peloponnese, in southern Greece, along with a young woman, Rachel Toynbee, who Caspar was going out with. Patrick later wrote: "Was he 19 or 20 then? He looked younger and rather frail and slender and pale with a few scattered freckles and thick dark curls — rather like an angry and vulnerable fawn.

"He got very excited cleaning a Greco-Roman funerary slab with a solution of aquaforte and made friends with a very nice American couple called Pomeroy, who were constantly hunting for fossils and remains.

"He was deep into Egyptology and, when he left, signed his name in the book in Egyptian hieroglyphics: beautifully drawn cartouches filled with sphinxes, palm leaves, ibises and galleys."

The following year, when he was 21, Caspar was able to access his trust fund and used the money to fund his growing drug habit. His half-sister Fionn recalled after his death she "didn’t want my children to get into the swimming pool with him because his body was covered with needle pricks."

In 1974, Caspar made his first suicide attempt during a visit to GoldenEye, which he had inherited after his father’s death. He took an overdose, then swam out to sea.

He was saved by quick-thinking friends who called for a helicopter and had him rushed to hospital.

During the following year, Caspar had four spells in the psychiatric unit of a hospital in Swindon where he was treated for depression. But during that visit to Shane’s Castle in September 1975, he seemed as though he were back to his old self.

"He was really such a nice boy. We had three young boys and they absolutely adored him," recalls Lady O’Neill. "The week before he died, when he came to visit, he seemed really happy. He would go searching for arrowheads. He was an archaeologist, that was his great love."

At the end of his visit, Caspar returned to his mother’s London flat in Chelsea. The night before he killed himself, he visited Fionn at her house in Pimlico and appeared in sparkling humour. The following day, October 2, a neighbour, Antione Lafont, found his body in bed in his mother’s flat in Royal Hospital Road.

A suicide note in his pyjama pocket read simply: "If it is not this time it will be the next." Three empty tablet bottles were by his side. Mr Lafont, a banker, told the Westminster inquest 12 days later: "He’d had attacks of depression. I just looked in to see if things were all right. He was very white. I could not find any sign of breathing. I took the note out of his pyjama pocket and called the doctor."

Injection marks were found on his feet, thigh and elbow, but it was the barbiturates that caused his death.

When his mother was told the news, she had to be sedated.

Dr William Knapman, a psychiatrist, told the inquest: "He was a rather moody and pessimistic man. He was not working and he felt strongly that he had not got a proper place in life."

The verdict recorded was suicide while suffering from depression.

"It was dreadful when he died," says Lady O’Neill. "He’d got in with a crowd at Oxford who took drugs. I don’t suppose that helped. Caspar was very clever but he suffered depression — a lot of the family did."

In an interview in 2012, Ian Fleming’s mistress, Blanche Blackwell, who is now 101, hinted that the author himself was a depressive. "She [Ann] disliked me but I can’t blame her," she said. "When I got to know Ian better, I found a man in a serious depression. I was able to give him a certain amount of happiness. I felt terribly sorry for him."

Ann was stricken after her son’s death. She drank heavily to try to numb her pain and died from cancer in 1981. Caspar is buried with his parents in the parish church near their old home in Sevenhampton.

There was nothing, it seems, anyone could have done to prevent his death. In a letter Ann wrote to a friend, writer Noel Annan, a month after his suicide, she described her helplessness as she watched the tragedy unfold: "Caspar tried to come to terms with life, for my sake, and then suddenly could not try any more. It was an act of will and I shall miss him for ever."

Curiously, though The Daily Mail reprinted the boyhood photo of Caspar familiar to readers of Lycett's biography, it did not print any photos of Caspar as an adult, perhaps because they are extremely difficult to find. The only one I know of is included in the book of Ann Fleming's letters. I would like to share it with the board:

4x7LfQil.jpg

Requiescat in pace.

Comments

  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    Posts: 17,283
    So sad.
    Thanks for sharing though.
    =((
  • SandySandy Somewhere in Europe
    Posts: 4,012
    Such a heartbreaking story. Thanks for posting this here @Revelator.
  • MrcogginsMrcoggins Following in the footsteps of Quentin Quigley.
    Posts: 3,139
    I'd often wondered about how the poor chap met his end Thankyou for this most interesting post @Revelator.
  • ggl007ggl007 www.archivo007.com Spain, España
    Posts: 2,500
    Thanks, Revelator.

    We know very little about this topic. An interview with that "Nanny Sillick" would be really interesting... :(
  • MajorDSmytheMajorDSmythe Moderator
    Posts: 12,782
    Thanks for posting this, @Revelator. An interesting, though sad, story. I knew he committed suicide, but I didn't know how.
  • Samuel001Samuel001 Moderator
    Posts: 13,335
    Great reading @Revelator. Thanks, as always.
  • DragonpolDragonpol Writer @ http://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    edited March 2014 Posts: 15,799
    Although I've been researching Caspar Fleming for a blog article, this post made me go out and buy a copy of yesterday's Daily Mail (I'm in retail). Thank you so much for posting this article here, @Revelator, as always. A very sad waste of a talented individual. How I wish he was still alive.
  • Creasy47Creasy47 In Cuba with Natalya.Moderator
    Posts: 37,413
    Incredibly sad, but thank you for posting this. It was a good read.
  • Another fascinating posting, @Revelator. You do find the good stuff!
  • TokolosheTokoloshe Under your bed
    Posts: 2,667
    Terribly sad to read, but thank you for taking the time to share it.
  • Posts: 2,613
    Dragonpol wrote:
    Although I've been researching Caspar Fleming for a blog article, this post made me go out and buy a copy of yesterday's Daily Mail (I'm in retail). Thank you so much for posting this article here, @Revelator, as always. A very sad waste of a talented individual. How I wish he was still alive.

    I was also putting together an article on Caspar, based on Ann Fleming's letters, and the Mail actually quoted from the same letters I had planned to use! I hate to let my research go entirely to waste, so on Sunday I'll post some of the longer letter extracts here (today I'm going to the "Illustrated 007" exhibition at the San Francisco Comic Art Museum).

    Despite the paper it appeared it, the Mail article is genuine journalism, rather than tabloid trash, and I'm happy someone at the paper thought Caspar worth the attention. He was a talented and intelligent young man who unfortunately inherited his father's melancholia and tendency toward substance abuse. Had he found a creative outlet for his demons perhaps he would still be with us, shepherding his father's legacy and creating his own.

    An important note: finder's credit for the article actually goes to 007InVT, who I unaccountably forgot to thank in my original post.
  • edited March 2014 Posts: 3,467
    Hey, Revelator, I'll be at the CAM tonight as well. (Playing a gig in Pacifica this afternoon & stopping in the city on the way back to the East Bay.) See you there!
  • Posts: 2,613
    Sorry I missed you BeatlesSansEarmuffs. Were you the guitar player at the event? It was an enjoyable evening, though I wish the lecture had been longer. Those Cuban Bond comics sound fascinating.
  • edited March 2014 Posts: 3,467
    No, I was sitting front & center for the presentation. Chatted a bit w/the guitar player afterwards, also with the author of the Illustrated Bond book. Had one of the shaken not stirred martinis and was quite taken with the one original strip that was on display. I only wish there had been a few more, but I was quite taken by the one that was up. Lots of very nice detail in that, the Titan Books reprints don't quite do the strips justice in reproducing the amount of work McLusky put into the job! And yes, the info on the Cuban Bond strips was one of the high points of the presentation!
  • edited March 2014 Posts: 2,613
    Yes, the museum chose a very appropriate strip to exhibit. Judging from the catalog near the entrance, McLusky's son is selling more strips, so hopefully the Museum will be able to acquire a few more. (They're probably beyond my budget.)

    Anyway, back to Caspar...

    I had been assembling an article on Caspar, based on Ann Fleming's letters, before the Mail's article. Having been scooped, I don't plan on finishing the article, but I hate to let my research go entirely to waste, so here are some extracts from the longer letters. They form a rough chronicle of Caspar's brief life, as penned by his mother. The level of detail is likely too much for general readers, but it will interest anyone curious about the personal lives of the Flemings.

    1952 was a momentous year for Ian Fleming. He had begun Casino Royale in January and completed a rough draft six days before marrying Ann on March 24. To celebrate he purchased a gold-plated typewriter. Caspar Robert Fleming was born on August 12, and Ian wrote to his bed-ridden wife:

    My love,
    This is only a tiny letter to tryout my new typewriter and to see if it will write golden words since it is made of gold. […]
    You have been wonderfully brave and I am very proud of you. The doctor and nurses all say so and are astonished you were so good about all the dreadful things they did to you. They have simply been shuffling you and dealing you out and then shuffling again. I do hope darling Kaspar has made it up to you a little. He is the most heavenly child and I know he will grow up to be something wonderful because you have paid for him with so much pain.
    Goodnight my brave sweetheart.


    Caspar was born by Caesarean, and his birth was extremely difficult for Ann, as she wrote to her brother Hugo Charteris:
    I am on the low road to recovery, I thought once I got Caspar to the sea that recovery would be immediate but instead I am pursued by demons, and have nightmares about long red rubber tubes and can't stop crying, for five days all normal functions and some abnormal ones were performed by tubes. [Sept. 3 1952]

    Ann eventually resumed her duties as a society hostess. Her most frequent correspondent was Evelyn Waugh, who was not especially fond of Caspar. After a luncheon in 1955, he complained that "Caspar is a very obstreperous child, grossly pampered." Ann thought otherwise:

    The next bout of fisticuffs was in the sepulchrally silent tea room of the Grand Hotel, Folkestone. Evelyn was annoyed that I had brought three-year-old son, who was perched on my knee; so he put his face close to the child’s, dragging down the corners of eyes and mouth with forefingers and thumb, producing an effect of such unbelievable malignity that the child shrieked with terror and fell to the floor. I gave Evelyn's face a hard slap, overturning a plate of éclairs, and presently had my revenge by driving over a cart-track so bumpy that he swallowed half his cigar.

    Waugh was unrepentant: "I do hope that old Kaspar has nightmares about his visit to Folkestone. I shall, for many years."

    Caspar's home life was not helped by the deterioration of his parents' marriage. In early 1962, Ian had the following to say to his wife:

    …you bring up how much you suffer over Caspar's day off. You have no idea of the torture those aimless querulous wanderings are for me and how much I am nauseated by his bad manners which you seem to tolerate so indulgently. I love him and I would take him anywhere alone, but watching his character deteriorate under your laissez-faire depresses me beyond words because I see him not being casually spoiled now but spoilt when it comes to facing the world.
    You say that I should impose my authority. I cannot when you abrogate the position of father as well as mother and when Nanny abets you. Those outing days slay me—apart from the long and aimless driving through those dreary TV villages and your complaints about the car. It's purgatory and we must make a new plan and above all decide who is father and who is mother and what their roles are. […]
    The point lies in only one area. Do we want to go on living together or do we not?
    In the present twilight we are hurting each other to an extent that makes life hardly bearable. That inhuman state of affairs has got to be ended. But it cannot be ended by my simply saying 'yes' to all you think you want, whether it is a real need or a whim. I get terribly exhausted and that's why I go to bed every night [...] at 10.30 and often sleep round the clock.
    And that is one reason why I am going where I am, away from the sterile grind of Sandwich and London, to have a rest from it all and regain some spirit, which, though you haven't noticed it, is slipping out of me through my boots.


    Ann in turn was enraged about Blanche Blackwell, Ian's mistress in Jamaica, and also disturbed by the increasing prominence of 007, as she wrote to Ian in March 1962:

    I fear that since the rise of James Bond you do not care for a personality that in any way can compete with yours, and no doubt there is more adulation to be had at [Blanche Blackwell's], and you refuse to see that it is an impossible situation for me. […] I would love to diminish the emotionalism of our lives but while she continues to be an adjunct of Jamaican life, and you take every opportunity of patronage and friendship to see [her] family I shall be neither calm nor happy. The fact that you saw her in the nursing home reveals your feelings for her, for you do not want to see many people. If you were well and we were both younger our marriage would be over; but I love you and want to look after you, and grind my teeth when you smoke, and am pleased when you refrain from the deadly gin after whisky, and because of these things I think it would be worth your while to put yourself out a little to do things with me and for me. Last year my happiness started when you were well enough to leave the nursing home and ended with those cruel words in the mistral, cruel because they were true and I did not have the self-sacrifice and the self-control to accept the truth. I fear I am not good enough for that. If I was it would probably not be virtue but indifference, and if I was indifferent to you, Caspar's home would be broken. […]
    I do not know what it is except your personality has greatly changed with success, Bond and bad health—this is a general opinion. You need great love, calm and quiet, more than anyone. I can give you all if you give me little; but please devote a little of your vitality to keeping us close together, and share what you can of your life with me.


    Ian snarled back:
    But for my love for you and Caspar I would welcome the freedom which you threaten me with.
    It has all been getting worse and worse and I knew this year would be decisive. Either we survive it or we don't. There is no one else in my life. There is a whole cohort in yours. I am lonely, jealous and ill. Leave me my pleasures as I leave you yours.
    Above all, have compassion.


    Ann's sister Mary Rose died around Christmas 1962. She was found dead by her son Francis Grey, who was Caspar's age and became something of a step-brother to him:
    I took old Caspar to meet [Francis] at the airport and hoped old C. would shed some light on the degree of affection the poor child felt towards his mother, old C. said he did know but it was a secret he would never divulge and then said wistfully 'Do you think his spirits will be high enough for fighting?' [Jan. 1 1963]

    Caspar (often nicknamed "Old Caspar" in Ann's letters to Waugh) had his father's gift for the outrageous. Here he comments on the engagement of his half-brother:
    Old Caspar took the news of Raymond's engagement very badly, he said he had so hoped to be of royal blood; we were to lunch with the young couple in Oxford so I suggested he should put a cheerful face on the situation, which he did by announcing loudly in the dining-room of the Randolph that he would never marry because he was not so oversexed as James Bond--should I take him to a psychiatrist? [March 12 1963]

    By August 1964 Ian Fleming was nearing the end, as his wife recognized:
    Ian's life from now on hangs on a thread. Such recovery as he could make depends on his self-control with cigarettes and alcohol. The doctor spent Bank Holiday with us, and was able to witness the sad change that ill health and drugs can bring. Poor Ian nags at me specially and then Caspar all the time. It ends all fun and is anguish to be with one one loves who is very mentally changed and fearfully unhappy—poor old tiger.

    By the evening of August 11, Ian "was in great despair." He suffered a severe hemorrhage and was taken to Canterbury Hospital. "I was in despair that Caspar should see his father carried from the hotel," wrote Ann. The next day was Caspar's birthday and it was customary for father and son to dine together. Ian died at one in the morning, and neither his wife nor son would fully recover.

    In 1963 Evelyn Waugh wrote to Ann: "You will lose someone you love every year now for the rest of your life. It is a position you have to accept and prepare for." He was sadly correct and died in 1966, followed by Ann's father, her brother in 1970, several beloved friends, and Caspar in 1975. Before the latter, Ann tried her to encourage her young son's interests. In 1965 she took Caspar to Egypt to indulge his love of its history, despite her distaste for the subject:

    Egyptian religion seems based on the fallacy that you can take it with you - wish I had not read books on it, I thought a little knowledge would stimulate my interest, but my worst fears are confirmed, none of it appeals. The trustees regard the journey as extravagance, in fact it is a sacrifice to please Caspar who has learned so much of this uncivilisation that I am impressed. [March 28 1965]

    The Valley of the Kings is a nightmare of glare, heat and tourists, and the tombs smell awful. I do not like Egyptian art, it seems monotonous. Neither youth, nor age, nor love, nor fun is depicted. It's a necrophile materialistic religion.
    Happily our companion, Fred Warner, takes Caspar out at dawn. I know him no better than when we left England and cannot conceive why he should wish to be with us. He is a super tutor and dragoman [...] Caspar thinks him a marvel, and there are only six more days! […]
    Caspar is awfully happy. He spends his evening bargaining in the antique shops, and enjoys walking the streets alone followed by starving Arab children yelling for baksheesh. At dinner he returns triumphant with a bundle of fake scarabs and amulets.
    [April 1965]

    Back home, tension inevitably arose between them, especially when she accompanied Caspar on the Fleming family's Scottish vacations: "Two months driving Caspar on Scottish visits have proved exhausting. Caspar hates me and talks of little but matricide. What shall I do? He is too old and strong to hit" she wrote, undoubtedly with exaggeration, to Evelyn Waugh.

    Waugh was amused: "It is very wrong of Caspar to plot your murder. Do you think those terrible modern pictures have unsettled the boy? I don't mean films of course but the paintings you have lately acquired? ...I suffer far more than you can understand by the present degradation of the Church. I will pay Caspar's single fare (first class) if he will go to New York to assassinate the Pope." [Sept. 14 1965]

    For a while things improved at home and at school. Caspar "loves Eton and takes the Archeological Society to Sotheby sales," wrote Ann, though signs of future trouble were apparent. "It is long leave, Caspar and cousin are footling with fireworks and sawn-off shot guns." [Nov. 4 1967]
    Caspar was eventually caught with multiple firearms at school, and though his Uncle Peter Fleming tried to hush up the matter, the police were called in ("it looks as if Peter, Caspar and me will all be in Wormwood Scrubs when you return" Ann wrote to Caspar's godmother). Caspar was expelled, his time at Eton having been promising but stressful:
    Last holidays he was white and in tears a great deal of the time, and dreading 'A' levels, though his report was wonderful and he was expected to do very well: somehow he felt under pressure, and is now talking all the trendy nonsense of his generation, anti-materialism and all sorts of nonsense.

    Mother and son attempted to relax with a trip to Greece. Ann said Caspar was "a wonderful companion," but stress returned with them to Britain: It's awfully rum having a house full of teenagers. I had anticipated a joyful period but the age gap is too great, and it's permanent stress organizing meals, transport, and trying to offset their modish gloom. I worship Caspar but nothing he does adds to peace of mind. [Nov. 7 1969]

    A few years later came another brief spell of happiness, when they returned to Greece to visit Ann's friend Patrick Leigh Fermor, who wrote an account of the visit:

    In August 1972 Ann and Caspar came again, with Rachel Toynbee this time, a charming girl Caspar was attached to, the most serious attachment in his short life [...] we explored the Mani and visited the ruins of ancient Messenia. 'I long to pinch all the bits of marble lying about,' Caspar said, pretending to linger with intent to put the wind up Ann and us. 'Just look at that lion's head! Asking for it!' I hurried him on ... he had a passion for archaeology in all sorts of abstruse branches, and knew a great deal about it. The passion had followed his previous Bond-like craze for weapons, swordsticks, daggers, pistols, guns and even steel crossbows that sent glittering arrows whizzing at high speed across the croquet lawn at Sevenhampton and thudding into tree trunks. He had extraordinary adventures and scrapes chaffering over guns and artefacts, and heaven knows what else, with shady dealers in the attics and cellars of Soho. Was he nineteen or twenty then? He looked younger and rather frail and slender and pale with a few scattered freckles and thick dark curls, rather like an angry and vulnerable faun. He got very excited cleaning a Graeco-Roman funerary slab (which I had unearthed in one of the hill villages) with a solution of aquaforte [...]
    We sat up late into the hot August nights playing the dictionary game; there was exciting rivalry and a lot of cheering in victory and tearing of hair in defeat. Caspar was wildly competitive and very good at it, which gave us a feeling of success and made Ann enjoy it too. (She always enjoyed things normally, but when Caspar was there, her anxiety about his pleasure dictated hers [...]). He was deep in Egyptology and when he left, signed his name in the book in Egyptian hieroglyphics: beautifully drawn cartouches filled with sphinxes, palm leaves, ibises and galleys.


    By 1973 Ann was aware of Caspar's growing drug problem, but unable to cope, though she tried to keep her son within sight as often as she could. Caspar was diagnosed as a severe depressive and given electric shock treatment. James Bond endured the same in The Man With the Golden Gun, but Caspar did not recover. Instead he followed the path of another shock therapy patient, Ernest Hemingway, and killed himself on October 2, 1975. Letters of condolence poured in to Ann, who answered with quiet grief:

    The last fifteen months have been a nightmare. The best of the 'shrinks' described C's condition as 'malignant depression'. For my sake C. made efforts to come to terms with life, but lately he had never been other than despondent. [Oct. 30 1975]

    Caspar tried to come to terms with life, for my sake, and then suddenly could not try any more. The note he left said 'If it is not this time it will be next.' It was an act of will and the best analyst wrote to me what you did--at the moment there is no cure. I shall miss him forever, until a year ago he was a marvelous companion and more recently one's heart was anguished for there was no help one could give. [Nov. 6 1975]

    After so many deaths, Ann began drinking heavily. She had already been doing so in the months before Caspar's death, when she had visited him at several nursing homes. But eventually she found the strength to regain sobriety and recover some of her earlier vivacity and sociability. It was not quite a happy ending, but it was more than deserved for a woman who had lost so much, and who, regardless of her faults, deeply loved her husband and son.
  • Samuel001Samuel001 Moderator
    Posts: 13,335
    Fascinating reading. Thank you.
  • ggl007ggl007 www.archivo007.com Spain, España
    Posts: 2,500
    Congrats and thanks again, Revelator.

    Your text is indeed more interesting...
  • SandySandy Somewhere in Europe
    Posts: 4,012
    Fascinating account, thank you once again for sharing these things with us @Revelator..
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