What’s love got to do with it?
Plenty, it transpires. The first owner of Southernhay House, Captain William Kirkpatrick was a polymath, inquisitive about different cultures and….an incurable romantic. With two women in his life – one English, one Indian – and children with both, William let his heart lead when choosing where to settle on retirement from the East India Company. His friend, Sir John Kennaway, also ex East India Company, had his family seat at nearby Escot House, where William and his children spent some happy holidays. William’s feelings for John were movingly expressed in a letter – the text of which is set out in full in our Bar: “you had not been gone last night two minutes when I wished to see you again. I thought I had a hundred things to tell you which had not occurred to me while you were with me. To say the truth, you left me half happy for though our mutual assurances of friendship were productive of the greatest pleasure I ever felt – yet it was damp’d considerably by your hasty departure. Ah, my dear friend……”
And William’s story is not unusual for the period; his half brother, James Achilles Kirkpatrick, made social history in his marriage to Khair-un-Nissa, the beautiful teenage daughter of the then Prime Minister of Hyderabad. It is likely that in order to legitimise the marriage – the first formally celebrated Anglo-Indian marriage – James converted to Islam. Which would have been easy for James, as he fully embraced the customs and language of his wife’s home, but caused a predictable stir back in England. And while we’re on the subject of Love and the East India Company, hats off to William and James’ father: also James Kirkpatrick and known as the “Handsome Colonel”…… a heartbreaker and a half. You can feel the love at Southernhay House all year round. As St Valentine (Roman dude) might have said: amor vincit omnia