The life of Kiki Preston, a socialite, a prince's mistress and a charming drug addictBy Pictolic https://pictolic.com/en/article/the-life-of-kiki-preston-a-socialite-a-princes-mistress-and-a-charming-drug-addict
The person the world knows as Kiki Preston has not written novels, has not found a vaccine against a deadly disease, and has not even discovered a new species of butterflies. Nevertheless, she is interesting to many even 70 years after her tragic death. There are enough reasons for interest, because Kiki was a bright person, but most importantly, she was noticed in relations with an English prince and, possibly, gave birth to his child.
Our heroine was born in Hempstead, New York, USA, in 1898. She got the name Alice Gwyn from her parents, and Kiki became much later. Her father, Edward Erskine Gwynne Sr., was a real aristocrat. He had never worked, but he knew a lot about how to spend money. Alice's mother, Helen, was a descendant of Judge Samuel Chase, who once signed the US Declaration of Independence and the great-niece of millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Alice Gwyn's family owned enough capital not to be poor. But Gwynn Sr.'s passion for gambling and questionable investments has done its job. The family went bankrupt, and the shocks associated with the financial collapse brought the head of the family to the grave.
Having lost her money, her husband, and even her home, Helen Gwynne went to Europe with her children and settled in Paris. That's where Alice and her two brothers grew up. Obviously, the family's affairs were on the mend in a foreign country, as the future socialite managed to get a good education in England.
But neither aristocratic origin nor classical English education prevented Alice Gwynn from leading a wild lifestyle. The girl's first place of work was... cabaret. In 1919, the girl met Horace R. Bigelow Allen, an industrialist engaged in the production of plastics. Soon the couple registers a relationship and Gwynne gives her husband a lovely daughter.
The family buys a luxurious mansion in Paris, where they live happily and peacefully. However, not for long. Alice, who is prone to adventurism, spoils everything, and in 1924 the family breaks up. This happens after the woman meets members of the Happy Valley community Alice de Janze and Josslyn Hay.
"Happy Valley" is a strange and not quite normal community organized by Britons living in Kenya. It included people who were eccentric, creative and prone to illegal substances. The divorce from her husband takes place almost immediately after Gwynn became imbued with the extravagant socialist ideas of society. Alice accused her husband of infidelity and solved the problem through the court, snatching a good sum at the same time.
Just a year after the divorce, in 1925, Alice marries banker Jerome "Jerry" Preston and takes his last name. From now on, she prefers to be called Kiki Preston. The new husband shared the woman's passion for the "Happy Valley", and soon the couple goes to Kenya.
The exotic beauties of the African country struck Kiki and Jerome on the spot. They decide to settle in Africa and start a new life there. Just at this time, a family friend gives the Prestons a plot of land near Lake Naivasha. In this picturesque place, Kiki and her husband are building a large Dutch-style house, to which they are moving from Europe.
The Preston Mansion has become a kind of cultural and social center for European aristocrats in Kenya. The couple often had distinguished guests, and the members of the "Happy Valley" almost never left its hospitable walls. Very soon, legends began to walk about Kiki Preston and her house.
The hostess of the house led an extremely bohemian lifestyle. She was addicted to opiates and did not part with a silver syringe. Kiki defiantly injected the drug right in front of the guests, shocking many with this. Her relationship with her husband was not quite traditional. The mistress of the mansion by Lake Naivasha changed lovers like gloves and he obviously knew about it well.
Among Kiki's lovers, the Italian actor Rudolph Valentino and even the British Prince George, Duke of Kent were noticed. The socialite met the prince shortly after moving to Kenya. They say it was she who introduced a member of the royal family to drugs.
Evil tongues said that Kiki, Georg and a certain Jorge Ferrar had non-standard sexual relations. But, of course, no one could confirm this. The affair of a young officer of the Royal Navy and part-time prince greatly worried members of the royal family. Georg was required to immediately break up with a dubious lady, but everything suited him.
Things got even worse when rumors began to spread about a child born from a person of royal blood. Many believed that Kiki gave birth to George's son, although there was no confirmation of this fact. Later, royal biographer Christopher Wilson wrote that another windy person gave birth to the prince's boy - the daughter of a Canadian coal magnate and socialite Violet Evans.
So it was or not, no one knows for sure. It is only known that the boy born of George was given to someone else's family for upbringing. He made a lot of sense — the world knows him as the American publisher Michael Temple Canfield. Whoever was the mother of this worthy person, but then, in the 20s of the last century, the scandal was miraculously avoided.
Eventually, Kiki and the prince stopped communicating. Edward, Prince of Wales, the one who later abdicated, helped them to separate forever. It was not without difficulty that he persuaded George to break up with Preston and when she came to visit her lover in 1929, he managed to send her back to Kenya.
I must say that Georg never got rid of his dependence on Kiki Preston. When they met by chance in Cannes in 1932, the prince had to be taken away from a social event almost by force. Perhaps it was true love, but royalty rarely have the freedom of choice. Scandalous affairs happen to them often, but they do not end well.
In the late 30s and early 40s, socialite Preston lost many friends and relatives. A series of accidental and natural deaths among family members and fellow "Sunny Valley" plunged the woman into a deep depression. Judge for yourself, 26-year-old cousin William K. dies in a few years. Vanderbilt III, husband Jerome Preston, girlfriend Alice de Janze, former lover Prince George, and son Ethan Allen. This list can be continued with several more names.
Kiki's condition was also affected by years of systematic drug use. Her behavior has become not quite adequate, and the circle of communication has narrowed to a few people. The tragic denouement came on December 23, 1946 at the Stanhope Hotel in New York.
Preston's companion named Lillian Turner later said that Kiki looked especially confused that day and cried all morning. Turner was the last person to see her alive—she brought Preston a glass of milk and put it on the table by the bed. After a while, the woman, surprised that her ward did not leave the bedroom, entered herself and saw that Kiki was not in the room.
The body of a woman, dressed in pajamas, lay in the courtyard of the hotel. She jumped out of a fifth-floor window without even leaving a suicide note. One of the first to have the body of the deceased was her mother, Helen Steele. She lived in the same hotel and tried to support her daughter during a difficult period of life.
Despite the fact that Kiki Preston has not left any important trace in history, she is very much loved by writers and playwrights. She appears as a character in several works. It is in the short story by Paul Di Filippo "Happy Valley at the End of the World", the play by Clint Jeffries "African Nights" and a number of other works.