My mother Gwynneth Tigge was the It girl of her day. The youngest of two daughters in a large Anglo-Irish household, she was impeccably beautiful, romantic, and had porcelain skin.
However, when it came to her kids, her heart seemed like granite.
She When I was two years old, my parents abandoned me. A farm worker found me in a hedgerow near our Devon farm and held my hand while she took me to Taunton railway station.
She She fled to London as an aspiring actress, and became a television presenter. I was left behind by a series of au pairs who were not interested in my life.
Gwynneth Tighe (later Princess Elizabeth Galitzine), the mother of Rory Knight Bruce, abandoned her son in a hedge in Devon when he was just a toddler
Rory and his mother, taken together on holiday to Israel in 1975
Rory told how his mother (pictured) whisked herself away to a giddy life in London as an aspiring actress and television presenter
Gwynneth (pictured), was described by her son, as “a daytime quiz-show host and a kind of early Carol Vorderman”
However, they were very interested in my father. Later, a neighbor commented that they did more for my father than Hoovering.
Of course, it was too much for me to take in. My mother first appeared on black-and-white television in my farmhouse’s living room several years later. She was now a quiz-show host on daytime, and a kind of Carol Vorderman on a BBC program called Pit Your Wits. My father called me to the drawing room and pointed at the screen, saying: “That’s your mom.”
I have never forgotten the feeling of being abandoned and abandoned by her. It has left me insecure, filled with mistrust, and given me a desolate fear for human betrayal.
I cannot really forgive her for leaving. I was a guest at a luncheon when she spoke of my father many years later. She said, “I left him because of he was a beast.” “So you left a 2-year-old boy with a monster?” The guest was a bit confused. “Would you then say that your son was a bit annoying?” The guest continued.
This made my ears itch. “Yeah Baby,” she said in a mock American drawl. She leaned back on her chair to extinguish her cigarette in the butter sauce.
I used to believe her lack of interest was not what had affected me. This was before I started writing memoirs and looking back on her life. Ironically, it was noted that her TV persona included comments about how many children wrote her letters.She They loved children,” they observed. That is, if they were not watching the television.
My father and elder brother Robin were left behind by her. She went on to marry three times more, including a film producer, White Russian prince, and East End public relations guru. She She drove smart cars and mixed with celebrities and royalty.
My father was not fully prepared to be a full-time parent. He was known for his splenetic temper and brooding silences. He also drank profusely. They shouldn’t have married.
He A damaged war hero and gentleman farmer who owned a substantial Devon estate. He hunted with Foxhounds. She He was 34 and he was just 19 when he first met her. They shared very little. Maybe he was just reminding her of her father, who was a pilot in the RAF.
At their wedding, in the fashionable Catholic church in Farm Street, Mayfair, Antony Armstrong-Jones — later Lord Snowdon and Princess Margaret’s husband — took the photographs. Mother moved to Devon to join the county set. She was bored stiff. She Served the role well for three years, before ordering the taxi. She Was what was known as a “bolter” in those days?
Rory and his mother, on holiday in Israel 1975, stand on the shore with their daughter.
She Smart cars were driven by her, along with celebrities, royalty, and she was an adornment for the most fashionable circles of social and fashionable London during the “Swinging Sixties”, hanging out with Roger Moore, Eamonn and other TV stars
Rory shared how the feeling of being left behind by his mother (pictured below) has never left him
Rory and Robin are shown with their mother on Christmas Day 1966
When she vanished from our lives, it was up to me to bring her up with farm workers or the kennelman who cared for the hounds a few miles away. My father was very happy to have me with them while his focus was on the young au pairs.
I had my own special canine childhood companion — a Jack Russell puppy given to me by my father named Ciboli (after Cibola, the village that harboured him from the enemy in wartime Italy). As a comfort to the unsettling world of humans, I have always had a terrier close by me.
My terrier and I would often be left with the hounds for hours during holidays. Even though the hounds were larger than us, we would sleep on their straw beds. On Sundays, the Kennelman would boil tripe out of the innards from sheep for the hounds. We would also get to enjoy it. When I was caught eating Ciboli dog biscuits, my father made the line.
Although it may sound odd, those were the best days of my entire life. Me, Ciboli, the hounds — we all thought of ourselves as one big family. When the huntsman woke us up — always at 6.30am on the dot — the hounds were let out into their runs and I was given a job to do, sweeping or tidying the kennels.
I was like the Ciboli and hounds. I grew to love the routine and wouldn’t have survived without it. I was ignored every time I complained about the tasks.
Soon enough, my dogs and I realized that whining was not a good idea. If I did something good, the kennelman would give it to me and I would enjoy the reward.
In term time, I walked the two-mile distance to the village school. There and back most days, mostly on my own. The packhorse bridge is crossed, passing the pub, and then up a steep hill. The children called me Mowgli, because I spent so many hours in the kennels. It was after the orphaned character in The Jungle Book.
My mother appeared suddenly one morning and flew down from London to be with me. I would have turned six or seven.
She The stranger entered my bedroom at the farmhouse unannounced and filled it with the scents of gin, fags, and my embrace.
Later that night, at her request, I washed her Ford Zephyr Six black car with square bonnet. Then, I rushed back to her home to tell her I was finished. My parents were still in bed, I discovered. It was nothing unusual, you might think. They had divorced after several years, and my mother was married to No 2 the film producer.
From From then on she was more involved in my life. She My mother encouraged me to stay in London, and she would send extravagant, enlightening presents. It was a Moulton bike, which was fine for Mayfair’s smooth streets, but not so great on the muddy Devon roads. It was a Fortnum hamper that I shared with my terrier at Christmas.
Through the gossip columns in newspapers, I followed her career as well as subsequent marriages. My mother might be considered a pioneer in 1960s male-dominated television. Her Fame and earnings made her instantly famous in Chiswick, West London. She lived with the second husband and had a pink Cadillac outside and a speedboat on the Thames.
One time, while I was in London with my mum, the Beatles were filming scenes in the nearby pub. Ringo met my mom, and I was able to stroke the live lion which was brought on as an additional.
Robin & Rory share a bike as children, with Rory on the front of the bike
Rory still has the receipts for the hotels and restaurants his mother (pictured) visited — the most costly in Europe, the best rooms, no expense spared
I was there with her when she switched on Christmas lights in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire. This is where she owned a weekend cottage. I was ushered away by a security guard — she did nothing to stop it happening — just as I was ushered away by her successive husbands.
Her Third, was a White Russian Prince with whom she lived together in a large South Kensington Townhouse. He employed both a butler & a maid. She now styled herself ‘Princess Elizabeth Galitzine’ — her first name Gwynneth didn’t have the royal ring she wanted, so she used her middle name.
By this time I was moved to a private school. I would wait hours in the queue at the school’s one telephone cubicle to call ‘home’. “I will check if the Princess is available,” was the reply. She was often not.
School visits were rare, and they caused quite a stir when they did happen. My mother was not the ‘pride of joy’ I was. It was her new car, a sloopy, bottle-green Bentley S2 Continental.
She showed up at school unannounced once, while I was happily going to Sunday lunch with my friend and his family.
“How could you be so disloyal?” she asked. She screamed at my face as she pulled me out of the Ford Fiesta of my friend’s parents.
The crest of her Russian husband was placed on the side of her car. One day, while parked outside her London house, some hooligans had scratched out the royal crest and, for good measure, scrawled ‘F*** Off’. It was in the drawing room that I took it, to do another ritual carpeting.
“Which of your friends doesn’t love me?” She began.
It was absurd to suggest that I had nothing whatsoever to do with it, and that such heraldic vulgarity wasn’t to everyone’s liking.
I was also caught riding my moped down London’s King’s Road, aged 16 without a license. I was unable to think about it any more and decided to go to a party at the Oxfordshire house of one my mother’s rich friends, Cazenove, the London broker.
I should have listened to the alarm bells, as on Monday morning I was escorted to the helicopter of my host and flown to Battersea in South-West London under adult guard. I went back into the drawing area. My mother said, “You have brought disgrace on the family,” She was, at that time, presenting a crime-show called Police 5.
The White Russian prince, who was just before my O’levels, came to visit me at school to announce their impending divorce. He stated, “I am tired of this.”
‘She is like Cruella de Vil.’
Rory said that Gwynneth lived her life as she desired.
Rory and his stepbrother Nikolai Galitzine as children are pictured with the high society It-Girl
With my mother’s change to husband No 4 — in 1978, she married a good-looking East End public relations man, at 40, her own age — came a change of religion. She After having adopted Zionism, she moved to Israel and her life changed. She The bank failed.
I still have the receipts for the hotels and restaurants she visited — the most costly in Europe, the best rooms, no expense spared. So she went back to Ireland with her husband. There, she made jam for a living and lived on her pennies. Even so, the family crest was required to be on the jars.
Her behaviour is partly the reason it took me so long to settle down — throughout my 20s and 30s I could not shake a deep fear that I would be abandoned again. I asked my mother to join me at the wedding, and she said, “I would love to,” darling. But it was raspberry picking season.
My mother lived the life she desired. She Before the women’s movement, it was acceptable to be career-minded and strong-willed. She is a great example of this trait, which I greatly admire. Her introduction to the media and the social scenes was an invaluable part of my professional development as a journalist.
What I cannot understand is her abandonment of me without any thought of the consequences. It was a selfish act that I, as a parent, struggle to understand.
It was almost like she wanted me to be unable to love or trust others.
This is not quaint or outdated.
Before she died, aged 84, in an Irish old people’s home (she had managed to wangle the best room and got the State to pay the £4,000 monthly bill), I took my young daughter to see her.
She My daughter received a pearl-choker pendant, which she would have worn during her fame in 1960s. My child replied, “Thanks, Granny,” to which her grandmother replied, “A granny is a tie.” I must not be called that. You must refer to me as Elizabeth.
After that, we parted ways, somewhat sad, but certainly amused.
An Unanchored Heart by Rory Knight Bruce is published by Anthony Eyre/Mount Orleans Press, £20.