Husband Victor Alexander (Peter) Spencer, Partner Verena Maud Lowther
Arnos Vale Cemetery Arnos Vale, Bristol Unitary Authority, Bristol, England
Katherine Beaven, 2nd Viscountess Churchill (1871 - December 1, 1943) was a notorious "spirit painter", admired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. One head of Christ, called The Light, which she painted while in trance, was exhibited in 1919 at the Walker Gallery, New Bond Street, London. Doyle praised the painting as “the finest head of the Founder of Christianity that has ever been conceived.”
Katherine Emily Beaven, 2nd Viscountess Churchill was the daughter of Hon. Robert Beaven (1836-1920), sixth premier of British Columbia (1882-83), and Susan Ribbald Ritchie. She was born and raised in Victoria, Canada. She married, firstly, Captain Stanley Venn Ellis. Ellis was among 900 crew killed when the H.M.S. Defence was sunk at the Battle of Jutland on May 31, 1916. A month-and-a-half later, she married Major Victor Alexander (Peter) Spencer, later 2nd Viscount Churchill, son of Major Victor Albert Francis Charles Spencer, 1st Viscount Churchill and Lady Verena Maud Lowther and a cousin of Sir Winston Churchill. Peter was 19 years younger than Katherine.
However Peter was bisexual and theirs was a marriage of convenience, made under pressure from Peter's mother, born Lady Verena Maud Lowther (1865-1938). Lady Verena's marriage ended scandalously in 1906 and later she began a lesbian relationship with Katherine Beaven. Her estranged husband began spreading this scandal in society. By 1916 Verena was desperate for a way to stop the gossip. She hit upon the idea of coercing her bisexual son to marry Katherine, to which he agreed, enabling Verena and Katherine to live together without scandal. “If I married K it would settle everything and all the endless troubles would be over,” Spencer wrote in his 1964 autobiography, Be All My Sins Remembered. “No one, my mother said, would go on believing the stories that my father had been spreading. Everything would be explained. It would be the most natural thing for my mother to be with her daughter-in-law.”
After the war, Peter remained in a military post in Paris and his mother suggested the three live together for her convenience. Peter refused and she cut him off, never speaking to him again. “It was one thing to have a wife in another country,” wrote Spencer. “It was quite another to live in a house with a wife who was not one’s wife, someone to whom one would never have been married under normal circumstances.” Nevertheless Peter and Katherine remained married until her death in Bath on December 1, 1943. The whereabouts of her painting of Christ are unknown. Spencer scandalized the English aristocracy by becoming a socialist in the 1930s. He remarried and died on Christmas Eve, 1973 at 83.
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