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May 14 - 20, 2010
The Independent Weekly news
'Do not blame the son for the
sins of the father," runs
the maxim, and in the case
of Charles Kingston that has saved
three generations from the deepest
shame. Charles Kingston alone will
endure that odium from beyond the
grave, and from beyond his grave
comes his story.
That story starts with Kingston s
own father, Sir George Kingston.
sailed from Mother England to the
new lands of Terra Australis, where
he helped found a new colony on the
plains bordering Gulf St Vincent.
His admirers say it was he, and not
Colonel William Light, who actually
found the mouth of the Torrens
River and laid out a plan for the
square mile, complete with its five
Sir George married three times
and sired at least seven children,
but this story concerns just two:
sons Strickland and Charles.
Strickland studied law under
Samuel Way (after whom the
Supreme Court building is named)
and became, at least according to a
contemporary newspaper report,
a "highly reputable criminal
lawyer". This didn t stop Strickland
from enjoying a frequent libation.
In 1884, a drunken Strickland
climbed into a horse-drawn cab
and proceeded to draw a gun on the
The cabbie, not unnaturally was
perturbed, was further surprised
when Strickland pulled the trigger.
The effect of this was a bullet
whizzing from the barrel into the
cabbie s head. "I did it for a lark,
drive on," Strickland said to the
cabbie, who was still by some
miracle still alive.
The lawyer suffered the indignity
of facing a court, where the jury
was asked to give some leniency on
account of Strickland s "previous
good character". Into the nick went
the son of the father of Adelaide:
six months behind bars in what s
now the old Adelaide Goal.
Meanwhile, brother Charles was
himself serving some time in the
pursuit of fame and fortune.
He, too, studied law under Samuel
Way, and his personality even when
sober was something less than the
"He has the bonhomie of the
Irishman, the dour tenacity of the
Scot and the vindictiveness of the
Portuguese", reported The Register
in the days when saying such
things was permitted to be
said. Another biographer
describes him as "both a bully
and a prankster".
None of this disqualifies
a man of means from being
successful in political life,
of course, neither then nor
now. Charles campaigned for
the lower house seat of West
Adelaide and entered parlia-
ment in 1881, celebrating his
win with a succession of brass
bands and, it is suspected,
a succession of refreshing
beverages. There were already
a number of breweries in
Adelaide; Coopers had been
quenching thirsts since 1862.
And no-one would be
inclined to argue with the new
He weighed more than 100kg
and stood more than 2m tall,
which is an advantage to any
Then events conspired to
upset the equanimity.
In 1892, a prominent
conservative member of
the Legislative Council, Sir
Richard Baker, denounced
Charles as a coward, a bully
and a disgrace to the legal
profession. According to the
Australian dictionary of biog-
raphy, Kingston responded by
describing Baker as "false as
a friend, treacherous as a col-
league, mendacious as a man,
and utterly untrustworthy in
every relationship of public
life". Kingston sent a pistol
to Baker together with an
invitation for a friendly duel to
the death in Victoria Square. Baker
told the coppers, who arrested
Kingston when he arrived at the
square holding a loaded revolver.
"Amidst widespread publicity
he was tried and bound over to
keep the peace for 12 months. The
sentence was still in force when
he became premier in June 1893,"
reports the biographical dictionary.
And so things returned to
normal. Except they didn t.
Charles was supposedly "popular
with women", but it s not known
if anyone asked the women that.
What he was, he was the master,
and the women were his servants.
He used his power and his status
to either seduce or worse. In 1873 a
man called Bartholomew McCarthy
accused Charles of seducing his
sister Lucy. McCarthy argued his
case in court and protested the
admission of Charles as practi-
tioner of the Supreme Court.
Three months after the accusa-
tion, Charles married Lucy but
the serial philanderer now added
adultery to his peccadilloes.
"Throughout his life he was
accused of having several affairs
with different women while still
married to Lucy," reports a 2008
history of the Kingston family,
prepared by Georgina Ashley
as part of a Flinders University
"In 1886 Charles was suspected
by Richard Watson of having an
affair with his wife Elizabeth
Watson. The scandal became public
once the accusations appeared in
court. The jury ruled in favour of
Richard Watson and the scandal
was reverberated in the papers
and in Adelaide society. The South
Australian Register accused him
of acting in a doubly disgraceful
manner and labelled his way of
living as being "notoriously evil."
Lucy McCarthy, poor woman,
was barren (to use the common
colonial phrase) but a baby boy
mysteriously came into the family.
This was, so rumour went, the son
of a liaison between Charles and
Elizabeth Watson. These were the
days when the only birth control
was self-control, and Charles did
not have much of that. More affairs
came and went, most with servants
in his great house.
"As a result of these affairs,
Charles was shunned by respectable
society," writes Ashley. "Within
a few weeks of the scandal, a
meeting was held by the Vigilance
Association of Australia which
addressed the issue of How to
free Parliament from scandalous
offenders against morality ."
Kingston from the
He's one of the most famous
characters in Australian history.
Charles Cameron Kingston led an
exemplary public life, but in private he
was a cad and a bounder.
Hendrik Gout reports on the Premier
who fathered more than Federation.
Descendents of Charles and Strickland Kingston.
Photo: Kate Elmes
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