William Bankes: Scandal, exile and shopping

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William was not able to enjoy his new staircase or the ongoing alterations to Kingston Lacy for long. In September 1841 he was arrested, accused of 'indecently exposing himself with a soldier of the Foot Guards in Green Park'.

As early as 1833, a similar charge against William Bankes had been dropped. But only after the intervention by the Duke of Wellington and other influential friends.

Unfortunately, homosexuality and sodomy in Victorian England were a capital offence, punishable by death or a hefty prison sentence.

Bankes was advised to flee the country. But that too carried harsh penalties. For if he did not stand trial, the Treasury could take steps to declare him an outlaw, with the result that all property he possessed in Britain could be forfeit to the Crown.

Relinquishing Kingston Lacy

The dilemma was that, to remain free, William had to relinquish the true loves of his life, Kingston Lacy and England.

William signed over all his possessions to members of his family, namely his brothers George, Edward and his nephew George Henry Lord Boscawen, on the 13 September 1841. From that day on, William had no legal tie to the Kingston Lacy estates, but retained a financial independence.

However, from 1841-55 after fleeing England, William flourished. He chose Italy as his new home.

Cities like Venice offered a degree of cultural sophistication and tolerance that London never could. Italy also provided the resources and craftsmen William needed to transform his dreams into reality concerning Kingston Lacy. 

For the next 14 years a constant flow of new sculptures, and great works of art, transformed Kingston Lacy into a treasure house.