Monday, 18 March 2013

Edinburgh’s Beau Geste ?

Edinburgh is famous for its stories here one of them – I was in St John’s Episcopal Church in Princes St and in the north aisle a plaque to John Stuart Stuart Forbes who was in the  7th cavalry and died at the Battle of Little Bighorn, and I wondered how did this Edinburgh man end up in the battle ? No one knows the full story but I wonder if he is Edinburgh’s Beau Geste ?
Let’s remind ourselves of the story – it’s about the British upper class values of a time gone by, and "the decent thing to do. A valuable jewel goes missing, suspicion falls on the young people, and Beau leaves Britain to join the Foreign Legion followed by his brothers, they have many dangerous adventures, only one brother, John lives to go home. Lady Brandon reads Beau's letter, which reveals that Beau stole the gem because he knew it was a fake. Lady Brandon had sold the real one years before, and Beau wanted to protect her. As a child, he was hiding in a suit of armour and witnessed the transaction (which is shown in a flashback near the beginning of the film). 
So back to our Edinburgh Beau, the son of banker Charles Hay Forbes and Jemima Rebecca and grandson of a baronet, and he had attended Edinburgh Academy and Rugby public school, he is professional gambler and an act of dishonour takes place, we have no idea what this is, and he leaves Edinburgh, travels to New Zealand and America, he gives a false name when he joins the cavalry Hiley - his sister's married name Why? Now like all Edinburgh stories different versions of events – it’s said that he signed up for 5 years, throughout his service Forbes was a member of E Company, known as the Gray Horse Company. He died yards from Custer in a hail of bullets and arrows, with only months to his discharge when he died. 
In his trunk it was found, among other things, a faro bank (FARO was originally French card gambling game, but became popular in 19c America it had the position of a national game. The methods of cheating used in connection with it were numerous) Hiley being a great gambler. In the trunk also was a letter from his mother, showing her to be a lady of nobility in Scotland. In this letter she informed him that the trouble he had gotten into in his native country was soon to be settled and he could return unmolested." He clearly had a secret to hide, so do we have Edinburgh’s Beau Geste? Was he man of honour who sadly died like Beau at his post Alas, we'll never know.

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