Dominick Elwes

Dominick Elwes
Born Bede Evelyn Dominick Elwes
(1931-08-17)17 August 1931
Great Billing, Northamptonshire, England, UK
Died 5 September 1975(1975-09-05) (aged 44)
Chelsea, London, England, UK
Resting place Amberley, West Sussex, England, UK
Nationality English
Citizenship United Kingdom
Education Ladycross
Friends Academy (1940-1941)
St. Albans (1941-1944)
Downside (1945-1948)
Occupation Portrait-painter, editor, journalist
Known for Paintings, elopement scandal
Religion Roman Catholic
Spouse(s) Tessa Kennedy (1958–1969; marriage dissolved); 3 sons
Children Cassian Elwes
Damian Elwes
Cary Elwes
Parent(s) Simon Elwes
Gloria Rodd
Relatives Peter and Timothy Elwes (brothers)

Bede Evelyn Dominick Elwes (24 August 1931 – 5 September 1975) was an English portrait painter, credited as Dominick Elwes or Dominic Elwes, whose much publicized elopement with an heiress in 1957 created an international scandal.

Early life

Elwes (pronounced "El-wez") was born on 24 August 1931 at Billing Hall, Northamptonshire, to English portrait painter, Simon Elwes (RA, KM), and the Hon. Gloria Rodd, daughter of the 1st Baron Rennell, PC, GCB, GCMG, GCVO), sometime British Ambassador to Rome, and Conservative M.P. for St. Marylebone (1928–1932).[1]

Elwes is descended from the Roman Catholic Cary-Elwes (sometimes known simply as Elwes) family which includes such noted British prelates, priests and monks as Abbott Columba Cary-Elwes, Archbishop Dudley Cary-Elwes and Father Luke Cary-Elwes. He was the grandson of Gervase Cary Elwes (1866–1921), a diplomat, and Lady Winifride Mary Elizabeth Feilding, daughter of the 8th Earl of Denbigh. He was the nephew of the English novelist, biographer and journalist, Nancy Mitford[2] and one of his cousins was Tremayne Rodd, 3rd Baron Rennell. For his early education, Elwes spent much of his childhood during World War II in the United States, after which he returned to England to attend Downside School in Somerset.


At age 26, Elwes met and wished to marry 19-year-old shipping heiress Tessa Kennedy, daughter of Geoffrey Ferrar Kennedy and Daška Ivanović. Kennedy's parents, however, disapproved of the relationship and instituted wardship proceedings.[3]

On 27 November 1957, Geoffrey Kennedy obtained a restraining order against Elwes from a Justice Sir Ronald F. Roxburgh, barring the couple from marrying.[4][5] The High Court Tipstaff was not authorized, however, to apprehend Elwes anywhere outside England or Wales.[6] After initially attempting to wed in Scotland while being pursued by the press. Elwes and Kennedy eloped to Havana, Cuba where they were wed in a civil ceremony on 27 January 1958 as guests of infamous American mobster Meyer Lansky, who provided accommodation for them at his hotel, The Habana Riviera.[7][8]

When Fidel Castro's revolution threatened the stability of the country the newlyweds fled aboard a raft with two National Geographic explorers who were sailing to Miami. From there they flew to New York City where they took out a marriage license on 31 March.[7][9] On 1 April, the couple repeated the ceremony to ensure they were legally wed in Manhattan's Supreme Court officiated by Justice Henry Clay Greenberg.[10] On 15 July, the two set sail for England aboard the liner SS Liberté docking at Southampton. The following day, accompanied by his wife and an attorney, Elwes turned himself over to authorities and was transferred to Brixton Prison where he remained for two weeks while awaiting trial for contempt of court for defying the judge's order to return Ms Kennedy to her parents.[11][12] At trial the judge accepted that Elwes did love his bride but commented that every parent knows that love was not "readily convertible into bread and butter" for the support of a wife. In his ruling he directed that Elwes be released from custody but also ordered that Kennedy remain a ward of court. Elwes and Kennedy were married until the union was dissolved in London in January 1969. Elwes never remarried.[13]


In January 1960 Elwes became the assistant editor of Lilliput Magazine until its closure in July of that same year.[14] From 1960–62, he was the Company Director of Dome Press where he began the newsweekly Topic Magazine as editorial director, along with William Rees-Davies and Maurice Macmillan. In 1963, together with Nicholas Luard, he published and subsequently became the director of Design Yearbook, which developed into the book-packaging firm November Books.[15] The company's clients included Thames & Hudson, a publisher of books on art, architecture, design and visual culture. In 1964, he cowrote a book with Luard, Refer to Drawer: Being a Penetrating Survey of a Shameful National Practice – Hustling,[16][17] which included illustrations by cartoonist John Glashan. Elwes subsequently became a member of the National Union of Journalists.

Following in his father's footsteps Elwes then became a portrait painter, painting many of London's Clermont Set. Around 1967 he moved to Andalucia, Spain, where, with the aid of architect Philip Jebb,[18][19] he designed a Mediterranean-style apartment complex, completed in 1970. Clients included Luard and the actor Hugh Millais. Elwes became part owner of a hair salon, Figurehead, on Pont Street, Knightsbridge. One of Elwes' portraits was of John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan, who disappeared in November 1974 after the murder of his children's nanny.


Elwes committed suicide with an overdose of barbiturates in 1975,[13] about a month after the death of his father, and about a month before the death of his mother. He and Kennedy had three children, film producer Cassian Elwes, artist Damian Elwes, and actor Cary Elwes.



See also

Kenneth Tynan

Mark Birley

Lady Annabel Goldsmith

External links


  3. Family law in the 20th century. Retrieved 9 July 2010 via Google Books.
  4. San Antonio Light (11 December 1957, p. 9)
  5. Gossip: a history of high society, 1920-1970, p. 198, by Andrew Barrow
  6. "Mr. Dominic Elwes. Order by Roxburgh, J. for return to England from Scotland of Miss Tessa Kennedy". Retrieved 9 July 2010.
  7. 1 2
  9. New York Times (1 April 1958, p. 2)
  10. New York Times, 2 April 1958, p. 63.
  12. "The Catalogue: Full Details". The National Archives. Retrieved 9 July 2010.
  13. 1 2 Roger Wilkes (9 September 2000). "Inside story: Stewart's Grove". The Telegraph. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  15. "Nicholas Luard obituary". London: The Independent. 28 May 2004. Retrieved 9 July 2010.
  17. Hits for the book at
  18. Louis Jebb. "Philip Jebb Architect". Retrieved 9 July 2010.
  19. Jebb, Louis (13 April 1995). "OBITUARY: Philip Jebb". The Independent. London.
  20. Elwes, Dominic (1972). "Portrait of Lord Lucan".
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