KING KESHO (1893)
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Few of the early Siamese males were as popular as Mrs. Carew-Cox's 'King Kesho' or left as many excellent progeny as he did, the only exception perhaps being for his moderately younger contemporary, 'Tiam O'Shian III' .
'King Kesho' was known for his light coat and highly contrasting deep point colour, with bold eyes of a deep blue hue. He was also a litter brother to the first 'King of Siam' originally owned by Mr. W. Temple, but later the property of Lady Marcus Beresford.
Owners of his progeny included the Hon. Mrs. Green Wilkinson, the Hon. Mrs. McLaren Morrison, Lady Marcus Beresford, Mrs. Mary Robinson, Mrs. Cockburn-Dickinson, Mrs. Robbins, Mrs. Brodie, Mrs. K.O. Chapman, Mrs. Derby Gordon Dill, Mrs. L.G. Leverson, , Mrs. Constance Carew-Cox, Mrs. Alex Hankey, and others.
He emulated a new emerging style of Siamese, moderately more refined and elegant in general appearance, yet still giving an impression of strength and vigour. The breeders who did send their queens to him, appear to have repeated the breedings multiple times, which suggests that they were not only pleased with the quality of his kittens, but that they had sustained confidence in his ability as a sire.
He remains one of the most admired of all the pre-twentieth century Siamese, and stands tall as an example of the direction, into which the breed would ultimately be heading.
Tiam O'Shan I, Seal Point Tiam O'Shian II, Seal Point | Meo, Seal Point King Kesho, 29th June, 1893, Seal Point, M | Unknown Gracie, Seal Point Unknown
'King Kesho' is registered with the National Cat Club, in Vol. 3, NCC: 1713, and also appears in the listings of The Siamese Cat Register (SCR). His date of birth is given as 29th June, 1893. His breeder and former owner of record was Mr. G.W. Forsgate, with his current owner listed as Mrs. Carew-Cox. His sire was Miss Forestier Walker's 'Tiam O'Shian II' himself sired by the original import out of Bangkok, 'Tiam O'Shian I' and whose dam was Mrs. Cunliffe Lee's celebrated female, 'Meo'. The dam of 'King Kesho' was Mr. Forsgate's 'Gracie', who had been formerly owned by Mrs. Seton Kerr.
Miss Forestier Walker, sister to Lady Vyvyan, recounts in The Book of The Cat (1903), the origins or their strain of Siamese:
"A pair from the Palace were given to Mrs. Vyvyan and myself in 1884-5,and we have been very careful in breeding , mating when possible with such good cats as Mrs. Lee's celebrated 'Meo', Miss Moore's 'Siam', Mrs. Harrington's 'Mechi', etc, and have bred in consequence, the famous 'Tiam-O-Shians' II, III and IV., 'Polyphema', 'Susa', 'Kitya Kara', 'Goblin', 'Champion Eve', 'Mafeking', 'Vishuddha', 'Ah Choo', 'Suzanne' and many others."1
No further information can be found on the background of 'Gracie', the dam of 'King Kesho', who was originally owned by Mrs. Seton Kerr. Two other Siamese cats bred by Mrs. Seton Kerr appear in the listings of the The Siamese Cat Register. The first was a female named 'Cameo' who was owned by Mrs. Carew-Cox and whom she considered to be one of her best; the second named 'Yum Yum', was owned by Miss Gresham, at one time the Secretary of The National Cat Club.
Mrs. Carew-Cox provides a short account of her 'King Kesho' in The Book of The Cat (1903):
" 'King Kesho', the well-known male (sire of many beautiful kittens), I bought from Mr. Forsgate in 1894; he claimed descent from the Duchess of Bedford's, Mrs. Seton Kerr's, and Miss Forestier Walker's cats; he had large bold eyes of a glorious shade of blue, and very dark points; he won many prizes and specials, but died in 1897."1
Of particular note is the fact that 'King Kesho' appears to have been a full litter brother to one of the famous 'King of Siam's. The first 'King of Siam' listed in The Siamese Cat Register, appears immediately after the listing for 'King Kesho', shares the same date of birth, sire and dam, and the same breeder, Mr. G.W. Forsgate. 'King of Siam's second owner is recorded as Mr. Temple, and his third owner as Lady Marcus Beresford. So there is no question that this male is a full sibling and was eventually owned by Lady Marcus Beresford.
But this was not the only 'King of Siam' to go from Mr. W.R. Temple, to Lady Marcus Beresford. Another 'King of Siam', born in 1897, whose particulars were listed as 'unknown', but notated as 'imported', is also recorded as owned by Mrs. W.R. Temple. This gets more interesting when we then refer to The Cat Club Register, where a third 'King of Siam' is to be found, also born in 1897, with no notation as being imported, and described as a shorthair chocolate male, and once again owned by Mrs. W.R. Temple! So this would suggest that the Temple's had at one time or another owned no less than three registered Siamese males, regardless of colour, all named 'King of Siam'.
But the story of these three 'Kings' of Siam, must wait to be told another day, suffice to say that the first was a full sibling to our 'King Kesho'.
The most notable sire-siblings of 'King Kesho' appear to have been the male, 'Kitya Kara', (NCC: 1405), by 'Tiam O Shian II' out of 'Vashti'; and two females, 'Biddy' ,(NCC: 1581) a litter sister to 'Kitya Kara', and 'Priscilla', (NCC:1582), by 'Tiam O Shian II' out of 'Mrs. O'Shian'.
'KITYA KARA' was a seal-point male born 16th January, 1893. Sired by 'Tiam O'Shian II' and out of Mrs. Vyvyan's 'Vashti'. His four grandparents were therefore 'Tiam O'Shian I' (Imp.Th), Mrs. Cunliffe Lee's celebrated 'Meo' (probably imported), Mr. Harrington's 'Mechi', and Mrs. Vyvyan's 'Satu', a sire-sibling sister of 'Tiam O'Shian II' being sired by 'Tiam O'Shian I' and out of 'Susan' (Imp.Th). Miss Forestier Walker sold him to Mrs. Carew-Cox, and at an early age he enjoyed an enviable show career, but was sadly lost while quite young. Of this cat Mrs. Carew-Cox writes:
"In October, 1893 - immediately after the Crystal Palace Show, I became the owner of 'Kitza Kara' [sic], a very perfect male, bred by Miss Forestier Walker, (nb: the breeder of record is Lady Vyvyan), which won first prize and several medals and specials. He also carried all before him at Bath in March, 1894. Unfortunately he died that year from congestion of the lungs."1
'BIDDY' was a seal-point female, a litter sister to 'Kitya Kara'. Other than that she was retained by Lady Vyvyan for breeding, no other information about her is available. She is recorded in The Siamese Cat Register, but there are no records for any subsequent progeny.
'PRISCILLA' was a seal-point female, born in May, 1893. She was the daughter of 'Mrs. O'Shian', a double daughter of the originally imported 'Tiam O'Shian I'. As such, 'Mrs. O'Shian' represented an undiluted combination of the two original imports from Bangkok, her own dam being 'Loquat' ex 'Tiam O'Shian I' (ImpTh) and 'Susan' (Imp.Th).
However, the Registers differ as to her sire, The National Cat Club unequivocably indicating that Priscilla's sire is 'Tiam O Shian II' by 'Tiam O'Shian I, while the Siamese Cat Register only indicates 'Tiam O'Shian' and does not clarify 'which' one they refer to! We err, therefore, on the side of the National Cat Club Register, which leaves no room for doubt.
But Priscilla's main claim to fame is as the dam of 'Polyphema'. It was 'Polyphema' who became the main progenitor of a new generation of show winners, including 'Tiam O'Shian IV', 'Champion Eve' and 'Ah Choo'.
From both the Register of the National Cat Club and The Siamese Cat Register, we can provide the following list of recorded wins:
1893 First and Special at Balham
'King Kesho' was a handsome and popular stud, and although his career as a stud was relatively short, he sired some notable progeny which were sold to well-known breeders, among them being Mrs. Mary Robinson, (the importer and owner of Champion Wankee) ,who owned his famous daughter 'Rynda'; and the Hon. Mrs. McLaren Morrison, who owned two sons and a daughter, the most noted son being 'Prince Damrong' who was later re-registered as 'Sura'.
From an analysis of the registration records, two females in particular appear to have been bred to him on a number of occasions, which in itself shows the confidence those breeders had in him as a stud who could be relied upon for consistency! These were Mrs. Brodie's 'Minita', (whose pet name was 'Minnie'), and Mrs. Robbins's 'Lady Betty' (whose pet name was 'Betty'). So we will list the progeny of two females ahead of the rest:
From 'LADY BETTY' (Miss Robbins)
Of note from the above list of progeny from 'Lady Betty', is that both Mrs. Cockburn-Dickinson and the Hon. Mrs. McLaren Morrison appear to have very gladly made multiple purchases. Mrs. McLaren Morrison purchased her 'Sura' (formerly 'Prince Damrong') as a kitten, and before travelling to India where her husband held a political appointment, she was careful to place him in the care of Miss Manley in Kensington. This fact and the circumstances surrounding them were reported in a newsy little article that appeared in The Sketch in October 1897:
"Among the famous breed of royal cats from Siam, 'Sura' (late Prince Damrong), is among the most important.* He was bought by The Hon. Mrs. McLaren Morrison last year, but, as his mistress was leaving England for India, he was placed in the care of Miss Manley, who is well known as one of the most popular and capable lady judges at both dog and cat shows. 'Sura' was taken to Kensington, and soon became devoted to Miss Manley's lovely little King Charles, 'Boscobel'.3
'Zetland Wanzes' poses another little mystery in that in The Cat Club Register he is listed initially as a Chocolate Siamese, suggesting that he appeared to be darker than normal and possibly a 'mink' in colour saturation. However, he is also listed in the subsequent transfer between Mr. Dimond and Mr. Cooke as a 'Royal', (a seal-point), so one entry clearly contradicts the other. In The Siamese Cat Register, his colour is not mentioned, which would be unusual if he had really been of the so-named 'chocolate' variety. None of the other progeny from this breeding were known to be chocolates and the wins accorded to 'Zetland Wanzes' in The Siamese Cat Register would seem to be highly unlikely except as a 'royal' or 'traditional seal-point'.
From 'MINITA' (Miss Brodie)
From 'YUTHIA' (Mrs. Carew-Cox)
None of the registers give any indication of her breeder, but fortunately Mrs. Carew-Cox (the owner of 'King Kesho'), provides us with the following anecdote from The Book of The Cat, in which she clarifies the purchase of her dam 'Yuthia' from a London broker:
"It is so long ago since I first possessed a Siamese kitten that I cannot remember from whom I purchased her; she was a very perfect little creature, absolutely adorable with her quaint ways, appealing and yet assertive nature. After her death from rapid decline, I tried to put aside all thoughts of securing another, and not until September, 1893, did I again fall a victim to the attractions of this breed, purchasing a female of about one year old from Zache, of Great Portland Street. I named her 'Yuthia';, she was supposed to have been imported, had very expressive blue eyes, and she lived until February 1899."1
From 'HAIDEE I' (Mrs. H. Derby)
And a miscellaneous daughter of 'King Kesho' named 'KORA', who was owned by a Mrs. A. Hankey and whom is listed in The Cat Club Register as the dam of the Hon. Mrs. Green Wilkinson's 'Minnie'. No dam is indicated for 'Kora'.
One last female, who does not appear in any Register, is 'CURLY TAIL', owned by Miss Harper, of whom Mrs. Carew-Cox provides some detail:
"Miss Harper's (late) 'Curly Tail,' a daughter of 'King Kesho,' was an excellent example of the breed, all her points were very good; unfortunately her life was not of long duration - she died a victim to dropsy."1
One only needs to look closely at the wonderful photo of 'King Kesho', by Phillips of Croydon, to appreciate his most handsome qualities, his refined elegance for the period, the striking clarity of his point definition, the length and accentuated foreign style of his head, and what appears to be his straighter profile when compared to some of his contemporaries. Perhaps it was these qualities that drew him so many admirers and which when viewed, gave them a glimpse of a possible future direction for the breed. Some cats, like some people, arrive ahead of their time, and 'King Kesho' appears to have been one of them.
Registers associated with this article include The Incorporated Cat Fanciers Association of Great Britain (TICFAGB), National Cat Club (NCC), The Cat Club (CCR), Beresford Cat Club (BCC), Feline Federation Francaise (FFF), Siamese Cat Registry (SCR), US Register & Studbook for Cats (USR)including Supplement(USRS), The Studbook of the American Cat Association (ACA), and the Studbook & Register of the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA).
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