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Name: ALLEN, Jane Petal, Mrs

Nee: Erskine, dau of Sir Derek Quicke Erskine

Birth Date: 1928

First Date: 1928

Area: Nairobi

Married: 1. 10 June 1950 William Lee Harragin (div. 1963); 2. 1963 Robert William Young; 3 David Allen

Children: 1. Mark Savile Austin (1956); Vanessa Jane (1951); Robin Elisabeth (1953); Georgia Frances (1954); Serena Claire (1959)

Book Reference: Debrett, Daily Mail, Wolseley-Lewis

General Information:

Daily Mail - 2/5/2001 - A close of new houses just outside the historic city of Bath seems an unlikely setting for a convention-flouting menage a trois. But it's here, in this haven of respectability, that Petal Allen lives with the two men in her life - one her husband David, the other Lee Harragin, her former husband, by whom she had 5 children and who divorced her for adultery in 1963. At a time when, for many families the legacy of divorce is a lifetime of jealousy and resentment, this trio has found an unconventional answer. Far from warring, the two 'husbands' cook each other breakfast and play golf together, the 12 children who are the result of their various marriages are all friends and are delighted with the arrangement Even now, aged 73, Petal's appearance hints at the astonishing story in which these three are principal players. Her slender figure, huge, expressive eyes and infectious smile are clues to the history of a woman whose magnetic beauty has led her over the past 50 years through 3 marriages, 2 divorces and several love affairs. 'I tell the neighbours: "David is my husband and Lee is the father of my children,"' says Petal with a smile. The men refer to one another as 'my husband-in-law'. What the neighbours don't know, however, is that these three are among the last survivors of Kenya's notorious White Mischief era, when adultery was the most popular pastime of the expatriate community, giving rise to the catchphrase: 'Are you married or do you live in Kenya?' ………. In her prime, Petal was one of the most beautiful women in Kenya, with mischievous blue eyes, a dazzling smile and a film-star figure that turned the head of every man who saw her. She was the daughter of Sir Derek Erskine, a wealthy Nairobi businessman, racehorse owner and pillar of Kenya's Legislative Council. Lee Harragin, 75, whom she married in 1950, was the son of Sir Walter Harragin, Attorney General of Kenya at the time of the scandalous wartime murder of the Earl of Erroll, and who unsuccessfully prosecuted Sir Jock Delves Broughton for the crime. David Allen, 69, was the son of Bunny Allen, a famous white hunter from the pioneer generation whose reputation for fearlessness in the face of charging game was matched only by his fame as a womaniser. He seduced Ava Gardner under the nose of her then husband, Frank Sinatra, on the set of the film Mogambo, which was shot on location in Kenya. Their story, still shocking even by today's permissive standards, starts in Britain in 1949, just 8 years after the murder of Lord Erroll, a famous seducer of married women, rocked the expat community. ………. Still beautiful even in her eighth decade, she recalls how it all began: 'It was 1949 and I was 21. I was on the Underground and Lee was sitting opposite staring at me. He was with his two sisters, whom I knew from Kenya, so we chatted and he came round for tea later. I had left home at 17 and was working on the stage and loving it.. At 18 I had fallen head over heels with my leading man, who was 35, and to whom I had lost my virginity, but that was over. In those days you couldn't stay unmarried after a certain age, so I suppose I was looking for a husband. Lee was a fine, young man and incredibly good-looking. He was up at Cambridge reading law, and I knew my parents would approve. He was offered a job with a law company in Nairobi and we were married out there in June 1950. We wanted a large family and by 1959 I'd had 5 children: Vanessa, Robin, Mark, Serena and Georgia. We led an incredibly glamorous life; every family had at least 3 servants - a cook, an ayah for the children and a gardener. We swam, we rode, we went on picnics out in the bush. ……….. A woman who talks with surprising candour about subjects many women of her generation would find deeply embarrassing Petal admits she was unfaithful to Lee during their marriage. She even had an affair during their engagement. 'I had a good marriage - but there were temptations … and from time to time I gave in to them. The problem was that, in my day, girls got married so young. Even so, I believe the importance of physical infidelity can be overplayed. People think that because you're unfaithful you don't love your husband, but throughout our marriage I loved Lee greatly and always will. There was a rather more free-and-easy attitude to sex in Kenya - perhaps some of the African exuberance rubbed off on us. The strictures of her marriage vows may have meant little to Petal, but Lee, who had grown up in England, was deeply hurt by his wife's confession of an affair during their engagement.  Now silver-haired but still the tall, distinguished-looking English gentleman who first caught Petal's eye, Lee says: 'It was typical of Petal's morality to tell me she had been unfaithful. She was relaxed about the act of infidelity but didn't like the idea of lying about it. 'She sat me down one day before the marriage, and told me in case I wanted to back out. My mother urged me to call it off but I decided to ignore her advice because I was besotted. I felt there wasn't any point being married to someone unless you were faithful. We may have lived a glamorous life but adultery does not have glamorous consequences. Despite his feelings for Petal and his belief that adultery was wrong, Lee admits having two affairs himself. I seduced the wives of two of our set in Nairobi. One was even married to the man Petal had an affair with during our engagement. One day, after I'd been married for about 4 years, the husband blew off half his leg trying to dynamite a tree root. He was rushed off to hospital and his wife was left on her own. Petal suggested I go up and spend the night there to protect her. While we were there one thing led to another. The other affair was with the wife of a hotelier friend of ours. He was away a lot and Petal was often away on safari, making films. But, unlike many people out there, I was discreet about my liaisons and rather ashamed. In fact he didn't confess to Petal until years later, when their marriage was failing. Lee says he did not feel jealous of Petal's flings, provided they were only temporary - but their marriage collapsed in the early 60s when she fell in love with Robert Young, san unmarried English actor working in Nairobi. Petal recalls - 'Robert and I were co-directing a play and so met every day at the theatre. There was an instant attraction between us. We had to be careful, but he had an apartment which meant we could be together in the afternoons while Lee was in his office. But I could never bear to live a double life so I told Lee early on. He was devastated. I explained I didn't want to leave him, but that I couldn't give Robert up. Then I suggested that I continued seeing both of them. I could have managed it, but men's egos are too big.' Yet Lee admits his despair at the prospect of losing Petal made him seriously consider the proposal. 'The jealousy was so intense I felt I was in danger of going mad. I did consider sharing my wife if it meant I wouldn't lose her. I discussed the idea with my mother but, even though Kenya was less conventional than Britain we decided too many reputations would have suffered. In 1963, after 13 years of marriage, Lee divorced Petal on the grounds of adultery. Despite the painful nature of their parting, they shared custody of their 5 children. The same year Petal married Robert Young, and Lee also remarried; his second wife was a Scottish woman by whom he had two more children. Petal's marriage to Young lasted ten years. She admits she was unfaithful to him too - 'but only mildly' she adds dismissively. By now she was approaching 40 and Robert, who had become a successful director, embarked on a series of affairs with young girls. Facing the pain of betrayal herself, Petal says her husband's infidelities caused her agonising jealousy. 'I was terribly upset about Robert's affairs - practically suicidal,' she says. 'But I knew that what goes around comes around, and that, having made Lee jealous, now it was my turn to suffer.' At this stage Petal decided to move back to London. Their marriage ended in an acrimonious divorce, and in a report for the London Evening Standard Young's friend, the disc jockey David Jacobs, described her as a scarlet woman. Left with no provider, Petal resumed her acting and modelling career, appearing in productions at the Oxford Playhouse and modelling for TV commercials. Some jilted wives never recover, but, at 45, experience had lent Petal's beauty greater depth, and she embarked on a fling which led to her most enduring marriage, and which introduces the third member of todays household in Bath. David Allen, who was born and bred in Kenya, had known Petal as a distant social contact for years before they became romantically involved. Divorced with two children, David, a professional hunter, had been living with a partner for ten years but, like many of his countrymen, was an enthusiastic philanderer. He was passing through London on his way to Spain (where he was pursuing yet another affair) and dropped in on Petal. David, a lean, bearded figure with melting brown eyes, remembers the meeting: 'Petal was thin and unhappy because of the break-up of her marriage, and I persuaded her to come to Spain with me in the role of chaperone because the woman I was trying to seduce had a jealous husband. In Spain Petal suggested we share a room to keep costs down, and we ended up forgetting all about my Spanish girlfriend. Yet David never expected his fling with Petal to become permanent. 'We may have had a lot in common but we came from very different backgrounds. Petal was the upperclass daughter of a knight, and I was a hunter's son. Nonetheless, they were married in Kenya in 1973. Outwardly, the marriage was idyllic. Petal and David rented Cerissa, a 12-bedroom, 12-bathroom house at the foot of Mount Kenya, where the film Born Free was shot. There, Petal was able to resume the open-handed Kenyan lifestyle of entertaining and parties. Among their guests were Edward Fox, Virginia Mckenna - who made Born Free - and Mick Jagger. David was a very successful hunter and owned his own plane, and they made a lot of money. Petal says becoming a wife for the third time represented a moral turning point in her life. 'From the moment I married David, I have been completely faithful to him.' The same was not true for him. His father had been a famous womaniser who gave him only one piece of moral advice: 'No matter who you go to bed with, never talk about it.' David took up the advice with great enthusiasm, and lost his virginity at 17 to a 34 year-old mother-of-two who was also having an affair with his father. Woman clients on safari threw themselves at David, and once again Petal suffered agonies of jealousy. After confronting one young girl with whom David was conducting a passionate affair, she gave her husband an ultimatum: he was to go away for a year and decide whether he wanted to stay married. After 6 months he had abandoned his girlfriend and was back at Cerissa. While David and Petal were sorting out their marriage during the mid-seventies, Lee had married for a fourth time - he had already married and been divorced from a third wife, a Dutch woman who left him for a millionaire. He now had ten children by three different mothers but was deeply unhappy with a wife, who tried to prevent contact between him and his offspring. Last year, concerned at the deterioration of life in Kenya, Petal and David finally decided to return to England. And it was David who made the generous and unconventional decision to invite Lee to join their household. 'It seemed the most natural thing in the world,' he says. 'I have been an unofficial stepfather to most of his children, because all the time I have been with Petal they have stayed with us. I knew that Lee had a great love and respect for Petal, and that all the children would be delighted to be able to see their dad in a place where he could be himself and be respected. And I was also thinking of Petal. I'm away on safari for nearly half the year, and I'm relieved she isn't on her own. Lee and Petal share things I'm not interested in, such as art and plays and classical music, but Lee has introduced me to golf, which I think I could take to. Lee is also delighted with the arrangement. 'We have an enormous amount in common', he says, 'David is uncomplicated and straight as a die. It doesn't feel remotely strange to be living with Petal again nearly 40 years after we parted. It's like pulling on an old glove.' As for Petal - the fascinating magnet to which both 'husbands' are still irresistably drawn - she is in her element. Of Lee she says simply: 'I have never stopped loving him. Of course, theres no sex between us. That ended the day I left him. But I said then that anything good about our relationship would be everlasting, and what we have now is a wonderful friendship and our shared joy in the children. I know I was a different person at 35, when I met Robert, from the way I was when I first got married. And when I see elderly couples who have stayed together for convention after their relationship is quite worn out, I'm glad to have lived life my way.' Wolseley-Lewis - Petal divorced Lee Harragin and married Robert Young, Actor and producer, and they went to South Africa and then on to England. Then that marriage fell apart and she came back here and married David Allen, the son of Bunny Allen, a great gypsy character well known in the safari world as a white hunter and now the doyen of Lamu. David was also a white hunter and is now in the safari business with his own plane and is much in demand with film people.

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