The Aristocrat Who Painted the Town Red, 1837

The legend of a Marquis’ drunken antics resulted in an epic night in town… painting it red despite the townsfolk’s spluttering rage. Read about the chaos this posh wild child caused.

One day in spring 1837 at the Thorpe End tollgate in the fine old English market town of Melton Mowbray, with its half-timbered Tudor townhouses and bustling square, a tollgate keeper lay a wary eye on an approaching party of men.

The scene was at odds with itself. Their veneer of clean, tailored clothing, fine riding boots, well-groomed moustaches and strong jawlines made the tollkeeper conscious for a moment of his own grubby stubble. Yet, from their cultured tones, boozy banter spewed. Laughter and shouts echoed down the narrow carriageway and the band of staggering, swaggering men jostled after it.

The tollkeeper hailed hopefully to a young man he took to be the ringleader but the big droopy eyes which met his twinkled with mischief and he wore an ominous, leery grin. To the side were some ladders, brushes and pots of red paint to effect repairs. The leader turned his gaze to them and, before the tollkeeper could step in between, the party leapt and scooped up the paint and brushes.

They set upon the tollkeeper who, dismayed, shrieked calls to wrest them away, but to their whoops and cackles they doused the poor man in red paint. A sputtering, red-faced constable rushed over… and he was turned even more red-faced!

Like a crazed troop of monkeys the men now rampaged into the town, smashing, kicking and pulling down pieces of property. They sploshed doors, a carved swan and anyone who tried to halt them in red paint while indignant townsfolk looked on, mouths agape. They vandalised the Post Office and the Leicestershire Banking Company and tried to overturn a caravan in which a man was fast asleep.

The time the Marquess of Waterford and his cronies went crazy in Melton Mowbray gave rise to a common idiom (

Help was called in and, finally, to the clacking thrum of nail soled boots on street cobbles, constables clamoured into the street and set upon them. Clubs cracked and thumped and swang through the air and the scoundrels were finally subdued. Now for the biggest shock; as onlookers gawped, the party’s leader was identified to be a nobleman no less – Henry Beresford, 3rd Marquess of Waterford.

The noble was sent to sober up in the local gaol but that wasn’t even the end of it.

Marquess Henry’s cronies came to his rescue, beating up two guards and holding a sharp blade to a guard’s throat for the cell key.

So the Marquess escaped …but scot-free?

Aristocrats stand as exemplars of grace, class and decorum. The Marquisate of Waterford is no exception; rows and rows of windows festoon the grand, Georgian facade of Curraghmore House – the family estate – and their noble lineage goes back to the 17th Century. At some point, an impish streak seeped into the bloodline when Henry entered the world; the trouble in Melton Mowbray is not the only time he brought his peerage into disrepute.

Once Marquess Henry sobered up he hastened to shell out for the damages but the townsfolk wouldn’t be placated so easily. Eventually Henry and his party were fined a considerable £100 each and ordered to contribute an idiom to the English language.

Sawney Bean’s Cannibal Clan, 16th Century

A tale hard to distinguish fact from fiction, yet there is undoubtedly some truth behind Sawney Bean and his massive family of incestuous cannibals who may have devoured hundreds over the decades and terrorised the locals. Read on to discover his terrible fate.

The tale of Sawney Bean is a gruesome tale from Scottish history.

The man was born in the 16th Century and fathered by a ditch digger but quickly gave up on following in his father’s footsteps. Marrying a like-minded woman named “Black” Agnes Douglas, together they became a couple of real savages.

Incredible though it sounds, they went on to head an incestuous family of 45 cannibals.

They started out as simple robbers and made a home in a deep cave on the coastline. Its entrance would flood at high tide which explains how they lived undiscovered for the next 25 years. The two quickly turned to eating their victims whose discarded possessions began to quickly pile up amongst dismembered limbs, bones and flesh. Their eight sons and six daughters grew up feral, and bred like rabbits, their numbers multiplying until they were more of a warband than family.

They would ambush locals as they travelled between nearby settlements, their numbers quickly overwhelming their prey before they could escape or defend themselves. The steadily growing tally of missing did not go unnoticed but the Bean clan stayed well hidden, only coming out at night.

Their luck eventually changed. Riding back from a fayre nearby, a couple on horseback got ambushed. The young wife was quickly unhorsed and disembowelled as the husband fought desperately for his life. He was a skilled duellist, however, and deftly fought off the savages with sword and pistol before a large party of fayre goers arrived on the scene.

For once outnumbered, the fiends fled back to their cave, this time leaving behind witnesses and a very vengeful husband.

The locals went at once to Edinburgh to report to the King of Scotland himself no less, James VI. Hearing the terrors this family had committed, he personally led a small army of 400 men with several tracker dogs and finally discovered the cave entrance.

The King’s soldiers discover the Bean clan’s gruesome sanctuary (

Horrified by the gory sight inside, they subdued the family, taking them back to the capital to devise a suitable fate for such heinous people.

The entire family was executed. The males first were dismembered like their victims as the women were made to look on and then the females were burned at the stake. And so passed into lore the story of the Sawney Bean Family.

The Nepalese Royal Massacre

The Prince who murdered his family because he couldn’t marry his one true love

This is the grisly story of a truly astounding crime. In 2001 the Nepalese Royal Family was slaughtered in a frenzied shooting spree. What makes this more disturbing is that it was committed by one of their own family members. On top of that, their sad demise fulfilled an ancient prophecy made over 200 years before — that the Shah royal line would end after 10 generations.

On the 1st of June 2001, one of the world’s most venerated royal families; the Shah royal family, was butchered by the King’s firstborn son, Crown Prince Dipendra, who gunned down his parents plus seven more of his kin before turning the gun on himself. That at least, is the official version of events…

Let’s go back to when this saga ultimately began.

The Sage’s Prophecy

The Shah royal family came to rule the Gorkha Kingdom from 1559 AD and conquered and unified the surrounding patchwork of kingdoms into modern-day Nepal by 1768. This secluded, mystical, part-tropical-part-alpine kingdom was hemmed in by the British Raj to the south and the sheer Himalayan mountains to its north and its rustic and rugged interior incubated one of the most formidable warrior cultures on the planet.

The first King of this newly expanded realm was Prithvi Narayan Shah and the story goes that the King was once marching back into the Kathmandu valley when he happened across a sage.

The benign King offered the sage some yoghurt. The learned old man tried the yoghurt then, to reciprocate, blessed it before returning the dish to the King. Yet, the haughty Sovereign didn’t want to eat the yoghurt now this sage had soiled it and he threw it on the ground, spilling the food on his feet. The sage chastised the King for his pride and said if he had taken the yoghurt every wish he made would be fulfilled. Instead, the yoghurt covering the King’s 10 toes now portended a much darker fate; that his dynasty would fall after 10 generations.

From Past to Present

In the intervening epochs, the royal family’s fortunes waxed and waned as the Shahs tussled for power with the Rana dynasty of Prime Ministers between the mid 19th and mid 20th centuries. By 1996 the Kingdom of Nepal was in serious political turmoil with the launch of a Maoist insurgency that would not end until 10 years later. By mid-2001 King Birendra had been on the throne for almost 30 years, siring two sons and a daughter in that time.

King Birendra (

He was also the 10th descendent of King Prithvi Narayan Shah and his reign and life would soon be extinguished.

Prince Dipendra’s Deadly Attack

What precisely occurred on the evening of June the 1st is mired in murky intrigue and suspicion. In the bloody aftermath, investigators pieced together what happened as best they could.

Friday nights were when King Birendra and his wife Queen Aishwarya would come together with their family to eat at the Narayanhiti Palace, in Kathmandu. That night, the King and Queen were joined by four of the King’s five siblings and their three children. Plus, others were present that night — about a dozen family members in total.

Crown Prince Dipendra, the next in line for the throne, arrived at the Palace at 7:30pm and went to the billiards room to play billiards by himself over a couple of whiskeys. Half an hour later and the Crown Prince headed out to pick up the Queen Mother to take her to the gathering then, once returned, called an aide to fetch him some hashish cigarettes.

Before 8:30 came about, family members saw the Crown Prince now looking intoxicated, swaying and slurring his speech. Four of them helped him to his room. The Queen then sent aides to check on him and who could hear him vomiting in the bathroom, but he came out and, forebodingly, ordered them to go to their rooms to sleep. At 8:30, the King and Queen arrived and entered the billiards room to greet guests whilst the Prince reappeared and exchanged a few words with another guest before telling them: “I am now about to sleep… good night. We’ll talk tomorrow.

The Crown Prince Dipendra meets ‘the people’s Princess’ Diana in 1993.

But Prince Dipendra didn’t go to sleep. He re-emerged from his room donned in black army fatigues and was armed to the teeth. He proceeded to the billiards room and pumped his family with lead from automatic fire. He killed eight people there, including his father King Birendra, a sister, a brother, an uncle and two aunties. He wounded another four. His Mother, Queen Aishwarya and brother Prince Nirajan tried to flee to the inner courtyard. But Prince Dipendra was merciless and he hunted them down too, killing them both before pulling the gun on himself.

Confusion and Conspiracy

In the aftermath, the tragedy sent shockwaves through not just the mountain valleys of Nepal, but the entire world. Messages were sent by the British Royal Family, the Pope, the Indian Prime Minister and UN Secretary-General, amongst others to convey their deep shock and sadness.

Yet, their dismay was nothing compared to the uproar the King’s subjects felt, and they rioted and demanded to know what happened. And who could blame them? No royal family had been slaughtered by one of its own members before.

The frustrating thing about these kinds of ‘lone wolf’ shooting sprees is that the perpetrator’s motive is impossible to ascertain when they typically add themselves to the body count, as Prince Dipendra did. The most plausible theory is that Queen Aishwanya forbade her son from marrying his true love Devyani Rana, due to her mother’s family having conflicting political alliances with the Nepalese Royal Family, so he attacked his family in spite.

There are other rumours that the King’s elder brother, Prince Gyanendra, who shortly became King, might have had a part to play in the massacre due to him being a noticeable absentee at the dinner party.

After the shooting, Prince Dipendra actually survived in a coma for three days and royal protocol awkwardly decreed that he be crowned King now his father had perished, even though he was apparently now a cold-blooded murderer. But once he passed away Prince Gyanendra was crowned King in turn until Nepal became a Republic seven years later.

Even more controversy surrounds the shooting as many, both within and outside Nepal, question whether Prince Dipendra was even the perpetrator of this horrific crime at all. It’s strange to note, for example, that the self-inflicted bullet wound was to the Prince’s right temple, despite him being left-handed…

But I will leave others to sift through the murky ‘conspiracy theories’ surrounding what happened that night. That this massacre fulfilled an ancient prophecy is bizarre enough!

When Nepal’s King Prithvi fell foul of that sage, all those centuries before, who’d have guessed that his prophecy, that the Royal line would end after ten generations, would come true and in such a horrendous fashion?


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