Bapsybanoo Pavry is described as the Indian-born daughter of a Zoroastrian high priest and is notable for the fact that, in the year 1952, and at the age of fifty, she married Henry William Montague Paulet, 16th Marquess of Winchester.
There are two things that are especially remarkable about this particular union; firstly that the 16th Marquess of Winchester was at the time ninety years old and forty years her senior, and secondly that Bapsy's charms apparently proved insufficient to maintain the Marquess's interest in the marriage. Within a few of weeks of the wedding, the Marquess had abandoned Bapsy in favour of the alternative attractions of a certain Eve Fleming.
The Mrs Fleming being in this case none other than the mother of the author Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, whose charms it appears were sufficient maintain the Marquess's interest, as he remained with his new companion until his death on the 28th June 1962 some four months shy of his centenary.
Bapsy was not best pleased at this turn of events and moved to London where she threatened to sue Ms Fleming for the alleged enticement of her husband. She remained in London until 1985 when she returned to India, where she died ten years later in 1995.
These few facts appear to be all that is known about her life but a few tangible reminders exist of Bapsybanoo Pavry's brief encounter with the British peerage. She settled an endowment on Oxford University which funds the annual Winchester Lecture in International Relations (The inaugural 1996 lecture was delivered by Robert Hunter, the United States Ambassador to NATO on the subject of `NATO and the former Yugoslavia') as well as the Bapsybanoo Marchioness of Winchester Prize, for a thesis in the area of International Relations in particular human freedoms.
In 1953 she also announced her intention to make a bequest of £500,000 to pay for the building of a new community hall in Winchester. (Apparently Bapsy had been somewhat disappointed at her reception when she attended a public function at Winchester. There wasn't any bunting and the children weren't waving any flags, so she decided that the people of Winchester needed to be given a tangible reminder of who she was.)
By the time that Bapsy died in 1995 the £500,000 had grown to a sum in excess of £1 million, although since that date Winchester city council has struggled to spend the money. Local authorities do not normally have any difficulty in spending money, but in this case the bequest was subject to certain conditions which specified inter alia, that the building must be a community centre and located either in or within the grounds of the Guildhall in Winchester and must bear the name of 'The Bapsy Marchioness of Winchester Memorial Hall'.
This presents a difficulty to the local council which regards the idea of a community hall as somewhat old fashioned and would prefer to build a multi-function facility which would no doubt be christened as the Nelson Mandela Centre in accordance with standard local authority practice.
Winchester Residents Association remain in favour of building a community hall and believe that the council are only creating difficulties for themselves. The council is considering setting up a consultation committee.
- Oxford comedy committee star prize quoting The Southampton Echo as Source http://www.akme.btinternet.co.uk/oclxcom1.html
- Andrew Napier We Can't Spend Bapsy's £1m Bequest
- Oxford University Gazette 7 December 1995