90 years of a kenyan myth: Denys Finch Hatton

Noble, hunter, playboy: life of Karen Blixen's dandy

01-08-2021 by Freddie del Curatolo

Ninety years ago, the most famous dandy in the history of British Africa died in Kenya when his plane crashed with his loyal servant Kamau. His name was Denys Finch Hatton and, made famous by Karen Blixen's famous novel 'My Africa', he looks like the actor Robert Redford in the collective imagination.
In reality, Finch Hatton was not so charming, but his aura of womanizer and eternal dreamer, a bit rough like all hunters but unusually elegant and refined, in eating and drinking as well as in his appreciation of opera music, for example, certainly made him a unique character who, not by chance, made two brilliant, albeit problematic, women fall in love with him. In addition to the writer Isak Dinesen, Baroness Von Blixen, there was also the intellectual and first female airline pilot to fly across the Atlantic, Beryl Marckham.
Finch Hatton was born in 1887 into a noble family in Great Britain, his father Henry being the Earl of Winchilsea. He attended two of the most important schools in the Kingdom, Eton Grammar School and Oxford College.
It was a trip to South Africa that made him fall in love with the Dark Continent and hunting.
Before returning home, he decided to stay in Kenya and bought an estate in the Rift Valley and moved there to pursue his favourite sport.
Thanks to his shrewdness, his ability to entertain not only beautiful ladies but also his knowledge of the savannah, Finch Hatton became friends with almost all the most important people in the British Colony and personally accompanied the Prince of Wales, and later King for only 326 days before abdicating, Edward VIII, on safari.
Perhaps persuaded by the future King, Finch Hatton gave up hunting and began to espouse the cause of creating reserves, such as the Serengeti, and helping to form a new school of hunters and big game safari guides to help protect protected species and combat poaching.
It was at this time that he met Karen Blixen, and after the writer's divorce from the unfaithful baron who had given her syphilis, he moved to his home in Ngong, devoting himself to high-level safaris and taking up flying again after an accident years earlier had kept him out of the sky.
It was a platonic love that only took on romantic and passionate overtones in his novel, written after the premature death of his beloved.
His death occurred on 14 May 1931 when Finch Hatton, a few minutes after taking off from the Voi airstrip, suddenly crashed to the ground and exploded.
Karen Blixen wrote that both had already chosen their burial place, and it was 'a place in the foothills of the game reserve', which she herself, at the time when she was planning to live and die in Africa, had indicated to Denys as her future burial place.
"In the evening, as we looked out over the hills from my house,' Blixen recounted, 'he said that he would like to be buried there too. Since then, sometimes, when we drove into the hills, Denys would say: Let's drive to our graves.
There is still a small obelisk with a commemorative plaque at the burial site. He could never have imagined that the story of his life, however adventurous but far less than heroic, would become so famous and inspire an Oscar-winning Hollywood film.

TAGS: Finch Hattonleggende kenyamito kenyakenya coloniastorie kenya

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