VIENNA, Va., April 12, 2012 — Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction and vastly more interesting. Viewers of the movie “Titanic” remember the beautiful diamond and sapphire necklace and the scene where Kate Winslett, playing the lovely Rose, has her portrait painted by Jack, played by Leonardo di Caprio, wearing only the necklace.
Though it seemed like a pretty piece of fiction created by James Cameron, it turns out that there was a diamond and sapphire necklace on board that fatal night, given to a young girl, Kate Florence Phillips, 20, by her married paramour, Henry Samuel Morley, 40.
Kate was an assistant working for Morley in one of the “Purveyors of High Class Confectionery” shops, which he owned in London, and the two were secretly sailing on the Titanic as second class passengers to begin a new life together in America, under the names of “Mr. and Mrs. Marshall.”
Original sapphire and diamond necklace
Before the sailing, he had sold two of his shops and given the money to his wife and 12-year-old daughter. And he had given Kate Phillips the necklace, slightly different in design than the one in the movie but quite lovely and expensive.
When the star-crossed ocean liner slipped beneath the waves on April 15, 1912, Morley, who could not swim, was one of those lost. Kate finally got into Lifeboat No.11, where she would spend the next eight hours, wearing nothing but a long nightgown, until one of the sailors gave her his jacket. As the couple left their cabin for the lifeboat area, Henry had quickly put the necklace around Kate’s neck.
According to the story, she went on to New York after the rescue and lived there for three or four months with a couple who had taken her in. By that time, she had discovered that she was pregnant, but the couple did not want to take on a baby. Kate then returned to Worcester, England to the home of her grandparents.
When the baby girl was born on January 11, 1913 (you can do the math), she was not particularly loved by her widowed mother, and it was left to the grandparents to raise the little girl who was named Ellen Mary. Kate later remarried.
Kate Phillips with her daughter Ellen
It was always assumed that the mother Kate suffered some sort of mental instability from the night of the sinking, and today we would probably term her bi-polar at the very least. She took her traumatic reminiscences of the tragedy out on the little girl, treating her almost as a servant, and she was never told of her father until much later.
When little Ellen was grown, she worked for years trying to have Henry Morley’s name added to her birth certificate, but she was never successful.
The necklace was shown in a Titanic display in Belfast for some years. When Ellen Mary Walker fell into hard times in the 1990s, she sold it to a lady in Florida who still possesses the Heart of the Ocean.
Ellen (R) with granddaughter Beverly (L) and “Heart of the Ocean”
The great-granddaughter of Kate has always encountered disbelief when her story is known, but she believes she has the complete facts, and that is sufficient.
Ellen died in 2005 in Worcester, England where she spent most of her life, always wishing she could prove that her father was Henry Morley. Ellen was 92 at her death and she too was a survivor of that fateful night.