Robert Gould Shaw III Nancy Astor’s Son

Charcoal drawing by John Singer Sargent - Robert Gould Shaw III

Charcoal drawing by John Singer Sargent – Robert Gould Shaw III in uniform
(thought to be The Blues and Royals), dated 1923.
Gift from Lady Nancy Astor to Mr. Robert Shaw’s partner, Alfred Edward Goodey.

In the summer of 1931 Bobbie Shaw, the son of Lady Nancy Astor, ex Guardsman, champion steeplechaser and heavy drinker was arrested for ‘a homosexual act’.

The arrest came just a week before Lady Nancy and Lord Waldorf Astor were due to take a diplomatic trip to Russia with George Bernard Shaw. It is reputed that the police told the Astors about the offence before they issued the warrant. This would give Bobbie a chance to leave the country for a while during which time the warrant would be ‘forgotten’.
However, Bobbie refused to leave and had his day in court, being sentenced to four months in prison.

The Astor family used their considerable influence to keep the incident out of the press. Waldorf was the owner and chairman of The Observer newspaper at the time. His brother John Jacob Astor was the owner and chairman of The Times. They appealed for goodwill and with the support of Lord Beaverbrook, the owner of the Daily Express newspaper group, managed to keep the story out of the press. The price of this editorial silence was that the Astors’ trip to Russia had to go ahead with Lady Astor leaving the country just as her son was sent to prison. It is thought that this incident led to Lord Astor putting his considerable power and weight behind
the campaign to decriminalise homosexuality, led by The Observer newspaper in the 1950s.
Did You Know: Lady Nancy Astor had a strong friendship with T. E Lawrence (otherwise known as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’). They met regularly and often wrote to each other, particularly during his time stationed at RAF Mount Batten. To this day, T. E Lawrence’s sexuality is the subject of many a debate.

Lady Nancy Astor, Plymouth Hoe ,1941

Lady Nancy Astor, Plymouth Hoe ,1941
Courtesy PWDRO, © Western Morning News. 1418/1212

Comment on this article

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: