The Englishman of the Peseta is a new biography, in English, of George Langworthy, the adoptive son of Torremolinos whose home, Santa Clara, became the first hotel on the Costa del Sol. Diligent research by the author, Mike Shapton, reveals the progressive, humanitarian nature of the education George received, so much more modern than that which he would have received at more famous schools like Eton or Harrow. The author reveals the glamorous and successful career George enjoyed in the cavalry, leading up to his wedding in the last months of the 19th century. 1900 turned all that joy on its head when the newly-wed George went with his regiment to join the war in South Africa, where a bullet finished his active military career.
Then came Spain, and the purchase of Santa Clara, a dream home for George and his young wife until tragedy struck again with her death. Soon afterwards, George did his patriotic duty once more, serving for the first two years of World War I in a training capacity in England. Returning to Spain, now a widower, George began the charitable work which earned him his nickname ‘el inglés de la peseta’.
The author’s research gives the reader plenty of material to decide why George chose to live in Spain, why he returned after the loss of his wife and his return to army life, and why he spent the remainder of his life helping as many people as he could by giving away his fortune.
While George is regarded in Torremolinos almost as a saint, the book reveals that his only male cousin could better be described as a friend of the Devil. Edward Martin Langworthy, who committed suicide the year before George married, possibly murdered both of his wives and tried to abort the foetus of his daughter. His behaviour caused a national scandal when it was revealed by a ground-breaking newspaper and Mike draws on the paper’s account to tell the story. Did this too influence how George lived his life? His cousin was even more wealthy than George – perhaps he concluded that wealth does not bring happiness.
The book is generously illustrated with photographs, particularly those in the possession of a descendant of two of his loyal staff, the descendants of the Englishwoman who first managed the hotel, and the archive of his cavalry regiment. It is a fascinating read for Spanish and English alike.
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