This morning we checked out New Zealand’s only castle – Larnach Castle. I’ll start with the history of the castle, as told to me by our guide Bruce.
William Larnach, born in Australia, was offered a banking position in Dunedin and moved here with his wife Eliza and their children. They started living above the bank, but eventually he decided he wanted his own land so he bought many acres on top of the hill that looked over the bay and started building his castle.
He travelled a lot so Eliza asked her half-sister, Mary Ellen, to move to Dunedin and help her raise her 6 children. Mary Ellen agreed, and soon moved. Unfortunately Eliza died unexpectedly at age 38, leaving William a widow and single father of 6 children. The two boys were sent to private boarding school in London, and Mary Ellen stayed on to watch the 4 girls. But William decided it wasn’t proper for them to be living in the same house unmarried, and so Mary Ellen became his second wife.
Unfortunately she also died at age 38. At this point his oldest son finished school and became a lawyer in London. His youngest son, Douglas, decided he wanted to become a farmer and moved back to Dunedin. With the death of Mary Ellen, William married Constance, a much younger woman. William was often away, as he had become an MP and often had to be in Wellington. Now, Douglas was back in Dunedin and his job was to take care of the farm and property while his father was away. However his new step-mom Constance was only 6 years older than him, and one of his self-appointed jobs was to ‘take care’ of her in his father’s absence. Douglas tried to get Constance to leave his father, but she knew Douglas had no money, and convinced him that she’d remain married to his father and be his lover.
One evening in Wellington, Constance was waiting on William to come home. When he didn’t arrive after dinner she sent her brother to find him. Unfortunately he found William in a locked office with a pistol in his hand and a bullet in his head. It is known that he received a letter from Dunedin, and it is assumed to be from Douglas with something along these lines:
“Dear Papa, I’m in love with Constance and she is pregnant with my child. Love, Douglas”
William knew he’d be completely humiliated if it came out that his wife was pregnant with his son’s child, so decided the only honorable thing to do was kill himself. In the end Constance was sent to England to have the child, she never got back with Douglas, and neither of them inherited any of William’s fortune.
Here’s pictures of the castle, grounds, and fantastic view of the city. It took 12 years to completely finish the exterior and interior.
We were told that an older man visited the castle once, and before he left he mentioned to the guide that his mother used to live here. By the time the guide told the castle owners and they realized he must have been Douglas and Constance’s son, they were unable to find him. But they believe he must have been their child.