Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand


Who Was Admiral Sir William Christopher Pakenham?

10 July 10, 1861 – 28 July 28, 1933


Marilyn Slater, Looking-for-Mabel - March 23, 2011


Admiral Pakenham was Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath; Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George; Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order and was Mabel Normand “Knight” at her service to defend her honor.  I don’t need to explain that after the death of William Desmond Taylor, February 2, 1922, the newspaper attack on her character left her exposed.


Into her life sailed Sir William. He was a gentleman in that old fashion meaning of the term: a British Navel Officer, the observer of the Imperial Japanese Navy during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). He was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun from the Emperor Taisho of Japan.


While commanding HMS Antrim, he escorted King Edward VII to Ireland. He served as Fourth Sea Lord of the Admiralty and acted as a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty from December 9, 1911 until December 1913. Sir William was appointed Naval Aide-de-Camp to King George V.  Promotion after promotion came to him during World War I.  When the war ended, Sir William served as the President of the Royal Naval College in Greenwich1919–20 and October 1920 he was named Commander-in-Chief on the North America and West Indies Station. His flagship was the M. S. Raleigh. William Nicholson created an oil painting of Sir William in 1920, which shows an attractive older Knight who came to Mabel’s rescue


March 20, 1922 Sir William C. Pakenham, commander of the fleet was the guest of the Mack Sennett Studios where Mabel Normand and Sir William were photograph with members of his crew, along with Phyllis Haver, Billy Bevan, Ben Turpin and Flo Gwinn.


This was an important visit as by posing with Mabel, Sir William was showing respect and giving her newspaper coverage that did not include a reference to the murder of WDT. He didn’t go on to New York until May 30. 


Sir William was an intelligent, shrewd and witty officer. His visit to the west coast of the United States in 1922 was a diplomatic success. Sir William was noted for his swimming ability.  He shared this skill with Mabel, they also shared a kiss!


Pakenham retired from active duty in 1926. He died unmarried, at San Sebastian Spain on 28 July 1933.



New-York Tribune, New York NY, May 30, 1922, page 7

Image and text provided by Library of Congress, Washington, DC


Admiral Pakenham Arrives

From The Tribune’s Washington Bureau

Washington May 29.  The vice president and Mrs. Coolidge will be gusts of the Ambassador of Great Britain and Lady Geddcs at the dinner reception which they are giving Saturday night at the embassy to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of King Gorge of England.  Mrs. Coolidge will be the guest at luncheon Thursday of Mrs. Sheldon P. Spencer. The Secretary of State and Mrs. Hughes were the guests of honor at dinner tonight of the Minister of Costa Rica and Senora de Beeche, who entertained a distinguished company at the New Willard Hotel.

H. M. S. Raleigh, flagship of the commander in chief of the North Atlantic and West Indies station, Admiral Sir William C. Pakenham, arrived at the navy yard this morning, and a continues round of entertainment began tonight for the admiral and the officers and men of the Raleigh.

New York Tribune, New York, NY; May 31, 1922, page 11

Image and text provided by Library of Congress, Washington, DC

 Hughes entertained at dinner this evening for Admiral Sir William C. Pakenham, commanding the North American and West Indies station of the British navy. The dinner was a personal as well as an official compliment, having had its origin in relations established during the recent visit of the Secretary and Mrs. Hughes in Bermuda, which is Admiral Pakenham's home station.  Admiral Pakenham and the officers of his staff were the guests of honor at luncheon today of Mrs. J. Borden Harriman, whose guests numbered ten.  Mrs. Harriman entertained about forty members of the younger set at
a dance this evening in honor of the officers of the M. S. Raleigh, flagship of Admiral Pakenham.