|This is part of the prison record
of a NSW Horse Stealer named George King.
Is it the same man as in the top picture?
George King was Ellen Kelly’s second husband. They were married on February 19th, 1874, in Benalla. Its commonly said that he came from California, was a horse thief and that he deserted Ellen Kelly in about 1877 after fathering three of her children. But when you drill deeper into the detail about who exactly George King was, where he came from and where he ended up, his marriage to Ellen Kelly is about the only thing we know for sure about him.
In 2002 a photo said to be of George King was listed for auction by Christies in Melbourne. The Catalogue reported that Ian Jones had proposed that it might be George King in 1995, and “After comparison with several portraits of Kings children, family members accepted the identification”Given the absolute certainty with which Ian Jones wrongly declared a different photo from that same catalogue to be Ned Kelly, and the recent brouhaha over the ID of the Kelly Vaults latest addition, a photo also said to be of Ned Kelly, one has to treat these photo identifications with some caution. But lets say it really is George King. What else do we know?
In the Jerilderie letter Ned Kelly described George King as a ‘horse stealer’, and indeed there was a horse thief of that name. He served time at Darlinghurst Gaol in Sydney for horse stealing and according to his prison record was a native of NSW born in 1847. He was released on January 3rd, 1874. The prison record also includes a very clear portrait of the man, and according to many, the resemblances between these two photos are so striking they’re convinced it’s the same person. It may well be. I’ve copied the prison record and the photos for you to compare and make your own assessment.
As is usual in the Kelly story, there are problems with accepting that these two people are one and the same person, that Ellen Kelly married the NSW horse stealer. The first one is minor – but it means that George, aged 25, travelled to the isolation of rural Victoria, met and married 41 year old Ellen Kelly in a mere six weeks after his release in the bustling city of Sydney. Whirlwind romance, for sure, and not impossible but does it really hang together? Maybe.
The second more challenging problem for Kelly supporters is that it means the child said to be the first of the three of Ellen’s listed as George King’s could not have been – Ellen King was born on November 3rd 1873. The entire pregnancy began and ended while George was in Darlinghurst Gaol.
Given Ellen Kelly’s history of a pre-marital first pregnancy and of an affair with Bill Frost, an affair with another person, unknown, is not entirely out of the question.
So, the choice is to either accept that Mrs Kelly had an affair with some unknown person and the NSW horse stealer accepted the child as his, or else reject the horse stealer as the George King that Ellen Kelly married.
If someone was interested, this dilemma could most likely be resolved by DNA comparisons between descendants of Ellen King, such as Leigh Olver, and any descendants of the other two children Ellen Kelly had with George King. It would soon become apparent if they all had genetic material in common that wasn’t from Ellen Kelly. If they did, that would rule out the horse stealer.
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