It seems that the
more the Kelly story becomes part of Australia's folk law, the more urgently
a female figure is sought as Ned's 'partner'. Most likely this is because
it is natural for people to respond to a need to complete a story by giving
the 'hero' a beloved heroine, in this case adding a romantic dimension
to the Kelly legend. It is certainly romantic to imagine that Ned experienced
a tender relationship with a supportive partner. Thus a wife or various
girlfriends for Ned have surfaced in much of the Kelly mythology, and
no doubt will continue to do so. A romance adds another dimension to the
tragic aspects of the Kelly story and widens its general appeal, as well
as conveniently appearing to counter the occasional claim that Ned may
have been homosexual.
In the absence of
a specific person numerous theories have surfaced over the years about
which woman might have been romantically linked to Ned (some of these
are listed under 'nominees'). The reason a considerable number of theories
abound is simple - the absence of any widely accepted evidence that Ned
was married, or even devotedly in love with a particular woman, has encouraged
speculation, and theories are focused on to different degrees by different
Ned ever in love?
Fact - It
is not known for certain whether Ned was ever in love. However Ned was
25 years old at the time of his death and therefore it seems likely that,
at some stage, he would have experienced romantic love. Yet whether or
not he was ever in love is a question that is impossible for anyone
(other than Ned) to answer factually in the absence of evidence.
Theory - There
are a number of different theories that claim that Ned was in love with
one woman or another. The stories vary in a number of ways, the most notable
obviously being the different women involved. Other variants include:
when the romance occurred, and how serious it was. Some women are suggested
as being Ned's wife or fiancé, others only casual dalliances. Some
of the nominees are completely fictional yet people have wondered whether
they were based on real women. The more popular and well-known romantic
nominees are listed (under 'nominees') and their stories examined for
- An incident in August of 1880 added to public speculation about Ned's
love life. When, from his position in the dock of the Beechworth courthouse,
Ned was reported to have returned a 'blown kiss' to one of the numerous
women in the courthouse. "
That there are many sympathisers
present there can be little doubt, especially amongst the ladies, many
of whom made no secret of the matter. Indeed, one young girl of good
looks and respectable attire showed questionable taste in going to the
extent of kissing hands to the outlaw, who returned the compliment with
" (Illustrated Australian News).
There has never been any evidence produced to prove who this unknown
young woman was. It appears that no eyewitness was able to state her
identity, or give anything more than a vague description. This is not
surprising however, as so many women attended the hearing that the courthouse
was completely full. (If it were made to one of Ned's close female relatives,
presumably she would have been recognised, as they were well known in
the area and sought out by the curious press.)
Theory - Naturally much speculation about the mystery woman's identity
arose, it is unfortunate that she was never identified. No conclusions
can be reached about who she was, as her identity was not known at the
time and her name never recorded, but it is an interesting incident
and gives fuel to the theory that Ned might have been involved in a
Analysis - It is worth noting that the gesture itself does not actually
show that Ned was 'in love', as it does not indicate the level
of affection behind the gesture, (e.g. Ned may simply have been flirting),
or even if there was any affection at all. It may have been serious,
or, simply a light-hearted gesture, (e.g. perhaps made to an old girlfriend
of whom Ned was still fond, or even to a complete stranger).
Conclusion - Obviously nothing can be concluded from the gesture,
except to say that Ned made a gesture to an unknown woman who was one
of the many women who attended the hearing in the courtroom on that
particular day. However, clearly, this is far too vague to draw any
conclusions from. The incident is interesting nevertheless, as it
does illustrate the possibility that Ned may have had a sweetheart of
Analysis - The number of claimed romances tends to reflect the
lack of conclusive evidence.
Even if there were evidence of a courtship, it would not automatically
prove that Ned was in love. However it is highly probable
that Ned was, at some stage in his life, in love with one (or more), women.
It is, nevertheless, simply impossible to assume, state, or guess, exactly
how deeply Ned may have felt about any woman, even one with whom
he may have been intimately involved. More information is required, and,
unless conclusive evidence such as a verified love letter or marriage
is ever discovered, historians can only speculate.
- No conclusions can be drawn without further evidence.
there any known documents of a romance involving Ned?
Facts - Ned
was literate and could write, so it is possible that he may have written
something of a romantic nature to a woman at some stage of his life. Any
woman he may have been romantically involved with, as well as their close
friends and relatives, may also have written about such a relationship.
Yet no such document has ever been discovered.
Theory - Expectedly,
there have been claimed sightings of love letters involving Ned, however
so far none has been produced, or displayed, to enable expert handwriting
comparison and analysis, (a step that would be vital for any letter's
- No known documents exist that support a romance involving Ned Kelly.
Theory - There is a story of a carving of initials within
a heart shape that is claimed by some to be circumstantial evidence
of a romance involving Ned. The story involves a gun, claimed to be
originally owned by the police black-tracker Moses. According to the
story the gun made its way into the Kelly gangs' possession. It is not
known what happened to the gun after this, but such a gun turned up
at an antiques auction in recent years. The gun is purported to have
carved on the wooden butt "NK" or possibly "EK",
"K8" and the symbol of a heart, which has been interpreted
as 'Kate you are in my heart, Ned Kelly'.
Analysis - Regardless of whether the said gun was ever in the possession
of the Kelly gang, or Moses, which is highly questionable, the carving
itself is not evidence. The alleged carving cannot be determined to
be 'evidence' in the same way, for example, as a letter expressing love
written in Ned's handwriting could be viewed. A carving is not a
signature, so it is impossible to identify its author, particularly
with any item that has passed through many unknown hands. There are
a number of questions that need to be answered before attempting to
use this item as historical evidence. They are:
had access to the gun? Answer - unknown.
made the carving? Answer - unknown. There is apparently no
proof that Ned ever even held this gun, let alone made the carving.
Importantly we have no evidence to prove, or confirm, that it was
Ned Kelly who made the carving, (particularly if it is "NK"
as previously Ned had carved his initials as EK).
was the carving made? Answer - unknown.
do the initials refer to? Answer - unknown. There is no evidence
to confirm whom either of the initials refers to. K8 does tend to
indicate that the woman referred to had the relatively common name
of Kate, but not whom she may have been.
did the carving mean? Answer - open to interpretation. For
example, the interpretation of the significance of the carving itself
may not necessarily be clear to anyone but the unknown person who
wrote it. It certainly does not offer any evidence that, whomever
the 'E or NK' was, that he was in love with, or devoted monogamously
to, whomever the 'K8' referred to may have been. Particularly as historians
have no idea if the carving was made simply as a playful gesture of
affection, or with a more serious romantic intent.
- Historians simply cannot know the answers to any of these vital questions,
and so cannot include the item in any serious historical analysis. Obvious
also is the high possibility that the carving may simply be a forgery,
(probably made to deliberately increase the item's sale value at auction).
Therefore it can only be used to enhance the myth of Ned Kelly, but
it cannot be used as evidence in the search to discover if Ned
Kelly was married or involved with a woman romantically.
For more info: see pages 1 | 2 | 3
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