The Life of Raoul Richards: Fine clothing hiding a secret

25 February 2019

“He must have spent it all!”
“He knew how to live!”

These words were offered up by cousins on his life when learning of the death of Raoul Richards, whose details were published on the Bona Vacantia’s unclaimed estates list a few years ago.

This was not particularly encouraging news, as we had hoped that Mr Richards would have a pleasant windfall to offer his next of kin. But the story was consistent. Raoul lived in a middling industrial town rather a long way from glamour and sophistication, for which the two-hour train journey to London was absolutely indispensable.

Raoul could remember the first time he arrived in London. The bright street lights, the intimate cosiness of that world-class icon, Piccadilly Circus, the fizz of neon, the vibrant colours and sounds of the stage musical being performed. This was home!

The only trouble is – it wasn’t. Home was a town somewhat more focused on the production of steel than designer Italian evening wear, and this was unlikely to change any time soon.

Raoul grew up to be a dapper young man, dressing well, arriving back from trips to the capital with boxes of New Italian and German shoes. He knew how to look good.

His father was a jolly man, always happy to have visitors.  His mother was probably much more isolated, being a long way from family. After their deaths, Raoul lived in rented accommodation in the same town he’d grown up in. Still visiting London, and still grateful to clothing for showing everyone that outwardly, everything was Just Fine.

Underneath all this, there was a problem. One that matched the suggestion that Raoul was struggling to keep his life together. Buried in the text of a phone call from a family member was the information that Raoul was the ‘I’ in LGBTQIA – born with male and female sex organs. It seems this was kept hush-hush but did rather explain what we knew.

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