A Harrods Lion “1969”.

Harrods really did sell everything

A cultural revolution, driven by youths born in the post war years, saw London change from a dreary, grey post war capital to a vibrant, hedonistic epicentre of expressionism and freedom.

It was the Swinging 60’s and in Chelsea London especially, Anything Really Did Go!


The world renowned Department Store Harrods had the reputation of selling absolutely everything. And you really could buy anything there

Christian was a lion cub

Born in the now defunct Ifracombe zoo park on 12th August 1969, purchased by Harrods and displayed in their menagerie the cub caught the attention of two Australian travellers John Rendall and Anthony “Ace” Bourke.

They fell in love

Suddenly and without question, Rendall and Bourke  knew that they simply needed a lion in their lives. Christian was purchased for around £260 and taken to the young men’s flat in Chelsea.

The whole concept may seem shocking today but to quote John Rendall

“Christian wasn’t the only wild cat in this world. His neighbour was a serval cat. There was a chap in Battersea with a puma. John Aspinall had his tigers in Eaton Square and there were cheetahs and cougars roaming around Regent Street.

“An exotic animal in London was just a part of exotic, experimental London. There were so many things going on. There was the fashion, the music. We would see the Stones and the Beatles driving up and down Kings Road. The Stones, who rehearsed around the corner, used to pop in and visit Christian frequently. In that milieu, we were just a couple of Aussies with a lion.”

Looking after Christian

The two men looked after Christian in their Chelsea flat for the first year and as he grew he spent more time in their Kings Road Furniture Shop SophistoCat. Here he had a giant litter tray and, reportedly, rarely caused damage to the furniture.

In hedonistic London Christian was fed on steak and frequently attended restaurants and glamourous parties. He took exercise with local children in the walled garden of a nearby churchyard. And his mode of transport to all of these events was sitting in the back of a Mercedes Cabriole.

After a chance meeting in their furniture store with Virginnia Mckenna and Bill Travers, stars of the film Born Free, it was suggested that Christian be introduced to George Adamson a British conservationist and advocate for lions in Africa. Together they had raised and released Elsa the lion upon whom the story Born Free was based.

Christian Was a Special Lion

An intricate plan was hatched  to rehabilitate Christian into the wild even though he had been born from five generations in captivity. Christian was a special lion and they knew that this was their only option.

The Kenyan government was not so keen on the idea and spent many months procrastinating  before finally making the decision to accept Christian. They all flew out to Africa and met with the Adamson’s and a semi- formed pride of lions.

Meeting “Boy”

Instinctively Christian knew how to behave when first introduce to an older male called Boy. The meeting could have proved fatal and was a heart stopping moment  for John and Ace. His submissive demeanour and good manners meant that Boy and Christian would stand side by side to lead their pride.

The Pride is Decimated

The pride suffered many set backs. Katania, a young lioness, is thought to have been killed and eaten by crocodiles at a watering hole. Another female was killed by a rival pride and Boy was severely injured.

Although he recovered,  Boy was no longer the same lion. He  seemed unable to socialise either with lions or humans.

Boy, now living outside the camp, attacked and injured one of Adamsons assistants. Adamson took his gun and shot Boy but was ultimately unable to save the life of the man who later succumbed to his injuries.

This left only Christian to establish a new pride .

Over the course of a year Adamson continued his work and Christian was able to establish his own pride in the Kora region.

A Successful Reintroduction

Christian’s reintroduction had been successful.

John and Ace heard  of the success story in 1972 and travelled to Africa again. They wanted to see Christian for themselves but were warned by Adamson that he may no longer remember them.

A documentary was made at the time called Christian, The Lion at World’s End.

Christian. A lion at World’s End

Will He Remember

John and Ace stand in the open as a fully grown male lion approaches, cautiously at first. Then Christian leaps playfully on top of the two men. Standing on hind legs he embraces them both, wrapping his front legs around their shoulders while nuzzling their faces. The rest of the pride, two lionesses and a foster cub also welcome the men.

In 1973/74 John and Ace returned once more to Africa. They were told the pride was successful and now rarely visited the camp. It was a long shot but none the less they hoped to see Christian leading his pride alongside the cubs he had sired.

The Final Goodbye

Adamson had not seen the pride for three  months however soon after reaching the camp  Christian had once more returned, joining them for lunch, knocking George Adamson over and jumping on the table .

Appearing to be twice the size since their last vist and with his lionesses and cubs in tow Cristian, John and Ace had an emotional reunion. They spent a happy nine days in the company of Christians Pride but  upon waking the following  day it was discovered that Christian had already taken his pride and left.

Adamson counted the days but the pride was never seen again, last spotted travelling North across the Tana River and headed towards Meru National Park.

A Broken Heart

John Rendall returned to London with a broken heart. “I felt happy for Christian as he was clearly content. But there was an overwhelming sense of loss and emptiness. He left this huge gap – it felt like empty nest syndrome. Ace went off travelling and I was alone.”




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