Christian the lion at Sophistocat

Photo: © Virginia McKenna/

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Bill Travers and Christian the Lion in the Sophistocat Furniture Store
"We had a Gypsy caravan in our garden in Surrey, and my husband [Bill Travers] thought he was going to use it as an office, so he wanted a desk. We went to London one day when I was visiting my dressmaker, whose place was just near a furniture shop called Sophistocat. I was there for a little while, and when I came out and Bill wasn't there, I said to the dressmaker, 'That's really odd.' He said, 'Oh, they've got this animal with spots or stripes; I can't remember which.'

"Of course, I was absolutely agog with curiosity. I went to the shop, and, of course, there was Christian. So, the two young men who owned it, Ace and John, asked my husband if he had any ideas of what could happen, because Christian was getting too large to keep in the shop, and he was only 8 or 9 months at this point. Every time people came, he had to be put in the basement. My husband said, 'Would you agree for Christian to go to Kenya and be returned to the wild by George Adamson?' and they said yes."
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