“I should have been asking myself all the right questions,” Kingsland writes. “Did I really want this? Was it safe? Would I get into trouble? Of all these questions, the last one was surely the most important, drummed into me from all our conversations back at school. Girls who did it, got into trouble. But I had decided it was time to grow up, become a woman. And I couldn’t think of anyone I would rather lose my virginity to than this man, whose beauty and power astonished me each time I looked at him….The thought was no longer frightening to me.”
Virgin or not, the 14-year-old Rose already felt grown up. Since the age of nine, she had been taking care of her posh, but perpetually broke, family.
“I had a great sense of responsibility for looking after my family. I had more or less been doing the cooking, cleaning and chores,” Kingsland says, adding she was more of a parent than a child to her mother. “My mother suffered from incredible depression, although we didn’t know what it was called then. My father would escape out of the house, my mother would escape inside the house.”
Indeed, Kingsland’s parents were so oblivious to their children’s comings and goings (her younger brother Freddy had lain in bed for days with an abscess in his eye before anyone even noticed he was missing) that Kingsland was free to sneak in and out of the house for her meetings at the Covent Garden flat.
Almost inevitably, Kingsland became pregnant. Burton arranged for an abortion and the relationship fizzled after that. The two only met once more — after Burton saw Kingsland by chance in her uniform and discovered how old she was.
“It was a time when the word jailbait didn’t exist, and Richard told me it was the most dangerous thing he had ever done. He said it was illegal. It never occurred to me in that moment that what we were doing was so serious,” says Kingsland. (Never mind that Burton was already married to Sybil Williams and having a simultaneous affair with actress Claire Bloom, which Kingsland knew nothing about at the time).