Saltburn’s Catton Family Tree Explained

Summary

  • Saltburn is a psychological thriller centered around the Catton family and their affluent lifestyle.
  • Felix Catton, the object of Oliver’s obsession, is portrayed as charming and kind-hearted despite his privilege.
  • The Cattons, including Lady Elspeth and Sir James, experience tragic deaths, with Oliver carrying out a twisted plan for inheritance.


Warning: this article contains spoilers for Saltburn

Mention of murder and suicide

At the center of Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn is Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi) and the affluent Catton family, whose lavish lifestyle is presented through the perspective of a lower-class outsider. Written and directed by Emerald Fennell, Saltburn is a 2023 psychological thriller about an Oxford student named Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) who develops an obsession with Felix Catton, a popular fellow student at Oxford. After telling Felix that his dad had died, Oliver is invited to spend the summer of 2007 at the Catton family’s Saltburn estate.

The Cattons are an aristocratic British family who live in the absurdly massive Saltburn estate in Northamptonshire, England. Despite their excessive wealth, they indulge in certain informalities while valuing others immensely, making it difficult for a newcomer like Oliver to adjust to their upper-class ways (or so it seemed). The Cattons are prominent socialites who have widespread connections to British high society, and have many historical artifacts and valuable art in their possession at Saltburn. Though there are certainly more family members in the Catton lineage, Saltburn only features five named Catton characters onscreen (and one offscreen).

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Felix Catton

Played by Jacob Elordi

Felix Catton is the only son of Sir James and Lady Elspeth Catton, and Venetia Catton’s only sibling. He attends Oxford along with Oliver, and quickly becomes the object of Oliver’s twisted obsession. Felix is very good-looking and naturally charming, which attracts a lot of sexual attention. In Oliver’s own words, “Everyone loved [Felix]. Everyone wanted to be around him.” While he is blinded by privilege in many ways, Felix is portrayed as relatively kind-hearted and seems to be a bit more conscious of the absurdity of his wealth than the rest of his family, though he still reaps the benefits.

After finding out the truth about Oliver’s family situation and officially ending their friendship, Felix turns up dead at the center of the Saltburn hedge maze, still wearing his angel wings from Oliver’s Midsummer Night’s Dream-themed birthday party the night before. His cause of death is not explicitly stated at first, but it’s implied to be a drug overdose after Oliver exposes Farleigh for “racking up lines” of cocaine the night Felix died. It is later revealed that Felix was murdered by Oliver, who poisoned his bottle of champagne, presumably with a lethal dose of cocaine.

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Sir James Catton

Played by Richard E. Grant

Sir James Catton (Richard E. Grant) sitting at the table, wearing glasses, with a napkin tucked in his shirt in Saltburn.

Sir James Catton is the patriarch of the Catton family. He is the much older husband of Lady Elspeth Catton, father of Felix and Venetia Catton, and maternal uncle of Farleigh Start. James is rather eccentric and overenthusiastic about niche interests. While he seemed to enjoy Oliver’s company during his extended stay at Saltburn, after Venetia’s death, James asks Oliver to leave for fear of him growing too close to his wife. He ends up paying off Oliver and goes on to live several more years until he dies of natural causes at an unknown age, leaving the Saltburn estate in Elspeth’s name.

Lady Elspeth Catton

Played by Rosamund Pike

Lady Elspeth Catton (Rosamund Pike) holding a drink in Saltburn.

Lady Elspeth Catton is the matriarch of the Catton family. She is the much younger wife of Sir James Catton, mother of Felix and Venetia Catton, and maternal aunt by marriage to Farleigh Start. Though she falsely claims that she’s “never wanted to know anything,” Elspeth is incredibly nosy and often inserts herself into other people’s business, insisting that “absolutely nothing shocks [her].” Though she purports to be compassionate, Elspeth is quite manipulative and judgemental behind people’s backs.

After losing her two children and her husband, Elspeth is the last Catton standing at Saltburn. Years after Felix and Venetia’s deaths and shortly after James’, Elspeth runs into Oliver, seemingly at random. She invites him to come back to Saltburn with her where they spend the last few months of her life together. She becomes very ill under unknown circumstances and falls into a coma, but not before leaving Oliver the Saltburn estate in her will. After telling a comatose Elspeth about the evil plan he’s been carrying out all this time, Oliver unplugs Elspeth’s life support, effectively killing her and inheriting the Saltburn property.

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Venetia Catton

Played by Alison Oliver

Venetia Catton (Alison Oliver) looking deeply disturbed while pouring wine into an overflowing glass in Saltburn.

Venetia Catton is the only daughter of Sir James and Lady Elspeth Catton, and Felix Catton’s only sibling, though it is unclear if Venetia or Felix is the older sibling. Venetia is a heavy smoker and drinker who struggles with bulimia and various mental health issues. Despite her family’s wealth, she has a disheveled party girl look, with smudged makeup, visible roots, and chipped nail polish. Based on her sometimes erratic behavior and her mother’s cruel characterization of her, Venetia seems to have rather low self-esteem.

When Oliver approaches Venetia while she’s drunk in the bathtub following Felix’s death, the two have a charged and tense confrontation. Shortly after, Venetia is found dead, appearing to have taken her life by slitting her wrists and bleeding out in the tub. Oliver later reveals that he placed the blades on the tub and presumably slit her wrists himself, though it’s possible he simply drove her to her breaking point until she did it herself.

Farleigh Start

Played by Archie Madekwe

Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) showing the sleeves of his tuxedo to Farleigh Start (Archie Madekwe) in Saltburn.

Farleigh Start is the nephew of Sir James and Lady Elspeth Catton, and the cousin of Felix and Venetia Catton. Farleigh attends Oxford with Felix and Oliver and lives with the Cattons at Saltburn. According to Felix, Farleigh “practically grew up with” the Cattons. Unlike the Cattons, though, Farleigh is American and mixed race, which creates some unspoken tension between them at times. James started paying for Farleigh’s education because he felt guilty for cutting Farleigh’s mother off financially, though Felix claims Farleigh’s already been expelled from “almost every school in England.”

Farleigh is not fond of Oliver and does not approve of him staying at Saltburn. After he gets caught allegedly trying to sell some valuable plates to Sotheby’s, Farleigh gets kicked out of Saltburn, though it is later revealed that Oliver framed him. Upon Farleigh’s return, Oliver frames him again, this time for Felix’s overdose. Oliver suggests that Farleigh had been providing Felix with the cocaine that eventually killed him, and Farleigh is kicked out of the Saltburn estate and the Cotton family for good. He may have returned to his mother in America, but this is unconfirmed.

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Frederica Start (née Catton)

Never appears onscreen

Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) stands at the gates of the Saltburn estate with his suitcase in Saltburn.

Frederica Start is James Catton’s sister, Lady Elspeth Catton’s sister-in-law, Farleigh Start’s mother, and Felix and Venetia Catton’s paternal aunt. Frederica is mentioned several times throughout Saltburn but never appears onscreen. Like the rest of the Cattons, Frederica was somewhat of a local celebrity due to her family’s wealth, as demonstrated by Farleigh and Oliver’s professor’s admiration of her despite never having met her.

When she was 19 years old, Frederica ran away to America to “escape the cold-heart English” and ended up “marr[ying] a lunatic,” according to Felix. Frederica’s husband apparently spent all of her money and “a fair chunk” of James’ money too, at which point James cut her off financially. Frederica still resides somewhere in America and Farleigh claims she can’t pay her bills and will soon end up “living in squalor at the rate she’s going, while the Cattons live in luxury. It is unknown whether she or Farleigh inherited any of the Cattons’ wealth after their collective deaths at the end of Saltburn.

Saltburn

Release Date
November 17, 2023

Director
Emerald Fennell

Writers
Emerald Fennell