Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lowther Castle
Ancestral Seat of the Earls of Lonsdale

A much coveted weekend invitation here once meant guests being transported in yellow coaches with liveried outriders, or yellow Rolls Royces. Powder wigged footman escourted one to their bedroom by candle light each night. Everything was the height of luxury with every wish met. Now crumbling walls, open roofed to the skies, encroaching weeds and the still of silence are the tenor of the day where luxury once stood and commanded.

Lowther Castle is a country house in the historic county of Westmorland, which now forms part of the modern county of Cumbria, England. It has belonged to the Lowther family, latterly the Earls of Lonsdale, since the Middle Ages.

In the late 17th century John Lowther, 1st Viscount Lonsdale rebuilt the family home, then known as Lowther Hall, on a grand scale. The current building is a castellated mansion which was built by Robert Smirke between 1806 and 1814, and it was only at that time that Lowther was designated a "castle". The family fortune was undermined by the extravagance of the 5th Earl of Lonsdale, a famous socialite, and the castle was closed in 1937. During the Second World War, it was used by a tank regiment. Its contents were removed in the late 1940s and the roof was removed in 1957. The shell is still owned by the Lowther Estate Trust.

George Macartney, when visiting the summer retreat of the Chinese emperor in Chengde in 1793, could compare the magnificence of what he saw only with Lowther Hall:

"If any place in England can be said in any respect to have similar features to the western park, which I have seen this day, it is Lowther Hall in Westmoreland, which (when I knew it many years ago) from the extent of prospect, the grand surrounding objects, the noble situation, the diversity of surface, the extensive woods, and command of water, I thought might be rendered by a man of sense, spirit, and taste, the finest scene in the British dominions."

In 2000 the Lowther Estate and English Heritage jointly commissioned a team of historians, landscapers, architects and engineers to review the status of the castle and its grounds, and they produced the Lowther Castle & Garden Conservation Plan. In 2005 the estate formed an informal partnership with the Northwest Development Agency, English Heritage, Cumbria Vision and the Royal Horticultural Society to regenerate the site. The objectives are to consolidate the ruin, restore the 50-acre (200,000 m2) garden and open the site to the public. Sheppard Robson RIBA have been appointed as architects.

Lowther Castle will host the popular music festival Kendal Calling in 2010.


© 2009 The Esoteric Curiosa. All rights reserved.

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Sanjay Dalal is an innovator and entrepreneur with over fifteen years of leadership experience in Silicon Valley and High Tech companies. Dalal authored and launched the Innovation Faculty eBook and Definitive Guide on Creativity and Innovation in business in 2008, used by over 500 leading organizations and professionals all over the world including HP, Hallmark, Cleveland Clinic, Pepsi, EDS, and major universities. Dalal published over 200 articles in the last two years on the real-time state of innovation in business at this blog on Creativity and Innovation Driving Business, and introduced the Innovation Index in December 2006 that correlates business, innovation and stock performance. Dalal was the president and managing director of the innovative investment company, Innovation Index Group, that systematically invested into the Top 20 Innovators of the Innovation Index. Dalal filed joint U.S. Patent on "Hands-On Labs" for delivering live, hands-on training over Web Meetings by simulating a training lab environment. Dalal has launched innovative products such as WebEx Training Center and WebEx Sales Center to market, and grown product line revenue to tens of million dollars in annual revenue. Dalal holds executive certification on Leading Management Teams from Cornell University, and is an engineering scholar graduate in Electrical Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin. Dalal attended Arizona State University for graduate education in Computer Science. Dalal secured the first position in the 50th William Lowell Putnam Math Competition. Dalal volunteered as a basketball coach on three separate occassions for Fremont NJB, Irvine NJB, and Rancho Middle School 7th graders, as an art master for 2nd graders, and as the secretary of the School Site Council. Dalal was a member of the Technology Advisory Committee for the Fremont School District containing over 40,000 students, an appointed position by the Board of Education. Dalal is a Web 2.0 adviser for Cal State Fullerton, Extended Education and a lecturer on "Making the business case for Web 2.0". Dalal, an appointed member of the Dean's Leadership Circle of The Paul Merage School of Business, University of California, Irvine, is a guest lecturer at the University of California, Irvine for the Strategic Innovation class. Dalal is an active Rotarian at the Rotary Club of Newport-Irvine.

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The Innovation Index
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Mary Theresa Olivia Cornwallis-West
Fürstin von Pless
28.VI.1873 - 29.VI.1943
English Society Beauty, German Princess
International Hostess, Social Reformer,
Striver for Peace, Authoress, Penniless Refugee

Daisy, Princess of Pless

“The Edwardians In Love”
 Anita Leslie

There were three well known Daisys in Edwardian society – the famous Countess of Warwick, the Irish Countess of Fingall, and the Princess of Pless.

The last named was a tall blonde, whose Irish mother, Mrs. William Cornwallis-West, had been among the Prince’s flirts in the ‘eighties.  This Daisy had the rather doubtful luck of finding herself married off, aged eighteen, to the richest young prince in Europe. Her ingenuous diaries, revealing the differences of aristocratic life in Germany and England, are all the more interesting because they were never intended for publication. She writes frankly that ‘Dear Daisy’ is to receive her outpourings as if she addressed ‘a rather dotty friend’. The writer reveals more than is consciously intended.

I never met the Princess of Pless, but I knew her sister, Shelagh, Duchess of Westminster, and her brother the handsome George Cornwallis-West, who married Jennie Churchill.  Finally her son Hansel, who grew up in the vast castles where the Kaiser was an annual visitor, has corrected this chapter.  It is so easy to flounder into inaccuracies concerning the atmosphere of the Prussian and Austrian courts.

Patsy Cornwallis-West & Her Children

‘Patsy’ Cornwallis-West, the mother of Daisy, Shelagh and George, had been a beauty who bore all her children before the age of twenty-one.  Thereafter she devoted herself to pleasure, living chiefly in Ruthin Castle in Wales and Newlands Manor in Hampshire, and spending the summer season in London where she continued a liaison with the Prince of Wales for several years.  She was in fact the exception to his rule of avoiding very young married women.

While George was sent to the usual horrific boarding school, her two daughters were brought up like other girls of their class, running wild in the country, with a smattering of history and a lick of French and German, administered by a poor old governess in the schoolroom.

As the Prince of Wales, as well as Lord Charles Beresford (so prone to poach on each other’s preserves), frequently came to stay, Daisy met both these gallants as a little girl.  At the age of seventeen, knowing little except how to jump a horse and climb trees, she was brought to London, put into a long dress with a train and taken to curtsey to Queen Victoria.  Then she was ‘out’, and at the end of the three-month season of 1891 she found herself engaged to be married to Prince Hans of Pless: ‘Prince Henry proposed to me at a masked ball at Holland House.  I did not know what on earth to say or do.  I realized that my mother was ambitious and desired the match.  In those absurd days it was a big feather in a mother’s cap if she could marry a daughter off during her first season’. And the lovely Mrs. Cornwallis-West ‘was much too much accustomed to homage and admiration’ to want daughters clinging to her skirts.  They had no dowries, but the Prince of Wales kept an eye on both girls and his opinion carried weight. Advised by His Royal Highness, the heir of Pless would marry pretty Daisy and the richest duke in England her sister Shelagh.  Only George rebelled against the Prince’s wishes when he insisted on the impecunious, much older Jennie as his bride.  Daisy was easily dazzled, ‘I was to have hunters, jewels, castles, two ladies-in-waiting, visit England every year…it all sounded splendid and romantic…’

As the blue eyed tomboy, now a Countess of the Holy Roman Empire, wearing a diamond coronet, walked out of St. Margaret’s, Westminster, for the huge wedding reception arranged by her triumphant mother, she saw the Prince of Wales’ kindly, almost proprietary eyes, light up.  His farewell words were, ‘Learn to speak German and be a good subject’.

‘I began my married life totally unprepared for any of its experiences, duties or responsibilities.  Literally, I knew nothing.’

So without any knowledge of the facts of life the eighteen year old drove off with this handsome but rather frightening stranger who had suddenly become a husband, and found herself mistress of a palace in Silesia containing over six hundred rooms, and estates larger than most English counties.  Powdered footmen stood outside her bedroom door, Jägers followed when she galloped through the forest, the famous seven yard long rope of Pless pearls was wound around her throat and historic tiaras and necklaces were laid out for her, but she found the rigid etiquette of Berlin a dismal contrast to England.

Decorous manners prevailed in French and English society, but here she had to be taught that no man must be allowed to sit on a sofa beside a lady – that would be too intimate, insufficiently respectful – he must bring up a separate chair for himself.  Only a very elderly relation might share the sofa for a talk. It was impossible to go out driving in a carriage unless accompanied by some older lady, and only inconspicuous dark dresses could be worn when walking in Berlin.  What could be more unlike Hyde Park?

In each capital city the upper classes lived by rule, but London could be termed free and easy compared with Berlin and Vienna.  And how did these two differ? The Prussians were hard and efficient and tough and – according to Prince Hansel of Pless, who certainly ought to know, for his father’s principality was governed from Berlin – lacking in charm, whereas the Austrians were artistic, gay, cultured and attractively flirtatious.  The Emperor Franz Joseph and the Kaiser had mistresses who were well known and could, in our jargon, be called steadies.  But how, in either capital, might a love affair blossom between a well-born married woman and a man who was not her husband? Divorce did not exist. To meet alone was extremely difficult.  So what happened?

Prince Hansel, who was a boy of fourteen when the First War broke out, helps clarify amours in these old empires.  He says that when a man fell in love with a woman of the upper class his first thought had to be protection of her reputation.  He would not automatically try to seduce her for that was a grave matter and a gentleman did not necessarily feel he was a failure because he never reached his lady’s bed.  Yet romance floated in the air. Because a man may not show his feelings by touch or word or glance, because lovers never let their eyes meet in the ballroom, does not mean passion is lessened – on the contrary Great Love keeps well on a pedestal, and affairs of the heart which broke no outward rule were respected in Berlin and Vienna rather more than in the looser social structure of England. 

For historical and temperamental reasons the moralities of German and Austrian women differed.  The morality of Protestant Berlin was based on strict discipline; that of Catholic Vienna on the rules of the Roman Church.  The fact that English upper class women now regarded discreet husband-swapping as a sport slightly shocked Germans and Austrians. 

Despite, or perhaps because of, the apparent impossibility of illicit love affairs developing, the Kaiser’s sons, the Crown Prince and the younger Prince Joachim Albrecht, make passes at Daisy, whenever they get the chance.  ‘Dear Daisy’ learns when a hand is slipped into hers under the carriage rug, and when her elbow is taken rather closely to guide her to examine a picture.  In the palace, Prince Joachim in fact behaves quite idiotically, stealing her handkerchiefs which he carries away in sentimental ecstasy and so on.  Hans, her husband, never seems jealous. He is busy being unfaithful in Vienna‘Dear Diary’ learns this when Daisy makes herself miserable by opening a letter by mistake.  But then Hans is a man, one could not expect men to be faithful, they are different, they don’t represent the home. 

Whatever frowns Hans causes his wife, she herself remains firm with the Crown Prince, reprimanding him for little indiscretions and insisting that some at least of her stolen handkerchiefs are retrieved from the doting Prince Joachim.  Amidst all the grandeur it is interesting to note that the daughter of an English country gentleman was considered a fit mate for any prince in Europe.  From rambling entries we get sidelights concerning the England for which Daisy is homesick.  That ambitious mama works hard to marry her second daughter.  In 1896 Daisy makes this entry:  ‘Gerry Cadogan has proposed to Shelagh but of course it wouldn’t do; he has only a thousand a year.’ (The Earl Cadogan owned a slice of fashionable London, but rents were small in those days.) Later on: ‘The Ilchesters are quite anxious for her to marry their son, he is too shy to propose, and Shelagh says he is too young and will not encourage him one bit; he is only twenty-two but I think she is throwing away a good chance, as a woman is almost bound to fall in love with the man who gives her everything – houses, jewels, horses, every penny she has, and later on her children; in fact the one to whom she owes everything – just as Hans gives me everything, and is so good and dear…’

Eventually, England’s richest duke would swim into sight, and the story of how he got hooked has been related before.

This marriage took place in February 1901, but in spite of the fact that ‘Bend-Or’ Westminster (named after his grandfather’s Derby winner of 1879) gave his bride ‘presents not unworthy of an Empress,’ the end of the story was not as Daisy predicted must be the case when a man gives a woman 'every penny she has.’ After the birth of three children and the sad loss of an only son, the duchess divorced her ‘great catch’.

Effortlessly, the Princess of Pless describes the disappointment that most wives know at some time, when they have been romanticizing over an absent husband and the wretch returns home exhausted and bilious.  ‘I was asleep when Hans arrived – very tired and rather liverish…I wanted him to take me in his arms and be very dear to me, but – he was just as usual; he might never have been away at all.’

Daisy had been married eleven years before ‘Dear Diary’ learns of a persistent lover.  But she destroys his letters over five years, although they were ‘perfect examples of devotion’ and he finally moved on to Vienna: ‘At last he has made up his mind he cannot live like this and he will take his pleasure in Vienna. He will probably live with some woman – possibly even a lady I may know.  But this had nothing to do with me…nor do I care more for him because I know he has been living almost a saintly life all these years; sometimes I have let him kiss me on the forehead.’  Later she writes: ‘How I wish I had kept or could keep all the love letters I receive,’  but virtuously she adds: ‘I have always refused to accept even playful admiration from a married man.’

Despite unshakeable rules of behavior in both capitals, Vienna presented the climate for romance whereas Berlin tended to spread a frost.  The Crown Prince naturally considers England the gayest place.  He tells Daisy: ‘My mother is always in a fever if I or my father go to England,’ and she laughs thinking of the prudish Empress in a black frock with a large, un-tightened waist.’…she must have an extra supply of breath to enable her to gasp at her fantastic notions of all the horrible temptations that her husband and son have to resist in the dangerous little isle.’

There were very real dangers for silly princes, however.  During a ball given by Shelagh Westminster in old Grosvenor House, the Crown Prince disappeared. Embarrassed equerries and detectives eventually tracked him to a bedroom where he was taking a rest from official duties with a certain notorious peeress. Next day His Imperial Highness sent a magnificent jewel to this lady without realizing it was one of the German Crown Jewels and not therefore at his disposal.  The Kaiser furiously demanded the jewel back through his German Ambassador.  The lady said ‘No’. Ambassadors grew red-faced during this ‘scandal of the season’, but it was finally settled without the Press finding out.  The Kaiser won.

Living in Germany, Daisy of Pless saws her own country with a fresh eye.  She praises the English habit of separating husbands’ and wives’ bedrooms.  When Hans came to her room ‘he was quite pleased with himself, and then we laughed and talked together and he said, ‘I shall see you tomorrow – On, I forgot you were my wife.’ The sentence explains what I mean; 'there was something unusual in his having to come right along a passage past other doors and then leave quietly on tiptoe as if he (and I too) had been doing something wrong; and there is a little air of mystery about it which is amusing and therefore more tempting.’

This is a truly Edwardian point of view.  Throughout the whole epoch no sound is more exciting than the creak of a board in a corridor late at night.

On January 6, 1903 comes a long entry written at Chatsworth where the Plesses joined a large house party and we see the famous Louisa, the Double Duchess, in pomp of her old age.  ‘Arrived here late last night, dressed in a great hurry but got downstairs in good time.  The Duchess of Devonshire is marvelous and looks marvelous for her seventy-four years.  Always very décolleté in the evening with dresses that only a woman of thirty should wear, and yet she really does not seem dressed too young; she generally has a wreath of green leaves in her hair (or rather wig!). This evening being Twelfth Night we all danced around the Christmas Tree, Soveral leading the Duchess, then the girls and I ducked for an apple.’

The ‘girls’ consisted of the Duke of Connaught’s two daughters Margaret and Patricia; other guests included the Tecks, Lord and Lady de Grey and the Desboroughs, along with ‘Mr. Balfour, bland, smiling, and with a rare, rather old fashioned courtesy towards women which is sweet.’ They cut a cake containing charms and ‘the Prime Minister, Mr. Balfour, got a little golden heart – perhaps to make up for the real one that he missed years ago!’ She must mean Mary Elcho.

The Italian Vittoria di Sermoneta, who came to England every year and also stayed at Chatsworth, gives us a last picture of the great Louisa: ‘Talking of racing makes me think of the old Duchess of Devonshire, who was a great personage in King Edward’s set, and attended every race meeting.  She was very old when I knew her and always stiffly corseted, whilst her face wore the fixed expression of a monk, I was very frightened of her, but fascinated at the same time, as I had heard so much of her wonderful beauty and charm, so I used to study her from as near as I could to see if I could discover any traces of this.'

‘At the races she always sat on a bench like a stone image, quite immovable and stupendously dignified.  One day I was rewarded by seeing her pull up her skirts and produce a purse from a bag secreted among her petticoats.  “Put two pounds on Cream Tart”, she said to one of her satellites.  It sounded like the voice of an oracle.'

In these days after the turn of the century the duke, who had always been somnolent, dropped off to sleep rather too easily on public occasions.  He once recounted a splendid story about having a terrible nightmare that he was making a dull speech in the House of Lords, and waking up to find it was true!

During her week in London, Daisy dined with the younger Duchess of Manchester (Louisa’s American daughter-in-law) to meet King Edward.  ‘He told me I was très en beauté, I always feel rather shy when he talks like that.’

Except for Mrs. Keppel, the other women at the dinner were also Americans – Lady Lister-Kaye and Lady Essex.  The King let himself go, speaking ‘very freely (too freely) about Germany….On several occasions the other women turned apologetically to me, but the King said, “Oh Daisy doesn’t mind; being married to a German does not make her change her national feelings.”  I thought neither does it make one insensible, so I let them go on arguing and talking about everything, and when they had finished I had my say at them, and then dropped my fan and someone coming to pick it up, caused a change in the conversation.'

The fact that Daisy scribbled nightly in a diary not intended for publication makes her feelings about King Edward, whom she had known so long, and the Kaiser who visited her every year, very interesting.  After all, these two men were the only human beings capable of influencing the forces which were leading to that war of 1914.

Daisy of Pless once witnessed the Kaiser’s chagrin of the discord between England and Germany. ‘He said, “Oh I am always misunderstood, there is no one living to tell the truth to me,” and a tear fell on his cigar.  I was at once touched and antagonized. The act of weeping into his cigar, so typically German, somehow put me off.’

And yet she liked him, and he could be very funny about the discomforts of staying in her castle in the past.  Of his icy, carpet less bedroom he exclaimed, ‘Did they think I wanted to skate!’ Daisy comically describes his moustache waxed up until it nearly goes into his eyes, and his dozens of uniforms.  She thinks she must find out if he has one for ‘the private occasion’ when alone in his wife’s bedroom.

‘The mornings were spent stalking or shooting.  Luncheon began at three-thirty and went of for an hour and a half or even two hours….Dinner began at ten o’clock…The men wore uniform, the women wore their smart clothes, the contents more or less of the family jewel chest and tiaras and both men and women Orders and Decorations.  I loathed those meals.  I do not for a moment wish to insinuate that the Kaiser was a tedious guest.  Far from it, he was always delightful.  It was the proceedings during his stay which were such a bore.  King Edward, naturally genial, human and unassuming hated the Kaiser’s pose and swagger, which, by the way, was largely assumed.  When the Kaiser unbent he could be most human and interesting and it was well known that with his own particular male cronies he could be very unbent indeed.’

In June 1903, she writes:  'I lunched with Alice Keppel before leaving for Berlin; three or four of the women present had had several lovers, and did not mind saying so, but I can generally placer myself in any milieu.  Alice is fascinating.’

On the day after her twenty-ninth birthday, which she spent at Kiel, Daisy lunched on the Hohenzollern with the Kaiser and his Empress, who ‘all paid me extravagant compliments over my toilette.  I would not wear a feathered hat on the sea, so wore a lace and embroidered frock with pink around my waist and a pink bebe washing hat with pink ribbon.  My dear diary, I am really not vain, for honestly I cannot see where my beauty lies.  This is what I am really like:  I would look much plumper if I did not wear long and well-made French corsets; blue eyes with fair eye lashes which I make black; pretty colored fair hair: good eyebrows, straight yet somehow turned-up nose; short upper lip with the two front teeth rather longer than the others (like a rabbit or a mouse I think), thick bottom-lip and a very slight double chin – which I keep in hand by dint of frequent massage.  There is nothing to boast about in that, is there?’

As she matured, Daisy tried to encourage a happier relationship between the German royal family and the German-hating Queen Alexandra.  When the Kaiser’s stodgy wife, who looked so much older than her spouse, would gather the ladies around her, it resembled a Quaker meeting.  Daisy wrote: 'They were all so shy with her, but I never am; I saw she liked it if one kept the conversation going quietly for nothing is so awful as a dead silence in such gatherings; until someone coughs or giggles, and then a brave on mumbles faintly something which no one hears, and everyone says, Hem! "What” and it turns out that whatever she had said was not worth repeating; then everyone looks at everyone else to see who is going to speak next.’

There is an amusing description of the first rich Americans to bring their yachts to Kiel. The Cornelius Vanderbilts arrived on their North Star, and the Plesses dined aboard.  Later the men left for beer drinking ashore, ‘but in about an hour, to my astonishment, the launch reappeared with several men and Prince Henry (the Kaiser’s brother) who disappeared below with Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, our hostess, a fascinating (though snobbish) little American, but with much charm; I always imagined the Prince stiff and shy, certainly without a soupcon of flirtation but – still waters run deep: I think, too, he saw a good deal of her during his visit to the United Sates.’

Vivacious American women with their large fortunes and elegant clothes could lead most European noblemen by the ear, but no American heiress wanted to marry a German – the great prize was an Englishman.  Daisy remarks about young Miss Goelet who was to marry the Duke of Roxburghe later that year.  'How I would hate to be May Goelet, all those odious little Frenchmen, and dozens of others crowding round her millions.’ An English duke does not crowd around – he merely accepts a millionaires.

At Fürstenstein there were large shoots on the English model – eight hundred pheasants shot in a morning – and in the evening’s music and dancing.  Daisy not only sang in public but did Spanish dances for the astounded German nobility.  Anxiously her mother-in-law told her to be careful to catch only the top skirt ‘for once or twice you caught the underskirt too, and one could see up to your knee.’ How lucky were men in those days when the mere sight of an ankle could heighten their blood pressure. Daisy’ diary record of the Chatsworth house party of January 1904 stresses how the people of Edward’s Set, the people of this book, kept meeting over and over again in the same great houses.

On this occasion the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire gave their Twelfth Night party for Edward and Alexandra: ‘The Queen is as charming and beautiful as always, and the King very well and in good spirits….The King has his Bridge with Mrs. Keppel who is here – with lovely clothes and diamonds – in a separate room, and in the other rooms people are massed together, also of course playing Bridge.  Generally, to amuse the Queen I am made to go and sing and dance in the corridor where the band is….’ The Elchos and Desboroughs were present among the twenty or so house guests, with two of Louisa’s own granddaughters and Princess Victoria – now thirty-five.

‘The last evening was very cheerful: the Queen danced a waltz with Soveral, and then we each took off our shoes to see what difference is made in our height.  The Queen took, or rather kicked hers off, and then got into everyone else’s – even Willie Desborough’s old pumps.  I never saw her so free and cheerful – but always graceful in everything she does.’

But there was nothing graceful about the sharpening Princess Victoria, as she watched this asinine gambol.  She belonged no where, not with the Duchess’s granddaughters – simpering virgins awaiting proposals from well propertied eldest sons – nor with the young marrieds whose conversations had to be adjusted slightly when a spinster was present.  Perhaps she found contact with Lady Maud Warrender and Lord Howe, who were both musical; or with the King’s intelligent Jewish friends, the Sassoons – but she could never be relaxed, nor was she ever out of her mother’s sight.

Daisy of Pless had been married twelve years by the time ‘Dear Diary’ gets on its pages a certain old friend.  ‘When I shut my eyes and think of Cairo. I walk in that desert sand with him; or I lean from the window of my rooms to look at the purple sky in bright moon, the shadows of palm trees, I see him waving us good night, and I hear his steps and the clink of his spurs down the silent path.  Then he was a soldier; now he drudges in the City to make gold…On arriving here (Grosvenor House, London) I found another letter asking if he might come and see me.  I shall let him come to tea…I cannot think what is the matter with me lately…I feel something in me that aches to emerge and meet something deeply responsive…’

She is too naïve to analyze her discontent.

The personages of this book are always staying at Chatsworth.  By 1907, Queen Alexandra looks ‘just as she has for the last sixteen years…Princess Victoria has never become much known to the general public. In spite of her reserve, fastidiousness and natural shyness she is full of fun and cheeriness and can be a great asset at a house party….’ This poor little Princess carried her pathetic remnant of gaiety on to the end.  Again we hear that Lady de Grey is expressing disapproval at the new habit of placing lovers’ photographs on the mantelpiece while relegating husband’s photos to drawers.

‘Mr. Balfour, was urbane, smiling, amused, and took a surprisingly intense interest in everything that went on.  Somehow one does not expect a great philosopher statesman and writer to be human! As for dear Alice Keppel, she was inimitable.  What spirit, wit and resilience that woman has!....The Queen was as charming and sweet as ever and gave me a dear little fire-opal and diamond brooch for Christmas.  She is a darling.  It was the same huge party as usually, only Soveral was furious; he was rather the man out, which as a rule he never is…Soveral generally went down and smoked a cigar alone in the smoking room….Lord Elcho, Lord Desborough and Muriel Wilson played dominoes with Lady de Grey.’

As was usual at all big house parties, when royalty was present the women wore tiaras at dinner and the men wore their Orders and decorations.  Sir Frederick Ponsonby, attending his royal master at this Chatsworth winter party, recorded: ‘I sat next the Duchess a very clever shrewd woman who pretended to be the reverse.  She was in a delightful mood, most witty and amusing, and she told me many stories of the old days.’

Ponsonby describes the amateur theatricals: ‘Lady Maud Warrender sang, but she seemed too big for the tiny stage and certainly her voice was too powerful for the room.  But Daisy of Pless looked lovely – singing dressed as a geisha, and then in white fur and short skirts while snow fell on her.’

Ponsonby gives us one final view of the Duke of Devonshire who was now seventy-one and had quitted politics after much bother over Tariff Reform. He was, according to all who worked for him, the most courteous and thoughtful gentleman with a great feeling for people and a desire to let others enjoy the treasures he had inherited, but social activity bored him. ‘While everything was beautifully managed anything left to the Duke to decide was invariably forgotten…With so large a party it was impossible for all the men to shoot, and yet, the Duke never selected the guns till very late at night so the list was only made known the next morning.  No once could discover the principle on which the guns were chosen, but of course there was no principle.  If the Duke happened to be sleepy he simply said “The same guns as before”.’

Lord Rosebery once left Chatsworth in a fury because he came down to breakfast in shooting clothes only to be informed by his valet that he had better change as he was not on the shooting list.  Of course the Duke proffered apologies when he learnt of the incident but it shows how casual he could be. Maybe it might have been possible for ‘Skittles’ to catch him in a sleepy mood and get herself married to him in the long ago.  It would indeed have been extraordinary if the Liberal statesman had been lassoed by that equestrian cocotte.  He did not like to be bothered and let Louisa boss him right up into old age. He had never read Milton and when he found Paradise Lost in the library one day, he began to read it to the librarian, exclaiming at intervals at his discovery: ‘How fine it is – how very fine.’ But Louisa entered and poked him with her parasol. ‘If he starts reading poetry he will never get out for his walk.’

No one realized that this party at Chatsworth was the last of its kind for in the spring the Duke would die at Cannes, and his property would be inherited by a nephew.  As he lay dying he seemed to be reminiscing to himself.  His last words were: 'Well, the game is over and I’m not sorry.’

Daisy of Pless had acquired a critical foreigner’s eye:  ‘It always interested and astonished me to note how much more truly King Edward was appreciated abroad than at home…The King’s great flair for foreign affairs arose from the fact that for thirty years he had watched the eddies of international politics from a position of great eminence divorced from direct responsibility…The European press saw in his Continental visits nothing but social jaunts whereas they were, behind the façade of amusement, serious missions.’

During the summer of 1909 (the last of the King’s reign), Daisy of Pless makes her most perceptive entries.  On 24th July, while staying at Cliveden with the American Mr. and Mrs. Astor (who were both to enter the British House of Commons – Nancy as the first woman Member), she wrote; 'The house is full of as people, among them being Sophie Torby and the Grand Duke Michael (morganatically married), and Winston Churchill, who sat next to me at dinner.  I am awfully sorry for him, he is like a race-horse wanting to start at once – even on the wrong racetrack; he has so much impetuousness that he cannot hold himself back, and he is too clever and has too much personal magnetism…At present his politics are all personal, the politics of an American advertiser. He is not happy if he is not always before the public, and he may some day be Prime Minister – and why not, he has energy and brains.’

Later on that summer Daisy went to Cowes and sailed in the Britannia with Mrs. Keppel.  King Edward had caused good manners.  When he asked Daisy to stay on a day she hesitated because all her clothes were packed, and he did not insist…’he is so nice always – and said, “Think it over and do what you like.”’

In December 1909 Daisy visited her sister Shelagh Westminster during the King’s last visit to Eaton Hall.  She mentioned the Kaiser’s eagerness for a treaty between England and Germany.’” Yes,” said the King with a laugh, “and what would France and Russia say?”’ Being a mere woman, Daisy thought France ought to be delighted, as if war did break out the Kaiser’s forces would have to march through French fields and French towns.

One afternoon, when Mrs. Keppel had wished to accompany Daisy on a drive to visit the latter’s grandmother – Lady Olivia Fitzpatrick, the mother of ‘Patsy’ Cornwallis-West – King Edward insisted on accompanying them and they arrived unannounced, ‘he made outrageous love to the old lady and in a few minutes they were both flirting desperately.  Granny never could resist flirting and neither could the King.  He asked, '“Is it true that my Mother sent you away from Court for trying to flirt with my father?” “I can’t quite remember, Sir; most likely I want to – he was a very good looking man – besides all the Coburgs inherit a roving eye.” This shaft the King did not try to parry.’

When six months later news of Edward’s death reached Germany, Daisy would write: 'As well as a great King, he was the kindest gentleman and truest friend…..the face of England has changed overnight.’

The Prince of Pless corroborated this, in a solemn statement: “You will go there to see your parents and I to get my breeches and that is all.”


© 2009 The Esoteric Curiosa. All Rights Reserved.

31.X.1955 - Great Britain's Princess Margaret Rose announced she would not marry Royal Air Force Captain Peter Townsend. Thereby placing country, empire and duty before her own heart and thus setting course for a troubled future with society photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones.

Group Captain Peter Wooldridge Townsend,
CVO, DSO, DFC and Bar, RAF
22.XI.1914 – 19.VI.1995

He was born 1914 in Rangoon, Burma and educated at Haileybury School. He joined the Royal Air Force in 1933, and trained at Cranwell. He served in Training Command, and as a flying instructor at RAF Montrose. He was stationed at RAF Tangmere in 1937. By 1940, now a Squadron Leader, he was attached to No. 43 Squadron RAF. He was a Wing Commander on night operations, at RAF Hunsdon from 1941, and became Commanding Officer RAF Drew and No. 611 Squadron RAF, a Spitfire unit.

On July 17, 1941 he married (Cecil) Rosemary Pawle (1921–2004) with whom he had two sons, Giles (b. 1942) and Hugo (b. 1945). They divorced in 1952 and Rosemary later married John de László (son of the painter Philip de László) and became the third wife of the 5th Marquess Camden in 1978.

Townsend was one of the notable pilots of the Battle of Britain serving through the battle as CO of No. 85 Squadron RAF which flew Hawker Hurricanes, continuing to lead the unit even after being wounded in action.

Townsend was later leader of No. 605 Squadron RAF, a night fighter unit, and attended the staff college from October 1942. In January 1943 he was appointed Commanding Officer of RAF West Malling. He was promoted Group Captain in 1948.

In 1944 he was appointed temporary equerry to King George VI. In the same year the appointment was made permanent, and he served until 1953, when he became Extra Equerry, an honorary office he held until his death. In August 1950 he was made deputy Master of the Household and was moved to comptroller to the Queen Mother in 1952. He retired from the Royal Household in the next year, and was air attaché in Brussels 1953 to 1956.

Group Captain Townsend is best known for his ill-fated romance with Princess Margaret. Despite his distinguished career, as a divorced man, there was no chance of marriage with the princess, and their relationship caused enormous controversy in the mid 1950s. He later married a Belgian woman, Marie-Luce Jamagne. Ironically Margaret herself would be divorced in 1978.

He was one of several military advisors to the 1969 film Battle of Britain.

Peter Townsend spent much of his later years writing non-fiction books. Books by Peter Townsend include "Earth My Friend" (about driving/boating around the world alone in the mid 1950s), "Duel of Eagles," (about the Battle of Britain), "The Odds Against" Us (also known as "Duel in the Dark") (about fighting Luftwaffe night bombers in 1940-1941), "The Last Emperor" (A biography of King George VI), The Girl in the White Ship (about a young refugee from Vietnam in the late 1970s who was the sole survivor of her ship of refugees), The Postman of Nagasaki (about the atomic bombing of Nagasaki), and Time and Chance, (an autobiography). He also wrote many short articles and contributed to other books.

He was a CVO (1947), DSO (1941) and DFC (1940 and bar). Townsend died of stomach cancer in 1995, at the age of 80, in Rambouillet, France.

His son Giles Townsend is President of the "Cambridge Bomber and Fighter Society"; his son Hugo Townsend is married to Yolande, Princesse de Ligne.


© 2009 The Esoteric Curiosa. All Rights Reserved.

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