I was a Civil War freak first, then became attracted to Older Man–Younger Woman romances. If you are reading this between the lines, it is screaming Scarlett and Rhett! Yes, I was a Gone With the Wind Addict in Middle School. Much later I learned that none other than that former U.S. Senator and Secretary of War, turned traitor aka, Jefferson Davis, was himself the husband to a much younger bride. So, when I read of this novel’s publication I knew I’d devour it. And I did.
The Novel’s Story
The book is told in that conventional way of a “present day” [in this case, very early 20th Century] story and a remembered time. In this case, Varina Howell Davis is meeting with a man whom she had mothered for a few years during the Civil War when he was an abused child and she his rescurer.
Varina remembers her life as the daughter of a man who couldn’t hold on to money, of her arrival into the odd household of Jeff Davis’ older brother and then her life as Mrs. Jefferson Davis in all of it’s interesting forms.
I was entranced by Frazier’s writing–this was my introduction to his work so I absolutely wrapped my self in his prose. It is so beautifully written. I was listening to the audio so the pages and pages of quotes I wanted to take down didn’t get written down, which is sad.
Here is the one I managed to write down in parking lot:
“Since then, South and North have been busy constructing new memories, new histories, fictions fighting to become facts…”
And one I committed to memory:
“…a genius at inflicting love….”
Beautiful, evocative, memorable writing like this tells the entire story.
As I have read–devoured, really, Mary Chestnut’s Diary, I was very familar with the war-time life of Varina Davis. Mary Chestnut and Varina were dear friends. I thought Frazier got these parts so right. I have read one biography (see below) of Varina as well. Frazier embodied her the way I had constructed her in my mind. Intellectual, but caring. Independent, but but not stand-offish. Her voice in this book was fully authentic to my ears.
I liked that Frazier gave Mary, the First Lady of the Confederacy, the same sorts of struggles all women faced–feeding the children, keeping her marriage going, on stupidity of the war. She has to cope with situations that are far too trying for anyone. She also must deal with the almost total abscence of her husband due to the war. With a large family of young children, this was very difficult. Opiates, so destructive today, are not new–women were often prescribed them for hysteria or melancholia. Varina having them in wine was a truthful reaction to the stress of a life she could not control. This was breath-takingly honest.
I also liked (no spoilers) the end of Jefferson Davis’ life–when the ugly head of jealousy rearerd itself in Varina’s very independent heart. That was wonderul. As she said, elsewhere in the book, no one knows the real truth of a marriage but the two people in it. This beautifully illustrated that sentiment.
I was also struck again that a nation founded by “traitors” did not then execute the next generation of “traitors.” It occured to me again, that this is the heart of America. Davis was imprisoned, but as is pointed out in the book, why hang him and have him become a rival martyr to Lincoln?
Trivia: Did you know that the first (childless) Mrs. Jefferson Davis was the daughter of President Zachary Taylor? True!
I loved the book, but there were two things that troubled me just a little. Two tiny things. I understand there have always been cynics, always been people who loatehd organized religion or who went to church just to keep up appearances, but I found some of the comments made by characters in the book to be very 21st century in their stridency. I also felt that characters sometimes lapsed into well written prose rather than authentic speach. A few monologues or dialogues that were just a bit too well rehearsed for real life.
Her is an excellent biography of Varina (as well as of Mary Todd Lincoln)
CSA: Confederate States of America A Novel by Howard Means, only got 2 stars from me, but it was still an interesting idea. It is set in a modern day Confederacy–everything is truly “separate but equal” for the both white and black.
All of my books-to-be feature cross-generational love matches. The older man, younger woman relationship that is not just a “trophy wife.” Here in the Library of Life I also post about such couples both in film or fiction and in real life. I try to stick to “only” marriages, but occasionally make an exception for an unusually successful second marriage.
Over the weekend, one such couple married in a fabulous ceremony with royalty and other aristocrats attending. Lady Charlotte Wellesley, Daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Wellington married her beau, Alejandro Santo Domingo in Spain. Alejandro is 39, though he looks years younger, to his bride’s mere 25 years. This, to me, is the stuff of fairy tales. It’s not like she married him for his money–her father has plenty. She is a modern woman with an Oxford degree and a career working with famed photographer Mario Testino so she could earn her own as well. For me, the best part is this couple even looks in love!
The 25-year old noble wore an elegant, off-the-shoulder wedding gown designed by Emilia Wickstead. Her cathedral-length veil hardly concealed her ear-to-ear smile as she prepared to marry the man of her dreams.
This is no ordinary family Alejandro is marrying into. Her Great-many-times grandfather won the battle of Waterloo and gave supposedly gave the British the phrase “The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.” The Iron Duke he is still called. Wellington College, another Eton-ish school, was founded as a monument to him.
Lady Charlotte’s line of descent from the British Royal Family: Queen Victoria, her grandson Kaiser Wilhelm II and his son Crown Prince Wilhelm. She is related to both the Queen and Prince Philip (not due to their marriage) due to her descent from Victoria.
But, wait there’s more! Charlotte’s mother, Princess Antonia of Prussia (to give the Duchess her title at birth) is a direct descendant of Queen Victoria’s daughter Vicky (the Princess Royal) thru Vicky’s son, Kaiser Wilhelm II [Yes, THAT Kaiser Bill]. So had World War I not gotten in the way, she’d be number 386, or something around there, in the succession to the British Throne.
Her siblings are among the four or five Wellesleys who were/are Royal Godchildren, too. Like Princess Diana’s family, the ties to the Windsors are very strong–genetic even. Charlotte’s sister, Lady Mary, is a Goddaughter of the late Princess Diana and her brother Lord Frederick is a godson of Prince Charles. Old news, of course, but back very early in the day, Prince Charles dated Charlotte’s aunt who famously said she didn’t need to marry him–she already had a title.
This is no ordinary family Charlotte is marrying into, either though. Not only is her new husband a billionaire (he works in finance–what else would a good Hotchkiss/Harvard grad do?), but his niece could eventually have been the Princess Consort of Monaco had her husband, Andrea Casiraghi, inherited the throne. Too bad his uncle, Prince Albert II, had kids at the last minute.
But back to the wedding. The ceremony was held in an ancient church on her father’s Spanish Estate–a gift of the Spanish nation to the Iron Duke. Her father gave about $4,000 to help with the restoration of the church in thanks.
Now for the fun part. According to the Daily Mail, the estate is where Charles and Diana hid out after his relationship with Camilla became public. It gets better. Who was at the wedding? See below…. yep! Camilla! Aristocrats just aren’t the same as you and me.
This weekend was just one of the bashes to celebrate this wedding. The previously had an over-the-top, three-day event with the groom’s side in Colombia. Alejandro lives in New York, but his parents have their home in Colombia. The country’s president attended the wedding this weekend. No word on any New York celebration.
I wish them well.
Want to see more of the wedding? Here are links to a few articles with nice photos, including candid ones posted on Instagram at #charlejandro –including pictures of the lovely, watercolored invitations and the adorable child attendants.
Note on photos: I would like to give proper credit for all.
Yes, I’ll forgive you if, on first glance, you thought this was the bride on the arm of her father. I did too–until I investigated. You all know by now that I love a true older man, younger woman romance. To be honest, I couldn’t find much on this couple to enable me to know if this was an arranged marriage or just a selection of the best of the suitable spousal possibilities! Two Catholic royals in need of a spouse, but expected to marry other royals would have had slim pickings in the aftermath of World War I. In fact, this couple had to post-pone their nuptials due to the groom losing his throne!
Rupprecht was a prince of the Wittelsbach family of the Kingdom of Bavaria. Quite a mouthful to say all of that! In the days before German unification, Bavaria and other small German states had their own royals. It was all very feudal. Queen Victoria’s daughter, Victoria, married the heir to the Prussian throne–Prussia’s royalty are mostly who an American would know. Kaiser Wilhelm ring any bells? That was his throne–Prussia. There were all sorts of others. Some were Catholic, some protestant. All needed to marry other royals with the same religion. Bavaria, largely Catholic, would look to various Italian kingdoms (no, “Italy” wasn’t quite the Italy is is today, either).
Now that you understand all of that, let’s get back to old Rupprect. His first wife, apparently the love of his younger self’s life, died very young–there had been a mere nine years between these two. But the life of a General in a World War is lonely–lonelier still upon receiving a Field Marshal’s baton, so Rupprecht looked around for a suitable second wife. The tiny kingdom of Luxembourg had a bevy of Catholic princesses that caught his eye. He settled on Antnoia–“Toni”–who was 3o years his junior.
When their engagement was announced it caused trouble for Toni’s sister, the already-troubled ruler of the tiny kingdom, Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide. She eventually abdicated. Rupprecht had troubles of his own soon after the engagement as well. After World War I there was a very unsettled period in much of Europe. For example, the Russian Tzar was killed and a civil war broke out in Russia, too. Germany also had problems. Bavaria became a republic. Rupprecht was now a prince in name only.
After he’d negotiated a deal to keep much of his property and income, Rupprecht and Toni were back “on.” (Now word if anyone played around thinking they were on a break… I’m guessing not. Losing thrones can be stressful.) Rupprecht and his young bride, Toni, finally married in April of 1921.
With Toni spending the next 13 years giving birth to 6 children I assume the marriage at least started out as a happy one. But that happiness in her childbearing years was snuffed out by her husband’s very noble intentions. Rupprecht, a Field Marshal of the old school, stood up to Hitler and opposed the Nazis. The couple had to go into exile. Finally, in 1944 while Toni and the children were in Hungary, they were rounded up and arrested by the Nazis. Rupprecht was in Italy at the time and escaped capture. Tonia and her children were imprisoned at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. Later they were moved to Dachau–fortunately the month they arrived was the same month the camp was liberated.
After the war the couple lived in Switzerland. Toni, who had been ill when captured, never enjoyed good health again. They died only months apart–Toni first, then Rupprecht.
Cary Grant always portrayed the smooth, handsome charmer, often as the older man wooing a beautiful younger woman. Finally he must have liked the role so much that he fell for a much younger woman and married her–before it became a Hollywood cliche to take a trophy wife.
Diane/Dyan Cannon [her name was changed accidentally and she kept it] was a 20-something acting in a TV show when Cary Grant spotted her. He patiently worked to get her to go out with him, then set about “wooing” her as one of the characters he’d played would have done. Almost 60 then, with a dignified touch of silver at his temples, Cary Grant was just beginning to think he was too old to play opposite younger women. He feared that the public might find it, in today’s term, a bit “pervy.” But dating? That was another matter. He didn’t bat an eye at Dyan bring a girl friend along, didn’t press in an ungentlemanly way for you-know-what. He was classy. He played by the old-fashioned rules until Dyan was well ready for more. He won–Dyan fell in love with him, hook, line and sinker. She even went to the altar expecting his first and only child.
But marriage changes things for some people. Cary had a scarred emotional past–a mother locked away as insane whom he was told had died; a father who was distant; three previous wives. Dyan thought the romance was set to continue. She’d live happily ever after with the world’s Prince Charming. But this was the 60s. Cary had discovered LSD and thought it a profoundly life enhancing drug. He demanded that Dyan try it. Her maiden voyage–her first LSD trip–should have been her last and she knew it. That “trip,” in which she willed herself to ignore all sorts of warning signals, was the beginning of the end.
Happily the couple had a daughter, Jennifer. For Cary, becoming a Dad for the first time after age 60 was a welcome shock. But a bit of paranoia kicked in. Dyan came home with the baby to discover her beloved dog had been given away and that Cary had given his dog away as well. He never told her where they were sent. And then there was the criticism of Dyan over just about everything. Nothing worked anymore. Cary even said Dyan needed a breakdown–it might “help.”
As I read Dyan’s book I was struck by a few important things:
Her parents consented to the marriage. Admittedly she was of age and earning her own way. But at least to their daughter they never questioned if this was a good idea.
Dyan, like an 20-something, was incredibly naive. But ridiculously naive for an actress working in Hollywood–the Hollywood whose Crown Price she was marrying, and marrying as his FOURTH wife.
Like many young women, Dyan seems to have cut herself off from many of her friends when she became serious with Cary. Probably the age difference WAS awkward in many situations. And, being in love makes many of us think “he’s all I need.” But she lost a valuable sounding board or “mirror” by letting go of friends.
Like many of us, myself included, she ignored numerous warning signs because CARY GRANT!!! Heck, who wouldn’t, am I right? But she mistook the perception of “Cary Grant” for the reality of Archie Leach aka Cary Grant, a many old enough to be her grandfather, from a different country and raised in a different class in a different era. A man so much more experienced that she never stood a chance.
This week, Cary Grant Week, and last week’s Valentine’s posts have been about fantasy. As children we learn to distinguish real from fictional, reality from fantasy. Sadly, for many young women this happens with men very late in the game–usually too late in the game. Dyan Cannon was one such girl.
I didn’t come away from this book feeling sorry for Dyan though–I’ve walked in her shoes. Oh, not with a Cary Grant, but close enough. I just thought she should have answered that clue phone that was ringing off the hook when Cary wouldn’t pin down their relationship in any stated terms. Or when he insisted she take a second, obviously unsafe and totally unwanted LSD trip. But, like so many of us, she pretended she couldn’t her the phone because, well, CARY GRANT!!
As for Cary, I felt only pity. Pity because he seems to have come to believe the movie magazine stories about himself. He seemed, like an alcoholic, to believe he could control LSD and “quit any time” if you will. He clearly saw that he was too old to be the leading man in movies, and rightly perceived the public’s reaction to him in such roles, but he went out and chased the skirt of a very young and naive woman.
I was glad, though, that Dyan wrote that he loved his daughter and cared for her. I see that Jennifer wrote her own book, but I have not read it.
Interestingly, Cary married for a fifth time, to a British woman, Barbara Harris, 47 years his junior. She would become his widow.
Dear Cary–a sad and predictable tale of vanity, awe and disillusion. Or what happens when we make men Gods.
This is not a political or religious blog. But, this couple stood for TRUTH. Today, I will break my rule slightly and post this story of love in times of grave danger.
During the Nazi years, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was internationally known theologian. He was of an aristocratic background, extremely well educated, well traveled and very well informed on world events.
As the Nazi’s took hold of all aspects of German life, Dietrich saw the maniacal hatred of Hitler and his followers and knew it was incompatible with Christian belief and Christian life. He became a founder and activist in what was called the Confessing Church–a subversive, but true and faithful church that rejected Nazi control. He also taught in its underground seminary.
In June 1942, Bonhoeffer visited an old friend who innocently introduced him to her granddaughter, Maria. For Dietrich, while “love” at first sight would be an exaggeration, he had after all known her as a confirmation student. But it was the first time he’d been shaken out of his academic and theological mind enough to see a beautiful, intelligent young woman he could come to love.
Sadly, the course of this possible new love was a harbinger of what was to come. The same Granny blabbed her suspicion of Dietrich being in love with Maria to the family. This, predictably, caused unease. For one thing, he was twice her age. For another, they didn’t even know each other in any meaningful, mature way. Before they could change this, Maria’s Grandmother exposed this secret. Bonhoeffer was angry that his mere suspicions that he could fall in love with Maria had been so clearly read by the Grandmother. For her part, Maria, still thought of him only as a family friend and dutiful pastor. But, over the course of sorting out the emotional mess of made by her Grandmother, Maria decided she certainly could–and did, love Dietrich and very soon they were engaged.
The things that undoubtedly helped this engagement were the facts that Dietrich was a friend of the family, that they knew his character was beyond reproach and that Maria’s father and brother had just died. Now, before you wonder, Dietrich stayed completely away from Maria and wrote to her only very pastoral letters in the immediate aftermath of each death. He did not take advantage of her grief in an untoward way. But as the couple expressed more of their thoughts to each other, his suspicions were confirmed and he knew he was truly in love with her. Then suddenly they were engaged. Just like that. It was a different time and different society than ours today. Such a relationship must lead to marriage.
Their engagement was agreed to and plans moved forward for their wedding and future home together. But, as Bonhoeffer’s biographer would write “It was an engagement like few in the world” (Metaxis, p. 421).
At about the same time, Bonhoeffer’s niece, Renate, was to become engaged to his best friend, Eberhard Bethge. Two cross-generational romances in one family. A newer biography of Bonhoeffer has suggested that the two men were more than mere friends. Did they have feelings for each other beyond simple friendship and professional association? Who knows. That’s the truthful answer.
We can read into their letters anything we like, but I do not subscribe to the school of thought today that says everyone who is close, even affectionate, to a same-sex friend must be sexually attracted to them or romantically in love with them. These men knew each other in a time and place in which men associated with men and associated with women only in mixed company. Best friends were always the same sex. I am content with that until someone dredges up something that proves another type relationship existed.
Three months later Bonhoeffer was in prison.
You see, in addition to being a theologian Dietrich also worked as a double-agent in the Nazi bureaucracy. He knew the participants of the Valkyrie plot well. Maria’s family knew this, too.
I’ve sat in prison and correctional institution visiting rooms in this country and I can tell you, keeping a relationship going on any level–even just acquaintances–is difficult. Enduring it with a loved one is painful beyond belief. That a couple so newly engaged and knowing each other so little could keep the flame burning for each other is a testament to both love and faith. They both realized there was more to this than physical love. That is one of the ways that Maria astonishes me. Yes, she was fluttering around like any happy bride-to-be getting her trousseau together, planning a first home, getting to know her fiance’s preferences, even his mundane daily likes and dislikes, but she also managed to find a depth of maturity and faith that few women Bonhoeffer’s own age could have found.
“If I talk too much about myself you must realize that you are always included in me….”
Dietrich to Maria July 30, 1943
Those words, written in utter sincerity, make my knees weak. That any could dismiss this as anything but true love need only go back to that one letter and to that one line.
“Perhaps it’s a good thing that my happiness at having you becomes perceptible only by degrees, otherwise I couldn’t endure it.”
Maria to Dietrich October 12, 1943
Yet, remember, the woman who wrote that last line was only 19 years old. Her faith, both in God, and in her fiance helped her struggle Dietrich’s imprisonment. While they were able to communicate with regularity and to see each other some this communication and contact always involved a censor or a guard nearby. The delays and lack of privacy in communication, the lack of private, physical contact–of just being in the same room together–did from time-to-time take its toll on the couple. Dietrich, older and with more maturity and more mature faith, struggled to keep their eyes on what God had in mind for them:
“For both of us, I believe, happiness lies elsewhere, in a more remote place that not only passes many people’s understanding but will continue to do so. At bottom, we both seek tasks to perform. Each of us has hitherto sought them separately, but from now on they’ll be common tasks in which we shall fully grow together—if God grants us the requisite time.”
(p. 86, Dietrich to Maria 9/20/43)
Maria was comforted by these words and others from her fiance, but her youth shines beautifully thru in this line–a line that also shows her incredible maturity for her age:
“…when you kissed me, I knew I’d found you again—found you more completely than I’d ever possessed you before.”
(p. 55, 7/30/43 M to D).
When I read that last quote, so exquisite in its imagery, I find it hard to do the math and come up with 19–with a vapid, texting 19 of today at least. But Maria was made of sterner stuff, was well-educated and had been brought up to be a proper wife–not a giggling girlfriend.
In my lifetime there are two groups who could be compared to this couple: POW/MIA spouses and the Iran Hostages and their spouses. Yet those aren’t quite right–for Bonhoeffer and his Maria WERE occasionally allowed to see each other, even to touch and share a kiss. Though their letters were read and sometimes held up in the mail, they communicated with enough regularity to allow their relationship to grow and deepen. Perhaps soldiers in Vietnam might be a better comparison–they sometimes received R & R in locations where wives were welcome. Regardless of the appropriate comparison, their situation was not normal.
Even at 19, Maria was able to understand that depression and despair could easily overtake Dietrich. She knew this was a vital and cerebral man and that prison would likely foster only the worst feelings. She was courageous in the face of this–even making a point of telling him not to let it take hold. That’s very bold to me. She takes time to comfort him as well, both with words of tender love and with descriptions of a beautiful Spring day or of meetings with family–all of which served to sustain him.
If ever there was a man who deserved the love of a good and steadfast woman–a true “helpmeet”–to my mind that man was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. During the Third Reich the Church was forced (or, sadly, jumped at the chance) to do the bidding of the Nazis. The shame of this still taints the Church, much as the Ku Klux Klan still taints the protestant church in much of the American Midwest and South still today. Most protestants today know that Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer took believers underground and kept the true church alive during the Nazi regime. But few know that when he died in prison he was lovingly engaged to a woman named Maria Von Wedemeyer, early 18 years his junior, or that her loved and encouragement helped to sustain him.
I believe anyone who claims to be a Christian today should read Eric Metaxas superb biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Or, if that book is simply too daunting (and it should not be–it is incredibly readable) then read the chapter on Bonhoeffer in Metaxas’ more general, multiple biography, Seven Men.
Though out-of-print and expensive to purchase second hand, the book Love Letters from Cell 92 contains all the existing letters of Dietrich and Maria. I sincerely hope this book will achieve re-publication. It is too important a record of triumph over adversity and of the testament of love and fidelity to be lost.
This post was originally posted on my old blog on May, 15, 2013.
Clarissa Churchill Eden, is a hard woman to put into words. Part Katherine Hepburn, part spoiled brat, Clarissa has intrigued me for years. And, I admit, I still don’t have a true read of her. She famously disdained the rites of passage of her class by refusing to be presented at court in spite of being the Great-Granddaughter of the Duke of Marlborough. She hung out with a cerebral crowd that included Cecil Beaton. When she decided to finally marry she chose as her husband not only a man old enough be her father, but one in horribly bad health and on the brink of serving as Prime Minster at a time when the nation was approaching one of it’s top national crisis of the 20th Century. To say she liked attention would be an understatement. Yet, she also seemed shy. A enigma.
At the start, in my opinion, she was about as full of her self as only a 20-something can be. Life would gradually give her just the tiniest taste of humility though. And, let’s face it, in England, all her life there was a gal 6 years younger who is still dominating the world stage, so maybe it took more for women to get noticed–even a Churchill. Maybe she was just another boring, “I’m better than you” pseudo-intellectual who wore trousers and smoked in public and hung out with men and women we know today (and likely she knew then) were homosexuals. Maybe she was stuck surrounded by boring, “I’m better than you” pseudo-intellectuals who were a little too safe in taxis and she was desperately banging on the bars of her upper-class prison of a life? Maybe she envied her cousin Sarah (Winston’s daughter) and wanted a life on the stage. Maybe she thought she should have been Katherine Hepburn. No, I didn’t think so. She was stuck up as a young woman.
Or, more likely she was insecure. It would be hard not to be insecure in that family. Clarissa was a Churchill, but she was not a “Winston” Churchill. Her father was the great man’s little known younger brother Jack–a successful businessman in the city. Clarissa herself was born well after her brothers in a home shared by Jack’s family and Winston’s at a point when Winston’s over-the-top-lifestyle left him in reduced circumstances. By her mid twenties Clarissa was an orphan.
Her autobiography, which I found boring, is truly tough sledding. She was literate–VERY literate , and intelligent– VERY intelligent, but does not communicate well thru the written word. True, most of the book consists of snippets from diary entries, but there are very erudite diarists out there and she, sadly, is not among them. Like another celebrated younger woman who married an older man (Princess Diana) Clarissa left school with no qualifications, but in an era when that was pretty much expected of young women of her class and very much a badge of honor among the notoriously un-bookish aristocracy. Her mother, for example, had no idea what “matriculation” meant with regard to education and was unconcerned that her daughter’s boarding school stressed “horses.” (As I said, this was a different generation and her mother’s views were almost identical to that of a young mother known as the Duchess of York, who didn’t even believe her daughters she be forced to even go to an actual school.) But here she differs wildly from that norm–her friends were, almost to a one, either intellectuals or highly creative individuals.
As for Anthony Eden, at first glance he is a conventional man of his class–Eton, Oxford, officer in WWI, but he, too, differed a bit from that norm. He had a passion for art and was fluent in, among other languages, Persian. The word consistently used to describe him as a young man was “sensitive.” An understatement. He made a conventional first marriage that fizzled and faltered and finally collapsed. He lost brothers in the First World War and his beloved oldest son, Simon, in the Second World War–a death he characterized as the worst pain of his life. He was a shining star of the Conservative party for many years, but for all of them his light was all but blocked by the eclipse that was Winston Churchill. His years as Churchill’s heir were nearly as long as those of Prince Charles to Queen Elizabeth.
So, while Clarissa Churchill skulked around Vogue, the workroom of Cecil Beaton and the drawing rooms of the upper class intelligentsia leading a Katherine Hepburn-ish, trousered, existence and Anthony steered the ship of foreign affairs and weekended with the Mountbattens and Noel Coward, both were missing something in their lives. Each Other. They “met,” in terms of romantic interest at least, at a dinner party. Eden shyly asked her to have dinner with him and she accepted. And who wouldn’t? A woman would have had to be deaf, blind, dumb AND stupid to turn down one of history’s great crushes. Eden, so suave and so well dressed that he had a hat named after him, was one the best catches in England.Anthony and Clarissa married in a civil ceremony and had their reception, appropriately enough, at 10 Downing with Uncle Winston and Aunt Clementine.
Tigress or Trophy Wife? Protector or Pandora?
When Winston Churchill finally had dinner at 10 Downing with the Queen and Prince Philip and agreed to retire, Anthony was left holding the bag and living in a 10 Downing with, as his young wife famously put it, “the Suez canal flowing thru [the] drawing room.” As a warm-up to the canal, Britain’s first divorced Prime Minister was saddled with the Princess Margaret wanting to marry her late father’s divorced equerry–a mess that would have killed many a lesser man on its own. But Suez, and not the Princess, was the last straw.
The canal and the bickering over it brought down one of the longest running careers in foreign relations.Here is where the Eden fans begin to disagree over Clarissa and her influence. While first wives can be a huge influence, second, younger, beautiful wives (trophy wives in today’s icky parlance) can be Machiavellian. Some unkind souls view Clarissa as an usurper, a devious power behind, if not a throne, than a Prime Minister. Suez was such a phenomenal mess that the leader of the British Military of the time, Eden’s old buddy, Lord Mountbatten, tried unsuccessfully to resign and came perilously close to treason in his opposition to Eden’s plans.
Never mind that the whole thing was a disaster it must be that Anthony was besotted with his wife–right? Sure, why not! How much stuff was Eleanor Roosevelt blamed for? Hilary Clinton? Denis Thatcher? Clarissa though, saw the whole thing through a different lens–the lens of Anthony’s deteriorating health. She was from the earliest days of her marriage, to use a well-known Downton Abbey quote, “an old man’s drudge.”
Eden, though not yet sixty had the health of a corpse and very nearly died from a botched gal bladder operation. It was left to Clarissa to try to keep his job, restore his health, and maintain their marriage. All with the world’s press watching, of course! Did I mention she was only 36 at this time? Her take on things, with the hindsight of many years as a widow, sounds like this:
“My concern throughout was to support Anthony, and I felt that I could only help by bolstering him up without trying to lessen his load or demand that he rested.” (P. 235)”By now we had been living in a a perpetual state of tension for over three months…Yet when Anthony came up each evening he always seemed calm in voice and manner…I didn’t feel I knew enough to interfere in any way. I listened sympathetically, and was interested in the details and behavior of his colleagues. I always assumed Anthony was right because he has so much more experience in foreign affairs.” (p. 254-255)”[Doctor came and said] Anthony’s heart and blood pressure were fine but his nervous system was burnt out…finally decided on a month’s holiday.” (p.256)
A wife young enough to give him children (she miscarried) was asked to deal with the fallout from a totally necessary rest during a world crisis! Could I have done that at 36? I doubt it. After all, when Churchill suffered a heart attack during the war, it was kept a secret even from his wife. His stroke, left his son-in-law, the future Lord Soames, running the country in secret. But, the Edens were forced to take a holiday, so doctors said, to save Anthony’s life, Suez or no Suez. So she’s taking care of an uber-high maintenance, older husband, whose job necessitates him trotting blithely across the world stage in full glare of the press! And we thought Jackie Kennedy originated this role? Ok, Jackie did get the trophy children that Clarissa lacked. Can you then blame Clarissa for being glad when Anthony threw in the political towel?
“I was pleased to leave politics, and that we could have a marriage without all the tensions, plottings and shenanigans of political life.” (p267).
Their “retirement” life featured annual trips to Paris for, among other things, book and art buying,retreats to warmer climates in the winter (including to Colin Tenant’s bizarre island empire, Mustique), life in an idyllic, aesthetically pleasing country home where Anthony toiled away writing his less-than-memorable memoirs while looking debonaire in sweaters with silk cravats tucked in at the neck.
While Clarissa’s memoirs give only the briefest glimpse in words of her marriage, I think the photos tell another story. First there are countless pictures around of Eden gazing lovingly at his wife. And, in her book, Clarissa published not one, but two photos of Eden in swim trunks, another of him lounging and looking too adorable for words at their home and countless others of him as his suave ever-elegant political self. Possibly most telling of all (or possibly a totally tongue-in-cheek joke on her readers) a very elderly Clarissa is shown on the back jacket of the book in a tweed jacket and silk scarf in clear emulation of her late husband’s sartorial style. Not of today’s “tell all” generation, I think the pictures Clarissa chose for the book speak louder than words.
While I still find it hard to warm up to her, and I’m sure many of his colleagues were right to worry about her “hold” over her husband (these were men who, after all, had lost a King to such a woman), I have to come down on the side of Tigress Protector. It was her tenacity that solved his medical crisis, her tenacity that protected his legacy and her tenacity that kept him in the public eye long enough to see the polish put back on his tarnished image. I also wonder–did Jackie Kennedy look at her and see a role model?
All quotes are from Clarissa Eden: A Memoir From Churchill to Eden edited by Cate Haste.
Canada’s “White House” is not well known in the States. Ask an American who the Prime Minister of Canada is and, until recently, those who did not shrug helplessly would answer “Pierre Trudeau.” Today Canada has a new Prime Minister with a very familiar name–Justin Trudeau. Yes, the same family. Pierre’s late-in-life eldest son.
Back in the early 70’s when Americans were still reeling from Vietnam, the assassinations of JFK, RFK, MLK and MX, Canada was shocked to hear that their jet-setting, playboy P.M. had gone away for some skiing and came back married to the daughter of the country’s former Fisheries Minister. Shocked because Margaret Sinclair was only 22 years old to Trudeau’s statesman-like 51 years and balding head.You can see Life magazine’s spread on the wedding here.
Throughout the 70s Margaret Trudeau would almost single-highhandedly put Canada on the map for Americans at least.
At their wedding, not only did Pierre see his bride looking lovely but she did so in a gown of her own design and manufacture. Then the Trudeaus cut a cake the she had personally baked. For traditionalists, this did not bode well for the nation. And, in many ways, the traditionalists were right!
But in the beginning the Trudeaus were happy. Margaret popped out three adorable boys with trendy names–Justin, Sasha and Michel. She openly breastfed them all–at dinner alone with her husband she was known to put a linen napkin on the baby’s head to keep from spilling food on them! But soon enough cracks, predictably, began to appear. Margaret was restless, Pierre was busy. He came home exhausted and put on comfy old clothes and wanted to relax. She dressed up for his arrival and wanted to…ahem…well…she was young…. Let’s say “party” and leave it at that. But for a decade or so the boys kept their parents together. In spite of his previous playboy image, Pierre Trudeau was a devoted and loving father. Justin Trudeau loved camping with his father and the intimacy it afforded them.
When Margaret Trudeau later wrote a gossipy tell-all book about her life as the chatelaine of 24 Sussex Drive [i.e. the Canadian White House] it included sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll and much more. Not only did she party with the Rolling Stones, she flirted with Princes Philip, Charles and Andrew and incited the tabloids to speculate that, at least with Charles and schoolboy Prince Andrew, things may have gone beyond polite state dinner monotony-relieving flirtation, which did not please the P.M.s handlers. Nor did the book’s story of snuff-induced sneezes sending shots of snot a-flight appreciated. In short, the Canadian first lady was a loose canon who at times made the later antics of Di and Fergie [the first Fergie, not the singer] seem like harmless boarding school fun.When the divorce seemingly inevitably hit, the boys stayed with Pierre and Margaret went on with her life. She would later write yet another memoir to try to explain herself. [I have not read that one.]
As a teenager I read the book avidly. We had a copy still of the Life magazine with her wedding in it [we had random stuff like that at our house!]. I thought it very romantic that she made the cake and dress and I was a total sucker for an older man–younger woman romance from the day one. I was disappointed in the book to read how much of a partier she was. Later I couldn’t help but wonder if, like Diana saying she loved the country life when she hated it, if Margaret claimed to be a true homebody and then, ring on her finger, went back to her old ways.
Time marched on for the family. Sadly, Pierre and Margaret’s youngest son, Michel, was killed skiing, but the new Prime Minister has not only one living full brother, Sasha Trudeau, but also a much younger (by 20 years) half-sister. For Pierre Trudeau went on to have an affair with Liberal politician Deobrah Coyne, 37 years his junior. Together the couple had a daughter, Sarah, now 21, who was not exactly hidden even if the two families were never formally blended. You can read a little more about Deborah Coyne here. The new P.M. also has two half-brothers from his mother’s later marriage.
So Justin Trudeau, with only one close-in-age wife and three legitimate children ONLY seems like a fine young leader for Canada–a country know for civility and “live and let live.” I don’t think Canada has to fear Mick Jagger stopping by. Will and Kate would probably have a good time though–they could all swap parenting stories and watch the kids play together. Sedate, normal things like that are in store, I’m sure.
The moral here is simple. If you thought Canada was a land where all people did was watch hockey and eat french fries and cheese curds swimming in gravy, you were wrong! While Coyne’s new memoir is raising the stakes a bit on politician’s personal lives, the Canadian national persona of respect and tolerance lives on. It will be interesting to see if Canada’s national press plague the new P.M. with stories about his later father’s baby-mamma or if they will respectfully follow the P.M.s own family from a suitable distance and keep their focus on his policies. I’m betting on the latter scenario, eh? Pass the poutine please and turn up the hockey. Merci…..
For those interested, you can view the new Prime Minister’s maternal family tree is the subject of today’s post at the excellent blog Esoteric Curiosa.
If you skip to 58 seconds into the actual video, you’ll see this power-couple having a little fun.
If you follow celebrity gossips sites like People or London’s Daily Mail you can see lots of the “Trophy Wife” variety of Cross-Generational Romance. I don’t cover a lot of those because most were the cause of a divorce. Not a good thing. Most such relationships also don’t last. But to my mind we have the wrong idea of a so-called trophy wife.
To me, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell is the 21st Century Trophy Wife. The kind of trophy wife men should desperately want. Why:
She’s way attractive.
She dresses well.
She’s always immaculately turned out.
Her hair looks great.
She’s very bright.
She’s at the top of her profession.
She’s professionally respected.
She hobknobs with the truly great.
She’s earned her own financial security.
She makes wise choices.
She’s well educated.
She’s well dressed.
That list appealed to Alan Greenspan–once called “The Nice Man Who Manages The Money,” that is the guy who was in charge at the Fed during the good years of the US economy during the Clinton administration.
I see much here to commend Mr. Greenspan’s choice of a wife. According the the NYT he was married before but for whatever reason that was annulled and long-forgotten. He gets a do-over in my book. Plus he studied at Julliard so that absolves him in my book. And then there’s the fan-dam-tabulous way he managed the nation’s Reserve. I lived high under his reign. Sadly, I make the same salary today as I did 5 years before the end of his Fed-reign.
My take on Alan is a bright, quirky guy with a devastating sense of humor. You catch a brief hint of that at the end of the ice-bucket video. The kind of guy who would hand you documents in a a deadly dull meeting with a joke on top that, once you’ve read it and hidden it, makes you simultaneously suppress both a coronary and a need to pee. The kind of joke that means everything he says for the rest of the meeting will have a double-meaning. The kind of joke that means you cannot. CAN. NOT. look him in the eye again in that meeting, except he’ll force you to do just that. That kind of humor.
I like to hope he has some secret way of relaxing, beyond drinking Scotch and reading economics journals. Like binge-watching Laverne and Shirley dubbed in Hungarian. Or doing really crappy paint-by-numbers paintings and framing them for the master bathroom suite. I bet he sits around watching t.v. in 40 year old boxer shorts and a sweatshirt. What do I know! It’s just so fun to imagine this couple!
And I bet all of this type thing both endears him to his much-younger wife and drives her bats at the same time.He is supposedly, and rightly, her biggest fan, so I think she probably uses him as a sounding board sometimes for broadcast pieces about which she’s not sure. I think she loves to go away with him to place where no one has heard of the Fed–like their own home. Just to be alone with brilliance. Anywhere else on the planet he’d be recognized and they’d never be left alone.
They came to their marriage at 50 and 71, after a 12 year courtship, but a co-worker claimed they beamed at each other like kids at a prom. Their professional lives were their lives–up to that point. Ok, Andrea was divorced, but making it in television journalism requires more hours work than making partner at a big New York law firm. She had long ago decided against children in order to have that stellar career that she obviously loves. Likely she was ready to settle down–a bit. And, let’s face it, a guy who can steer the USFR can probably balance the checkbook with his eyes closed. He was a catch. Yes, a catch, even at 71. Especially at 71, when maybe he had time, finally, for a wife.
I can imagine at the beginning they penciled in dinners and had to ask people like Margaret Thatcher to take a rain check so they could see each other. I can visualize that first forkful of Chicken Piccatta being forgotten while Andrea took a call from Hilary or that the bubbles left the honeymoon champagne as Alan talked to the Chancellor of Germany. And then, because that was normal to them, they’d simply pick up their forks or pop open more bubbly and say “where were we…..” And they’d smile.He’d reach for her hand. Ahhhh romance.
In her book she claims claims she likes costume dramas and he loves movies with lots of car crashes. Sounds like a guy who plays Sax and clarinet, doesn’t it? His favorite office is the bath tub– I can just picture him working in the tub while she sprawls against the wall reading research for an upcoming interview–classical music playing in the background, a nice bottle of wine on ice nearby. They are private. Very private. They don’t do the social scene. I fully support that. With no children they devote themselves to each other and to their careers.
Did I mention they both love baseball? Cute? Freakin’ adorable. I can see them watching a game in bed–him with one of those silly foam hands [that he would bug her with, of course] and she in a jersey signed by half of their favorite team, and sharing a beer! See? Adorable. Who says it’s all about the 20-somethings. Romance, love, passion hits at all ages and to all varieties of intellect.
said Grover Cleveland on occasion when people asked why he wasn’t married.
The little lady in question was Cleveland’s very young ward or goddaughter, Miss Frank (aka Frances) Folsom. Her father was a good friend of the President’s and when he died, Grover became the executor of his estate and looked after “Frank.” There is actually some question of her first name, but it is believed she was christened “Frank.” History, though, has dignified her with the more formal and feminine choice.
Grover Cleveland was our only President to serve two non-consecutive terms and that is about all anyone remembers of him (that and his use of Federal troops in the Pullman strike in Chicago, of course). Presidents were small change back in that day–as was the federal government. The whole of D.C., Congress included, still pretty much packed up and left town come about, oh, April….. There were no PACs, lobbying was still done in the lobby and photo-ops were at a bare minimum. There was no telegraph equivalent of CSPAN or MSNBC unless you count Extra! Extra! Extra! editions of newspapers. White House interns hadn’t been created yet and if they were there they were male. In short Grover had time to kill. So, unlike the fictional widower president in the 1995’s The American President, old Grover had time to woo his gal and wed her without much fuss, no paparazzi trailing them, no intercepted cellphone calls or SNL parodies. Heaven for a politician in love, I’d say.
Once little Frankie was in college, old Grover would put on his best stomach-hiding trousers and fullest frock coat and high-tail it up to Aurora, New York, to visit her at Wells College. He doesn’t strike me as very dashing, but maybe he was witty or bumblingly sweet? Maybe it was like a Student — Professor hook-up? I hope his carriage was a back-in-the-day Porche or BMW 7 series and not an old guy Lincoln, if you see what I mean. Whatever his secret, and possibly it was just simply that they loved each other, the interest was mutual for romance soon blossomed. I like to think he had asked her father for her hand at the christening. Grover, apparently a bit shy or possibly a secret romantic, proposed in a letter that I hope was sweet. I also hope she kept it all of her life. I hope when she died it was pressed with a rose or wildflowers or something that he brought her sometime, the print faded, the paper a bit smudgy from happy re-reading over the many years.
Miss Cleveland, ipso facto First Lady
Meanwhile back at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the President’s sister. Miss Rose Cleveland, served as First Lady for her brother. Miss Cleveland embarked on a literary career while First Lady by publishing essays on George Sand. Miss Cleveland is today regarded as the nation’s only lesbian First Lady. Like her later counterpart, Eleanor Roosevelt, Miss Cleveland made a home for several years with two other women. In her time she was see as a classic “bluestocking”–or studious intellectual.
Although improbable today, neither the proclivities of his sister, nor his chasing a lovely much-younger woman, ever got President Cleveland into the 19th Century equivalent of the Saturday Night Live though I’m sure the wags of the day made hay of it after the nuptials occurred. Wikileaks never got to intercept and publish one of the couple’s loving missives–our loss, I’m sure.
Back in Buffalo, Frank decided to head off to Europe to celebrate finishing college. Apparently Grover proposed before her trip. I like to think the groom-to-be wrote his bae poetry and sweet nothings in letters and peppered her with telegrams (the 19th Century’s answer to texting) reading LHK [love, hugs, kisses] even if he was really thinking LH6 [lets have ___]. So, while Gro’ was pining away at the White House, Frank strolled European streets, hopefully in a lovely linen dress and hat trimmed in pale violet ribbon with a parasol of ruffles for the sun. She certainly would have done so with a chaperone at her elbow and her Baedeker in hand. Maybe she sent G-C coded post cards to the White House. That would be sweet and fun–liven up what had to be an incredibly dull job in those days. After all, we were still a bit-player on the international scene. No National Security Agency, no terrorists, no global warming, no nukes. Grover likely did more gland-handing than anything else while in office.
At last, probably by letter, the date and place of the wedding were fixed and Miss Folsom returned to New York on a liner and was whisked away on a Revenue Cutter (that day and age’s version of the Coast Guard) and thence to a swank hotel in New York City to which Grover beat a hasty path. Love was sufficiently rekindled for the marriage to take place a few days later. And, happily, there was no congressional inquiry into the misuse of the Cutter.
The wedding took place on June 6, 1886 in the White House Blue Room—which had been “converted into a Psyche’s Bower of loveliness” for the occasion. (Illustration is of the Blue Room in Lincoln’s time). [Admit it–you read that as Psychic, right? I know I did…..] Grover’s brother was one of the clergy assisting in the ceremony and John Philip Sousa conducted his famed Marine Corps Band in “the dulcent strains of the perennial wedding march” as the couple entered–Frank “leaning heavily” upon G-C’s arm. The couple, touchingly, changed the traditional vows to omit the idea of “to obey, ” choosing instead to promise to “honor, love and keep.” So much sweeter–especially when the husband is old enough to be the bride’s father. Takes the paternal aspect out of the equation. (Williams, 1886 and history.com)
The bridal gown can only be described as “Sumptuous”–think Di and Kate and you get the idea. She wore myrtle and orange blossoms, wore no jewelry and carried not a bouquet of flowers, but a pretty fan. The 49 year old President, as statesmen do at such evening affairs, wore “Canonical evening suit of black” with a white tie peaking out from under his various chins. I expect the 19th century male equivalent of Spanx were also worn for effect. Frances, with her lithe 21 year old figure appropriately corseted, probably made every man in attendance suck in his gut. We won’t discuss what the wives present were thinking, but I doubt it was “how sweet,” don’t you? The pastor was just a tad this side of a gas-bag–his prayer monopolized the 10 minute ceremony, but once it was over he got to point and declared them to be husband and wife.
Like Jackie Kennedy, Frank was the subject of endless curiosity from the country. Grover having accepted paternity for a young man of about Frank’s age probably helped. And, let’s be honest here, G-C would not have made the 1880’s “Sexiest Man Alive” contest, now would he?
Let the Feeding Frenzy Begin: The Honeymoon
Before there was Jackie , there was Frank Cleveland–a 21 year old Rock Star of a First Lady–right there with Princess Di in press coverage–national obsession proportions. The country went crazy for her. Here’s proof: by the end of the 1880’s “Grover” was the 56th most popular name for a baby boy and Frances for a girl ranked even higher at 41. See?
So while the couple rushed off for the consummation devoutly to be wished for (well as much as one can rush in a landau and non-bullet train) hillbillies, rubberneckers, journalists, former slaves, tradespeople, little kids, dogs, you name it besieged their honeymoon love-shack at Deer Park Retreat in the Alleghenies. With only a police officer or two at most to keep the intruders at bay, the curiosity-seekers probably dampened Grover’s amorous intent a bit, so I hope they got to have a little love-fest in his private railroad car on the way up. Imagine having the spot of your wedding night immortalized for all time with a sign pointing to the place!
Thankfully Presidential p.d.a. selfies weren’t big at the time. the G-Man’s abs probably weren’t as great as he’d have liked them to be, but I’m sure the new Mrs. G had some lovely dainties to tempt him even if she didn’t dwell on the possibility of G being a MAMIL [Middle Aged Men In Lycra]. I’m guessing he ditched the Spanx-like undies on the train so she wouldn’t see them. I’m hoping her corset cover was pale violet–I’m pretty sure G would have been a violet and lace man. Happily, Cosmo, did not then exist so no one had to read speculation about how the couple enjoyed their first real ‘alone time.’
Well, to make an already long story shorter, Mr. and Mrs. G-C truly did live happily ever after–even having several early childless years (unless there were stillbirths or miscarriages to mar that time).. They had three daughters starting with Ruth (for whom it is thought the “Baby Ruth” candy bar was named) who was born in 1891, Esther (the first baby born in the White House to a First Lady) and Marion.
This trio was followed by two boys–Richard and Francis. I like to think that Grover said “No–no way, one ‘Grover is enough’ when, in the fashion of the day, she sweetly asked to name Richard ‘Grover, junior’ [though his name was really ‘Stephen Grover’], but that when she told him No. More. Kids. he insisted that Francis be named in honor of Mom. She would then counter and get her way so that ‘Grover’ was his middle name [She did. It was.] That would be so touching, wouldn’t it? A little ‘Frank’ without the gender confusion? Sort of Like ‘Frank Junior, junior’ on Friends!
The couple stayed in love even after part of G-C’s jaw was removed leaving his mouth disfigured and forcing him to wear a rubber insert. I’m sure Frank was simply glad he lived thru the surgery which was conducted at sea on a yacht! Imagine today, well not “today-today” but in modern times, the most powerful man on Earth having surgery on a private yacht? About as likely as Sadam Huessien’s brother being head of our Navy.
This is one of the posts that led to the creation of this blog, so I’m re-running it today. Although, sadly, we know that Julian Fellows did in our dear, sweet, doofy Anthony with a character assassination unparallelled in PBS Masterpiece history, I still totally “ship” this couple and have left them in. The story of the then Vicsount Lascelles and Princess Mary was the “Wills and Kate” of its day. But times were different. They married while her eldest brother, the Prince of Wales, was away on the other side of the world on a Colonial tour. Imagine a Royal Wedding today without the Prince of Wales! So here is the Lascelles Story.
Did a Royal Love Story Inspire Downton Abbey’s Sir Anthony and Lady Edith Romance?
American viewers of Julian Fellows’ Downton Abbey are waiting to see the wedding of Lady Edith Crawley to the much older Sir Anthony Strallan (played brilliantly by Robert Bathurst). But what many viewers may not imagine is that Fellows inspiration for the couple could very well have been the marriage in February 1922 of King George V’s only daughter, Princess Mary, to the then Viscount Lascelles (he became Earl of Harewood a few years later). [Note: Royal Weddings were becoming a big show in this generation, but not so big that the Prince of Wales had to come home for the wedding–he was in India on tour when the wedding took place.]
Henry (“Harry”) Lascelles was born in 1882 while his bride, Princess Mary, didn’t come along until 1897. While not quite as large an age gap as the “quarter century” often thrown about on Downton, it was still a substantial age difference to overcome. Many royal books describe Lascelles as “unfeeling” or similar, but according to one who should know–the couple’s eldest son, George–theirs really was a love match. Princess Mary had much in common with her famously reserved parents. King George and Queen Mary truly had a loving marriage, but had to express their love thru letters and notes (well, that and the birth of six childen in 11 years!).
“My parents got on well together and had a lot of friends and interests in common. Someone years later said to my first wife…that she had always felt sorry for my mother ‘married to that cold, hard man,’ but, though she was doubtless out primarily out to make mischief, she had it all wrong. My mother was never so happy to our eyes as children as when she and my father were embarked on some scheme together, as they often were, and my father’s advice was sought on every conceivable subject including those on which he could not possibly have expected to have a view. After he died, [25 years later] we could often see with maturer eyes that, without my father at her side, she often found it hard to cope. Until her death she travelled with photographs of him to put out whereever she stayed….” (The Tong and Bones: The Memoirs of Lord Harewood,, 27 )
At not quite age 25, Princess Mary had done her “bit” in the First World War serving, ala Lady Sybil as a volunteer nurse, (A King’s Story, p. 127) became not only the wife of the heir to one of Yorkshire’s greatest families, fortunes and houses, but also C.E.O. of Lord Lascelles domestic life–managing the household, planning the parties, transferring to London for the Season to Scotland for that Season as well as coping with the demands of two sons born in rapid succession (the younger of whom, Gerald, would share a birthday (albeit different years) with Princess Margaret).The couple shared passions for gardening (a mania in her generation of the Royal Family), horses and Italian Art (source) and music. Her brother, the former King Edward VIII remembers that “with easy grace she became the chatelaine of his country home in Yorkshire.” (A King’s Story, p.182).
In a move that Fellows himself could have authored for Sir Anthony Strallan, Lord Lascelles fled during the birth of his son and heir leaving his hapless sister behind to entertain his Royal in-laws who arrived to await the birth of their first grandchild! (Tong and Bones, p. 2)! Lascelles also resisted the King’s urge to elevate him to the rank of Marquess. He believed “Marquisates died out quicker than any other title and he was keen to provide himself and his ancestors with heirs! (Tong and Bones, p.2).
Princess Mary and her family were often involved in Royal events. Her son recalls the pride he felt in seeing his father ride with the King and the Prince of Wales in Trooping the Colour,(Tong and Bones, p. 6) Both the couple’s sons had roles in their Uncle, George VI’s coronation–George as Page to the new King, while Gerald served their Grandmother, Queen Mary. The Lascelles family remained visibly in the Royal Family until the early 60s when George’s marriage broke down and a son was born to his then girl friend. Following a very rare (in those days) Royal divorce the couple quietly married her in the USA. George became a leading figure in the world of Opera–prompting a famous quote from his uncle, the Duke of Windsor:
very odd about George and music. You know his parents were quite normal —
liked horses and dogs and the country.”
By the end of the 1970s the Lascelles were again occasionally mentioned in the Court Circular–the divorce of Princess Margaret made their exclusion a big ridiculous. By the end of George’s life both the Queen and the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall had visited Harewood House to be welcomed by the Earl and his second wife. The Queen, who rarely attends funerals, was represented at George’s funeral by their younger first cousin, Prince Michael of Kent. (source)
The current Earl of Harewood, Princess Mary’s eldest grandchild, is David Lascelles, a godchild of the Queen (source). Unlike his Old Etonian father and forebearers, he was educated at Westminster where his father proudly related, he was on the First XI in cricket! He went on to become a name in the film industry and followed his father’s lead in having a children out of marriage (he subsequently married their mother) so that, unusually, it is his second son, Alexander, who is Lord Lascelles today, and who like his father will have to pass the title down to an as-yet-unborn second or subsequent son–assuming he marries!
So happiness and a lasting legacy CAN come from a marriage of different generations!