Obituary: Loelia Lindsay
TO MANY Loelia Lindsay will be best remembered as Loelia, Duchess of Westminster, author of an extraordinarily frank autobiography, Grace and Favour, published in 1961, which has proved to be something of a social document. This was an awful saga, light-heartedly written, of a (comparatively) poor girl marrying, presumably for passion, one of the richest and handsomest men of the day, with whom she had little in common. The wedding of the Hon Loelia Ponsonby to 'Bendor', second Duke of Westminster was the society event of 1930. The marriage was made hideous by the husband's selfishness, wilfulness, inordinate jealousy and boredom. For six agonising years the couple seldom stayed more than two nights under the same roof.
Loelia had merely to express a partiality for a certain flower and barrowloads of exotic plants were wheeled into her hotel sitting-room; or for a certain make of car and a Rolls Royce was driven that afternoon to the front door. If ever a disillusioned, wretched, captive young wife adorned a tale of luxury, she pointed a moral which still has a warning for today's world of cosmopolitan multimillionaires.
Loelia emerged, if not entirely unscathed from this traumatic experience, then with her boundless sense of humour intact. When I met her in 1943 she was free from the marital shackles, though not yet divorced, and living in an entrancing pink-washed, Jane-Austen-like seatlet, Send Grove near Woking. She was able to indulge a faultless natural taste in decorating this small Regency house after presiding over a vast Gothic palace where she was allowed no scope whatsoever. Furthermore she was able to entertain her own literary and artistic friends after enduring the duke's hunting and shooting companions and toadies (the first house-party she hosted at Eaton Hall numbered 75 people of whom she barely knew two couples). Between her separation and the necessity to leave Send Grove for financial reasons she probably passed the happiest years of her life. In 1969 to the surprise of her friends she married Sir Martin Lindsay, MP, traveller, Arctic explorer and leader of a gallant expedition to Greenland. Lindsay was a devoted husband, indefatigable in rendering her contented and comfortable.
Loelia Lindsay was tall, dark, handsome; with what is called a distinct presence. Her manner, which at first struck strangers as imperious, soon broke into relaxed friendliness. Underneath she was extremely shy, probably because of the frequent absences of her parents from home when she was a child. Her father, the first Lord Sysonby, was a member of the court successively of Queen Victoria, Kings Edward VII and George V. From her beautiful and somewhat overbearing mother she inherited two considerable gifts, gardening and needlework. Loelia's needlework, of which she was justly proud, was regarded by professionals as absolutely first-rate. She experimented with different stitches in minute petit point mingling beads and even hair with coloured silks and wools.
Loelia had an enquiring mind which quickly grasped problems not immediately soluble by less astute persons. She was extremely high-spirited and life-enhancing. She was a great enjoyer. Her sense of the ludicrous was infectious and in listening to stories she would laugh until the tears rained down her cheeks. To be with her was to experience enchantment, translating into an ambience where wit and humour spread their wings and lively talk sparkled and rippled.
- 1 BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
General Election 2015: David Cameron catching up in polls – but he badly needs a clear lead
South Africa xenophobic attacks: Shops looted and violence on streets of Johannesburg as foreigners are forced to hide in police stations
Earthworms rain down from skies over Norway, puzzling scientists
18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a white stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
Russian warships in English Channel 'to conduct anti-aircraft and anti-submarine military drills'
£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...
£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen at th...
£36000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...