Obituary: Loelia Lindsay

Loelia Mary Ponsonby: born 1902, married 1930 Hugh Richard Arthur, second Duke of Westminster (died 1953; marriage dissolved 1947), 1969 Sir Martin Lindsay of Dowhill Bt (died 1981); died 1 November 1993.

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.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness