28 February 2015

Today's Princess: Daisy Greville

By The Lafayette Studio via Wikimedia Commons
Queen Victoria was not always the best character judge. When she selected Frances Evelyn "Daisy" Greville (1861-1938) as a potential bride for her youngest son Prince Leopold, she evidently overlooked some potential flaws that would have made Daisy a very poor member of the British Royal Family. Fortunately, Leopold already had determined to marry Princess Helen of Waldeck, and Daisy was free to pursue her life among the "fast" women of late Victorian and Edwardian ages. Among her chief claims to fame was that she was a longtime mistress of Leopold's brother, Albert Edward Prince of Wales--the future King Edward VII. (That would have made family get-togethers rather uncomfortable.)

Daisy was an heiress; she inherited a vast fortune from her father's family at the age of three. At 19, she married Lord Brooke, future Earl of Warwick. She earned the nickname "Babbling Brooke" for her notorious indiscretions: she just could not keep her mouth closed about who her lovers were. She was also extremely jealous. When she found out one of her lovers had impregnated his own wife, she wrote a threatening letter that was only kept out of the public eye through the intervention of The Prince of Wales.

She had three children with her husband and two more with one of her lovers. (She could easily inspire a Downton Abbey character!) Although fabulously wealthy, she was also extremely extravagant. She eventually ran herself into debt and tried to bribe the Royal Family to pay her off to keep her from publishing letters she had received from The Prince of Wales.

Daisy was definitely one of the It Girls of her day. Her fashions and pastimes were the subject of society and media attention. So much so that she is said to have inspired the dancehall song (now children's song) Daisy Belle:

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do

I'm half crazy all for the love of you
It won't be a stylish marriage
I can't afford a carriage
But you'll look sweet upon the seat
of a bicycle made for two

In fact, bicycles were not just a fashion that Daisy embraced, they were also one of her social/feminist causes. She supported the new fad of bicycles as a means for women, the poor and rural people to find more freedom and to improve their ability to work. Among the other causes, which she used her fortune to support, were schools for girls and trade unions. Opposed to World War I, she later joined the Labour Party.

Her potential mother-in-law Queen Victoria might have been more horrified by her politics than by her morals.

For more about Daisy:
Countess of Warwick on Sheila Hanlon's blog
The Many Scandals of the Marlborough House Set on Edwardian Promenade
Portrait of the Week: Daisy, Countess of Warwick on Madame Guillotine
Daisy Greville's Lovers on Royal Favourites
When Daisy Met Harold: An Edwardian Marketing Ploy on The Iron Room

Her Autobiography:

More Books about Daisy:

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