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The rooms in Stable Courtyard were built during the 1930s and have been named after the many famous and infamous people who stayed as guests of Lady Baillie at Leeds Castle during its weekend party heyday.
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Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll
Duchess of Argyll
Margaret was born ‘Ethel MargaretWhigham’, the daughter of Scottish Millionaire George HayWhigham. She was a very beautiful child and during her teenage years she had many romances with wealthy ‘playboys’. When she was fifteen she reputedly had an affair with David Niven, the famous actor and novelist who was only a few years older than her. Later in life they would both be friends and house guests of Lady Baillie at Leeds Castle.
Margaret was married twice, the first time in 1933 to Charles Sweeny, a Roman Catholic, a marriage for which she had to convert to Catholicism. She had three children with Sweeny but they divorced in 1947.
Her second marriage was to the 11th Duke of Argyll in 1951 which produced no children.Within a few years the Duke suspected his wife of having numerous affairs, so he broke into her private safe.There he found incriminating photographs of her with a man whose face was not visible, and unsurprisingly he filed for divorce.
The divorce case in 1963 was full of scandal and when the photographs were introduced as evidence everyone wanted to know who the ‘headless man’ was, and many high profile men were accused. One of these was Douglas Fairbanks Jr., also a regular house guest of Lady Baillie at Leeds Castle (as was his father Douglas Fairbanks Sr.), but he denied the allegations until the day he died.
Margaret led an eventful life where she was known as one of the most glamorous and well connected women in society. She was once asked what her secret was and she replied ‘Always a poodle, only a poodle! That, and three strands of pearls!’
Despite her many friends and her iconic public image, she died in relative poverty in a nursing home in 1990.
Stephane Boudin was an interior designer who in 1936 became President of the French design house Maison Jansen. His father Alexandre owned a company called Boudin Trimmings who specialised in the creation of historically accurate fabric trimmings – also known as passementerie – so Stephane was raised with an understanding of the historic interiors he would later recreate.
Boudin first came to Leeds Castle in the early 1930s when Lady Baillie was looking towards redecorating some of the rooms that had first been designed by Rateau in the 1920s. His first commission was to redesign the Breakfast Room, a grey panelled room on the ground floor of the New Castle. He sourced antique silk lambrequin – a decorative pelmet – and matched it with yellow silk walls to completely transform the room and rechristen it as the Yellow Silk Drawing Room.
Later on in the 1930s he turned the children’s schoolroom into the Library and the Servants Hall into a magnificent Dining Room, although with the outbreak of the Second World War, these rooms were immediately used as hospital wards, and so were not properly finished until 1948.
Boudin and Lady Baillie were not only business associates they became good friends and they regularly carried out what became known as ‘Boudin Weekends’, where they would enjoy rearranging furniture and implementing new design ideas together. Boudin had a particular skill with lighting rooms in a very subtle way that was not to everyone’s tastes. One female guest at the castle complained about the lighting saying ‘You know, Monsieur Boudin, the only thing I find wrong with this lovely house is that there is virtually nowhere that you can read a book’. Boudin replied ‘Madame, you should realise that as a client gets a little older the lights should get a little dimmer’.
Sir Henry “Chips”
Sir Henry “Chips” Channon
Henry was born in Chicago to wealthy parents who were both descendants of English émigrés to America. The family had made their fortune with a fleet of ships that sailed across the Great Lakes.
In 1920 Henry attended Oxford University where he gained his nickname of “Chips”. It was here that he also met Prince Paul of Yugoslavia who would remain a lifelong friend and “the person who I have loved most” according to Henry’s later diaries. It was widely suspected that the two men became romantically involved.
Henry developed anti-American opinions and wrote that America was “a menace to the peace and future of the world. If it triumphs, the old civilisations, which love beauty and peace and the arts and rank and privilege, will pass from the picture”.
In 1933 he became a naturalised British citizen and married the heiress to the Guinness fortune, Lady Honor Guinness, with whom he had one son Paul, born in 1935. It was in the same year that he was elected as MP for Southend and began a Political career that would last until his death.
In 1939 Henry met Peter Coats who was a Garden and Landscape Designer, and they began an affair that would end Henry’s marriage, which was finally dissolved in 1945. In 1957, Henry received a Knighthood but died only a year later in 1958.
Sir Charles Spencer
Sir Charles Spencer
Charlie Chaplin was born in London to parents who were music hall entertainers. He had two half brothers, Sydney and George, both of whom were fathered by other music hall entertainers that his parents worked with. Charlie’s childhood was one of poverty, an absent father and a sick mother, resulting in him being sent to a workhouse twice.
Out of necessity he began working at an early age in the music halls of London and when he was 19 he was signed to the well known Fred Karno company and went to America. In 1914 he started appearing in the silent movies, most frequently as his famous ‘Tramp’ persona.
In 1919 he co-founded the United Artists distribution company that gave him and other artists control over their films, and he became a global star and instantly recognisable figure. He married four times first to Mildred Harris in 1918 with whom he had one son. Secondly, to Lita Grey in 1924, with whom he had two sons. Thirdly to Paulette Goddard in 1936, a marriage that produced no children, and finally to Oona O’Neill in 1943 with whom he had three sons and five daughters.
From the 1920s through to the 1960s Charlie Chaplin wrote, directed and performed in numerous films, and became a much beloved public figure. Despite this he was suspected of Communist leanings and was prevented in returning to America after he left there in 1952. He said “Whether I re-entered that unhappy country or not was of little consequence to me. I would like to have told them that the sooner I was rid of that hate-beleaguered atmosphere the better, that I was fed up of America’s insults and moral pomposity”.
During the 1960s Chaplin had a series of strokes which left him frail and began his decline into poor health. He died in 1977.
Sir Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Churchill
Churchill was the son of Lord and Lady Randolph Churchill and was born at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. He was educated at Harrow and Sandhurst and began his military career in 1895 when he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars. He served in Cuba, India and Sudan before resigning from the army in 1899.
In 1900 he was elected as MP for Oldham for the Conservative party but in 1904 he ‘crossed the floor’ and joined the Liberals. During the next 60 years he would serve as MP for Manchester North West, Dundee, Epping and Woodford, as well as being appointed Home Secretary in 1910-1911, Minister of Munitions 1917-1919, Secretary of State for War 1919- 1921, Chancellor of the Exchequer 1924-1929, First Lord of the Admiralty 1939-1940, Minister of Defence 1951-1952, and of course Prime Minister twice 1940- 1945 and 1951-1955. In 1953 he was Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.
He was married to Clementine Hozier and they had five children together. Churchill died in 1965 and was given a full state funeral.
Robert Anthony Eden
Robert Anthony Eden
Anthony Eden was born in 1897 at Windlestone Hall to a wealthy family with a long aristocratic history. He was educated at Eton and Oxford and served as a Captain in the 21st Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps during the First World War.
He excelled at languages and was fluent in Persian, Arabic, French and German. In 1923 he was elected as MP for Warwick and Leamington as a Conservative politician and served as Prime Minister 1955-1957.
Douglas Fairbanks was born in Denver, Colorado, the son of a lawyer and a wealthy heiress. He began acting at a young age and first appeared on Broadway in 1902. He married three times first to Anna Sully in 1907 with whom he had a son Douglas, secondly to Mary Pickford in 1920 and thirdly to Sylvia Ashley in 1936.
Fairbanks was a founding member of United Artists and was a good friend of Charlie Chaplin. Mary Pickford, Fairbanks’ second wife, was an actress and second only to Chaplin was the highest paid film star in Hollywood at the time. By 1918 Fairbanks was the most popular Hollywood actor and became the third highest paid star after Chaplin and Pickford.
In 1921 the three stars had such influence and popularity that they, along with others, formed the Motion Picture Fund that provided financial assistance to out of work actors. In 1927, Fairbanks and Pickford were the first film stars to place their handprints in wet cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, a ritual and ceremony that continues to this day.
In 1929 Fairbanks hosted the first Oscars awards ceremony to take place.
In 1939 Fairbanks suffered a mild heart attack and after uttering his famous last words “I’ve never felt better” he died.
His son, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was also a very successful Hollywood actor and also stayed at Leeds Castle as a guest of Lady Baillie.
Errol Flynn was born in Tasmania to a father who was a college Professor and a mother who he claimed was descended from the Bounty Mutineers. He attended school first in Tasmania, but then spent two years, 1923-1925, at the South West London College in England, before returning to Australia in 1926 to attend a Grammar School. He was apparently expelled from this school after having an intimate relationship with the school’s laundry maid.
Flynn made his acting debut in 1933 in an Australian film ‘In the Wake of the Bounty’ and the same year moved to Northampton, England to train as a professional actor. In 1934 he was expelled from his training after throwing a female stage manager down a flight of stairs. Despite this bad behaviour he was signed by Warner Bothers and emigrated to America.
He was immediately a success and became best known for his ability to produce fast sword fights in swashbuckling adventures. Flynn was married three times first to Lili Damita in 1935, secondly to Nora Eddington in 1943 and thirdly to Patrice Wymore in 1950. He also had very public affairs with other film stars such as Olivia de Havilland, Bette Davis and Marlene Dietrich.
Unsurprisingly, Flynn developed a reputation for womanising, hard drinking and the use of narcotic substances and started having financial difficulties. In 1959 whilst trying to negotiate the lease of his luxury yacht to release some funds, he became unwell and died.
Barbara Woolworth Hutton
Barbara Woolworth Hutton
Barbara Hutton was born in New York the daughter
of Frank Hutton a wealthy businessman and Edna Woolworth, the daughter of Frank Woolworth the founder of the Woolworths empire. Her childhood was unhappy as her father had numerous affairs and her mother suffered severe depression. When she was five years old, Hutton discovered her mother’s body after she had committed suicide.
In 1924, when she was just twelve years old, Hutton inherited $26 million from her Grandmother. By the time she was 21 in 1933, and able to take possession of the funds, her father had invested it so well that the amount had increased to $42 million. She instantly became one of the richest women in the world and was known in the press as ‘poor little rich girl’.
Throughout her lonely childhood where she spent much of her life away from her father, she fantasised about a Prince coming to rescue her, so when she inherited her vast fortune, she instantly set out to find a man with a title so that she could become a proper princess.
In total she was married seven times:
• Prince Alexis Mdivani in 1933
• Count Kurt Haugwitz-Reventlow in 1935 • Cary Grant in 1942
• Prince Igor Troubetzkoy in 1947
• Porfirio Rubirosa in 1953
• Baron Gottfried von Cramm in 1955
• Prince Raymond Doan in 1964
She had one son, Lance Reventlow, from her second marriage, who became a racing driver and was killed in a plane crash in 1972.
She moved to England in 1936 and built a house in Regent’s Park London called Winfield House. After the war she gave it to the United States Government and the house became the official residence of the US Ambassador to the Court of St James’s.
Despite her vast wealth Hutton was never happy and never felt loved by her husbands. She became an alcoholic and wasted her money on a lavish lifestyle that indulged the retinue that gathered around her. When she died in 1979 she was virtually penniless.
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
President of the United States
John Kennedy was born in 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts, to Joseph Kennedy a businessman and politician. He was educated at various different schools and suffered from many bouts of ill health, which interrupted his studies. He finally started at Harvard University in 1936.
In 1938 he travelled to England with his father who had been appointed the US Ambassador to the Court of St James’s, and worked at the American Embassy. In 1939 he travelled around Europe before returning to his studies at Harvard, graduating in 1941.
Between 1941 and 1945 he joined the US Navy Reserve and saw active service during the Second World War.
In 1953 he married Jacqueline Bouvier and they had three children together.
In 1960, Kennedy was elected as President of the United States, but was assassinated three years later.
HRH Prince George
HRH Prince George
Duke of Kent
Prince George was the fifth child of King George V and Queen Mary, and was the younger brother to King Edward VIII and King George VI. He was born on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. He was educated privately at home and then went on to Naval College at Dartmouth, serving in the Royal Navy until 1929. After his Naval career he was employed by the Foreign Office and Home Office and was the first member of the Royal Family to work as a civil servant.
In 1934 he was created Duke of Kent and later that year he married Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark. Together they had three children, Prince Edward, Princess Alexandra, and Prince Michael.
When war was declared in 1939, Prince George returned to military service serving as Rear Admiral and Air Vice-Marshal. In 1942 Prince George was killed in an air disaster when he and fourteen other personnel were on board a flying boat travelling to Iceland, which crashed into a hillside in Caithness, Scotland. When his body was recovered, there was a briefcase full of Swedish Krona notes, leading to speculation that he was on a military mission to Sweden.
Lady Ampthill was the ‘other grandmother’ of Lady Baillie’s grandchildren the Russells. They would call her Granny A while Lady Baillie was known as Granny B.
Lady Ampthill was born Christabel Hulme Hart in 1896, the daughter of Lieutenant Colonel John Hart of the Leinster Regiment. During the First World War she responded to a notice in The London Times which read “Lost in the North Sea mist – three young midshipmen who would like to correspond with young ladies...” It was placed there by the Hon. John Russell, heir to the Ampthill baronetcy and an officer in the Royal Navy, and he was immediately captivated by the photo she had sent.
Their courtship involved late night dancing and when they married in 1918 it was against the wishes of Russell’s parents as Christabel was thought to be a girl of loose morals and not good enough for their son. The marriage was not happy and was apparently never consummated, so when she gave birth to a son, Geoffrey Russell, in October 1921 her husband accused her of adultery and sued for divorce. This began the famous ‘Russell Baby Case’ that endured through two divorce trials and examined whether this child was legitimate and the heir to the Ampthill title or the product of Christabel being “a woman of no reputation, and he a nobody’s child”.
At the end of the second trial Christabel lost her case and her son was declared illegitimate, a result that she appealed against. In 1924 in a remarkable turn of events, the ruling was overturned and Geoffrey was declared the true heir of the Ampthills.
The Ampthills finally divorced in 1937 and Christabel never remarried, choosing instead to live an independent life in Ireland in Dunguaire Castle, which she purchased and refurbished, and spent her days riding and hunting in a carefree manner.
Geoffrey Lloyd was born into a wealthy family and educated at Harrow and Cambridge. He entered into a political career failing to gain a seat in elections in 1924 and 1929, but finally being elected as MP for Birmingham Ladywood in 1931.
He served as Private Secretary to Stanley Baldwin and during the Second World War held many important roles such as Secretary for Mines 1939-1940, Secretary for Petroleum 1940-1942, and Minister of Information in 1945.
He was a great friend and advisor of Lady Baillie and would spend many weekends at Leeds Castle during the war, discussing policy and plans along with other cabinet members who stayed there.
In 1974 Lloyd changed his surname to Geoffrey-Lloyd and was shortly afterwards created Baron Geoffrey Lloyd. The same year Lady Baillie died and he was a trustee of the newly created Leeds Castle Foundation until his death in 1984.
David Niven was born in London, the son of a Soldier who served in the Berkshire Yeomanry and died at the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915. He was educated at Stowe and Sandhurst graduating from there in 1930 with a commission as a Second Lieutenant. Despite being promoted to Lieutenant in 1933, later the same year he resigned and emigrated to America.
He first worked in Horse Rodeo promotion in Atlantic City, but soon went to Hollywood to start an acting career. Between 1936 and 1940 he starred in 19 films produced by Samuel Goldwyn, and established himself as one of the Hollywood elite.
When war was declared in 1939, Niven returned to England and re-joined the army, gaining a commission as a Lieutenant in the Rifle Brigade. He also served in the ‘Phantom Signals Unit’ which located and reported on enemy positions. The secrecy of this role stayed with him so that after the war he would say very little about his service. One remark he did make was, “Anyone who says a bullet sings past, hums past, flies, pings or whines past, has never heard one – they go crack!”
Niven married twice, first to Primula Rollo in 1946, and secondly to Hjordis Paulina Genberg Tersmeden in 1948. In his youth, he had a romantic affair with the future Duchess of Argyll, who was also a regular house guest of Lady Baillie at Leeds Castle.
Niven died after several years of illness in 1983.
Dorothy Wyndham Paget
Dorothy Wyndham Paget
Dorothy Paget was the younger sister of Lady Baillie, and was born in 1905 in London. Whilst Lady Baillie was always shy, Dorothy was loud and outspoken, and was expelled from several of her schools during her childhood. She finally attended a finishing school just outside Paris that was run by two Russian emigres. It was here that she met her lifelong friend and companion Olga.
Dorothy had inherited the same immense wealth that Lady Baillie did, and was a constant presence here at Leeds Castle when her sister was overseeing the renovations. She occupied the Turret Bedroom in the Castle when she was staying.
Instead of spending her money on a castle like her sister, Dorothy had inherited the Whitney family passion for thoroughbred horses, and owned several racing and stud stables. She became a highly successful owner and in her lifetime her horses won over 1500 races. Her horses won the Cheltenham Gold Cup seven times, her best horse Golden Miller winning it five years running from 1932-1936. Golden Miller also won the Grand National in 1934, the only horse to date to win both trophies in one year.
Dorothy was a difficult person to work with. She preferred to sleep during the day and work at night so her staff and trainers had to get used to being available at all hours. She refused to call her staff by name, instead allocating them colours. From 1935-1939 Dorothy was one of the biggest race course gamblers in Europe.
She was also passionate about motor car racing and in the 1920s had financed the team of supercharged Bentleys created by Tim Burkin.
Despite her difficult nature she was capable of great charitable acts. She built a retirement home for Russian emigres outside Paris and also funded the Russian cemetery in the same town.
Marchioness of Queensberry
Cathleen Mann was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne to parents who were artists. She studied at the Slade School of Art in London, but when war was declared in 1914 she served with an ambulance unit.
After the war she became an accomplished artist, specialising in portraits, and she had her work exhibited in the Royal Academy, V&A Museum and the National Portrait Gallery amongst other venues.
Cathleen married twice, first to Francis Douglas, 11th Marquess of Queensberry in 1926, and together they had two children. They divorced in 1946 and the same year she married John Follett.
Throughout the 1930s, she continued to paint portraits but also expanded her portfolio to include costume design for films. After her second husband died in 1953, Cathleen was distraught but produced some of her best works during this bleak period.
She took her own life in 1959 and her obituary stated: “Many hundreds of people living in the dock district of south West Ham during the September bombing of 1940 owe their lives to the determination and courage of the late Cathleen Mann.
As Marchioness of Queensberry she used her name and the strength of her personality to break through the official difficulties to commandeer transport by both road and rail to carry numbers of helpless and in some cases crippled people to safety.”
HRH Prince Edward
HRH Prince Edward
Duke of Windsor
Prince Edward was born at White Lodge, Richmond Park, the eldest child of King George V and Queen Mary. He was educated privately at home and then entered Dartmouth Naval College. He entered the Royal Navy in 1910 and served as a midshipman for three months before studying at Oxford University.
When war was declared in 1914 Prince Edward joined the Grenadier Guards and was keen to see active service, but as he was heir to the throne his request was refused by Lord Kitchener. He did however see trench warfare in his frequent visits to the front line, and for this service he was awarded the Military Cross in 1916. In 1918 he experienced his first military flight, which would inspire him to later gain his Pilot’s Licence.
After the war Prince Edward lived the life of a Bachelor and reputedly had numerous romantic affairs with married and unsuitable women. In 1930 he was granted Fort Belvedere in Windsor Great Park as his private residence, where he held glamorous parties. It was at one of these that he met Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee who would change the course of British History.
Prince Edward and Wallis began a relationship that was not looked upon favourably by his parents, or the
British Government. When King George died in 1936 and Prince Edward became King Edward VIII, it became clear that he intended to marry Wallis, but he knew that if he did his Government would resign prompting unprecedented crisis, so he chose to abdicate for the woman he loved.
His younger brother Albert became King George VI, and the following year Prince Edward was created Duke of Kent. Later the same year he married Wallis and she became the Duchess of Windsor. They lived in exile for many years, not receiving an official invitation to England until 1965, when they did return and met with Queen Elizabeth II.
The Duke died in 1972 and his body was brought to England for a funeral and burial at Frogmore.