8th March 2017
The life of Frances Evelyn Daisy Greville, née Maynard, is a truly remarkable one. This was a woman that married a future earl in Francis Lord Brooke, caught the eye of the Prince of Wales, future Edward VII, and finally, stood for the Labour Party in 1923.
Daisy has always been a woman that fascinates me. She was a member of the landed elite, but she favoured the socialist idea of land nationalisation. The Countess spent extravagant amounts on parties, yet, gave considerable amounts to the poor. When Daisy stood for parliament for the Labour Party on a socialist platform she still wore impressive pearls and a fur coat. This was certainly a woman that did it her way.
Daisy was a woman that stood out from the beginning. She thwarted the plans of Queen Victoria, who had planned a marriage to her youngest son, Prince Leopold. Instead, in 1881, Daisy would marry Francis Greville who by 1893 became the 5th Earl of Warwick. Daisy provided the Earl with a son in 1882, but by 1886 her eyes began to wander. Infidelity was accepted as long as it followed the age old tradition of discretion.
There is nothing worse than a woman’s scorn. Daisy was horrified to discover that Lord Charles Beresford’s wife had become pregnant. She sent a strongly worded letter to him. Did he receive the letter? No, his wife did. This caused an immense scandal and Daisy knew her reputation was in tatters. One man came to the rescue; none other than the Prince of Wales. Daisy would become royal mistress for nine long years. This came about because the Greville’s were a member of the Marlborough House Set, a gathering of the great and good of Edwardian high society, which the Prince himself headed.
Her years as royal mistress should have made her reputation unassailable, but Daisy’s character meant that she challenged him on his attitude towards the poorest in society, and sought his assistance with her various enterprises. This, in a way, forced the Prince’s hand when he discarded her for Alice Keppel. She certainly went against the mold, and this did damage her position in society. Did she care? Apparently not.
Daisy realized she was lucky to be born into her position in society, and sought to help those less lucky than she was. Daisy would start a home for those with disabilities, and established a needlework school for rural girls with a shop to sell their work. Daisy sought to offer educational opportunities to women and further their chances in a society very much closed off to them.
Socialism caught Daisy’s eye, and by 1904 she joined the Social Democratic Foundation. Daisy certainly gained new societal friends including George Bernard Shaw, H.G.Wells and Gustav Holst. She turned her talents to essay writing, of which one was on the merits of socialism. This was followed by speaking tours taking her as far as the United States in 1912.
With her foundation in the socialist movement, Daisy took the enormous gamble and stood for the Labour Party in a by-election for the seat of Warwick and Leamington in 1923. It was a risk as Westminster Palace then was seen as a men’s club. She gave women a role model to stand and let their voices be heard. This showed that there was more a woman could offer than simply looking after the household and bringing up a family.
Daisy would not be elected as she would lose by over 10,000 votes to Anthony Eden who would later become Prime Minister. Daisy would eventually turn away from a career in politics and socialism altogether. In her later years, she turned to the welfare of animals. She passed away peacefully in 1938 at the age of 76.
Daisy led a remarkable life. From her early years she thwarted the ambitions of a Queen and married a future Earl of Warwick. Scandals always hung over her marriage as she drew the attention of the Prince of Wales. The contrast in character really comes from her attitudes towards helping the poor, the strength to follow the socialist ideals of the time, and her confidence to stand for election as a woman.
Daisy certainly did it her way, and was not frightened to challenge the conventional image of a Countess.