08 December 2010

a father's love


no man can tell but he that loves his children
how many delicious accents make a man's heart dance
 in the pretty conversation of these dear pledges:
their childishness, their imperfections, their necessities,
 are so many emanations of joy and comfort
 to him that delights in their persons and society
         - Jeremy Taylor, 1653 xxv sermons

Earl Beauchamp with 5 of his children
in happier days swimming in the English Channel

when the Earl of  Beauchamp wrote his will, he left his most personal possessions to his 7 adored children, actually-all adults Lygons-except for his youngest Dickie: 'To Elmley my wearable ring, To Lettice my pearl studs...To Bradford my big watch.'

There were diaries- all destroyed.
William, Earl Beauchamp, had lived apart for years from his children-suffering a final blow from his brother in law's hostile outing -public knowledge of his homosexuality. In the book MADRESFIELD, author Jane Mulvagh, explains the Earl's airs and pomposity were likely a part of his public facade- husband, father, peer of the realm, servant of the state,and courtier- all put forth to cover over his real nature. She says of Diana Mosley, a friend of his children- the younger generation had a great deal of sympathy and understanding for the Earl-his own peers did not. Mosley however felt deeply for the children who were all effected greatly. His children 'supported him in every way. They loved him so much they were completely on his side- never wavered.'

Beauchamp the Penitent,depicted in a glass at the Chapel of Madresfield

after leaving England, h woulde write to one of his children every Sunday starting with the oldest-asking each child to share the letters with one another-adding ' if there is anything private to say it will be slipped into the same envelope, but separately. The family had stayed on at his beloved ancestral Madresfield- his wife and youngest son Dickie would leave Madresfield-the family ancestral home, to live with her brother, the Duke of Westminster, never returning to Madresfield. Beauchamp ended one of his letter's with 'I hope you will be happy together at Madresfield and I wish I could be with you!'

the family in 1925 on the Madresfield grounds-before the storm.
(l to r)Coote, Maimie,Sibell,Lettice,Lady Beauchamp, 
Lord Beauchamp(the 7th Earl),Elmley,Hugh and Dickie

Hugh, supposed model for Waugh's Brideshead, Sebastian, c.1925.

In Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh describes the Brideshead Chapel in detail. It is a description of the Madresfield Chapel:

"The whole interior had been gutted,elaborately refurnished in the Arts and Crafts style of the last decade of the 19 century. Angels in printed cotton smocks, rambler roses, flower-spangled meadows, frisking lambs, text in Celtic script, saints in armour, covered the walls in an intricate pattern of clear bright colours. There was a triptych of pale oak, carved so as to give the peculiar property of seeming to be moulded in plasticine. The sanctuary lamp and all the metal furniture were of bronze, handbeaten to the patina of pock marked skin. The altar steps had a carpet of grass-green, strewn with white and gold daisies..."EW

The Madresfield Court Chapel.
this detail shows Hugh & Elmley,Nanny served as model angel.

So much promise began the marriage of William Lygon and wife, Lettice.
Just 25 feet square, the private chapel at Madresfield must be a child's vision of heaven. Pre-Raphaelite frescoes graced the walls. The Chapel was a wedding present to his new wife. In fresco, the couple kneel at the altar, while over the years likenesses of their blonde children gathered around them. Colours have faded into a haze of powdery memory, as other walls were covered with children, pastoral scenes and angels like the one above. In her book Jane Mulvagh says "It is a room of such sweetness and repose that it takes your breath away." The Earl orchestrated the decorations of the Chapel, with Henry Payne painting the frescoes with his assistants. The furniture for the Chapel was of the Arts and Crafts style. The frescoes depict an English cottage garden- "a Garden of Albion.The scenes were applied in egg tempera of soft buttercup and saffron yellows, briar-rose and candy floss pinks,duck egg and clear spring blues ground into egg yolk and loosened with water." Author Mulvagh writes the fresco garden was planted with "the common flowers of a Worcestershire meadow. A trellis circles the garden to form a hortus inclusus, an enclosed garden a reference to the Song of Solomon- 'a garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse.' Briar Roses rambled up the trellis and against Madonna Lilies-the Pre-Raphaelite flower- loll in profusion." Payne placed the Earl is to the right of the altar-in his coronation robes, and to the left of the altar, his countess-dressed in her wedding gown. As the family quickly grew, sons, William (born 1903)  and Hugh (b.1904) were added. All the children were added as they came along, with the last and youngest Dickie (b.1916).

The Chapel

There are 8 morocco-bound prayer books in the Chapel today-the children's, one is the Earl's, all tooled in gold with the owner's name, their favourite flower and inscribed by their father. For Elmley he wrote, ' To a very darling young man,Elmley, from his loving Daddy. St. Anne's Day 1910.'  This was a Daddy that spent an inordinate amount of time with his children- unheard of in his day. He oversaw their rearing- reading to the girls for an hour after a lunch together in the afternoon. A list pasted in one of the many scrapbooks in the Madresfield library indicates what he read to his daughters during the middle of World War I.. The Earl had spent hundreds of hours reading to the girls during a time when he his political demands were greatest.The list was compiled by two of his young daughters. That they kept the list and their father enthusiastically read of enchanted forests, magic carpets in character, is a testament to the bond that was forged early on.

Into the oldest part of Madresfield Court William moved his own rooms- a low-ceilinged & beamed bedroom and bath. The walls were oak paneled and hung with a William Morris print of huge water blue and green lilies. The bedroom's furnishings were simple: a Tudor poster bed, a 16th century Flemish marriage chest, ladder back chair and gate-leg table. Just outside his room a line of child level porcelain sinks and lavs were installed and a large dresser sat opposite for the children's chamber pots. The children were close by in the Nursery and as they grew, they were moved into one of the Tudor bedrooms just above his own on the second floor. While the children basked in their father's cozy world-far removed on the opposite side of the house their mother resided in opulence and little time for her children. The Earl was still a strict disciplinarian and expected model behavior from his band while in public. His concern and love continued into their adulthood & when they might have moved on-they stood fast when he needed them. Daughter Sibell remembered her father many years later as one who loved his children very much-he taught us 'Tolerance. Always tolerance.'

Sibell with friend & author Evelyn Waugh

Exiled, always in motion -his ever supportive children-now adults-would find their way to him for visits.
For all that this was a man who suffered.
He was homesick for Madresfield and his family.
This undated poem perhaps expressed his pain:

Thou muse of my manhood how oft have I stray'd
O'er thy lawns and thy meadows, in sun and in shade;
and though I no longer am domiciled here,-
To my heart will sweet Madresfield ever be dear.

And with joy through my life could wander about
Its gardens and shrubberies, its walks and its moat;
Till with aid of my fancy, loved nymph, I could feign
The days I so valued were with me again.

A great embroiderer & driven scrapbook enthusiast - Earl Beauchamp pasted a Sir Lewis Morris poem in those-now relics in the Madresfield Library. It goes:

When I am gone and turned to dust
Let me say what they will, I care not aught...
But not that I Betrayed a trust,
Broke some girl's heart,and left her to shame,
Sneered young souls of faith, rose by deceit;
Lifted by credulous moves to wealth and fame;
Waxed fat while good men waned by lie and cheat;
Cringed to the throng; oppressed the poor and weak;
When men say this, may some find voice to speak
though I am dust.

Today, much has changed, and much remains the same-that of a father's love has not. The Earl of Beauchamp's lesson of Tolerance is one that more parents should instill in their young children in hopes that it will stay with them forever.

more reading -
the Elmley Foundation site here
about the Mulvagh book here
more about the Earl and his family here
see a watercolour study of Lady Beauchamp by Henry Payne here
read more the Scandal that shook Brideshead here
from the NYSD about the movie from the Evelyn Waugh book here

stained glass image & detail from the Chapel with Hugh & Elmley- from the Jane Mulvagh book MADRESFIELD



  1. Stunning stunning post. Once again your style of writing is superb and lovely to read. Like a wonderful novel to enjoy at the end of a long day!
    Jamie Herzlinger

  2. In this season it seems tolerance and forgiveness are two things that still need working on. This is a beautiful tribute to fathers and the children that love them. Thank you for this.

  3. Fascinating - I read the entire Telegraph piece. An inspiring story about parenting, love and tolerance. A gentle soul.

  4. What a great and moving post. It is so sad to read that the man of tolerance was met with such intolerance himself. I was reminded of Oscar Wilde!
    I will put Jane Mulvagh's 'Madresfield' on my reading list!
    Thank you for an inspiring morning read!
    Kindest regards!

  5. In his final letter to me before his death, a figure I discussed at rmbl in an entry for November 2nd wrote to me of his love for the 'Enigma' Variations, in giving me his prized recording by Arturo Toscanini. I commend it to your readers. The music is imperishable, but this posting helps to sustain it well.

  6. Jaime I appreciate that, the story has a way of telling itself.

    Anon- my thoughts exactly.

    Marnie, Victoria.the book goes into this period of Madresfield extensively. it actually covers the entire ancestry of the Earl and Madresfield Court.

  7. Victoria, Yes the Earl was very attuned to the Wilde story and there are references to him in this section of the book.

    Laurent- I will have to go back & read. The Variations are all very moving. What led me there was the relationship of the Earl's sister Mary Lygon who he was very close too. She and Elgar had a longstanding friendship, teacher-student and the 13th of the variations is to her. pgt

  8. What a wonderful and fascinating entry. Thank You. I feel I am blessed to be the son of a man and woman who taught me this lesson of which you write; which I hope I have passed on to my children.

    Great music!

  9. Thank you for this thought-provoking post. You so whetted my bibliophiliac appetite, I went immediately to my favorite used book site (abe.com) and ordered a copy of Jane Mulvagh's book, from a shop in Croydon, London. Aside from the human drama, books like this are pricelss for their ability to evoke the rhythms and textures of a past way of life. Which is where I most love to dwell...

  10. I put Mulvagh's book in my cart this a.m., thinking I'd go back and look at other used books before sending my order. In the meantime the book went up $10. I think your readers are stampeding to order! So nice to be able to see your sphere of influence. Global by Diana's above response.

  11. Diane and Home, I did enjoy the book tremendously especially this section.

  12. I haven't read the book by Mulvagh, but will have to do so. Madresfield Court is part of my heritage, though much earlier. My great grandmother was a descendant of Thomas Lygon whose brother Richard was the ancestor of the 7th Earl Beauchamp. I am very familiar with the Lygon family and the story of a family's love which we also experienced in our family. I am proud to be from this family, and through thick and thin, they weathered some difficult times and stayed as close as possible.

    1. SJR, thank you for reading, and writing. I do believe in family love as well-what more is there really? I was moved by the loss of those ties in this story when society's strident dictates forced the family's ties to break. I know there must have been long lasting effects and sadness that break brought on. pgt

  13. I have not read Mulvagh’s book either. My great grandmother was a descendant of Col. Thomas Ligon of Virginia who was the great grandson of Sir William Lygon of Madresfield and Eleanor Dennis. I have always been fascinated with the Lygon family, especially the 7th Earl’s family. They definitely seem to be a close-knit group. The American Ligons hold a family reunion every 10 years at Madresfield and have been graciously hosted by the Lygon family of England through the years.



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