23 January 2012

Lady Diana Manners' Coterie & War

Lady Diana Manners was the Beauty of her day-her pale skin tracing the faint blue blood that ran just under it. She stood in the center of the golden Corrupt Coterie. Of the men that adored her- Edward Horner, Patrick Shaw Stewart, Hugo Charteris & Raymond Asquith- only Duff Cooper returned from the first World War. The pair would marry as the war to end all wars waned. Her beautifully written memoirs of the period The Rainbow Comes & Goes record her triumphs and losses-there were many.  Upon reading all of Diana Cooper's memoirs it is this one that explains much of her life choices. No wonder she would cling to Duff Cooper after the dance of death raced over the landscapes of Europe and the rest of the world that war claimed.  She wrote if death will only spare him we will live our lives together. But before they wed, the Coterie would dance a tarantella frenziedly to combat any pause that would let death conquer their morale. If one of them fell with pain, he was tenderly lifted and treated, but strangling tears must not stop the salutary delirium.

The self-styled Corrupt Coterie believed the British Empire was invincible. Their future glittered over the island only to be decimated by the flames of war.

The day war was declared we were playing the war game, then very much the fashion,, elaborated by Winston Churchill into a pastime for strategists and involving hundreds of tin soldiers. As my brother, Bunt Goschen and our adored Ego Charteris lay on their stomachs in a stone  courtyard lining up their army corps...From the day of declaration my fearful vision saw it all as it was to be, but a lot of older people thought of it as another Boer War.  DMC

That-It was not to be.

Early on-Lady Diana was determined to play her part in the War effort. Many-in fact all the young men mentioned in her memoirs would eventually soldier off to War. After  pleading to serve as a nurse with her mother-Diana won & she started nursing at Guy's Hospital. Her friend Patrick Shaw Stewart wrote: I'm thrilled to hear of your resolution; it will be simply bloody but I think it's well worth while.


A member of the Coterie, he was devoted to Diana Manners. Patrick Shaw Stewart was considered the most brilliant of the Corrupt Coterie. An Eton College and Oxford scholar, the youngest managing director ever named at Baring's Bank-when the war broke out- he joined Britain's Royal Navy.

Ego & Letty

Hugo,"Ego", Charteris was the son of Lord and Lady Elcho , the Lady Mary Elcho, of Sargent's 'The Wyndham Sisters'. Lady Cynthia Charteris Asquith was sister to Ego . Ego had married Diana's sister, "Letty"-Lady Violet Manners. Hugo was the eldest son to Lord Elcho & was to succeed his father  in that title.

In her memoir Diana recalled attending a memorial service with her sister in Saint Paul's Cathedral. Kneeling beside me Letty whispered To think we might be at Ego's requiem. And all the while Ego was dead He had been killed in a flash near the Sinai desert. DMC


Lady Diana Manners wrote: Edward darling, I think it's up to the Coterie to stop this war. Edward Horner was rumoured to be engaged to Diana Manners. He was the heir to his family's estate in Somerset- Mells. Horner, another of the generation's golden boys, died during the Battle of Cambrai in 1917, having already survived a potentially fatal injury two years earlier – a bullet had passed through a kidney, which had to be removed, an operation of phenomenal risk in the days of per-antibiotic medicine.(read an article about  Downton Abbey & Horner here) 

It was overwhelmingly dreadful...everyone... had found Edward irresistible. He had a lot of real melancholy woven into his joie de vivre... He thought life could do more than it can & it had not given him much except a loving family & friends...I was to see him but once again. I felt my spirit too low to recover. Only a few months before we had had to bear the worst of all our losses. DMC

'He hath outsoared the shadow of our night.' Shelley

The Memorial to Edward Horner, St Andrew's Church, Mells, Somerset. 
The base of the memorial is by Sir Edwin Lutyens and the equestrian statue is by Sir Alfred Munnings.

Raymond & K

Edward's sister ,"K",Katharine Frances Horner had married the much admired Raymond Asquith in 1907. Diana saw Raymond & Katherine as the perfect couple. Asquith was the oldest member of the Coterie & the eldest son & heir of British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith.

By his death everything changed, except the war that ground its blind murderous treadmill round & round without retreat or advance, with no sign of the beginning of the end. DMC

Diana with Lily Elsie posing in Hearts of the World- a war propaganda film

In one of Patrick Shaw Stewart's letters to Diana he closes: Darling Diana, just in case I should be killed I do want to impress it on you that you have practically the burden of this generation on your shoulders. Be fruitful & multiply & replenish the earth and salt it, & encourage the good & cause the undesirable to writhe, & never say that you forgive little moral obliquities only because their perpetrator comes straight from the trenches.

Be careful & lucky darling Patrick. I feel a straw will finish my back now-let alone a fair pillar of my house breaking on it. DMC

Achilles In the Trench- Patrick Shaw Stewart

I saw a man this morning
Who did not wish to die;
I ask, and cannot answer,
if otherwise wish I.

Fair broke the day this morning
Upon the Dardanelles:
The breeze blew soft, the morn's cheeks
Were cold as cold sea-shells.

But other shells are waitind
Across the Aegean Sea;
Shrapnel and high explosives,
Shells and hells for me.

Oh Hell of ships and cities,
Hell of men like me,
Fatal second Helen,
Why must I follow thee?

Achilles came to Troyland
And I to Chersonese;
He turned from wrath to battle,
And I from three days' peace.

Was it so hard, Achilles,
So very hard to die?
Thou knowest, and I know not;
So much the happier am I.

I will go back this morning
From Imbros o'er the sea.
Stand in the trench, Achilles,
Flame-capped, and shout for me.

Patrick Shaw Stewart was killed on 30 December 1917. A bullet in his head brought him instantaneous death-and an end to his brave heart & his mind teeming with methodical designs for a life of fine aims, fortune, fulfillment. DMC

Text taken from Diana Cooper's memoir is in navy-
I have a related Post about Otto and Encounters with the Coterie at my sister blog OTTOLINE DIVINE here



  1. What a sad reminder of the destruction of war--this time not of cities or families, but the rending of a network of friends, all of whom appeared to have had a lot more to offer the world than just their quickly-extinguished lives.
    --Road to Parnassus

    1. Parnassus SO True. An entire generation was wiped out by this war-any war in fact. I Tuned in to the period years ago when I read Lady Diana Cooper's Memoirs-they are exceptional. I this one again last summer. This post was prompted by the Downton Abbey Phenom-and its story lines. I enjoyed the linked article on Horner and Mells

  2. Well, you just gave me another great history lesson. I learn so much from you Gaye! Did you watch "Secrets of the Manor House" before Downton last night? It was fascinating!!!!!

    1. Emily- I missed it! SO sorry about that hope it will be shown again. Glad you like this post. pgt

  3. Have you read Duff Cooper' Operation Heartbreak? Highly recommended.

    1. Miss Rayne- I have not read the Duff side of things- but I should and will with your recommendation. His letters to DMC exhibit him as a beautiful writer-as I think she was too. The period had to have given them an unbreakable bond-and it seems that it did. thanks for this suggestion.

  4. When the Paradigm of Beauty was that of the Classical...your post right off shows us what the epitome of a Woman's body was 100 years or so ago...how far we've fallen where Beauty now lives trapped within the image of a skeletal War Camp survivor.

    1. The Swan-Well said. Diana was considered to be perfection-and very slender. Yet as you say here we see her young figure "in the flesh." The photograph and the other of Diana and Lily Elsie come from The Diana Cooper Scrapbook -compiled by her great grand daughter Artemis. Wonderful that she is named for Diana in the Greek sense. The book has a wealth of photographs of Diana's acting career. Her young years-and many more in her remarkable Life. PGT

  5. I have a post at my other blog Ottoline Divine - Ottoline & Encounters with the coterie http://ottolinedivine.blogspot.com/2012/01/ott-encounters-with-coterie.html
    another look at the times and the war.
    hope you get a chance to read it.

  6. Beautiful written, researched with archival images...a fascinating post. I look forward to continuing on to Ottoline and the coterie. What a dreadful consequence of this war, the loss of a generation, the consequences beyond count.
    Thank you for this post.

    1. thank you Philip. Diana Cooper wrote some beautiful prose here in these memoirs- I am always captivated by them.

    2. From Diana Cooper you get only a rather ‘Mills & Boon’ version of the past. Another writer, and also one of the Mitford sisters, described her variously as “histrionic,” “narcissistic,” and “a ‘rhapsodist’ much given to emotive exaggeration.” The "Rainbow Comes and Goes" is heavily romanticized in places and not to be relied on for accuracy. A read of Duff Cooper's diaries, Raymond Asquith's letters, Shaw-Stewart's biography, or even her own biography by Ziegler, reveals her as quite duplicitous and incurably attention-seeking.
      Diana Cooper also had a track record for, and seemingly no twinges of conscience over, passionately pursuing men already spoken for - the main one being Raymond Asquith!

  7. It becomes clear that Downton Abbey (and its predecessor, Upstairs
    Downstairs) relied heavily on the memoirs of Lady Diana Cooper.
    In "Upstairs" Georgina Worsley trained as a nurse at Guys Hospital
    during the Great War, with specific story lines lifted from the life of
    Lady Diana Manners. Upstairs/Downstairs was more faithful to the
    period's conventions, whereas Downtown takes liberties.

    1. I couldn't agree more- and as you know we mostly always agree! It is always a wonder to read. pgt

  8. So tragic. I wonder what they might all have accomplished had they survived.

  9. J'aime beaucoup ces histoires si bien racontées!
    Elles nous replongent dans un triste passé de guerre mais ont laissé de sacrés souvenirs.
    Ces photos sont superbes!
    Thanks for sharing!
    have a good evening!

    1. A era that did shatter the lullaby beauty the Coterie lived in and their parents for that matter. PGT

  10. This was incredibly interesting, moving and beautiful to look at. Curtis

  11. Very much enjoyed your post- I stumbled across your blog while researching things I have found in the book "The Perfect Summer-England 1911, Just Before the Storm" by Juliet Nicolson. I became intrigued by Lady Diana Manners. It is such an encouraging thing to find others who reflect on the lives of time past - I have been greatly grieved and touched by the loss of so many fine young men in The Great War. Thank you for posting and I will put mark you as a "favorite". Also loved the production of Downton Abbey. So absorbing.

  12. I highly, highly recommend the trio of books about The Souls and The Coterie. I've reviewed two of them on my blog and the last, which focuses on the men mentioned in this post, on GoodReads.

  13. Splendid. I'm working my way through the second reading of Lantern Slides (Violet's diary & letters) and this compliments this delightful task perfectly. Thank you.

    1. I Must read Lantern Slides-off to track it down now! So glad you enjoyed this Don! pgt

    2. Violet's "ardour" & zest really shines through in the book, which makes it buoyant, despite the age of the words inscribed.

      Despite my intense dislike of having to say the following (self-serving writers are detestable!) - the mirror feeling of the admiration I felt last night while reading the above - it would be beneficial for you to look over my short review of the book before entering Lantern Slides.

      It can be found on Amazon (America). It will not be at all hard to find, since it is the ONLY review of the book, which is simply unbelievable, given the book's superb content & presentation (editing, introduction, etc.).

      On the other hand, it isn't exactly the type of thing that Chicago talk show hosts are likely to find interesting; nor would Barbara Walters (is she still alive?) be plugging it on The View, so off to the wilderness we go...

      What a shame it is that the prices for "The Rainbow Comes & Goes" are so high! At least here in America.

      I personally have been read the Riot Act by my wife that There Are Too Many Goddamned Books In This House And I Want To See Some Thrown Out, which means that from now on, any more books bought will have to be hid underneath the sofa pillows and the chimney, not bestowed upon the To Read shelves.

      So even if "Rainbow" were within my reach - which it just barely is - you can see that things are backed up here, immeasurably.

      A lovely problem to have, I insist, gently.

      Be well, write again.

      P.S.: What time on New Year's Eve 2008 (I take it that that is "December 31, 2008") was your first entry posted? If you like, I can do the horoscope (natal chart) for your site!

    3. Don, I got Lantern Slides today-Will start reading it soon and I will def. read your review!! I bought a paper back of The Rainbow... years ago-and have worn it out. Just this summer I found pristine copies of the 3 books at a great price-Love Looking at them in there bright pink-blue-and lavender jackets.

      Yes the first Entry of the blog was 12 31 2008! Would love that horoscope. thanks much PGT

  14. Excellent. Forgive the delay in response; a virus hit me when I wasn't looking and the recovery has been prolonged. One thing about the horoscope - see if you can find out what TIME it was posted. It would be nice to know but not essential.

    Anticipating that from now until the 25th will be The Usual Upheaval, I wish you a Merry Christmas today.


    P.S. See if you can find the news on the Internet about the Taiwanese tourist who, face riveted to her Facebook, managed to walk off a naval pier in Australia, landed in the drink and had to be rescued. No news as to whether they were able to fish the FB machine out of the water. or if the splash hurt the stock price.

    New Pointless Statistic: "Non-Facebook Created Mishaps: Zero."

    1. Don, wonderful, Here is the Published Time! 12/31/08 1:23 PM, Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  15. Wonderful. By the way, do you realize that if we were are all emails, everyone would know their time of birth?

  16. Thank you so much. Wonderful! Just started read about the Souls and the Coterie!

  17. For another picture on Duff Cooper, read the bio of Susan Mary(Jay) Alsop, "American Lady." A bit of an interloper and seen as such, despite her later DC prominence.



Related Posts with Thumbnails