Mrs Ronnie: The Society Hostess Who Collected Kings Hardcover – 18 Apr 2013
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This really is a beautiful, lavishly illustrated biography revealing that Margaret was born in circumstances that would ordinarily have excluded her from respectable middle-class let alone Royal society --Betty's Books blog
About the Author
Cultural historian Sian Evans has drawn on her extensive knowledge of historic houses and their archives to explore the largely unrecorded working and personal lives of our ancestors 'in service'. She previously worked for the National Trust, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Design Museum, and is the author of Ghosts: Mysterious Tales from the National Trust and Pattern Design.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is a very nicely written and well-paced biography of that great society hostess, the Hon. Mrs Ronald Greville, imperatrice for so many years of Polesden Lacey. Margaret Greville was a woman assiduous in her pursuit of the aristocracy and, in particular, members of the Royal Family. In this she was remarkably successful, considering that her great wealth stemmed from her Father's remarkable success in 'trade', which was rather looked down upon by the aristocracy of the time. I can only think that her wealth was so enormous, her collection of jewellery so fabulous, her hospitality so lavish, her connections so impressive, that very few important people of the day could ignore her. And if they did so, it risked them being subjected to her notoriously vicious tongue.
Sian Evans paints a very fair and non-judgmental picture of her subject, and of her life and times. On balance, I rather like Mrs Greville. She may have been ambitious and self-seeking, but behind that rather hard carapace I find a woman with a warm heart. She had a legion of servants who adored her and had served her for many years and her generosity to them when she died was remarkable for the time.
The author's task was not made easier by the fact that Mrs Greville's Head Steward, in accordance with his Mistress's wishes, destroyed all her personal papers after her death. Sian Evans has coped very well with this handicap and produced a nice volume which is easy to read and assimilate. I think it will be well received, and I urge readers who are interested in British Society in the first half of the 20th century to see this for themselves.
It's so refreshing to have the original owner of one of the National Trust's great houses, brought to life. The Trust could do with telling more stories like this, although Mrs Ronnie might take some beating. A must read for anyone planning a visit to Polesden Lacey and everyone who is a fan of period drama. Truth really is stranger than fiction!
Margaret Helen Anderson was born in 1863; even then her life was shrouded in mystery, the father listed on her birth certificate most likely an amenable employee of her real father, William McEwan a wealthy Scotsman who had made his fortune in brewing beer. Later her mother married McEwan and Margaret was treated as his true daughter, with his fortune later being inherited by her. A wealthy young woman of good family, she was propelled into society further by her marriage to the well-connected Captain the Hon. Ronald Henry Fulke Greville, first-born son of the 2nd Baron Greville and his wife, Lady Beatrice Violet Graham, daughter of the 4th Duke of Montrose. From then, ‘Mrs Ronnie’ as she like to be called, made the storming of polite English society her forte and her passion. In 1906, she and her husband brought the substantial country house of Polesden Lacey in Surrey with money given by McEwan to Margaret (approximately ₤4.5 million in today’s currency) and ‘Mrs Ronnie’ turned her hand to making Polesden Lacey a luxurious home fit for kings to stay.
When Margaret’s father William McEwan died in 1913 at the age of 85, he left a fortune worth approximately ₤65,000,000 in today’s currency. His will confirmed that Margaret was his “lawful daughter”. By 1913, Margaret had been widowed without children, and had lost both her mother and father. But she was by no means ready to retire from society. ‘Mrs Ronnie’ travelled widely, knew and was known by everyone who was anyone, and was part of royal and noble society right up until her death in 1942.Read more ›
Nevertheless, this is a readable and pleasant enough historical account, and certainly a bonus for anyone visiting Polesden Lacey, which its owner bequeathed to the National Trust, and a visit to the house will certainly be enhanced by knowing about its fabulously rich former owner and the people she entertained there.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fascinating book about the hostess of Polesden Lacey. I am giving it as a Christmas presentPublished 8 months ago by L
Excellent research. Country house life and the manipulations of Mrs Greville brought to life.Published 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
Fascinating read about an incredible journey from rags to vast wealth and connections with royalty.Published on 6 Aug. 2014 by Kate Hoile
I had visited Polsden Lacey, and wanted to know more. This book proved to be an essential adjunct to the visit - magnificently written almost as a series of articles, separate but... Read morePublished on 30 July 2014 by Malcolm G.
very interesting read glad I bought it
very interesting historical events of that time
showed how different views are today
The life of the heir to the McEwen's beer fortune, the formidable grand dame The Hon. Mrs Ronald Greville, is told with ease and grace in this attractively designed volume, whose... Read morePublished on 14 Jun. 2014 by Multrus
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