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Mrs Ronnie: The Society Hostess Who Collected Kings Hardcover – 18 Apr 2013

4.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: National Trust Books (18 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1907892389
  • ISBN-13: 978-1907892387
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 2.3 x 24.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 276,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


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.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
For anyone interested in the great society hostesses of the first half of the 20th century (they disappeared rapidly after WWII and no comparable 'salons' now exist in Britain) 'Mrs Ronnie' makes a great read. Similarly for those who know and love the beautiful National Trust house, Polesden Lacey, this book sets the perfect backdrop to this idyllic place.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
Read this fascinating biography of Margaret Greville of Polesden Lacey and you'll wonder why we've never heard of this astonishing woman before. Sian Evans unveils a goldmine of material, as racy and pacy as any episode of Downtown Abbey. In fact, I couldn't help thinking that this story is crying out to be made into a screenplay.

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!
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By Keen Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER on 9 Feb. 2014
Format: Hardcover
“… I can see her, small but forceful, making her way to the front of any company she was in.”

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.
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By Amanda Jenkinson TOP 500 REVIEWER on 17 Dec. 2013
Format: Hardcover
Margaret Greville- or Mrs Ronnie as she liked to be called - rose from obscure and humble origins to be a famous society hostess and friend to the good and great of British society. At her beautiful house, Polesden Lacey she entertained just about everyone who was anyone, with even Queen Mary popping in to tea. From Edward VIII to George VI, she was on intimate terms with all the royals. George VI and his new bride even spent their honeymoon at her house. She was there for the abdication crisis and the war, and was as impressed by Mosley and Hitler as were many of her friends. But a life spent simply knowing and entertaining other people doesn't make for a very interesting life, and Sian Evans hasn't managed to make her subject come alive in any way. The book reads just as a list of people and events, with no insight into thoughts and feelings. Evan's task was not made any easier by Mrs Ronnie having all her private papers destroyed after her death by her steward, and certainly Evans has done an impressive amount of research, particularly into Margaret's early life. The book is also very interesting from a social history point of view, with much detail about parties and food and society life. Lots of photos help make this book an attractive one to look at, but ultimately the description of the book makes it sound more fascinating than it is in reality. "Dark secrets, racy scandal and power broking" - yes, they're all there but told in such a flat documentary style that Mrs Ronnie never comes to life - but then maybe she wasn't really a very interesting person anyway?
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.
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