Wilfrid Ashley, 1st Lord Mount Temple
Wilfrid Ashley in 1906
Mrs Maudie Ashley
By the end of 1906, Maudie was still weak and never really recovered following the birth of their second child - Mary. Sir Ernest feared that his daughter was showing signs of TB (tuberculosis) - the same condition that killed Maudie's mother and in the New Year of 1907, Sir Ernest took Maudie, and Wilfrid to Egypt. They departed onboard the SS Marmora and socialised onboard with Prince Arthur, 1st Duke of Connaught & Strathearn (1850-1942), the seventh child and third son of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901), his wife - The Duchess, the former Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia (1860-1917) and their youngest daughter Princess Patricia 'Patsy', later Lady Patricia Ramsay (1886-1974). Sir Ernest and his family arrived in Cairo and set up base at the Mena House Hotel, which overlooked the Pyramids. From Cairo, they travelled to Alexandria, Naples and then onto Biarritz in the South of France, to spend time with King Edward VII (1841(1901-1910) and his mistress - The Hon. Mrs George Keppel, née Alice Edmonstone (1868-1947), who was a friend of Maudie.
Following the death of Wilfrid's father in 1907, he inherited his father's estates, but finances became strained and in an effort to economise he closed his country home Broadlands for almost a year, rented out their house in Bruton Street in 1908 and The Grove in 1909. Throughout these financially difficult years, Maudie spent most of her time in Egypt or Biarritz, and Wilfrid in Scotland or in London at the House of Commons - while again their children were lodged with family and friends. Whilst in Paris, France, Sir Ernest was still concerned about Maudie's weakening health and arranged for her to see a doctor who diagnosed "tubercular trouble arising from the glands" and suggested that a surgeon collapse a lung and that Maudie be put on a strict diet and would feel better in a warmer climate. Wilfrid rushed back to France from London, and escorted his wife to Marseilles and put her on a boat to Egypt- whilst he returned to London. A doctor was dispatched from England and diagnosed that Maudie had "an infection from the womb" and needed an operation. Maudie feared that she would not see the year out, and hid her worries from her husband.
In the General Election in January 1910, Wilfrid was re-elected as MP for Blackpool, with a slight increase to his majority but the final result ended with a hung Parliament and constitutional chaos in politics. With the General Election campaign over, in February 1910, Wilfrid went out to Egypt to see Maudie - who was too weak to come home. By April 1910, Maudie finally felt well enough and returned home in stages taking the train to Alexandria, and then the steamship Osmanieh back to the UK and finally onto Broadlands, where Maudie seemed to rally and enjoy the fresh Spring air.
On 6th May 1910, Sir Ernest was summonsed to see the ailing King, who had collapsed and was quite ill. Upon arrival to the Palace, Queen Alexandra (1844-1925) and members of the Royal Family all asked after Maudie, despite knowing that the King was himself close to death. Sir Ernest later said that the King said to him - "tell your daughter how very glad I am that she has safely got home and I hope she will be careful and patient so as to recover complete health." Sir Ernest met his dear friend for the last time, for King Edward VII (1841(1901-1910) died that night, and Sir Ernest lost one of his closest and oldest companions.
The funeral procession of King Edward VII arriving at the West Door
of St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle
Following the death of King Edward VII (1841(1901-1910), Sir Ernest had become less involved in his business interests and he knew only too well that Maudie was slipping away. Maudie had been at The Grove laying on a day-bed resting, but in late May 1910, Maudie was moved back to Broadlands, where throughout the Summer, she lay in a hut (which she called "her rabbit hutch") in the gardens, where she preferred to be close to the roses and close to the River Test, which ran through the Broadlands Estate. Maudie continued to keep her declining health issues from their children but by soon her frailty was obvious, even to the children, however Wilfrid was spending more time in his Blackpool constituency due to forthcoming General Election. The constitutional crisis in Parliament was reaching its climax, and the second General Election within a year was held in December 1910 to break the impasse. Wilfrid won his seat at Blackpool again for the Conservatives unopposed.
As Winter came in 1910, Broadlands became too cold for Maudie and she was too ill to head to the warm climate of Egypt, so Sir Ernest had her moved to the The Ashley's home in Mayfair, London, to be surrounded by nurses day and night. Now the elections were over, Wilfrid was able to join his wife and they spent Christmas together - it would be their last. Sir Ernest gave Maudie jewellery and a cheque for £5,000. On the 5th February 1911, Maudie finally succumbed to her poor health and died from tuberculosis at Broadlands - she was just 30yrs old. Flags were lowered to half-mast in Wilfrid's Blackpool constituency - where Maudie had been very popular. Maudie's funeral was held at Romsey Abbey on 9th February 1911, and a special train was organised from Waterloo Station to convey mourners to Romsey. Wreaths were sent from King George V (1865(1910-1936) and Kaiser Wilhelm II, The Emperor of Germany & King of Prussia (1859-1941) and Wilfrid received hundreds of condolence messages and telegrams including one from Abbas II, The Khedive of Egypt (1874-1944). Memorial services were held in Blackpool and at St. George's Church, Hanover Square - where The Ashleys were married just 10 years previously. Maudie was buried in Romsey Cemetery in the vault built for The Rt Hon. Sir Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865), which was not used - as he was interred at his own request in Westminster Abbey, London. A memorial by the Austrian sculptor/artist Emil Fuchs (1866-1929) was subsequently erected in Maud's memory at Romsey Abbey.
The Memorial in Romsey Abbey
to Mrs Maudie Ashley
(Edwina's mother) by Emil Fuchs.
The sculpture is of Maud
cradling her two daughters
(Edwina and Mary)
Maudie left a letter to her husband (written in 1909) to be opened upon her death. She had written many letters to her husband during her lifetime, but this was not just a final 'love letter' but also a declaration of her wishes for Wilfrid after her death. She stated that she wished her husband to remain in politics, "for the sake of Broadlands" she wanted him to remarry, and that the children should be brought up without fear of death. Now a widower, Wilfrid immersed himself in politics and the Leader of the Conservative Party in Opposition - The Rt Hon. (Sir) Arthur Balfour, later 1st Earl of Balfour (1848-1930), appointed Ashley an Opposition Whip and he spent his weekends visiting friends.
Sir Ernest never recovered from Maudie's death - he was inconsolable. The death of King Edward VII (1841(1901-1910) had hit him hard, but Maudie's death was a bitter blow. He had ended active day-to-day business work following the King's death, but with Maudie's death his life was empty and stopped entertaining friends and until the day he died, he had an alcove on his grand staircase at Brook House (his mansion on Park Lane, London) with a bust of Maudie, surrounded by lily of the valley flowers. In her memory, Sir Ernest donated £50,000 - shared between The King Edward VII Hospital Fund and hospitals in Blackpool and Hampshire and Sir Ernest subsequently gave £10,000 to the Deaconesses' Hospital in Alexandria; £50,000 for the sick and needy in Cologne (where he was born); and £30,000 to the King Edward VII Sanatorium. Such was his grief that Sir Ernest felt he could not even bear to visit Broadlands.
The Rt Hon. Sir Ernest Cassel
(wearing the mantle of a Knight Grand Cross
of the Distinguished Order of
St Michael & St George (GCMG)