Wilfrid Ashley, 1st Lord Mount Temple
Lieutenant-Colonel The Rt Hon. Wilfrid William Ashley, 1st Lord Mount Temple was born on 13th September 1867 at 61 Cadogan Place, Chelsea, London, the son of The Rt Hon. (Anthony) Evelyn Melbourne Ashley (1836-1907) and Miss Sybella 'Sissy' Charlotte Farquhar (1846-1886). Lord Mount Temple's father was a barrister, who had followed in the family tradition of politics and whilst he was a Member of Parliament (MP) he served as a Minister in the Government led by The Rt Hon. William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898). Evelyn Ashley had also served as Private Secretary to the distinguished Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister - The Rt Hon. Sir Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865), who was also married to his widowed grandmother. Wilfrid's mother was the daughter of Sir Walter Rockcliffe Farquhar, Bt. (1810-1900), a former High Sheriff of Surrey, who was married to Lady Mary Octavia Somerset (1814-1906), the youngest daughter of Sir Henry Charles Somerset, 6th Duke of Beaufort (1766-1835).
The 1900 portrait of Maudie Cassel by Philip de László
Within months of commanding his battalion in the Second Boer War (1899-1902), in the Spring of 1900, Wilfrid was sent home suffering from depression, headaches and a fever. The Rt Hon. (Anthony) Evelyn Melbourne Ashley (1836-1907), Wilfrid's widowed father - who in 1891 had married Lady Alice Cole (1853-1931), daughter of William Cole, 3rd Earl of Enniskillen (1807-1886), took his son and his step-mother on holiday in Europe so that Wilfrid could recuperate. During this time the Ashley family visited Riederfurka, a hotel on the Riederalp, Switzerland, where Sir Ernest Cassel and his 'delicate' daughter Maudie had visited annually since 1890 on the medical advice of Sir William Broadbent (1835-1907), Physician-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901). Another guest at the hotel was society portrait artist Philip de László (1869-1937) who noted one afternoon that Maudie looked flushed. Unbeknown to anyone, Wilfrid had proposed marriage to Maudie. By August 1900, his sick leave from the Army ended and he returned to the UK to re-join his regiment, while Maudie plucked up the courage to tell her father of her decision to marry Wilfrid.
Wilfrid and Maudie were married on 4th January 1901 at the fashionable St George's Church, Hanover Square, Mayfair, London in a beautiful service conducted by The Rev. Canon William Page Roberts (1836-1928), a Canon of Canterbury Cathedral, later the Dean of Salisbury Cathedral. The groom wore his Grenadier Guards uniform, while the bride wore a dress previously worn by her mother that was designed by the fashionable 'Lucile' - Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon (née Sutherland) (1863-1935). The guest of honour and a witness at the wedding was Sir Ernest Cassel's friend - Prince Albert Edward 'Bertie', The Prince of Wales, who just 18 days later succeeded to the Throne as King Edward VII (1841(1901-1910). Also present were - The Rt Hon. Sir John Campbell, 9th Duke of Argyll with his wife - Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll (1848-1939), the sixth child and fourth daughter of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901); and The Hon. Mrs George Keppel, née Alice Edmonstone (1868-1947), the King's mistress. Maudie had six bridesmaids and two pages and Wilfrid was accompanied by his best man - The Hon. (Sir) George Hamilton-Gordon, later 2nd Lord Stanmore (1871-1957). Before leaving for their honeymoon, Wilfrid and Maudie stayed at his family home - Broadlands in Hampshire.
Edwina's father -
Lt-Col. The Rt Hon. Wilfrid Ashley,
1st Lord Mount Temple
Wilfrid was educated at Harrow and attended Magdalene College, Oxford - but left without taking a degree. He grew into a being a tall, handsome young man and was described as being "lofty and drawn." He subsequently went to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst and joined the Grenadier Guards in 1889. In 1899 he joined the 3rd Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment and was promoted to the rank of Captain, and it was around this time that he first met Miss Amalia Mary Maud 'Maudie' Cassel (1879-1911), the daughter of the wealthy financier The Rt Hon. Sir Ernest Joseph Cassel (1852-1921) and Annette Mary Maud Maxwell (1855-1881).
Cap Badge of
The Hampshire Regiment -
known as "The Hampshire Tigers"
St George's Church,
Hanover Square, London
Prince Albert Edward,
The Prince of Wales,
later King Edward VII
The wedding certificate of Wilfrid Ashley & Miss Maudie Cassel
Whilst Wilfrid and Maudie were on their honeymoon in Egypt, in an effort to console himself, Sir Ernest went to India to stay with the Viceroy - The Rt Hon. Sir George Curzon, 1st Lord (later Marquess) Curzon of Kedleston (1859-1925) and Maharajadhiraja Sawai Madho Singh II, The Maharajah of Jaipur (1862-1922). When he met up with his daughter and her husband in the South of France soon after, he was delighted to be told that Maudie was expecting their first child. The Ashleys returned to the UK in April 1901 and set up home at 32 Bruton Street, Mayfair, London - which Sir Ernest had bought for them. Both Wilfrid and Sir Ernest hoped for a boy, but Maudie gave birth to a girl on 28th November 1901 at their Mayfair home and she was named 'Edwina Cynthia Annette Ashley'. Maudie's frail constitution had been of concern since the pregnancy was announced, but Sir Ernest arranged for the best Harley Street doctors to be in attendance for what became a difficult birth.
ABOVE: Maudie & Wilfrid Ashley
on the balcony of the Wainwright Conservative
Club, Blackpool following his win as
Member of Parliament
in the 1906 General Election
LEFT: Mrs Maudie Ashley
with her baby eldest daughter Edwina
(a god-daughter of King Edward VII)
Wilfrid had decided to follow into 'the family business' of politics and decided that he wanted to become a Member of Parliament (MP) and Maudie agreed to help fund his campaign, although she wished him to represent the Liberal Party rather than the Conservatives. In 1903, Wilfrid finally found a Conservative seat that was looking for a new candidate - Blackpool, Lancashire. He started to visit the constituency and Maudie attended local events and subscribed to local charities in the area. Despite her own feelings about the Conservative Party, Maudie joined the Ladies Council of the Primrose League - an organisation founded in 1883 to spread the Conservative's principles throughout the country.
By 1905, the Coalition government had become increasingly unpopular over the issue of free trade and the Prime Minister - The Rt Hon. (Sir) Arthur Balfour, later 1st Earl of Balfour (1848-1930) decided to resign in December 1905 to call a General Election in the new year, hoping that the Liberal leader - The Rt Hon. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1836-1908) would be unable to form a government. Wilfrid stood for the Blackpool constituency for the Conservatives and although he won the seat in February 1906 with a majority of 3,061 (58.9% of the vote), the Liberals won in a landslide victory. Wilfrid joined the House of Commons on the Opposition benches, and initially was disappointed his new role. He said - "perhaps my views will change... I trust so - but at present I call this place a fraud, a waste of time and deadly dull."
An 1873 portrait of
Mrs Clarissa Birschoffsheim -
by Sir John Everett Millais
In the Autumn of 1905, Maudie had fallen pregnant again and spent time following with her father in Switzerland and Biarritz to improve her delicate health. On 22nd July 1906, whilst staying at Warren House, Stanmore, Middlesex - the home of Mrs Clarissa Birschoffsheim, known as 'Mrs Bisch' (1837-1922), the wife of the Dutch Jewish financier Henry Birschoffsheim (1829-1908), she gave birth to another girl. The child was named 'Ruth Mary Clarisse Ashley', to be known as 'Mary' but Mary was so weak at birth, following a difficult birth that an incubator was rushed to Stanmore House to save her.
An 1898 drawing of Maudie Ashley by Anders Zorn
Warren House, Stanmore c.1908
While recovering at Warren House following Mary's birth, Maudie organised the purchase of nearby 'The Grove', a house with a small farm, which Sir Ernest had funded the £17,000 price. Meanwhile, Wilfrid was frequently away shooting and fishing in Scotland. Both parents hardly spent much time together or with their children - when the House of Commons sat, Wilfrid stayed in London, when the House of Commons rose he would go fishing and shooting and stay with friends. For Maudie, when Wilfrid was in London, she would stay at Warren House - but their children would stay at home or sent to various Cassel and Shaftesbury relations. More and more, Maudie's health would keep her apart from her children.