Wilfrid Ashley, 1st Lord Mount Temple
In 1910, Ashley met The Hon. Mrs Lionel Forbes-Sempill, née Miss Muriel 'Molly' Emily Spencer (1881-1954), at the house of the Chairman of the Primrose League. A daughter of The Rev. Walter Spencer, Molly married in 1903 in Sydney, Australia - Commander (later Rear-Admiral) The Hon. Arthur Lionel Ochonor Forbes-Sempill (1877-1962), the youngest child of William Forbes-Sempill, 17th Lord Sempill (1836-1905). By 1914, they had separated following infidelities on both sides and she was awaiting for the final stages of the divorce to be finalised. Wilfrid had proposed marriage and by July 1914, he told his two children - Edwina and Mary, that Molly would be joining the family. Molly's decree absolute was granted on 12th August 1914 and on 28th, Wilfrid and Molly were married with little fuss at the Savoy Chapel, London. Sir Ernest, his former father-in-law attended Wilfrid and Molly's wedding, which was limited to family only. Edwina and Mary did not warm to Molly and knew that life would not be the same.
Molly was viewed by them as being a ambitious, cold, uncaring and Edwina said of her later that she was "most unkind." Mountbatten however described her later as "a wicked women. A real bitch!" Even before she had married Wilfrid, Molly had said how she would be redecorating Broadlands. Her bossy nature upset everyone in the household - with the exception of her husband. Upon taking over the role of chatelaine of Broadlands, Wilfrid's children would avoid her and the atmosphere was sub-zero. She was pretentious and ordered that Edwina and Mary call her 'Madre'. One of Molly's first acts was to dismiss the children's attractive French governess, who they adored and replaced her Miss Slater - a plain clinical Victorian lady, who dressed all in black. The children's hate for Molly intensified.
Mrs Muriel 'Molly' Ashley
The Hon. Mrs Muriel 'Molly'
later Mrs Wilfrid Ashley
ABOVE: Wilfrid Ashley in Army uniform
LEFT: (left to right)
Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg
seated in their car and with her husband
(centre) Archduke Franz-Ferdinand
of Austria, moments before their murder
in 1914. Their assassination in
Sarajevo precipitated a series of
events that started World War I
During this time, the world-wide political and military turmoil following the assassination in Sarajevo, Bosnia of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria (1863-1914), the heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungary Thrones on 28th June 1914, was escalating. The situation was changing daily - on 2nd August 1914, Germany invaded Luxembourg and the next day Germany declared war on France and sent the Belgian Government an ultimatum demanding unimpeded right of way through any part of Belgium, which was refused. In the early morning of 4th August 1914, Germany invaded Belgium and under the 1839 Treaty of London, the UK Government demanded Germany respect Belgian neutrality - which was ignored and after failing to respond to the diplomatic deadline, the UK Government declared war on Germany.
Wilfrid's military career took a resurgence - on 24th July 1914, he was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant (DL) for the then County of Southampton, Hampshire and in October 1914, he was promoted to the rank of Temporary Captain in the Grenadier Guards. On 3rd November 1914, Wilfrid was appointed - with the temporary rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the Territorial Force, to command the 4th City Battalion of the King's (Liverpool) Regiment ('The Comrades') - one of the Liverpool 'Pals' regiments in 'Kitchener's Army', formed by The Rt Hon. Sir Edward Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby (1865-1948). While he was away with his troops preparing to go to War, Molly was finding it more and more difficult to run the Broadlands estate with so many men signing up to join the Army. He too had his own problems, as his old foe - sciatica, was affecting whether he would ever see active service and by April 1915, he was ordered by his doctor to rest and temporarily relinquish his command. In February 1917, Wilfrid became Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Financial Secretary to the War Office - The Rt Hon. (Sir) Henry Forster, later 1st Lord Forster (1866-1936) and in April 1917 he was elected unanimously Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Navy League and Chairman of the Anti-Socialist Union.
Following the end of World War I in November 1918, a General Election was held on 14th December 1918. The Prime Minister - The Rt Hon. David Lloyd George, later 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor (1863-1945), was the leader of a coalition of Conservative and Liberal Party members sent a letter of support - nicknamed "coalition coupons" to the candidates who supported his coalition. Wilfrid fought the new constituency of Flyde as a Coalition supporter and won the seat with a majority of 6,270. Lloyd George won a landslide victory, but there was a dramatic result in Ireland, which showed clear disapproval of government policy. The Irish Parliamentary Party - led by John Dillon (1851-1927) were almost completely wiped out by the Irish Republican party Sinn Féin - led by Éamon de Valera (1882-1975), who vowed in their manifesto to establish an independent Irish Republic, which Wilfrid was against. During this time, the political situation in Ireland began to turn to full independence following the Easter Rising in 1916. The Government of Ireland Act 1920 was intended to partition Ireland into two self-governing polities: the six north-eastern counties were to form 'Northern Ireland', while the larger part of the country was to form 'Southern Ireland' - both remaining part of the United Kingdom. However, the fight for full independence continued in conflict which resulted in the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921. Under the treaty, Ireland would leave the UK in December 1922 and become the Irish Free State as a Dominion of the British Commonwealth.
In 1919, Wilfrid wrote to the famous society portrait artist Philip de László (1869-1937) to seek his availability to paint Molly's portrait. de László (who had painted Wilfrid's first wife Maudie in 1900) was originally born in Budapest, Hungary and had been accused of "making contact with the enemy" (he had written letters to family members in Austria) and had been interred in 1917, despite being a British citizen, and whose wife was a member of the famous Guinness banking family. He was subsequently released on grounds of ill-health, and exonerated in June 1919. Ashley said of the portrait - "It will long be a cherished heirloom I trust, and it shows clearly that there is at least one artist of the twentieth century whose works can challenge the best productions of former times." de László charged 350 guineas for the picture and also made a study portrait in the same pose and exotic dress. The study was inscribed - "to my charming sitter" and was presented to her as a gift.
The 1920 study portrait of
Molly (then Mrs Ashley)
by Philip de László -
which he gave Molly as a gift
Classiebawn Castle, Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo, Ireland
As an owner of a major estate in Co. Sligo, Ireland, Wilfrid was only too aware of the political and social issues in Ireland. His own Classiebawn Castle near Mullaghmore (which formed part of his Palmerston inheritance) had been commandeered by the Irish Free State Army in 1916 and in 1920 the Irish Republican Army (IRA) even planned to destroy the castle. In 1922, Wilfrid decided to close down Classiebawn Castle and he subsequently emptied the building of its furniture. He never returned to Sligo, having refused to set foot there ever again, and the place was put in 'mothballs' until well after his death - when his eldest daughter (Edwina) inherited the Classiebawn estate, but it was not until 1943 before she would return herself. In 1946, Edwina started to awaken Classiebawn from its derelict sleep and soon spent a great deal of money on making it once again a home.