Wilfrid Ashley, 1st Lord Mount Temple
Mountbatten and Edwina were engaged on 14th February 1922 whilst he was was staying with the Viceroy of India - The Rt Hon. Sir Rufus Isaacs, 1st Earl (later Marquess) of Reading (1860-1935) during the Empire Tour with his cousin - Prince Edward 'David', The Prince of Wales, subsequently King Edward VIII (1894(1936)1972) and later The Duke of Windsor. Mountbatten had told Edwina that no official announcement could be made until they had received official permission from King George V (1865(1910-1936), but it soon became the worst kept secret. Mountbatten wrote to Wilfrid and officially asked permission to marry from Edwina's father, and apologised for doing so in writing and not in person, but if Mountbatten and Edwina thought that the news of their betrothal would not leak out, they were being naive. By the time that Mountbatten's letter to Wilfrid arrived, he already knew - all of London society were talking about it, and he felt put out. As a result, Wilfrid refused to publish any official announcement stating that they might just as well wait until her return from India in April 1922.
:Edwina & Mountbatten
(now Lord & Lady Louis Mountbatten)
leaving St Margaret's Church, Westminster, London
Wilfrid Ashley (left) with Edwina & Mountbatten
in the grounds of Broadlands at the fundraising fête
on the first day of their honeymoon in July 1922
By 1922, the Coalition Government became embroiled in scandals after scandals including allegations of corruption with the sale of honours. On 19th October 1922, Conservative MPs met at the Carlton Club to decide whether to remain in the Coalition with Lloyd George's Liberal Party. They voted against remaining in the Coalition and The Rt Hon. (Sir) Austen Chamberlain (1863-1937) resigned as Leader of the Conservative Party and was succeeded by The Rt Hon. Andrew Bonar Law (1858-1923). Lloyd George resigned as Prime Minister and Bonar Law became Prime Minister on 23rd October 1922. A General Election was held on 15th November 1922, and Wilfrid sought election for the local seat of New Forest & Christchurch (which covered Romsey) and won the seat unopposed. In the new Government, Wilfrid was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Office of Works and at the Ministry of Transport.
Throughout the wedding preparations of his eldest daughter, Wilfrid had felt somewhat side-lined, after all Edwina's great-aunt Mrs Wilhelmina 'Bobbie' Cassel (1847-1925) had taken charge of organising everything from the invitations to the reception - and of course she was meeting all the costs too. However he played his part at the society wedding of the year on 18th July 1922 and proudly walked his eldest daughter down the aisle of St Margaret's Church, Westminster in front of King George V (1865(1910-1936), most of the Royal Family and a church full of the cream of society. It was reported that Wilfrid gave Edwina a tiara, a large diamond ring, a ruby ring surrounded by diamonds, and a heart shaped crystal ring surrounded by diamonds as wedding gifts. Following the wedding, The Ashleys remained in London so that the newlyweds would have their first night at Broadlands alone. However, Molly and Wilfrid did arrive the next day by train to open a fête in the grounds to raise money in aid of the Romsey Abbey Restoration Fund. Members of the press flooded the occasion to get photographs of The Mountbattens - who it was reported walked around the grounds looking relaxed and lovingly at each other.
ABOVE LEFT: The Rt Hon. David Lloyd George,
later 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor
ABOVE RIGHT: The Rt Hon. Stanley Baldwin,
later 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
A 1924 study for a portrait of
The Rt Hon. Andrew Bonar Law by Sir James Guthrie
In May 1923, Bonar Law became ill - he was diagnosed with terminal throat cancer and was unable to speak in the House of Commons, and subsequently resigned as Prime Minister on 20th May 1923, and was succeeded by The Rt Hon. (Sir) Stanley Baldwin, later 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley (1867-1947). In the new administration, Wilfrid was appointed in October 1923 Under-Secretary of State for War. However, a General Election was held on 6th December 1923, and although Wilfrid retained his seat with a majority of 2,011 and the Conservatives won the most seats, the final result was a yet another hung Parliament and there was yet another constitutional crisis and the Government soon fell. In Baldwin's Resignation Honours List in February 1924, Wilfrid was appointed to the Privy Council giving him the title of Right Honourable. The minority Labour Government led by The Rt Hon. Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937) was defeated in a motion of no confidence in the House of Commons and another General Election was held on 29th October 1924, and Wilfrid once again fought his seat of New Forest & Christchurch. He won with an increased majority of 11,264 and Baldwin was returned as Prime Minister. In the new administration, Wilfrid was appointed Minister of Transport. Molly enhanced her role as a political hostess as her husband's political career developed and she became preoccupied with finding a new house in Westminster to use a headquarters whilst he was more and more at the House of Commons.
Alec 'Bobby' Cunningham-Reid and Mary Ashley
following their wedding in May 1927
at St Margaret's Church, Westminster, London
In December 1926, Captain Alec 'Bobby' Cunningham-Reid (1895-1977) proposed to Ashley's youngest daughter - Mary. He was Wilfrid's Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS), who during World War I was one of the youngest officers in the Royal Flying Corps and had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in 1918. He had been a frequent visitor to Broadlands for the hunting and fishing and was an able PPS in Parliament. However, Wilfrid was not pleased to hear of his youngest daughter's intention to marry him, fearing that his ambitious PPS was more interested in Mary's fortune, than in Mary herself and that she was too young to marry someone so exuberant a 'dare-devil'. Such was the turmoil that Mary, who had always been highly strung, had a breakdown.
Cunningham-Reid and Mary married at St Margaret's Church, Westminster, London (the same church as The Mountbattens) on 12th May 1927. The ceremony was a real test for Mary's nerves and once again it fell to Wilfrid to conduct his daughter down the aisle of St Margaret's Church and the family came together for another society wedding.
At the General Election held on 30th May 1929 - often referred to as "The Flapper Election" because it was the first in which women aged 21–29yrs had the right to vote, Wilfrid fought his New Forest & Christchurch seat and won with a majority of 10,602. The election was fought against a background of rising unemployment, with the memory of the 1926 General Strike still fresh in minds of voters. By 1929, the Cabinet was being described by many as "old and exhausted". Baldwin's Conservatives lost and the country had yet another hung Parliament, and another minority Labour Government led by The Rt Hon. Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937). Wilfrid was out of office, and although recognised as a capable and efficient Minister of Transport, he never gained ministerial office again. However, Cunningham-Reid, Ashley's PPS and son-in-law, who had been MP for Warrington in Lancashire, was not so successful. He had decided to stand for a seat in the neighbouring constituency of Southampton - a two-seat constituency, where both the sitting Conservative MPs were not seeking re-election, however Labour won both seats and Cunningham-Reid was out of Parliament.
Mrs Molly Ashley in the Japanese Garden at Broadlands in 1928
Loosing ministerial office was a bitter blow to Wilfrid, and relations between The Ashleys deteriorated and the amount of time they spent together became less and less. Molly found Wilfrid's sporting stories tedious and she found his growing right-wing views completely at odds with her own. Molly continued her interests in artistic flower arrangements and house design - having been responsible for the complete redecoration of Broadlands and the numerous changes to the gardens and grounds. With the help of the fashionable architect Oliver Hill (1887-1968), who was a follower of Sir Edwyn Lutyens (1869-1944), Molly made their London home - Gayfere House, Great Peter Street, Westminster, London (close to Parliament) a home which would regularly be photographed for magazines as the epitome of art deco chic - most notably her glass bathroom, often referred as "Mrs Ashley's Crystal Palace". She loved fishing in the River Test nearby and once said - "I would rather kill a salmon than be given twenty new hats." In 1928, it was announced that Molly had joined the new film company of Louis Blattner (1881-1935) at Elstree Studios, Hertfordshire, as Director of Home Art, British Customs & Costumes. As the wife of the local Member of Parliament (MP) and wife of the local squire, she carried out her expected duties in local charity work with diligence and style.
ABOVE: The Arms of
1st Lord Mount Temple
BELOW: Wilfird Ashley,
1st Lord Mount Temple
in Coronation Robes of a Baron
for the Coronation of
King George VI
& Queen Elizabeth
in May 1937
Lady Mount Temple
LEFT: Wilfrid Ashley,
1st Lord Mount Temple
in 1934 at a hunting party
at Six Mile Bottom,
the home of his
In the 1932 New Year's Honours List, Wilfrid (having served in the House of Commons as an MP for 25yrs) was raised to the peerage as Baron Mount Temple, of Lee, in the County of Southampton on 13th January 1932, and with his elevation to the House of Lords, a by-election in his New Forest and Christchurch constituency was subsequently held. As a result of his elevation to the peerage, Molly was now 'Lady Mount Temple'. The title that Wilfrid chose to be known as, was a revival of the barony given to his great-uncle - The Rt Hon. William Cowper-Temple (1811-1888), who had died without issue, who had been Private Secretary to his own uncle - The Rt Hon. William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne (1779-1848), and served in under successive Prime Ministers - Melbourne, The Rt Hon. Lord John Russell, later 1st Earl Russell (1792-1878), The Rt Hon. Sir George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen (1784-1860) and The Rt Hon. Sir Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865), who was also his stepfather. Cowper-Temple (who had inherited Broadlands from his stepfather in 1865) had been created Baron Mount Temple, of Mount Temple, in the County of Sligo in 1880, which in itself was a revival of the barony granted to Henry Temple, 1st Viscount Palmerston (1673-1757) - Baron Temple, of Mount Temple, in the County of Sligo in 1723.
In May 1935, the town council of Romsey decided to revive the ancient and ceremonial office of High Steward of Romsey - a post which had been vacant since the death in 1865 of The Rt Hon. Sir Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865), the former Prime Minister, distinguished Foreign Secretary and previous owner of the Broadlands Estate. The first High Steward was Sir Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton (1573-1624), a favourite of King James I & VI (1566(1603-1625), with the post being incorporated in the town's Royal Charter in 1607 giving the right to the Borough Council to appoint an "eminent man" to be the High Steward upon Lord Southampton's death. Wilfrid had been elected as a Borough Councillor in 1934 and was also a County Councillor and Alderman, so was already held in high esteem with the people of Romsey, having been a Deputy Lieutenant (DL) since 1914 and a Justice of the Peace (JP) since 1904 too. In 1937 he did not seek re-election to the Borough Council, but remained High Steward of Romsey until his death.