Wilfrid Ashley, 1st Lord Mount Temple
Wilfrid Ashley, 1st Lord Mount Temple
in 1937 Coronation Robes
ABOVE: The 1937 Anglo-German Fellowship (AGF)
dinner in honour of Prince Charles Edward,
The Duke of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha (centre).
Also shown (left) The Rt Hon. Sir Edward Wood,
3rd Viscount Halifax, later 1st Earl of Halifax,
then Leader of the House of Lords;
and (right) Joachim von Ribbentrop,
then Nazi German Ambassador to the UK
BELOW: Mrs Mary Cunningham-Reid; Edwina;
Marjorie, Countess of Brecknock and
Molly, Lady Mount Temple
at a children's charity fundraising event in 1938
Wilfrid remained active in politics from the House of Lords, and was a vocal supporter of the policy of appeasement towards Nazi Germany by The Rt Hon. Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940), who had been Prime Minister of the UK from May 1937. He admired Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), who became Chancellor of Germany in January 1933, for his anti-communism, although much of his conviction rested on the belief that the 1919 Treaty of Versailles had been unjust to begin with and that it should be revised regardless of who was in government in Germany. In 1935, in order to underline his support for the Germans, Wilfrid was instrumental in establishing the Anglo-German Fellowship (AGF) and served as Chairman of both the AGF and subsequently Anti-Socialist Union. In October 1938, after the Munich Agreement - in which Chamberlain thought he had secured a peace pact with Hitler's Nazi Germany, Ashley was among 26 signatories of a letter to The Times, calling the agreement "the rectification of one of the most flagrant injustices in the peace treaties."
As AGF chairman, Wilfrid visited Nazi Germany in June 1937 and held a meeting with Hitler. Later that year in December 1937, Wilfrid presided at a dinner in honour of Prince Charles Edward, The Duke of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha (formerly 2nd Duke of Albany) (1884-1954), a grandson of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901), who was President of the German Red Cross 1933-1945 and of course a distant cousin of his son-in-law - Mountbatten.
Unlike some of his contemporaries in the AGF, the 'laissez-faire capitalist' Wilfrid did not support ideological Nazism (perhaps due in part to the fact that his first wife was Jewish). In the aftermath of 'Kristallnacht' in November 1938, when Jews in Nazi Germany were violently targeted, synagogues destroyed, businesses had their windows smashed and Jewish people were openly beaten and murdered with the Nazi German authorities condoning and even supporting the horrors - he resigned in protest as Chairman, but remained a member of the group. He said upon his resignation - "although I have resigned from the chair of the Anglo-German Fellowship, I still remain a member of that Fellowship... I stated that I was resigning from the chairmanship because of the treatment of the Jews in Germany and the attitude of the Germans towards the Catholic and Lutheran communities. One hopes that times may become better in the future and that the good work of building up friendship between the two nations may be resumed."
In May 1939, Wilfrid had telephoned his eldest daughter Edwina and summonsed her to Broadlands. Upon arrival, Edwina was told that her father wanted to leave Molly for a Frenchwoman. However shocking as that news was, she was more concerned how ill her father looked - he had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease (PD) - a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system of which there is no cure, and the doctors were clear that there was nothing they could do. On 3rd July 1939, Wilfrid, Lord Mount Temple died at his home, Broadlands - he was 71yrs old. Upon his death, the Barony of Mount Temple (re-created in 1932) would once again become extinct. He was buried privately nearby at Romsey Cemetery on 6th July 1939 with a memorial service was on 7th July 1939 at St Margaret's Church, Westminster - where both his daughters were married.
A portrait of Molly, Lady Mount Temple in 1936
by 'Gluck' (Hannah Gluckstein)
Extract from the Hampshire Advertiser & Southampton Times 8th July 1939
by Leonard Campbell Taylor -
the painting that Wilfrid,
1st Lord Mount Temple
left to Molly, Lady Mount Temple
in his will
Much to Molly's annoyance, upon her husband's death it was Edwina who inherited Broadlands and the Classiebawn Castle Estate in Co. Sligo, Ireland - which had been neglected for many years. Wilfrid left the painting "The Corridor" by Leonard Campbell Taylor (1874-1969) to Molly, with the proviso that it should go to Edwina, in the hope that it would remain at Broadlands. To Molly, he left her financially secure, and gave her 'The Grove', Stanmore, Middlesex - which his first wife Maudie had bought in 1906.
Following Wilfrid's death, Molly was no longer the 'Mistress of Broadlands' and was relocated unwillingly to a new home at Alresford, near Winchester, Hampshire and Edwina called on her once a month. It was an uneasy relationship and Molly would complain about, well almost everything. Despite Edwina's inner feelings (even through the darkest days of the Blitz during World War II when the last place she wanted to be was visiting her stepmother who had never loved Edwina), she would do her duty and visit her father's widow. During the War, despite the austerity she still managed to make her house look good using all her interior design experience - using parachute silk for curtains when there was no other material available. After Alresford, Molly moved to Little Missenden, Buckinghamshire and in 1948, Molly moved to Culver House, Penshurst, Kent. In November 1950, Molly (along with her stepdaughter Mary) was a guest at the wedding of Lady Mary Cambridge (1924-1999), the daughter of George Cambridge, 2nd Marquess of Cambridge, formerly Prince George of Teck (1895-1981), a nephew of Queen Mary, formerly Princess Victoria Mary 'May' of Teck (1867-1953).
Molly died suddenly on 24th June 1954 at Culver House. Penshurst, Kent - she was 73yrs old. Even in death, Molly caused Edwina a headache, for Molly had asked in her will that her "simple funeral" be held at Romsey Abbey and that she wished to be buried alongside Wilfrid in Romsey Cemetery. Her will stated that - "my funeral is to be as simple as possible with a farm cart in place of a hearse. Flowers please and it my earnest wish that no mourning shall be worn at my funeral, owing to my great dislike of it." At the time of Molly's sudden death, The Mountbattens were in Florence, Italy (celebrating his 50th birthday with friends and family) and Edwina was initially not inclined to cut short her holiday for Molly's funeral. At the last moment, Edwina had a change of heart and on 30th June 1954 she attended Molly's funeral at Romsey Abbey. Molly left various items to Edwina - including jewellery, her gold lace collection and the painting "The Corridor" by Leonard Campbell Taylor (1874-1969), as requested by Wilfrid. To her other stepdaughter - Mary, Lady Delamere, Molly left he necklace of 52 pearls with a diamond clasp and all other paintings not already bequeathed.
To her own niece and god-daughter - The Hon. Mrs Dudley Delevigne, née The Hon. Angela Greenwood (1912-2014), daughter of The Rt Hon. Sir Hamar Greenwood, 1st Viscount Greenwood (1870-1948), who was married in 1911 to Molly's sister - Dame Margery 'Margo' Spencer (1886-1968), Molly left her 1920 portrait by Philip de László (1869-1937), her motorcar, jewellery and some furs. Molly's niece Margo, is the grandmother of the models Poppy (b.1986) and her sister Cara Delavigne (b.1992) and noted for having had an affair with The Rt Hon. David Lloyd George, later 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor (1863-1945).
The 1920 portrait of Molly (then Mrs Ashley)
by Philip de László