Friday, 22 August 2014

Tredegar House - Upstairs

I do love history, but a person can't absorb it all, so there are pockets that I stick with most often. If you've come here often you'll know that one of them is the interwar period - the 1920s and 1930s - between World War I and World War II.  

The walls are painted Indian Yellow, apparently a popular colour during the 17th century, but the name sounds to me like from the days of Empire. Oh duh; Britain's colonisation of India started in 1612.

As we went up the Great Staircase, which has had several renovations and around which was hung the family portraits 'of persons who built a great fortune in the 19th century and of those who spent it all in the 20th!', I spotted a rather Freudian looking one (as in Lucien Freud, grandson of Sigmund). That style made me guess when the person had lived, even though it turned out to have been painted c. 1913 by Ambrose McEvoy, 'a popular society portraitist' who predated Freud.

"Evan Morgan (1893-1949) was a Bright Young Thing of the 1920s, interested in society, fashion, literature, and mystical matters. A famous eccentric, he was known for his wild parties at Tredegar House." 

I would also add that, in spite of having had two wives, he was definitely more interested in men.   And he practiced black magic which involved turning a crucifix upside down for their rituals. When not involved in Black Masses, he was acting as chamberlain to Pope Pious XI. Weird, eh? Funny enough, Evan's also an exact contemporary of my paternal grandfather, who died before I was born, also at the age of 56. 

"Many of his regular guests were major artistic or society figures of the day, such as H. G. Wells, Ivor Novello, Prince Paul of Greece and Nancy Cunard."
I wonder how much they knew about his 'religious' practices?

Evan Mogan's first wife was Lois Stuart, an actress and artist. They married in 1927 as a matter of convenience: Evan needed a respectable cover for his homosexuality and Lois's family had concerns about her scandalous affairs with the Earl of Pembroke and the Duke of Kent.  The marriage ended in 1937 not only because they separated but because she died whilst visiting the Cartier family, the famous jewelers, in Budapest. Lois had hoped to return to her acting career and had begun taking slimming drugs which led to a fatal heart attack at the age of 37. You can just about see what she looked like during her married life here.

The King's Room - Evan's bedroom in the 1930s & 40s.

Of course, it was a room with a view...

Bill once explained to me about the men I saw carrying really tatty old leather briefcases on the Metro. He said that the leather meant they had money; the age and tattiness meant they had had it since their university days, which means they come from money. Well, that's one theory anyhow.

Did I mention he liked animals and had a bunch running around Tredegar House?

That's Evan with the bird. The expressions of the others in the photo are priceless. Is this the parrot that bit Herman Goring's nose?

I grew up with these boxes around; haven't seen one in ages!

I do love little excesses like this; extra long curtains are often seen in grand houses. When I made an enormous draping valence years ago, I gave it 'puddles of velvet' on each side. It was fun!

These cabinets make my mouth water. I would fill them with my fabric stash! Well, maybe books and fabric stash...

The bawth room.

Why don't we have bathrooms like these any more?

Wife #2: Russian Princess Olga Dolgorouky (please forgive my camera reflection).

The Dolgorouky's were one of Russia's oldest aristocratic families and Olga's half-sister was married to a Romonov prince. Her family fled Russia after the 1917 Revolution when Olga was a child. She spent most of her youth in Paris and London. A society beauty, in 1939 she was featured on the front cover of 'The Tatler'. Olga lived at Tredegar house during WWII and was popular with the estate workers. She trained with St Johns's Ambulance and volunteered at the local hospital.  She married Evan, 22 years her senior, for his money. However, the marriage was annulled after only five years. One wonders if it was his lifestyle or the fact that his money was running out that caused them to part. Olga moved to Guernsey where she died in 1998. She corresponded with the National Trust about Tredegar House, particularly to help them with the presentation of her bedroom, the Red Room.

Tredegar House and Evan Morgan both have plenty of admirers. Each link has some additional amazing tidbit. He exemplifies a part of why I find the interwar years so interesting, particularly here in Britain. It was clearly a crazy time in an already rather crazy place.


Beryl said...

So do you think the expressions on their faces are due to the exotic bird, or just Evan, himself?

Shelley said...

Beryl - Good point. I think the upper classes put up with a great deal of eccentricity so I'm guessing it's the bird. Or these folks were some of the more conservative of Evan's guests. said...

A very interesting post.
Your choice of subject.. has always been fascinating to me.
I loved it, when my father, used to relate stories of his time spent 6 yrs during w.w.ll..

I have become a follower.
I saw you over at Sanda's 'Halcyon days'..
hope to read more of your interesting posts, and see you over my side of the world.

sanda said...

Thoroughly enjoyed the interior tour of Tredegar House. So much to look at and read about. All of it unknown to me. Interwar years are definitely an interesting study.