Mrs. Keppel and Her Daughter
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Alice Keppel, the married lover of Queen Victoria's eldest son and great-grandmother to Camilla Parker-Bowles, was a key figure in Edwardian society. Hers was the acceptable face of adultery. Discretion was her hallmark. It was her art to be the king's mistress and yet to laud the Royal Family and the institution of marriage. Formidable and manipulative, her attentions to the king brought her wealth, power, and status. Her daughter Violet Trefusis had a long tempestuous affair with the author and aristocrat Vita Sackville-West, during which Vita left her husband and two sons to travel abroad with Violet. It was a liaison that threatened the fabric of Violet's social world, and her passion and recalcitrance in pursuit of it pitted her against her mother and society. From memoirs, diaries, and letters, Diana Souhami portrays this fascinating and intense mother/daughter relationship. Her story of these women, their lovers, and their lovers' mothers, highlights Edwardian - and contemporary - duplicity and double standards and goes to the heart of questions about sexual freedoms.
of royal marriage; from her mother in her boudoir of flowers, there with the King while her husband was out. With Vita she had hoped for unconventional fidelity, for a partner who was also a lover. In conversation and writing she switched with facility from French to English and weakened her style by intertwining the two – Broderie Anglaise and Echo in French, Hunt the Slipper and Tandem in English. She interlaced her unimportant plots and slight characters with epigrams and apophthegms – a sort
and prayers. He waited in her salon drinking her whisky until she made her entrance. * * * On 14 December 1961 Vita mentioned in her daily letter to Harold ‘a slight touch of that gastric flu’. She thought it would last twenty-four hours. It lingered. She wrote of ‘tiresome tirednesses’, her tower room was cold. She was operated on for cancer but without success. Harold kept to his schedule and went down to Sissinghurst on the weekend train. In too much pain to move, she went on with their
without hope. You said: ‘None for the present’ – but is there any in the future? That’s what I want to know … The answer was that there was not. For a time Vita continued to send letters – for Violet to collect at the Connaught Hotel. But if she still felt involved, she could no longer show it. The price was now impossibly high. Violet needed help, a context for her life, a channel for her feelings. Denys’s defection spoiled the balance. Mrs Keppel was furious with him as well as with her
moved to a flat in the seventeenth arrondissement. London society was unperturbed; Violet had relinquished her place in it. She continued to send Pat letters asking if Vita cared. Pat told her Vita ‘would never lead the mad life of the past 3 years again’. But to Vita she wrote in November, ‘Beyond that I have said nothing. Personally, I would not bet 6d that in less than 3 months’ time you are not again on the same footing with V!!’ She would not have lost her sixpence. The old footing was
should not see your handwriting.’ When Violet accused her of taking Vita’s side she denied this but next day wrote: Darling if V was not so conceited, so wrapped up in herself, she might have guessed last night that I had more than affection for you!… O my darling DM … I simply must see you … Vita was, Pat told her, only ‘the second person ever who has really attracted me in a way which I cannot describe’. She ‘missed her dreadfully’ when separated, was jealous she might return to Violet. In a