Monday, November 3, 2014



1891 - 1961? or is that 1977?  Hmmm...
sorry no pic!

I first heard about HILDA LAZARD, our Mistress of the Month for November 2014 here at MISTRESS MANIFESTO, by reading an intriguing book called THE SECRET ROOMS, A True Story of  Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secret, by author Catherine Bailey.  And oh was Violet, the Duchess, mother of John Henry Montagu Manners, plotting!  

Oh, the burden of wealth and heritage in Great Britain's upper crust during the early 20th century could crush all aspirations. 

You see, John Henry, her only son after his older brother Haddon died in childhood, was also the only heir to an immense estate, currently 16,000 acres and a lot of it has been sold!  Belvoir Castle and its properties had been in the family for hundreds of years and John Henry was on spot to be possibly the second wealthiest man in Britain. Mother didn't want him to see action in the war, be badly wounded and die, and as inheritances worked, see it all go to some other family.  Where would she live?  She wanted him to live and marry the appropriate bride and procreate.  So she plotted.

How much he knew about her plotting and when is an important question because many other aristocratic men risked their lives to serve and many of the men who volunteered from the estate died too and John Henry certainly seemed willing to see action. 

Violet may have even sacrificed the virginity of her daughter, John Henry's sister Diana, in the plot, expecting her to allow a married rich American playboy to court her in exchange for his influence in the plot.

According to Bailey, whose book is part of my research, HILDA LEZARD was born the daughter of Sir Daniel Cooper and his wife Harriet in Suffolk in 1891.  Harriet's father was Sir James Grant Suttie, the 6th Baronet of Balgone, so Hilda had family ties to the aristocracy that ran England, the peerage as it's called.

My overview:  Hilda was married four times, having tremendously bad luck with husbands.  Her first husband, who she married at age nineteen, was killed in World War I in action on the Front. Her second husband died soon after they married.  In 1918, she was on to her third husband but in the end it didn't work out.  

As one genealogy web site called The Peerage states: 

"Hilda Susan Ellen Cooper is the daughter of Sir Daniel Cooper, 2nd Bt. and Harriet Grant-Suttie. She married, firstly, Thomas Uchter Caulfield Knox, Viscount Northland, son of Uchter John Mark Knox, 5th Earl of Ranfurly and Hon. Constance Elizabeth Caulfeild, on 12 June 1912. She married, secondly, Hon. Geoffrey Edward Mills, son of Charles Henry Mills, 1st Baron Hillingdon of Hillingdon and Lady Louisa Isabella Lascelles, on 26 February 1917. She married, thirdly, Captain John Stewart Michael Wardell, son of Harold Wardell, on 30 April 1918.She and Captain John Stewart Michael Wardell were divorced in 1929. She married, fourthly, Julien Joseph Lezard, son of Louis Flavien Lezard, on 24 April 1929.

From 12 June 1912, her married name became Knox. From 26 February 1917, her married name became Mills. From 30 April 1918, her married name became Wardell. From 24 April 1929, her married name became Lezard."

So, finally, getting closer to 40, Hilda married Julian Lezard in 1929. 

I note that with Thomas Uchter Caulfield Knox, Viscount Northland, her first husband, she had two children, Thomas Daniel Knox, 6th Earl of Ranfurly who was born 29 May 1913 and died in 1988.  And Edward Paul Uchter Knox who was born 23 May 1914 and died 11 Dec 1935.  I note that her son had died before she embarked on her affair with John Henry.
According to author Baily, while Julian Lezard was away in 1939 possibly in British Intelligence, when World War II was declared in Europe, she became the mistress of the mysterious John Henry Montagu Manners - 9th Duke of Rutland, and he was mysterious enough to have a whole book written about him!

The book that was an inspiration
for this month's
 Mistress of the Month
Hilda Lezard

The book says very little actually about Hilda and John Henry's affair, though I will be sure to excerpt the telling passages.  Besides author Bailey's use of the term "mistress" for Hilda, she provides some evidence for there being financial favor.

John Henry was born in 1886.  According to various genealogical exposes he was descended from King Edward IV on his maternal line and over the centuries there were many marriages and connections with royal and aristocratic Britain. 

John Henry had a first love who had ultimately decided against him.  After that he had admitted to some that he didn't think he would ever fall in love again.   However, his mother, Violet, was busy looking for a healthy breeder for a daughter-in-law, and as time passed and her son seemed less desirable, despite all the wealth that would be his, to match-make, she even considered American heiresses as potential wives for him.

Then in 1916 John became engaged to Kathleen Tennant, a woman from a family of wealth and connections but no Title.  Her parents were against the marriage and couldn't imagine that John's parents would be pleased by the match.  John and Kathleen wrote "touching letters" and he even kept a journal of their courtship, so things looked promising.  He called her "Kakoo" and some think that she was the real reason why he never got to battle on the Western Front in WWI.  But that may have been generous of them.  In Bailey's book, we learn that after an earnest start of his marriage, John Henry was unhappy and unfaithful and also rude, maybe even verbally abusive, to his wife, and that he may have had many affairs. 

Overall, my dear readers, John Henry's personality as depicted, is, in my opinion, dull, stilted, and lacking.  I can't imagine anyone falling in love with him, but perhaps it took someone like Hilda to enliven his life. We can't always understand what a couple sees in each other.

Paying attention to Hilda, she was last seen, very shortly after Montagu-Manners died in his archive at Belvoir Castle called the Muniment Rooms, while working on a years long project of reading family letters and trying to obscure his mother's meddling in his life, trying to climb up the castle wall and into the rooms from the outside, something she'd done before to see him many times, with no success. 

So hang on to that image of a woman climbing up a castle wall to see her lover because we do not know if, soon after his death, she was trying to get in to grab incriminating evidence, a cash or gem inheritance, or what. 

It does seem that the unlucky in love Hilda stuck with her husband Julian Lezard, when all was said and done, because - if this is our Hilda Lezard - she is buried with him in a modest cemetery under a modest tombstone.  (Nothing like the amazing crypt that our previous Mistress of the Month is laid to rest in!)  Perhaps in Lezard she found the perfect husband, for - again if this is the right couple - they were married many years past her affair and he died in 1958.  Lezard was a worldly fellow, involved in British Intelligence in World War II.  Who knows what their deal was!

BILLIONGRAVES - HILDA LEZARD TOMBSTONE  in Saint Peter and Saint Paul Churchyard Great Missenden, England, United Kingdom.
She died January 2nd,1977. According to my notes, the book says she died in 1961...

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