Edith Vane-Tempest-Stewart, Marchioness of Londonderry
Family and personal life
Born as Edith Helen Chaplin in Blankney, Lincolnshire, she was the daughter of Henry Chaplin (later the 1st Viscount Chaplin). After the death of her mother in 1881, Edith was raised largely at Dunrobin Castle, Sutherland, the estate of her maternal grandfather, the third Duke of Sutherland.
On 28 November 1899, she married Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, who later inherited his father's title in 1915, whereupon Edith became Marchioness of Londonderry. They had five children, the firstborn of whom, their only son, Robin, became the 8th Marquess in 1949, at which point Lady Londonderry became Dowager Marchioness of Londonderry. One of Lady Londonderry's grandchildren, Annabel Goldsmith, is also a noted London socialite.
She died of cancer on 23 April 1959, aged 80.
In 1914, after the outbreak of World War I, she was appointed the Colonel-in-Chief of the Women's Volunteer Reserve (WVR), a volunteer force formed of women replacing the men who had left work and gone up to the Front. The WVR was established in December 1914 in response to German bombing raids on East Coast towns during the First World War (see 'Women in the British Army: War and the Gentle Sex', Lucy Noakes, p.53).
Lady Londonderry also aided with the organisation of the Officers' Hospital set up in her house, and was the first woman to be appointed to be a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the Military Division, upon the Order's establishment in 1917.
During the 1920s, Lady Londonderry created the gardens at the Londonderry family estate of Mount Stewart, near Newtownards, County Down. She added the Shamrock Garden, the Sunken Garden, increased the size of the lake, added a Spanish Garden with a small hut, the Italian Garden, the Dodo Terrace, Menagerie, the Fountain Pool and laid out walks in the Lily Wood and rest of the estate. This dramatic change led to the gardens being proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After she created her garden and the death of her husband, she gave the gardens to the National Trust in 1957. They are regarded by Heritage Island as being one of the best gardens in the British Isles.
Lady Londonderry also wrote or edited several books, among which are Henry Chaplin: A Memoir (1926), The Magic Ink-Pot (1928), Retrospect (1938) and Frances Anne: The Life and Times of Frances Anne, Marchioness of Londonderry, and Her Husband, Charles, Third Marquess of Londonderry (1958).
- De Courcy, Anne. Society's Queen: The Life of Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry. London: Phoenix, 2004. ISBN 0-7538-1730-6 (Originally published as Circe: The Life of Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry. London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1992. ISBN 1-85619-363-2)