Jean Conan Doyle
Air Commandant Dame Lena Jean Annette Conan Doyle, Lady Bromet DBE AE WRAF ADC (21 December 1912 – 18 November 1997), best known as Jean Conan-Doyle, was a British stateswoman and military officer in the WRAF.
The second daughter of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, she was a spirited child who was described as a tomboy by Houdini. Her childhood nickname was "Billy", and letters to her father would be signed "Your loving son." On her tenth birthday, however, she announced that she had decided to be a girl after all. She then went to her Aunt Ida's school, Granville House in Eastbourne, where she took after her mother in developing a love of nature. As a schoolgirl she was a classmate and friend of Joan Boniface Winnifrith, who would become film and television actress Anna Lee. Joan Winnifrith was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's god-daughter.
She attended school at Granville House, Eastbourne and went on to serve for thirty years in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), where she worked in intelligence during World War II. Commissioned a section officer, she was promoted to temporary flight officer on 1 February 1942 and to temporary squadron officer on 1 July 1944
On 19 June 1947, Acting Wing Officer Conan Doyle was granted a short-service commission as a flight officer in the WAAF, G Branch, with seniority from 26 September 1943. She was appointed OBE (Military Division) in the 1948 New Year Honours, she was granted a permanent commission as a wing officer in the secretarial branch of the renamed Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) on 1 February 1949.
She was promoted to group officer on 1 January 1952 On 1 April 1963, she was promoted to air commandant, the highest rank in the Women's Royal Air Force. On 29 April of the same year, she was appointed an honorary Aide-de-Camp to Queen Elizabeth II, serving until 1966.
In the 1963 Birthday Honours, she was elevated to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE, Military Division), and was known as Dame Jean Conan Doyle. On 11 May 1966, she retired from the WRAF. She gained the additional style Lady Bromet upon marrying Air Vice-Marshal Sir Geoffrey Rhodes Bromet (1891–1983). Her husband served a term as Lieutenant-Governor of the Isle of Man; the couple had no children.
Upon the death of her brother, Adrian, in 1970, Dame Jean became her father's literary executor and the legal copyright holder to some of the rights to the Sherlock Holmes character as well as her father's other works. She assiduously defended Sherlock Holmes' character. She and her brothers, Adrian and Denis Conan Doyle, Arthur Conan Doyle's children by his second wife (Jean, Lady Conan Doyle) inherited the copyrights with the estate when their mother died in 1940.
Dame Jean said that Sherlock Holmes was the Conan Doyle family curse because of the fighting over copyrights. She and the widows of her brothers initially shared control of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle′s literary trust; however, the women did not get along. Denis Conan Doyle had married a Georgian princess known as Princess Nina M'divani and died in 1955.
Using a loan from the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), in 1970 Princess Nina bought the estate and established Baskervilles Investments Ltd. in the tax haven the Isle of Man. Eventually, the princess fell dramatically behind on the loan, and the RBS ended up with the rights to Conan Doyle's works. The bank then sold the rights to Lady Etelka Duncan[who?], whose daughter administers the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Trust to this day. Dame Jean regained the US rights following the passage of the Copyright Act of 1976, although some of the Conan Doyle properties remain with the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Trust, which has sued the Doyle heirs. When Warner Brothers made Sherlock Holmes, released in 2010, the studio entered in negotiations with both parties.
At her death at age 84, her will stipulated that any remaining copyrights she owned were to be transferred to the Royal National Institute for the Blind. According to a 1990 interview, Dame Jean's eyesight was poor from an early age. The National Institute for the Blind sold the rights back to the Doyle heirs. (There are now nine surviving Doyle heirs. None are direct descendants, as neither Jean nor her brothers had any children.) Sherlock Holmes thus passed into the public domain in the UK in 1980, and is scheduled to do the same in the United States in 2023.
- She was officially gazetted whenever promoted or honoured as Conan-Doyle often without the hyphen.
- The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes: The Life and Times of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by Andrew Lycett, pages 436, 467 (2007, Weidenfield & Nicolson, London & Viking, New York); ISBN 0-7432-7523-3
- Biography Entry in Edinburgh University Library Gallery of Benefactors
- London Gazette, 27 March 1942; accessed 22 March 2014.
- London Gazette, 21 July 1944; accessed 22 March 2014.
- London Gazette, 5 August 1947; accessed 22 March 2014.
- London Gazette, 19 August 1947; accessed 22 March 2014.
- London Gazette, 1 January 1948; accessed 22 March 2014.
- London Gazette, 5 April 1949; accessed 22 March 2014.
- London Gazette, 19 July 1949; accessed 22 March 2014.
- London Gazette, 1 January 1952; accessed 22 March 2014.
- London Gazette, 2 April 1963; accessed 22 March 2014.
- London Gazette, 30 April 1963; accessed 22 March 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 31 May 1963. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
- London Gazette, 17 May 1966; accessed 22 March 2014.
- Itzkoff, Dave (18 January 2010). "For the Heirs to Holmes, a Tangled Web". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
- "Literary Estate". Official Web Site of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
- "The Conan Doyle Family". Conan Doyle Collection. Portsmouth City Council. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
- Baker Street Irregulars' meeting minutes, members.cox.net; 1998
- "In Conversation With Dame Jean Conan Doyle", The Arthur Conan Doyle Society website (P.O. Box 1360, Ashcroft, British Columbia, Canada V0K 1A0)
- Biography, ash-nyc.com; accessed 23 March 2014.
|Portrait in oils of Air Chief Commandant Dame Jean Conan Doyle|