Olive Custance

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Olive Eleanor Custance
Lady Olive Eleanor Custance Douglas.jpg
Olive Custance in 1902
Born (1874-02-07)7 February 1874
London, England, UK
Died 12 February 1944(1944-02-12) (aged 70)
Occupation Poet
Nationality British
Spouse Lord Alfred Douglas (1902-1944)

Olive Eleanor Custance (7 February 1874 – 12 February 1944) was a British poet and wife of Lord Alfred Douglas. She was part of the aesthetic movement of the 1890s, and a contributor to The Yellow Book.


She was born at 12 John Street, Berkeley Square, Mayfair, in London, the only daughter and heiress of Colonel Frederick Hambleton Custance, who was a wealthy and distinguished soldier in the British army.

Custance was bisexual.[1] In 1901 she became involved in a lesbian relationship with writer Natalie Clifford Barney in Paris, which Barney later included in her memoirs. Custance then became engaged to George Montagu, but ran away and married Lord Alfred Douglas on 4 March 1902 instead. Her father did not approve of Douglas and the two had eloped. They had one child, Raymond Wilfred Sholto Douglas, born on 17 November 1902. The marriage was stormy after Douglas became a Roman Catholic in 1911. They separated in 1913, lived together for a time in the 1920s after Olive also converted, and then lived apart after she gave up Catholicism. In 1913 Douglas was charged with libelling his father-in-law.

Their only child, Raymond, showed signs of instability in his youth. For a time he served in the army, but was confined to mental institutions for long periods. This further strained the marriage, which by the end of the 1920s was all but over, despite the fact that they never divorced. Custance died in 1944, her husband in 1945. Raymond survived to the age of 61; after several lengthy episodes of mental instability throughout his lifetime, he died unmarried on 10 October 1965.


  • Opals (1897)
  • Rainbows (1902)
  • The Blue Bird (1905)
  • The Inn of Dreams (1911)
  • The Selected Poems of Olive Custance (1995); edited by Brocard Sewell
  • Olive Custance, I Desire the Moon: The Diary of Lady Alfred Douglas (Olive Custance) 1905-1910, ed. C. Wintermans (Avalon Press, 2005)


  1. ^ "Obituary: Sheila Colman", The Independent, 27 November 2001, retrieved 2008-10-17 


  • Olive Custance: Her Life and Work (1975) Brocard Sewell

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