|Spouse(s)||Anthony Eden (m. 1923–50)|
Simon Gascoigne Eden
Nicholas Eden, 2nd Earl of Avon
|Father||Sir William Gervase Beckett, Bt.|
|Mother||Hon. Mabel Duncombe|
|Born||26 July 1905|
|Died||29 June 1957(aged 51)|
Beatrice Helen Beckett (27 July 1905 – 29 June 1957) was the first wife of the British statesman Anthony Eden.
She was the third daughter of Sir William Gervase Beckett, Bt. (1866–1937), a banker, Conservative MP, and chairman of the Yorkshire Post, and his wife, the Hon. Mabel Theresa Duncombe (1877–1913). She was a relation of Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick.
In 1923, Beckett married Anthony Eden, a rising young Conservative politician, during a lull in his first election campaign. Their honeymoon was famously cut short after two days so her husband could campaign in Warwick. Soon afterwards her husband entered Parliament thanks to the voters of Warwick and Leamington.
The couple had three sons:
- Simon Gascoigne Eden (1924–1945); a navigator in the RAF.
- Robert Eden (b. 1928; died same date); lived for fifteen minutes.
- Nicholas Eden, 2nd Earl of Avon (1930–1985); served after the war as aide-de-camp to the Governor General of Canada.
Although Beckett's family press connections provided a useful boost to her husband's political career, by the early 1930s their marriage was in trouble due to Beckett's loathing of politics, and Eden's long hours and frequent absences at work. Eden eventually realised that his wife was having affairs with other men, but suppressed his distress to negotiate an accommodation with her, by which the two agreed to lead largely separate lives in private, "maintaining the fabric of their marriage until the strain became intolerable."
Beckett's separation from Eden increased from 1941, when the family moved to Binderton House, near Chichester, Sussex, while Eden, to meet his wartime responsibilities, lived in a flat in the Foreign Office. The marriage was dealt its 'final blow' when the couple's eldest son, Pilot Officer Simon Gascoigne Eden, predeceased his parents after being reported missing in action in Burma, in June 1945. Beckett spent the rest of the war in Paris, and in 1946 left Eden to live in the United States.
Beckett eventually insisted on a divorce, despite Eden's reluctance, influenced partly by his sole surviving son's devotion to his mother, and partly by the hostility of church and press. The marriage was dissolved in 1950, "on the grounds of his wife's desertion", after 27 years. The parting was amicable and the former couple remained friends.
Two years later, Beckett's former husband (the first divorcé to become prime minister) married Clarissa Spencer-Churchill. The Church Times despaired that public approval for the second marriage "shows how far the climate of public opinion has changed for the worse, even since 1936."
Beckett was less fortunate than Eden, being disappointed when her lover, 'an eminent American', reneged on his promise to marry her. She died in 1957.
- Christopher Hawtree, 'Games - Teaser, Cherie', The Independent On Sunday (16 February 2003), p. 61.
- "Clarissa Brings Happiness At Last", Sunday Times (August 31, 1986).
- "Anthony & Clarissa", Time 60/8 (25 August 1952), p. 24.