Ettie Grenfell, Baroness Desborough

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The Lady Desborough
Siegfried Sassoon and Ethel Fane.jpg
Born27 June 1867
Died28 May 1952
Known forsociety hostess

Ethel Anne Priscilla Grenfell, Baroness Desborough (née Fane; 27 June 1867 – 28 May 1952) was a British society hostess.


Ettie photographed by Lord Battersea

Ethel (Ettie) Fane was born into an aristocratic family but she had no title. By the age of three she was an orphan when her father, Julian Fane died at the age of 42.

Fane married William Grenfell in 1887. He was at the time untitled but he was a Member of Parliament, first for the Liberal Party and then for the Conservative Party. William and Ethel had a happy marriage, but Ethel also had male admirers. One of those was Archie Ian Gordon who was the son of John Hamilton-Gordon, 1st Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair. He was devoted to her and she lost him when he died in a car crash in 1909.[citation needed]

From 1911, Ettie was periodically in waiting as Lady of the Bedchamber to Mary of Teck, Queen Consort to George V. When she was appointed, her son was surprised as the idea of a Lady of the Bedchamber seemed anachronistic.[1]

Three of her sons predeceased her. Julian Grenfell, a war poet, was killed in the First World War. News of his being wounded was given to her via her daughter who was serving as a nurse in France. She travelled to France to see her son who had a splinter in his brain. Julian took 13 days to die. Another son, Gerald William (Billy) Grenfell, was killed only months later in July 1915. A third son, Ivo Grenfell, who became a farmer, died in a car accident in 1926.[citation needed]

She was a well known hostess; Winston Churchill and H. G. Wells were amongst her guests, and she was said to be the confidante of six prime ministers (Rosebery, Balfour, Asquith, Baldwin, Chamberlain and Churchill). She and her husband were members of the social group known as "The Souls".[citation needed] Visitors included Henry Irving, Vita Sackville-West, Edward VII when Prince of Wales, Patrick Shaw-Stewart, Edith Wharton and Oscar Wilde.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ettie by Richard Davenport-Hines[2][1]


  1. ^ a b Richard Davenport-Hines (15 November 2012). Ettie: The Intimate Life And Dauntless Spirit Of Lady Desborough. Orion. ISBN 978-0-297-85622-1.
  2. ^ Ettie, book review, The Independent, Retrieved 1 February 2016

External links[edit]