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 joined British society and she married William Grenfell. He was untitled but he was a Whig Member of Parliament. William and Ethel had a happy marriage, but Ethel had young lovers. One of her lovers 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]

She lost three of her sons. Her son, the war poet Julian Grenfell, was killed in the First World War. News of him 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 was killed months later. A third son, who became a farmer, died in a car accident in 1925.[citation needed]

From 1911, Ettie was periodically 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]

Lady Desborough was known as a hostess and 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, H. G. Wells, 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]