Gwladys, Lady Delamere

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The Lady Delamere

Mayor of Nairobi
In office
Preceded byJoseph Mortimer
Succeeded byErnest Albert Vasey
Personal details
Gwladys Helen Beckett

Died22 February 1943 (aged 45–46)
Resting placeSoysambu Conservancy
  • Rupert Evelyn Beckett
  • Muriel Paget
RelativesHenry Paget, 2nd Marquess of Anglesey (great-grandfather)

Gwladys Helen Cholmondeley, Baroness Delamere, CBE (née Beckett; 1897 – 22 February 1943), formerly Lady Charles Markham, was the second female Mayor of Nairobi from 1938 to 1940. She was awarded her CBE in 1941 for public services in Kenya. In March 1941 she gave evidence at the trial in Kenya of Sir Henry John Delves Broughton for the murder of Josslyn Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll. She died on 22 February 1943 and was buried at Soysambu.


Gwladys Helen Beckett was the daughter of Rupert Evelyn Beckett and Muriel Helen Florence Paget. Muriel was a granddaughter of Henry Paget, 2nd Marquess of Anglesey. In 1901 she was photographed with her mother for a full page in Tatler.[1] In 1902 it was reported that she had been bridesmaid to Lady Helen Stewart (daughter of Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 6th Marquess of Londonderry), who married Giles Fox-Strangways, 6th Earl of Ilchester.[2] In 1903, she was bridesmaid for Mary Willoughby, who was marrying Arthur Ramsay, 14th Earl of Dalhousie.[3] She had her coming-out in 1915.[4]


Gwladys's first marriage took place in 1920 to Sir Charles Markham of Newstead Abbey, the son of the late Sir Arthur Markham.[5] The grand wedding was reported in detail in The Yorkshire Post.[6] She divorced him in 1927.[7] The following year she married Hugh Cholmondeley, 3rd Baron Delamere, thirty years her senior, in Nairobi.[8] Lord Delamere died in November 1931, at the age of 61, leaving Gwladys Lady Delamere as his widow.[9]


In 1928, Gwladys travelled to Kenya with the Prince of Wales. Her social behaviour drew attention – Isak Dinesen wrote in November that "Lady Delamere behaved scandalously at supper, I thought; she bombarded the Prince of Wales with big pieces of bread ... and finished up by rushing at him, overturning his chair and rolling him around on the floor."[10] However, during the 1929-31 famine when the Soysambu area was devastated by locusts, Gwladys took over the management of a hotel Delamere opened in Iringa in 1926[11] and made it pay its way.[12] Despite Dinesen's 1928 comments, the Delameres were back in the Prince's company in 1930.[13]

Mayor of Nairobi[edit]

In 1934, Gwladys was elected to Nairobi Council. She became deputy mayor on 2 July 1935.[14] She visited England to stay at Wilton, Wiltshire for Christmas 1936.[15] She returned, after a well-attended leaving party thrown by her parents, reportedly to take up the office of mayor.[16] The Yorkshire Post explained that she had become the first woman member of the Municipal Council ("second only to the Legislative Council") two years previously.[17] She had become deputy mayor after one year and then acting mayor for six months while the mayor was sick. She was asked in July 1936 to become mayor but asked to defer this until after her visit to England. The article went on to discuss the challenges of urban growth facing Nairobi at the time and noted that the Council's duties included brewing and retailing beer along similar lines to the England's State Management Scheme experiment in Carlisle.

If she had become mayor on her return in 1937, she would have succeeded Thomas Alfred Wood[18] who had previously been mayor in 1927-29 when Gladwys first arrived in Kenya. She actually held the post for three terms from 1938.[19] It was reported at the time that her 1939 election for her second term was unopposed by Indian members of the council.[20]

Trial of Sir Delves Broughton[edit]

In 1941 she gave evidence for the prosecution at the White Mischief trial. [21] [22] [23] [24] In dramatisations of events surrounding the trial, her character was played by Susan Fleetwood in the film White Mischief (1987) and on television by Julia St. John in Julian Fellowes Investigates: A Most Mysterious Murder (2005) - episode 4 The Case of the Earl of Erroll.


Gwladys died on 22 February 1943. Her obituaries confined themselves to her position as Mayor of Nairobi and her CBE.[25][26][27] Her funeral was attended by the Governor of Kenya and Commander-in-Chief in East Africa. Her coffin was carried by representatives of the three fighting services. The Times reported that among the wreaths was one from General Smuts, the Prime Minister of South Africa.[28]

In The Ghosts of Happy Valley: Searching for the Lost World of Africa's Infamous Aristocrats, Juliet Barnes writes that Gwladys was sometimes portrayed as "a bossy, bitchy and emotionally unbalanced woman, endlessly carousing at Muthaiga Club with Happy Valleyites" but also "how she selflessly looked after Delamere in his twilight years. She was apparently highly popular and during the war she always made all ranks welcome at her Loresho home, unlike many more snobbish families."[29] She later gave the home to the Kenya Red Cross Service.[30]

Gwladys returned to the news in 2007 when there was media interest surrounding the trial of Thomas P. G. Cholmondeley, Delamere's great-grandson, for shooting a poacher. While that was taking place, Gwladys's grave was desecrated and the police looked for a connection with the trial.[31]


  1. ^ "Mrs Rupert Beckett and her daughter Gwladys". Tatler. 13 November 1901. p. 305. Mrs Rupert Beckett is the only daughter of Lord Berkeley Paget, uncle of the Marquis of Anglesea. Her husband is a nephew of Lord Grimthorpe and a member of the well-known Yorkshire banking firm
  2. ^ "Lady Helen Stewart's marriage: a brilliant gathering". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 27 January 1902 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  3. ^ "Fashionable wedding London. The Earl of Dalhousie and Mary Willoghby". Lincolnshire Echo. 15 July 1903 – via British Newspaper Archive. The marriage of Arthur George Maule Ramsay, fourteenth Earl of Dalhousie, to Lady Mary Adelaide Heathcote Drummond-Willoughby youngest daughter of the Earl and Countess of Ancaster took place in St. Michael's Church, Chester Square, London, on Tuesday.
  4. ^ A Town Mouse (24 October 1915). "A War Debutante". Sunday Pictorial. It has become the fashion to voice regrets for the war debutante in these times. But nobody need sorry for Miss Gwladys Beckett, who is nearly eighteen and is debutante of the near future. She most charming girl, and possesses a charming mother, tall and very distinguished in style. Mrs. Rupert Beckett, whose husband is a rich banker and the brother of Lord Grimthorpe, has been notable hostess other times, but war duties occupy her attention now.
  5. ^ "Social Record". Hull Daily Mail. 9 December 1920. An "electric light" wedding took place on Wednesday at St Margaret's, Westminster, when Miss Gwladys Helen Beckett, eldest daughter of the Hon. Rupert and Mrs Beckett, was married to Sir Charles Markham, Newstead Abbey.
  6. ^ "Picturesque wedding in London - Miss Gwladys Beckett and Sir C Markham - The Prime Minister present". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 9 December 1920.
  7. ^ "British Baronet's Romance". Dundee Evening Telegraph. 2 March 1932.
  8. ^ "Lord Delamere forthcoming marriage with Lady Markham". Western Morning News. 16 May 1928. Lady Markham was originally Miss Gwladys Beckett, a daughter of the Hon. Rupert Beckett. She married Sir Charles Markham in 1920, the marriage being dissolved 1927 on her petition. The engagement took place while Lady Markham was staying at Nairobi as a guest of the Governor of Kenya Colony, Sir Edward Grigg. Lord Delamere's first wife died in 1914.
  9. ^ "Lord Delamere Dies on his African Ranch". New York Times. 14 November 1931.
  10. ^ Dinesen, Isak (1981). Letters from Africa. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. p. 387. Letter written to Ingeborg Dinesen from Isak in Ngong, Kenya dated Sun 11th Nov 1928
  11. ^ "The Iringa Hotel" (PDF). East African Railways and Harbours Magazine. 3 (6): 194. December 1957. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  12. ^ Huxley, Elspeth (1935). Lord Delamere and the making of Kenya. 2. Macmillan. p. 262.
  13. ^ "The Prince ill – suffering from attack of Malaria". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 3 March 1930. The Prince has been entertaining at his camp the Governor of Kenya Colony, Sir Edward Grigg, Lady Grigg, and Lord and Lady Delamere, and he had hoped to entertain them with the spectacle of a lion hunt by Masai natives
  14. ^ "No title". Hull Daily Mail. 3 July 1935. p. 4. She is the first woman in East Africa to hold that office
  15. ^ "A social diary: Christmas at Wilton". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 20 November 1936.
  16. ^ "A farewell dinner party". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 15 January 1937. p. 8.
  17. ^ "Woman mayor of Nairobi - Gwladys Lady Delamere's return to Kenya - Pioneers of the third generation". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 15 January 1937. p. 12.
  18. ^ "A Derby Man's Diary". Derby Daily Telegraph. 29 January 1937.
  19. ^ Riley, Glenda (2003). Taking Land, Breaking Land: Women Colonizing the American West and Kenya. University of New Mexico Press. p. 184. "In 1934, Gladys Delamere gained election to the council where she did such an outstanding job that four years later she became mayor, an office she held for three terms. As mayor she especially initiated anti-poverty programmes in Nairobi's ghettos and helped europeans left financially stranded by the depression. Because Gladys helped both blacks and whites, some people criticised her unmercifully."
  20. ^ "No title". Gloucestershire Echo. 13 July 1939.
  21. ^ "The Kenya Murder Charge". Cornishman. 26 March 1941. An occasion on which Sir Delves Broughton was alleged have given a toast to the happiness of his wife, Lord Errol, "and their future child," was described here to-day. Sir Delves Broughton is charged With the murder of the Earl of Erroll, who was found shot in a car. Lady Carbery told the court the toast was given at a dinner party at which Sir Delves Broughton, Lord Erroll and Broughton were her guests. Gwladys Lady Delamere, another witness, said that at Lord Erroll's funeral Lady Broughton asked Sir Delves to throw a letter from her into the open grave. NAIROBI, Tuesday. the case of Sir Delves Broughton, charged with the murder of Lord Erroll, has been adjourned until April 7th for technical evidence to be called.
  22. ^ "Baronet Burst Into Tears, Says Lady Carbery". Dundee Courier. 25 March 1941. Lady Delamere, the Mayor of Nairobi, also gave evidence. She said she attended Lord Erroll's funeral in her official capacity. Sir Delves Broughton had previously asked her to drop a farewell message from his wife into the grave, but she refused. As she was walking the procession after the funeral, he asked what he should do with his wife's letter. She indicated the grave and suggested he should place the letter in it. Lady Delamere said that day she lunched at a club with Sir Delves. He referred to his wife in the most abusive terms, said he never wanted to see her again, and loathed the sight of her. He said would go abroad, but did not want his wife with him. He also mentioned his previous wife, speaking of her with regret.
  23. ^ "Lady Delamere's long cross-examination". Western Morning News. 6 June 1941. Advice given by Lady Delamere, the Mayor of Nairobi, to Lord Erroll and Lady Broughton was mentioned during evidence at the trial here today of Sir Delves Broughton, charged with murdering Lord Erroll. Lady Delamere, cross-examined by defending counsel (Mr. H. H. Norris), admitted she might have said: "Take your happiness where you can find it — there's a war on." But she also urged both Lord Erroll and Lady Broughton to make a clean breast of their affair to Sir Delves. The atmosphere of the court was distinctly stormy during Lady Delamere's long cross-examination.
  24. ^ "She advised man in love - Lady Delamere is murder trial witness". Dundee Courier. 6 June 1941. Answering questions regarding talks with Lady Broughton and Lord Erroll when she was a dinner guest at Karne House, Sir Delves Broughton's home ... Counsel: What had this affair to do with you? Lady Delamere: Merely that I was an old friend of Lord Erroll's, and I anticipated trouble and difficulty for all three.
  25. ^ "Obituary - Lady Delamere - First woman mayor of Nairobi". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 23 February 1943.
  26. ^ "Lady Delamere - Death of the only mayor in British East Africa". Yorkshire Evening Post. 22 February 1943.
  27. ^ "Obituary – Gwladys Lady Delamere". The Times (London, England). 23 February 1943. p. 6.
  28. ^ "News in Brief". The Times (London, England). 24 February 1943. p. 3.
  29. ^ Barnes, Juliet (2014). The Ghosts of Happy Valley: Searching for the Lost World of Africa's Infamous Aristocrats. Aurum Press Ltd.
  30. ^ "Lady Delamere's beautiful home for convalescent soldiers in Kenya". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  31. ^ "White Mischief grave is desecrated". The Times (London, England). 27 March 2007. p. 32.