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Sir Stephen Lewis Courtauld, MC (1883–1967) was a member of the wealthy English Courtauld textile family (he was the son of Sydney Courtauld (10 March 1840 – 20 October 1899) and Sarah Lucy Sharpe (1844-1906) and youngest brother of Samuel Courtauld, founder of the Courtauld Institute of Art). He did not enter the family business but his wealthy background enabled him to travel extensively and to pursue cultural and philanthropic interests — most notably, the redevelopment during the 1930s of Eltham Palace in Eltham, south-east London.
Serving in the Artists' Rifles, Worcestershire Regiment and the Machine Gun Corps during World War I, he was twice mentioned in despatches and awarded the Military Cross in 1918. After the war, in 1919, as an enthusiastic mountaineer, he completed the first ascent of the Innominata face of Mont Blanc in the French Alps. Also in 1919, he met his future wife, Virginia (née Peirano), whom he married in 1923.
Courtauld was financial director of Ealing Studios, a trustee of the Royal Opera House in London's Covent Garden, and provided financial support for the Courtauld Galleries in Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum.
He undertook the redevelopment of Eltham Palace with his wife. They employed architects John Seely (1899–1963) and Paul Edward Paget (1901–1985) and fashionable Mayfair interior designer the Marchese Peter Malacrida (1889–1980) to design a new private house in the Art Deco style to adjoin the existing Palace building, which was extensively restored. Malacrida also designed the interiors of the Courtauld's luxury yacht, Virginia (launched in 1930 at Dalmuir on the Upper Clyde in Scotland).
The Courtaulds left Eltham Palace in May 1944 to live in Scotland. In 1951 they moved again, to Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. They established a home at Penhalonga, near Mutare. The estate was named La Rochelle after the place of origin of his family. There they established an extensive botanic garden designed by an Italian landscape artist. He was knighted in 1958.
After Stephen’s death at La Rochelle in 1967, Virginia moved to Jersey in 1970 where she died in 1972.