The Trees of Ditchley


Nancy Tree





Nancy Keene Perkins
9.IX.1897 – 19.VIII.1994

 
Born Nancy Keene Perkins at her maternal grandfather's farm, Mirador, in Greenwood, near Charlottesville, Virginia, and brought up in Richmond and New York City, she was the elder daughter of Thomas Moncure Perkins, a Virginia cotton broker, and his wife, Elizabeth Langhorne. Nancy Lancaster was also a niece of Nancy Astor, the British politician, and of Irene Gibson, the wife of the Gibson Girl artist Charles Dana Gibson. Her cousin Joyce Grenfell was a celebrated British monologuist and actress.

She was first married, in 1917, to Henry Field, an heir to the Marshall Field department store fortune. He died five months later, following an operation to remove his tonsils.

In 1920 she married bisexual journalist and investor Ronald Tree (1897–1976), a cousin of her first husband. After moving to England in 1927, they had two sons and a daughter, who died at birth.

At first the Trees took a 10-year repairing lease on Kelmarsh Hall near Market Harborough in Northamptonshire which Nancy redecorated with help from Mrs Guy Bethell of Elden Ltd. In 1933 the Trees bought Ditchley Park near Charlbury in Oxfordshire, and it was the decoration of this house which earned Nancy the reputation of having "the finest taste of almost anyone in the world." She worked on it with Lady Colefax (Mrs Bethell having died) and the French decorator Stephane Boudin of the Paris firm Jansen.

In November 1933 Ronald Tree became Conservative Party member of Parliament for Harborough. Tree was among a small group who saw the rising Nazi party in Germany as a threat to Britain, and he became a member of anti appeasement MPs (who included Eden, Duff Cooper etc) who would meet at his house in Queen Anne's Gate. Winston Churchill was not really part of this group, but he and his wife Clementine dined at Ditchley on numerous occasions from 1937.

On the outbreak of war, the C.I.G.S were concerned by the visibility of both Churchill's country house Chartwell, and the Prime Ministers retreat of Chequers when, as Churchill romantically termed it 'When the Moon is High'. Churchill had use of the Paddock bunker in Neasden, but only used it on one occasion for a cabinet meeting, before returning to his Cabinet War Room bunker in Whitehall. However, this created additional difficulties on clear nights when a full moon was predicted - so the authorities looked for an alternate site north of London. Tree offered Churchill use of Ditchley, which thanks to its tree coverage and no visible access road made it an ideal site which Churchill was happy with. Churchill first went to Ditchley in lieu of Chequers on 9 November 1940, accompanied by Clementine and his daughter Mary. By late 1942, America had entered the war and the security at Chequers had improved, including covering the road with turf. The last weekend Churchill attended Ditchely as his official residence was Tree's birthday on 26 September 1942. Churchill's last visit was for lunch in 1943.

Churchill gave Tree a job in the Ministry of Information, where he met American co-worker Marietta Peabody FitzGerald. Although both were married, the pair began an affair. Tree lost his seat in the 1945 election, and so both divorced in 1947, with their only child the 1960s supermodel Penelope Tree.

She married, thirdly, in 1948, Lieutenant Colonel Claude Lancaster (1899–1977), a former military officer, country squire and member of Parliament who owned Kelmarsh Hall near Market Harborough, Northamptonshire. Renowned today for its gardens, it is a popular tourist site and said to be Nancy Lancaster's favorite home of all despite their divorce after only five years in 1953. The couple had been having an affair for years prior to their marriage, and Nancy Lancaster later claimed that it was the suffocating, day-to-day intimacy caused by their marriage that made her realize why they were successful as lovers and ill-suited as husband and wife.

In 1950 she was forced to sell her beloved Mirador, and so in 1954 Nancy bought Haseley Court near Oxford. She renovated and decorated the house with the help of her business partner, John Fowler (1906–1977). They also created the famous Yellow room at Avery Row, Mayfair one of the finest rooms in London. After a fire in 1971 she sold the main house at Haseley and moved into the Coach House where she lived for the rest of her life. The garden she created at Haseley was particularly famous for its sense of style. The renowned British interior designer David Hicks (1929–1998) called Nancy Lancaster "the most influential English gardener since Gertrude Jekyll." Referred to as the doyenne of interior decorators (something she never was nor ever claimed to be) and smart gardeners, she together with John Fowler created much of the English country house look.

Nancy Lancaster died in 1994 and is buried in Virginia, between her first husband and the infant daughter from her second marriage.

Reproduced with kind permission from 'The Esoteric Curiosa' http://theesotericcuriosa.blogspot.com/


Ronald Tree

Biography from Wikipedia

Arthur Ronald Lambert Field Tree (September 26, 1897 - July 14, 1976), was an American-born British journalist, investor and Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for the Harborough constituency in Leicestershire.

1. Biography

Tree's father, Arthur Tree, was an English real estate developer and son of Lambert Tree, a former British minister to Russia. His mother, Ethel Field, was a daughter of Marshall Field, a co-founder of Marshall Field's department store in Chicago, Illinois. [1] Born in the United States, he was educated in England. [2] Two months after his parents' divorced in 1901, Tree's mother married her lover, Capt. David Beatty, the future 1st Earl Beatty and First Lord of the Admiralty. His half-siblings were David Beatty, 2nd Earl Beatty, and the Hon Peter Beatty; he also had two full siblings, both of whom died in infancy.

Tree edited Forum Magazine in New York from 1922, and in 1926 became involved in investment on the New York Stock Exchange, before the Wall Street Crash of 1929. [3]

1. 1. Politics

Tree returned to England with his wife, the former Nancy Keene Perkins (the widow of his cousin Henry Marshall Field) in 1927, where they had two sons and a daughter, who died at birth. At first the couple took a 10-year repairing lease on Kelmarsh Hall near Market Harborough, Northamptonshire which Nancy redecorated with help from Mrs Guy Bethell of Elden Ltd.

In November 1933 Ronald was elected to represent Harborough in Leicestershire. In the same year, the couple bought Ditchley House and Park near Charlbury, Oxfordshire as their home, and it was the decoration of this house which earned Nancy the reputation of having "the finest taste of almost anyone in the world." She worked on it with Lady Colefax and the French decorator Stephane Boudin of the Paris firm Jansen.

Tree was among a small group who saw the rising Nazi party in Germany as a threat to Britain, and using his home as its base he became friends with the group's leader, Winston Churchill. Churchill and his wife Clementine dined at Ditchley on numerous occasions from 1937.

In February 1938, after Anthony Eden resigned as foreign secretary from Neville Chamberlain over the conduct of foreign policy, Tree himself became a follower of Eden, known then as the "Glamour boys," a pejorative term used by the Conservative Party whips' office, headed by David Margesson. [4]

1. 2. World War Two

On the outbreak of war, the security forces were concerned by the visibility of both Churchill's country house Chartwell - its high geographic location, and the fact it was south of London, making it an easy returning home target; and the Prime Ministers retreat of Chequers - its very visible from the sky entrance road. Churchill had use of the Paddock bunker in Neasden, but only used it on one occasion for a cabinet meeting, before returning to his Cabinet War Room bunker in Whitehall. However, this created additional difficulties on clear nights when a full moon was predicted (or as Churchill romantically termed it 'When the Moon is High') - so the authorities looked for an alternate site north of London. Tree offered Churchill use of Ditchley, which thanks to its tree coverage and no visible access road made it an ideal site which Churchill was happy with. Churchill first went to Ditchley in lieu of Chequers on 9 November 1940, accompanied by Clementine and his daughter Mary. By late 1942, security measures at Chequers had improved, notably including covering the road with turf. The last weekend Churchill attended Ditchley as his official residence was Tree's birthday on 26 September 1942. Churchill's last visit was for lunch in 1943. [3]

Churchill gave Tree a job in the Ministry of Information, where he met a married American co-worker Marietta Peabody FitzGerald and began a romantic relationship.

1. 3. Marietta

Although Tree was bisexual [5] [6] and twenty years older than Marietta, [7] at the end of World War Two, Tree and Peabody divorced their respective partners, and then married on July 26, 1947; they had one child, Penelope (born 1949), who became a celebrated fashion model in the 1960s.

Marietta moved into Ditchley, but found herself bored with English country life. Tree and most of his friends were conservatives, and Democrat Marietta found herself isolated. Recognising his wife's unhappiness, and for the first time in his life short of money due to the taxation of Foreign Trust income enacted by the 1945 Labour Government, Tree sold Ditchley and agreed to return to New York with Marietta, her daughter Frances FitzGerald, their daughter, [8] and his butler Collins. [2] [1]

Marietta immediately joined the Lexington Democratic Club, and two years later was elected the county chairwoman. She was elected to the Democratic State Committee in 1954. In 1952, Marietta became involved in the Presidential election campaign of Adlai Stevenson, and in the later 1956 campaign - both defeats. This did not put her off politics, and John F Kennedy appointed her to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1961. [2]

Marietta had started an affair with Adlai Stevenson between his two failed presidential campaigns, but her husband was unfazed by this, as the couple's marriage had largely disintegrated to a friendly separation, with Tree spending much of his time at Heron Bay, his house in Barbados. Marietta had turned down the option of returning to her earlier lover, the director John Huston, even when he had given her a role in his 1960 movie "The Misfits." It was while walking in London with Marietta that Adlai suffered a heart attack, and later died at St. George's Hospital. That night in her diary, Marietta wrote, "Adlai is dead. We were together." [2]

Ronald Tree died of a stroke on July 14, 1976 in London, England.


The references can be found at http://wapedia.mobi/en/Ronald_Tree