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Lafayette L1471e
Neg. Date: 20-07-1897

copyright V&A

Frances Evelyn (Daisy), Countess of Warwick (1861-1938) née Maynard, photographed in July 1897, a month of celebrations for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

Famous first for her beauty and as a leader of society at the end of Victorian era and the days of the “Marlborough House set” (named after the then residence of the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII), she later became notorious in her devotion to the Labour cause.

Wealthy in her own right, she married the equally well-off Lord Warwick in 1881, and on his succession to the title as the 5th Earl of Warwick in 1883 they moved in to the dreamily romantic Warwick Castle. It was here where their lavish life style found its apogee in the great costume ball which Daisy held in 1895.

Criticism of the amount of money wasted on such an occasion brought about an interview with Robert Blatchford, a journalist and founder of the socialist weekly Clarion. The interview resulted in the Countess’s conversion to Socialism. Coincidentally, the Warwick family motto reads: “Vix ea nostra voco” – “I scarcely call these things our own”!

Her interest in social issues was genuine and led her to establish a technical school and an agricultural college for poor girls and boys and to publish a “scientific” attack on the use of child labour: A Nation’s Youth. Physical Deterioration: Its Causes and Some Remedies, illustrated with a full page portrait of the Countess in high romantic mode by Ellis William Roberts.

The Countess’s pursuit of a political career saw her as a Labour candidate for Warwick and Leamington in the elections of 1923, however she was often an embarrassment to Labour leaders. They claimed to see her motives as merely new excitement and an attempt by her to stay in the public eye. Moreover, her much publicised socialism and her largely ghosted journalism were taking place against the background of spiralling personal debts (since 1899 the Warwicks had been in a deep financial crisis). She was also being pursued by creditors and made desperate efforts to raise money. In 1914 she demanded £125,000 from King George V for the return of love letters written to her by his late father King Edward VII.

At the time of this photograph, the Countess of Warwick was much to be seen in Society and Daisy, as the young Princess of Pless escaping back to London for the Season, met her on numerous occasions. In May 1903 she noted: “Francis Warwick was a lovely and imposing Semiramis” at fancy dress ball given in London by Mrs Adair.

This photograph shows the Countess of Warwick, who once famously declared herself as “not yet anarchist”, in the very aristocratic pose popularised by Sir Joshua Reynold’s paintings against a peaceful English landscape backdrop.

This image was reproduced on the front cover of Country Life magazine on 18 September 1897.