10/07/2008

Woman of the week - Idina Sackville

Name: Myra Idina Sackville
Born: 26 February 1893, in Bexhill-on-sea, England
Dead: 5 November 1955, Mombasa, Kenya
Married to: 1) David Euan Wallace in 1913 - divorced in 1919
2) Charles Gordon in 1919 - divorced in 1923
3) Josslyn Hay in 1923 - divorced in 1929
4) Donald Haldeman in 1930 - divorced in 1938
5) Vincent Soltau in 1939 - divorced in 1945
Children:
David John Wallace (1914-1944)
Gerard Euan Wallace (1915-1943)
Diana Denyse Hay (1926-1978)
Occupation: Farmer

Idina is a woman that in many ways gives a face to the sinful ways of the roaring 20's - living a life that can only be referred to as scandalous.

She was the eldest child of Gilbert Sackville, 8th Earl de la Warr and Muriel Brassey. Later came the sister Avice, called Avie, (1897-1985) and brother Herbrand, called Buck, (1900-1976). Idina's father was of old English nobility, but her mother came from a middle class family that had made a lot of money. The couple was a part of the highest nobility, and so were their children. her father was notoriously unfaithful and eventually moved in with a cancan dancer. Muriel chose to divorce him - being unfaithful was common, leaving the family was quite another matter. This happened in 1902 and the children came to live with their very politically active mother.

In spite of this blemish Idina could be presented at court and join the debutantes, looking for a suitable husband. She would catch the eye of one of Britain's most eligible bachelors, David Euan Wallace and they married in 1913. They had two sons, David and Gerard, and everything should have wonderful. But there was the small matter of the First World War, and their inability to stay faithful. They were brought up in a culture that saw no problems with liaisons of this kind but it still meant the end to their marriage. At the end of the war Euan returned from France where he had been stationed, but the marriage collapsed when he showed no interest in his wife and turned to other women. Idina saw no reason to wait for her husband to leave (like her mother had). She left him, their children (that she would not see again till they were both grown up men) and their home. She married Charles Gordon as soon as she could, a man who happened to be available for the job at the right time and they moved to Kenya, the place that would henceforth be her home.

The second marriage soon fell apart. Idina had a great sexual appetite and had a hard time, not to say it was impossible for her, being with just one man - and in this case it was not even one she cared that much about to begin with. But she stayed in Africa, being a part of the 'Happy Valley Crowd' which the press had labelled her and her friends - people who spent far too much time partying, sleeping around and taking drugs. At the same time Idina worked hard on her farm (though the press did not report that). Idina was known to be not a great beauty but very charming and a great hostess and companion.

Her third marriage, to Josslyn, Joss, Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll, in 1923, had better chances of succeeding. Neither expected fidelity and they both liked to party. They had the daughter Diana, always called Dinan (who was sent to live with Avie in England when she was 12 to get a proper education - she would not meet her mother till she was an adult, married and had a child of her own). But Joss still left her for another woman.

Idina would move on from that in her constant search for her happy life. She married Donald Haldeman, which turned out to be a bit of a mistake - he was not prone to take lightly on infidelity and he threatened, several times, to shoot her lovers. The marriage ended in yet another divorce.

Idina's last marriage was to Vincent Soltau - it was the last time Idina would marry, and after that she took her maiden name back and once more became Idina Sackville. Life had been pretty good to Idina between the two world wars, though her family life was not the best she had her friends and her farm and her parties and her lovers. With the second world war, age and general decline this dwindled. Several of her friends passed away, through suicide, drugs and so on. Joss, still a part of the same crowd, was murdered. Idina also met both her sons, but even though they had some fun together, they were never reunited as a proper family, and they both died in the war.

Idina herself died in 1955, only 62 years old, from cancer. By her side was her last lover James, Jimmy, Bird. Her brother flew down to bury her, next to her son Gerard. Her rather outrageous behaviour would make her known as 'The Bolter' in novels by Nancy Mitford, and her great granddaughter, Frances Osborne, would write her biography with that name - it came out earlier this year.

1 comment:

Robyn Dalby-Stockwell said...

Idina's wonderful house 'Clouds' is now owned by a local family and is semi derelict.