Volunteering: Tracking down The Marquis de Soveral

polesden_lacey_1923We often find that our volunteers have overlapping interests. It was a coincidence but not a surprise to find that two of our number also volunteer for a local National Trust property, Polesden Lacey was originally a Regency property but was extensively remodelled in 1906 by Margaret Greville, a well-known Edwardian hostess. It enjoyed a heyday during the same period in which Knights-Whittome was photographing many aristocratic and illustrious figures of the day.

The following text is taken from Wikipedia: 

Dame Margaret Helen Greville, Hon Mrs Greville, DBE (1863–1942), was a British society host and philanthropist. Born as Margaret Helen Anderson, she was the daughter of William McEwan a brewery multimillionaire, who later was elected as a Member of Parliament and Helen Anderson. The pair were unwed when Margaret was born and it was not until 1885, when Margaret was 21, and the family had moved to London, that William McEwan and Helen Anderson married.

In 1891, when she was 28, Margaret Anderson married Hon. Ronald Henry Fulke Greville, eldest son of the 2nd Baron Greville. They had no children; he died in 1908.

According to Wikipedia, she was a close friend of Queen Mary. She bequeathed all her jewels to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, including a diamond necklace reputedly belonging to Marie Antoinette, a pair of diamond chandelier earrings and a tiara and ruby necklace by Boucheron, all of which are in possession of the British Royal Family. She also left £20,000 to Princess Margaret, as well as £25,000 to Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain.

Greville was named a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1922. At her death, her estate Polesden Lacey in Great Bookham,Surrey, was bequeathed to the National Trust. She is buried on the grounds of Polesden Lacey.

One of our reciprocal volunteers, Rita, has long hoped to find some kind of connection between our project and the work she does at Polesden, and with Knights-Whittome’s aristocratic client list it seemed likely from the start that we might well find some crossovers among the collections. However, bar one image of the Long Walk – which proves to us at least that Knights-Whittome visited the property – to date this connection has eluded us.

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The Long Walk Collonade at Polesden Lacey as it is today.

It was somewhat gratifying therefore for her to recently uncover another connection, which though tenuous, proves that some of his clients were indeed moving in the same circles as Mrs Greville and her guests.  In today’s post, Rita explains…

“While working on cataloguing damaged plates I was very interested to find the name Marquis de Soveral on a dusty envelope. Sadly as the envelope was stuck to the plate we were unable to see the image. This name has now appeared on three occasions and the final one had the date of 23 September 1908. I volunteer as a Room Guide at Polesden Lacey and have seen this gentleman in several photographs. He was Luis Maria Augusto Pinto, Marquis de Soveral, Portuguese ambassador 1884-1910.

He was a nobleman, courtier, diplomat and ladies’ man. He was given the nickname of ‘The Blue Monkey’ because of his swarthy appearance and curled moustache. He was a very entertaining guest and much in demand at house parties and fashionable gatherings. He had been a friend of King Edward VII since the 1870s.

Some research online showed that he attended the Duchess of Devonshire’s Ball in 1897 held in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. It was a costume ball and he attended as Count d’Almada. In a marvellous book at Polesden Lacey containing signed plates of some of the guests, Mrs Ronald Greville is also pictured dressed as Mary Seaton, one of Queen Elizabeth I ladies in waiting.

There is also an image online of his visit with the King and Queen of Portugal to Windsor Castle in 1904. He paid several visits to Polesden Lacey and appears in several photographs – sadly none of them by Knights-Whittome as far as we can tell.

For a number of years Ronnie and Margaret Greville rented Reigate Priory as a country seat to entertain their aristocratic friends. The Marquis attended one such occasion in 1906 and guests included Edward VII, George and Alice Keppel, Lady Saville and Ernest Cassell.

In 1909 after the purchase and complete redecoration of Polesden Lacey, Mrs Greville launched herself back into society (her husband Ronnie having died in 1908) with a house party which included the Keppels, Austrian ambassador Count Mensdorff, Lady Sarah Wilson, Lady Saville, Sonia Keppel, the Marquis de Soveral and King Edward VII. The Marquis, identified as “Portuguese Minister”can be seen seated second from the left in the front row of this image from the National Trust collection.”

Polesden Lacey House Party, 1909.

Polesden Lacey Copyright National Trust/Richard Holttum

Image Caption: Polesden Lacey House Party, 1909. Back row: William Brownlow, 3rd Baron Lurgan (1858-1937), Lady Sarah Wilson, The Rt Hon. William McEwan MP (1827-1913), Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Alastair Robert Innes-Ker (1880-1936), The Hon. John Ward, Count Albert Viktor Julius Joseph Michael von Mensdorff-Pouilly-Dietrichstein (1861-1945), Lady Saville, Sir John Christopher Willoughby, 5th Baronet (1859-1918), Lieutenant-Colonel, The Hon. George Keppel (1865-1947). Front row: Anne Breese, Lady Innes-Ker (1885-1959), Portuguese Minister, Margaret McEwan, The Hon. Mrs Ronald Henry Fulke Greville, DBE (1863-1942), King Edward VII (1841–1910), Georgina Elizabeth Moncreiffe, Countess of Dudley (1846-1929), Alice Frederica ‘Freddie’ Edmondstone, The Hon. Mrs George Keppel (1868-1947), Lady Emily Julia Cadogan, Lady Lurgan (1871-1909), Miss Sonia Rosemary Keppel, later Lady Ashcombe (1900-1986), Mrs Cavendish Bentinck.

The Knights-Whittome plates that Rita uncovered of The Marquis are sadly too damaged to research at present. We have been unable to look at the images, let alone digitise them for public view. Our first batch of glass plates earmarked for conservation will leave Sutton in December and we hope to include the Marquis’s image among them. We should know by the end of April if it has been possible to salvage the plates. Given that one of the plates is dated Sept 1908, it seems unlikely that the image will have been taken at Polesden, but if any of them should have been, what a find it would be.

We do have one intact image of the Marquis, pictured alongside King Manuel of Portugal in 1909, but this was not taken at Polesden. It is highly likely that when our mystery plates are unmasked, they may well belong to this same series.

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King Manuel of Portugal and The Marquis de Soveral, location unknown. Photographed by Knights-Whittome, 17 Nov 1909.

We are lucky to have volunteers with a genuine historical interest in these sitters and the period. The sheer volume of plates in this collection makes it impossible to identify and research every subject as they pass through the cleaning and rehousing process and it is likely that there are many eminent and highly interesting characters lurking within our cabinets who will remain hidden for months or even years until it is their turn to be pulled out of the ranks for inspection. Having volunteers with some background knowledge ensures that some of these names at least jump out ahead of the others as subjects about which we are likely to find information and research.

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5 thoughts on “Volunteering: Tracking down The Marquis de Soveral

  1. I would like to get more information about the Marquis de Soveral, I am curious to know if he ever was married or had children. Do you have information about Joseph Soveral, he settled in the island of Tobago from Portugal. I have traced the family lineage to Brazil, but they don;t seem to know much of their family history only that it came from Portugal. Hope you all can help me. Thank you.

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    • Hi – Thanks for your interest in this plate. Unfortunately, we have not yet had time to fully research the Marquis. Once the plates are returned from conservation, we hope to dedicate some more time to this man. I will certainly make a note of your interest and let you know if anything comes to light.

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  2. My bad… pressed “post comment” too soon!

    Many thanks for this blog, I visited Polesden Lacey a few months ago and saw the picture of the 1909 house party on display at the house. Looking forward to reading more about this topic when the plates return from conservation.

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