In remembrance of The Great War during this centenary year, this blog will explore the intriguing social history of that tumultuous time. The first two of my Muskoka Novels – "The Summer Before the Storm" and "Elusive Dawn" – take place from 1914-1918. During my four years of research I accumulated a trunkful of notes, and will illuminate some of the more interesting and unusual tidbits, beginning with the Age of Elegance.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
At Home With the Astors
The Author at Cliveden
Once owned by Waldorf and Nancy Astor, Cliveden is a magnificent
estate on the Thames near Maidenhead, England. At the outbreak of the Great
War, the Astors generously donated their indoor tennis court and bowling alley
to the Canadian Red Cross to be used as a hospital. Lots of additions were
made, and it became The Duchess of Connaught Hospital, which is where
some of my characters nurse and convalesce.
Nancy visited the wounded regularly, and was very popular
with them and the staff. Although an American, Vicountess Nancy Astor became the
first woman to sit in the British House of Commons, in 1919.
There are 42 WW1 war
graves – mostly Canadian - in a lovely secret and sunken garden on the estate. The Astors donated part of their extensive grounds to the Canadians again in WW2, and a more substantial hospital
was built. It functioned as the Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital until the
The Author at Cliveden - photo copyright Melanie Wills
Cliveden is now a luxury hotel, where I enjoyed a delightful
lunch last summer. That famous portrait of Nancy in the background was painted
by John Singer Sargent in 1909.