Mrs Greville's life
Mrs Greville rose from obscure origins to attain political influence, great wealth and the friendship of royalty. When she died in 1942, Mrs Greville left Polesden Lacey to the National Trust, stating in her will that 'the house gardens and park of Polesden Lacey… be open to the public at all times and that arrangements be made for the largest number of people to have the enjoyment thereof.'
Mrs Greville could be generous and kind, especially to loyal employees, but she also had a reputation for being a gossip and a woman who spoke her mind. She entertained royalty and politicians from around the globe, but at the same time did her bit for the local community.
'Her influence was remarkable, and she lived at the centre of things, knowing what was taking place and judging it with accuracy. In addition, in the course of long journeys through Africa, Asia and America, her eye had been as observant as it was at home, and she could foretell who would be the coming figures in the countries she visited.' Laughter in the Next Room by Osbert Sitwell.
'Tea is at 5 o' clock, and at Polesden 5 o'clock means 5 o'clock and not 5 minutes past. Which in its turn means the Spanish ambassador, who has gone for a walk down the yew avenue, hastily retraces his steps, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whoever he may be, hurries down the great staircase, followed by several members of the House of Lords, and that the various ladies belonging to these gentlemen rise from their chaise-longues on which they have been resting in their bedrooms.' Down the Kitchen Sink by Beverley Nichols
'On Thursday Mrs Greville gave her annual party to the schoolchildren of Bookham and the neighbouring villages. Altogether there were 350 children, ranging from five to fifteen years, including those from the estate, who after a sumptuous tea enjoyed the antics of a clown and of the ever-popular Punch and Judy, and were then sent home with a new bright sixpenny piece presented them by their kind hostess....' The Sunday Times, 30 July 1922
Learn more about the people in her life:
Mother, Helen Anderson
Mrs Greville was born Margaret Helen Anderson on 20 December 1863. Her mother, Helen Anderson ran a boarding house in Edinburgh.
Father, William McEwan
It became clear in Mrs Greville's later life that William McEwan was her real father. Her birth certificate showed her father as William Anderson, an employee of William McEwan's with the same surname as her mother. A story had allegedly been concocted to ensure Margaret was thought to be legitimate. William McEwan apparently arranged for his employee to sign the birth certificate to give the impression her mother was married. William Anderson returned to his own family, but the story said he'd died making her mother a respectable widow.
William McEwan married her mother, Helen, eventually in 1885, after his mother and sister had passed away as she'd have been considered an unequal match in marriage. Initially Margaret referred to William McEwan as her stepfather, but later on in life, she called him her father.
Husband, Ronnie Greville
Margaret Anderson married Ronald Greville, eldest son of Lord and Lady Greville and a Lieutenant in the 1st Life Guards on 25 April 1891. Margaret was William McEwan's only child and as heir to his millions, a desirable match for Lord and Lady Greville's son. Unfortunately Ronald died in 1908 of pneumonia following an operation to remove his larynx as he had cancer of the vocal chords. Margaret continued to be known as Mrs Ronnie throughout her life.