The Hon. Daisy
Fellowes (née Marguerite Séverine Philippine Decazes de Glücksberg)
(29 April 1890, Paris – 13 December 1962, Paris),[ was a celebrated
20th-century society figure, acclaimed beauty, minor novelist and
poet, Paris Editor of American Harper's Bazaar, fashion icon, and an
heiress to the Singer sewing machine fortune.
She was born in
Paris, the only daughter of Isabelle-Blanche Singer (1869–1896) and
Jean Élie Octave Louis Sévère Amanieu Decazes (1864–1912), the
3rd Duke Decazes and Glücksberg. Her maternal grandfather was Isaac
Merritt Singer, the American sewing-machine pioneer. After her
mother's suicide, she and her siblings were largely raised by their
maternal aunt Winnaretta Singer, Princess Edmond de Polignac, a noted
patron of the arts, particularly music.
Her first husband,
whom she married 10 May 1910 in Paris, was Jean Amédée Marie
Anatole de Broglie Prince de Broglie (born in Paris on 27 January
1886). He reportedly died of influenza on 20 February 1918 while
serving with the French Army in Mascara, Algeria, though malicious
observers gossiped that he actually committed suicide as a result of
his homosexuality having been exposed.
Their country estate
was Compton Beauchamp House were they raised three daughters:
Isabelle Edmée Séverine de Broglie (Neuilly, 16 February 1911 –
Onez, Switzerland, 10 September 1986). Married to Marie Alexandre
William Alvar de Biaudos, Comte de Castéja (Paris, 6 April 1907 –
Paris, 6 July 1983) in Neuilly, 8 November 1932. Accused of
collaboration during World War II, Emmeline de Castéja spent five
months in the prison at Frèsnes, France.
Marguerite Jeanne Pauline de Broglie (Lamorlaye, 27 July 1912 –
Geneva, 18 July 1960). Married to Olivier Charles Humbert Marie,
Marquis de La Moussaye (La Poterie, 26 Mars 1908 – Paris, 20
October 1988) in Neuilly, 3 June 1931. Divorced in Paris, 13 April
1945. Isabelle de La Moussaye was a novelist.
Marguerite de Broglie (Paris, 5 January 1918 – Crans-Montana,
Valais 26 February 1965). Married to Alfred Ignaz Maria Kraus
(Sarajevo, 28 November 1908–) in Neuilly, France, 6 October 1941.
Divorced in Münster 3 February 1958. After her husband—a Siemens
electronics senior manager who served as a counter-espionage agent
with the [Abwehr]—was accused of betraying members of the French
Resistance during World War II to protect his wife, also a member of
the Resistance, Jacqueline Kraus had her head shaved as punishment.
Of her Broglie
children, the notoriously caustic Fellowes once said, "The
eldest, Emmeline, is like my first husband only a great deal more
masculine; the second, Isabelle, is like me without guts; [and] the
third, Jacqueline, was the result of a horrible man called Lischmann
Her second husband,
whom she married on 9 August 1919 in London, was The Hon. Reginald
Ailwyn Fellowes (1884–1953), of Donnington Grove. He was a banker
cousin of Winston Churchill and the son of William Fellowes, 2nd
Baron de Ramsey.
They had one child,
Rosamond Daisy Fellowes (1921–1998). She married in 1941 (divorced
1945), as her first husband, Captain James Gladstone, and had one
son, James Reginald (born 1943). He married Mary Valentine Chiodetti
in 1965. She married in 1953 (divorced), as her second husband,
Tadeusz Maria Wiszniewski (1917–2005); they had one daughter, Diana
Marguerite Mary Wiszniewska (born 1953).
lovers was Duff Cooper, the British ambassador to France. She also
attempted to seduce Winston Churchill, shortly before marrying his
cousin Reginald Fellowes, but failed.
several novels and at least one epic poem. Her best-known work is Les
dimanches de la comtesse de Narbonne (1931, published in English as
"Sundays"). She also wrote the novel Cats in the Isle of
She was known as one
of the most daring fashion plates of the 20th century, arguably the
most important patron of the surrealist couturier Elsa Schiaparelli.
She was also a friend of the jeweller Suzanne Belperron. She was also
a longtime customer of jeweller Cartier.
Daisy Fellowes died
at her hotel particulier on the Rue de Lille number 69, Paris
The Most wicked woman in High Society
lived on grouse, cocaine and other women's husbands. As her gems are
sold at Sotheby's, the jaw-dropping story of... the most wicked woman
in High Society
Fellowes was the living embodiment of Thirties chic
was a voracious man-eater, who’d steal her daughters’ boyfriends
and seduce her best friends’ husbands
She was rich, ugly,
dissolute and ‘the destroyer of many a happy home’ as one
ex-lover bitterly put it.
She did her best to
seduce a married Winston Churchill and when that failed, wed his
cousin. She lived on a diet of morphine and grouse, with the
occasional cocktail thrown in.
The colour Shocking
Pink was created for her — and how she loved to shock! If it wasn’t
morphine then it was opium or cocaine, and she loved nothing better
than discussing her private collection of leather-bound volumes of
When it came to sex
she was a voracious man-eater, who’d steal her daughters’
boyfriends and seduce her best friends’ husbands.
Yet Daisy Fellowes
was also the living embodiment of Thirties chic, a style icon who
inspired designers Chanel and Schiaparelli and who wore so many
jewels they weighed her tiny body down.
Heiress to the
Singer sewing machine empire, she was ‘the very picture of
fashionable depravity’, according to her rival Lady Diana Cooper.
And Lady Diana should know — Daisy bedded her husband and
determinedly remained his mistress for 17 years.
The uber-rich Mrs
Fellowes was also the greatest collector of fine jewellery the 20th
century ever saw. Her rapacious and salacious life was remembered
this week when one of her pieces — a crystal and pearl clip — was
among the highlights of Sotheby’s spring gem sales.
Though she became a
central part of Mayfair society during the inter-war years, buying up
the friendship of royalty, ministers, peers and moguls, Daisy was in
fact half-French, half-American.
Her mother was
Isabelle Singer, daughter of the inventor of the first commercially
successful sewing machine, while her father was a French aristocrat,
the Duc Decazes.
At 19, she was
married off to Prince Jean de Broglie, but the relationship fell
apart when she found him in bed with the chauffeur.
had unlocked an inextinguishable sexuality and soon she was to be
found in the Ritz Hotel in Paris desperately trying to bed Winston
Churchill, then a young MP.
Winston’s later private secretary, Jock Colville: ‘She was a
wicked but attractive woman who, according to Mrs Churchill, tried to
seduce her husband shortly after their marriage. It was unsuccessful
and she was forgiven, even by Clementine.’
By now, Daisy had
three children. ‘The oldest, Ermeline, is like my first husband
only a great deal more masculine. The second, Isabelle, is like me,
only without guts; the third was the result of a horrible man called
Lischmann,’ she spat when someone gently inquired about them.
Nonetheless she had
a sneaking fondness for children — but only at a distance. One day
strolling in a park, she exclaimed: ‘Oh look at those pretty little
girls. Aren’t they beautifully dressed! We must go and ask the
nurse whose they are.’ Walking over, Daisy duly asked: ‘Whose
lovely little children are these?’
snapped the nurse.
fascinating and I suppose wicked; her wickedness was on a scale that
it had its own distinction,’ declared David Herbert, son of the
Earl of Pembroke. Again, he should know — Daisy threw herself at
his bumbling father in the hope of becoming an English countess.
After a brief
dalliance in Paris, Pembroke realised what a lightning storm he’d
walked into and tried to back away.
Her brother, now
having succeeded their father as the Duc Decazes, claimed her
reputation had been damaged by this rejection and challenged the
bewildered Pembroke to a duel. The peer scuttled back across the
English Channel and Daisy returned to flicking through the pages of
Burke’s Peerage for a new husband.
He was soon to
arrive. But first Daisy decided that a little remodelling was in
order. It was not sufficient that she was rich, she must have
breeding and looks to match.
a portrait of herself she’d been appalled by the result and set to
work. She had a nose-job, without anaesthetic, threw away her entire
wardrobe and started to consult couturiers. And she began, very
seriously, reading books.
herself as always being ‘on the scent’ of new conquest
The Daisy that the
Hon. Reggie Fellowes met and married was a very different article to
the teenager who’d wed the Prince de Broglie.
Her new husband was
rich, a banker, the son of the second Baron de Ramsey, connected to
Winston Churchill through the Dukes of Marlborough, and a decidedly
good egg. The couple made their home in France, with frequent visits
In the milieu she
now inhabited, sexual freedom was obligatory once she’d secured the
marriage by having a child with Fellowes. A friend recalled Daisy in
Monte Carlo with her lover Fred Cripps, later Lord Parmoor: ‘She
and Fred tracked Reggie down to a brothel and through a rough glass
window watched him perform with a poll [prostitute]. He didn’t know
of course, but they told him afterwards.’
uncontrollable, her marriage remained a success despite her
determination to cuckold as many wives as possible. She described
herself as always being ‘on the scent’ of new conquest. ‘It’s
a thrilling feeling,’ she confessed, ‘like tasting absinthe for
the first time. Soon the man asks: “When may I come to tea?” —
that’s when I sharpen the knife.’
The painter Sir
Francis Rose was both fearful and admiring: ‘She’s as dangerous
as an albatross,’ he declared. Another lover, Alfred Duff Cooper,
father of writer John Julius Norwich, described how smoking opium
before sex lowered her inhibitions to the point of extinction.
While in Paris she
mixed with the new, thrilling art movement which included the writer
Jean Cocteau and Sergei Diaghilev, founder of the Ballets Russes.
When Diaghilev’s star ballerina complained of a headache, Daisy
produced ‘a white powder which worked wonders’. It was cocaine,
her new drug of choice.
The composer and
painter Lord Berners was similarly introduced to the dubious delights
of cocaine by Daisy and was soon serving it during decorous
tea-parties at Faringdon, his Oxfordshire stately home.
But by the time Duff
Cooper was Britain’s ambassador in Paris, at the end of World War
II, Daisy had moved on again.
Diana Cooper learned
from her friendly rival — she tolerated, even encouraged, her
husband’s on-off affair with Mrs Fellowes — how to jazz up a
boring drinks party. ‘Just pour Benzedrine [an amphetamine] into
the cocktails, darling!’
Daisy kept two
yachts on the go, crewed and ready for action, in the Mediterranean.
Her hospitality was lavish, but it came at a price.
Cecil Beaton jumped ship after a brutal few days cooped up with his
hostess under azure-blue skies: ‘Daisy has been impossible. She
bullies one person, keeping the others on her side until it’s time
to bully the next person. She is spoilt, capricious, and wicked.’
Other guests on her
bigger yacht, the Sister Anne, included the Prince of Wales and a
then unknown American, Wallis Simpson. The romance between the
soon-to-be King and his divorcee was still fresh, ‘otherwise, make
no mistake, Daisy would have gone for him’, observed a fellow
It was Daisy's
clothes — and her jewels — that people talked about most
It was 1935 and the
world would have to wait another year to discover who the Prince
loved enough to give up his throne for — but in the calm waters of
the Mediterranean Daisy Fellowes was already privy to the country’s
most devastating secret.
All these things,
good and bad, should have made Daisy the focus of Society’s
attention, but it was her clothes — and her jewels — that people
talked about most.
There were diamonds,
emeralds, sapphires, rubies, outside the Crown Jewels, there was
nothing to match them. The big jewellers of the day, Cartier, Van
Cleef and Arpels, were in seventh heaven for she never stopped
saluted her ‘for daring to be different’. At the Ritz, diners
climbed on chairs to get a glimpse of her Schiaparelli monkey-fur
coat embroidered in gold, and she shocked the public by wearing a
Surrealist hat shaped like a high-heeled shoe.
It was then that
Schiaparelli invented ‘shocking pink’ for Daisy, and she wore it
with panache — a lobster dress, or a black suit with pink lips for
Alas, all legends
fade and World War II helped reshape society. Daisy was getting
older, while husband Reggie was in a wheelchair.
She was deeply
shamed to discover that her daughter, Jacqueline, who stayed in
France and heroically worked for the French Resistance, had
unknowingly married a German spy who betrayed her Resistance
retained her family title of Princess de Broglie, had her head shaved
publicly as a punishment. A once-proud family, one of the richest in
Europe, was humbled.
As old age set in,
Daisy’s thoughts returned to her childhood. Her mother had
committed suicide when Daisy was only four. Now her thoughts moved
along similar lines and on more than one occasion she attempted to
take her own life.
fun-loving Reggie, who she stuck with till the bitter end, died
around the time of her 63rd birthday. Daisy returned to Paris, to a
vast town-house in the Rue de Lille, and slowly the shades were drawn
She died aged 72,
but already the world had moved on. In the age of The Beatles, nobody
cared to hear about a woman who wore a shoe for a hat, had a shade of
pink named for her, collected the biggest set of priceless jewels
ever known and encouraged people to take cocaine with their cup of
tea. The new world seemed more interesting than that.