Thursday, 27 November 2014

How to get an invitation to the Queen's garden party and a true-life Downton Abbey tale

Friends informed me that my invitation to the Queen's Garden Party appeared on a recent Tatler tv show, so I dug up my archived photos. The question many ask me is how to get this coveted invitation? 

My advice would be to take up charity work as a means to serve this country.  Many of those listed in the pages of Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage, in effect the who's who of 'posh' British aristocracy, have also served this country during the two World Wars.

The end of an era, a story of a true-life Downton Abbey family...

My husband's great-grandfather was the 19th Captain of Dunstaffnage Castle. His great uncle Angus Campbell, the 20th Captain of Dunstaffnage, (second left in the photo of the Oban Games) was captured in World War I by the Germans but his name did not appear in the British army listing of soldiers. The Germans prepared to execute him as a 'spy' so he asked them to look him up in Debrett's. And in Debrett's they learned of the Scottish Campbell family. In 1914, his sister Miss Mary of Dunstaffnage wed Etonian Captain Tatton Bardwell (who then left to serve in the British army during WWI).

Captain Tatton Bardwell and Miss Mary Campbell of Dunstaffnage

Debrett's saved Angus from execution. He was not listed in the army directory as he had been refused a commission in the Guards in 1914 for failing his medical but still wished to serve and fight for his country so had snuck in. Angus (far right) was imprisoned with the Russian POWs and not with the British soldiers.

He spent his years in captivity learning Russian, returned to his Scottish castle in Dunstaffnage, became a Russian scholar and assisted the Russian navy, who used Scotland as a port during World War II, as an interpreter and interpreted with tge White Russians on the Don in the Revolution.

He had lived the life of the real 'Downton Abbey' chauffeured in a Rolls Royce and living off the income from the estate. He was made a Knight of Malta. 

He did not wed and the castle, lands and estate were left to his sister Mary's son, Alexander (far right in the photo below). Alexander's life of privilege was cut short with the advent of World War II. He served our country during World War II, was captured in Crete, made a POW in Spangenberg Castle, and after the war, disappeared, with the Star Tiger over the Bermuda Triangle, with his new bride Jean (one of the Camerons of Lochiel) on their honeymoon in 1945. Michael, his younger brother, served our country stationed in Singapore before he became a POW of the Japanese and witnessed unspeakable atrocities which 'broke' him. He and then his son also named Michael inherited the Scottish title.

Alex, the next Captain of Dunstaffnage, (far left) at the Oban Games.

My husband's grandmother, Mary, and mother, Honor, both served in the war, helping out in the NAAFI in Oban.

The three children of Miss Mary Campbell of Dunstaffnage (Michael, Alex and Honor). Alexander and Michael studied at Jesus College, Cambridge. Alexander also rowed for Jesus College in 1935. On 20 July 1946, her brother Captain Angus inserted a notice in the Scotsman and the Times: "Accidentally killed on 11th July 1946, in her 50th year, Mary Margaret, widow of Captain Tatton Bardwell." An unidentified lady had been found beside the Brighton railway line and a description of a monogrammed riding crop she was carrying was given. 'That's my sister," Angus declared and had her body exhumed from the unknown grave to be cremated. Her ashes were laid to rest in the chapel at Dunstaffnage. Had she opened the carriage door, thinking she had arrived at Hove?

World War II took its toll and income from the farming lands of the Scottish estate dwindled. Many prized family heirlooms perished in a great fire assumed to have been started from a rolling fireplace log ion 17 December 1940. However the spurs left by King Robert the Bruce at Dunstaffnage Castle in either 1308, when he laid seige to it, or in 1310, when he signed a charter there, survived. My husband's mother Honor wed RF Coales, an Oxford physicist and engineer, who rowed for Balliol, Oxford (third from the right) and served in the British Army as a military engineer in India during World War II.

And when we glance at a photo in Tatler, know that the 'posh' families of yester-years did more than their bit to serve and preserve the Great Britain that we now know and enjoy today. The next in line to be Captain of Dunstaffnage, is a young British ethnic minority NHS doctor called Angus, the grandson of Michael, last we heard working hard in a NHS A&E department, a different type of battlefield. And that is how you get an invitation to the Queen's garden God, my Queen, my Country. 

Many thanks to Dr Lorn MacIntyre for sharing his memories of the Dunstaffnage family which have filled in the gaps for me.