Lady Ottoline Morrell

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The Lady Ottoline Violet Anne Morrell (16 June 1873 – 21 April 1938) was an English aristocrat and society hostess. Her patronage was influential in artistic and intellectual circles, where she befriended writers such as Aldous Huxley, Siegfried Sassoon, T. S. Eliot and D. H. Lawrence, and artists such as Mark Gertler, Dora Carrington and Gilbert Spencer.


Early life

Born Ottoline Violet Anne Cavendish-Bentinck, she was the daughter of Lieutenant-General Arthur Cavendish-Bentinck and his wife, the former Augusta Mary Elizabeth Browne, later created Baroness Bolsover. Lady Ottoline's great-great-uncle (through her paternal grandmother, Lady Anne Wellesley) was Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Ottoline was granted the rank of a daughter of a duke with the courtesy title of "Lady" when her half-brother William succeeded to the Dukedom of Portland in 1879, at which time the family moved into Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire. The dukedom was a title which belonged to the Cavendish-Bentinck family and which passed to Lady Ottoline's branch upon their cousin William Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck's death.

Lady Ottoline was a descendant of Bess of Hardwick and as such had many aristocratic connections. Her best-known relative was her cousin Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who married the Duke of York (later King George VI) in 1923, became Queen when his brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936, and who spent much of the twentieth century known as the Queen Mother.

Notable love affairs

Throughout her life, Ottoline was an incurable romantic. Her first love affair was with an older man, the doctor and writer Axel Munthe, but she rejected his impulsive proposal of marriage because her spiritual beliefs were incompatible with his atheism. In 1902, she married the MP Philip Morrell, with whom she shared a passion for art and a strong interest in Liberal politics. They shared what would now be known as an open marriage for the rest of their lives: Philip's extramarital affairs produced several children who were cared for by his wife, who also struggled to conceal evidence of his mental instability. The Morrells themselves had only two children (twins): a son, Hugh, who died in infancy, and a daughter, Julian.[1]

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