ASQUITH Margot - Autograph Letter Signed 1924 giving her views on statues and Liberals v. Tories
Margot ASQUITH (1864-1945)Autograph Letter Signed (“Margot Asquith”) to “Dear Lord Knutsford” expressing her views on the statue of Edith Cavell, and later those of Florence Nightingale and Sidney Herbert, and pointing out the difference between Tories and Liberals “You all believe in Force we don’t”.
4 pages 8vo in pencil, The Wharf, Sutton Courtney, 29 June 1924.
“It is very sweet of you to write: we loved the little London Hospital ceremony in memory of such a dear friend. I made him a “Sir” ditto Lane & Moynihan. I don’t think the Germans are the only people who wd like the Cavell statue scrapped. I hate it as it is not at all her spirit. Journalistic likeness’s like painted photographs are always awful things. I got up the St. Paul’s service for her so you may know how much I felt the cruelty of her death but in war all who harbour enemy take their lives in their hands & it is not unusual to shoot them. We left all the Germans pleading for their lives in the Baraling[?] case drown by just sailing away when we might have told the few men left to strip & swim to our ship & imprisoned them. There’s not much difference in cruelty in times of war this is why I loathe war & all Force & this is what differentiates a Tory from a Liberal. You all believe in Force we don’t. I love the Herbert statue but as I knew Florence Nightingale I can’t endure the dumpy likeness of a very dignified beautiful woman. I hardly see a war memorial that I do not wish to veil.”
The statues in question were relatively new at the time of writing – the statue to Edith Cavell, who met her death before a German firing squad in 1915, was unveiled in 1920. A memorial statue to the Guards killed during the Crimean War had been in place since the 1860s, but the statues of Florence Nightingale and the long-suffering Sidney Herbert were erected in 1915, five years after Nightingale’s death.
The identity of the friend in whose honour the ceremony was held is uncertain. However, the two “Sir”s mentioned were certainly the pioneering and often controversial surgeon Sir William Arbuthnot Lane and Sir (later Baron) Berkeley George Moynihan, a well-known abdominal surgeon who had served at the front during the first years of World War One. Both men received their knighthoods while Asquith was Prime Minister, and there may well have been some canvassing on Margot’s part.
Sydney Holland, Viscount Knutsford was a criminal lawyer, but he found his true vocation as hospital administrator. He was elected Chairman of the London Hospital and held that post until his death in 1931. His talents lay in administration and an enviable skill as a fundraiser.
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