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Remembering Lady Kenmare, who died 50 years ago. By Mark McGinness

Blog | By Mark McGinness​​ | Jan 05, 2024

Remembering Lady Kenmare, who died 50 years ago. By Mark McGinness

The extraordinary Enid Lindeman Cameron Cavendish Furness Kenmare died half a century ago today.

Born in Sydney on 8 January 1892, Enid Maud Lindeman was the granddaughter of famed Australian winemaker, Dr Henry Lindeman, founder of the famous Hunter Valley vineyard Cawarra.

Something of a tomboy, she grew and grew to almost six feet - a startling beauty, a fearless equestrian and playing tennis, croquet and golf.

At 21 she met her first husband, 45-year-old American businessman Roderick Cameron, son of Canadian shipping magnate, Sir Roderick Cameron. They lived between 131 East Fifty Fourth Street, Manhattan and his late father’s Staten Island estate. When Enid descended onto the street, she would stop the traffic. They had a son also Roderick (always Rory) but in 1914 before he was one, his father died, of cancer.

Left with several million dollars, mother and son spent the Great War moving between Egypt, France, Australia and India. One of Rory’s earliest memories was of his mother descending the steps of Monte Carlo’s Hotel de Paris in a cumulus of gray chiffon, a bunch of Parma violets tucked into her waist.

Known as ‘the Stucco Venus’, Enid was the life of the party, so beautiful that people would stand on chairs to look at her; devoted to her children and yet the most indefatigable lover of men, a glorious grande horizontale.

In wartime Paris, she proved a great hit with officers. Myths grew about her like a fever. It was said that no less than five men found her so intoxicating, they committed suicide. One blew himself up; another threw himself under Le Train Bleu; another jumped overboard in shark infested waters). As Enid put it, “They were not able to take the strain.”

An old boyfriend, the 17th Earl of Derby, Secretary of State for War, concerned about the havoc she was causing among the officers, suggested Enid remarry and duly produced her next husband, Brigadier General Frederick (Caviar) Cavendish, CMG DSO, an heir to Lord Waterpark, dashing and brave, but poor.

After the war, Caviar took command of the 9th Lancers in Egypt where Enid again caused a sensation. She met the 5th Earl of Carnarvon on his dig, and was one of the first to be taken down into Tutankhamen’s tomb. She later told her daughter she had slept with every officer in Fred’s regiment.

A daughter, Patricia (Pat) and a son, Caryll were born in 1925 and 1926. Fred moved the family to London in the hope of a less hedonistic life/wife. But Enid joined the Bright Young People with brio and abandon.

Then, in 1931, Edith was once again suddenly widowed when Caviar died from a cerebral haemorrhage at their apartment in Paris.

Enid waited until 1933 to wed a third time. This time to one of the richest men in the world, another shipping magnate, Marmaduke, 1st Viscount Furness, who had just shed himself of his wife Thelma. He was still furious and humiliated by her affair with Edward, Prince of Wales, and continued to be susceptible to jealous rages. Furness despised not just Enid’s children, but his own, but they did accompany him and Enid on safaris in Kenya.

In October 1940, Furness died of liver cancer in occupied France and Enid escaped to England.

In January 1943, Enid wed an old lover, the huge, big-hearted, hard-up, hook-nosed Valentine Browne who, as Viscount Castlerosse, was Lord Beaverbrook's favourite gossip columnist.

In late 1941 he had become Earl of Kenmare (and Enid - Lady Kenmare) but within nine months he too was dead. In Pat's words, "Mummy's husbands tended to die rather prematurely." But there is no question they all died naturally.

Enid, an old hand at wills, held up Kenmare’s estate, claiming, at the age of 52, to be with child and possibly carrying his heir. According to Pat, Rory thought the idea of his mother being enceinte at her age was ludicrous and she terminated the pregnancy. The title and what was entailed went to Valentine’s nephew, who proved to be the last earl.

In 1991, Dominick Dunne wrote a profile for Vanity Fair of Enid calling her "Lady Killmore" and asked, "Was she really the Lucrezia Borgia of Cap Ferrat?"

This prompted Pat to write her memoirs in defence of her mother. The result was the fascinating A Lion in the Bedroom in 2004.

In London during this war, rather than just lying back and thinking of England, Enid took up welding. Dressed in Worth or Schiaparelli, she was always hours late to the workshop and so would bring her work home to Grosvenor Square to finish.

One night, walking past her room (with the door slightly ajar), Pat saw her mother in bed, a vision of pale blue lace nightgown and negligee with ostrich feathers floating in the breeze from the open window but still heavy with the scent of Jean Patou’s Joy; a welding mask pushed to the back of her lovely head - with the welding machine in one hand and a man kissing the other as he knelt by her bed.

Pat guessed it was Averell Harriman (he must have had a busy war as he also famously had an affair with Pamela Churchill). Pat believed Harriman’s infatuation explained how she was allowed to take her dog with her to work nearby at the American Embassy.

Enid’s passion for her new craft led her to soldering the loose door handle of one of the guest rooms. Her great friend, fellow beauty and soul sister, Kathleen, Countess of Drogheda, found herself locked in and as the footman couldn’t coax her from the window, she was there all day. That was life with Enid in war-time Grosvenor Square.

After the war, her first son, Rory, who would become known as “the aesthete’s aesthete”, created one of the most luxurious houses in Europe - the exquisite La Fiorentina at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. The famous flocked - minor and fallen royals, Churchill, the Mosleys, Rothschilds, Garbo, Astaire, Sinatra.

Elegant Enid would float about the villa with a parrot on one shoulder and a hyrax on the other, surrounded by as many as twenty black or grey miniature poodles.

She was totally at ease in this grand company but sometimes reminded of her antecedents. When once she casually referred to “our class”, her guest, the caustic aristocratic Singer heiress and fellow grande horizontale, Daisy Fellowes, quipped, “Whose class, Enid - Yours or mine?”

One of her best friends - he became an almost permanent fixture at La Fiorentina - was Somerset Maugham. They would spend hours playing bridge; and a companionship and affection grew between them, but given Willie’s bent, there was no romance. But despite their closeness, it was said that Maugham coined the tag “Lady Killmore.”

Enid had rather hoped Rainier, the son of her friend, Prince Louis of Monaco, would marry her daughter but in September 1950, after meeting him on the Orcades bound for Australia, Pat wed, briefly, an Australian Olympic swimmer, Frank O'Neill, son of the manager of the Manly Baths in Sydney.

In the mid-fifties, by then married and divorced from Count Aymon de Roussy de Sales Aymon, Pat joined her brother Caryll (who had become 7th Lord Waterpark) in Kenya. There she could have her animals, including her chimp, Joseph.

Enid eventually sold La Fiorentina to Mary Wells Lawrence in 1969, having joined Pat in Kenya. Enid, Pat and Joseph shared the same doctor. Enid and Joseph would paint together.

In 1968, Pat and Enid moved to South Africa to escape the instability of Kenya and provide a better climate for Enid. She also had to give Joseph away.

At the bidding of her friend Beryl Markham, who trained her racehorses, Enid bought Broadlands in Somerset West, Cape Province. The old Cape Dutch/English Colonial house would be her last home.

In 1970, fifteen years after their divorce, at the urging of her mother and brothers, Pat remarried Frank in Kenya. Pat took over from the feisty Markham and assumed, with remarkable success, the training of Enid’s horses. In partnership with her husband Frank and the counsel of the leading Australian trainer of his generation, TJ Smith, and a succession of brilliant vets, she imported the best horses from Australia and became one of South Africa’s leading breeders and trainers and came close to a world record for runners to winners. Enid and Pat’s African years were chronicled in a second volume of memoirs, A Chimpanzee in the Wine Cellar in 1913.

In 2020 Australian biographer, Robert Wainwright, wrote Enid, a well-researched, creditable life that exposed the myths but retained the magic.

The redoubtable Enid’s mighty, much-coveted heart gave up in 1973. To the end, she remained true to her mantra, ‘Never be afraid, never be jealous, and never complain when you are ill’. Rory died in 1985; Caryll in 2013; and Pat in 2019, by then Enid’s cumulative fortunes had been spent.