“When oh! when? Not a glimmer of an ending yet!”

Violet, Countess of Mar and Kellie (1868-1938) wrote to Ralph Glyn with news of a royal romance. Nada (short for Nadejda) de Torby (1896-1963) was a cousin of the Czar of Russia and through her mother a descendant of the mixed-race Russian poet Pushkin. Prince George of Battenberg (1892-1938) (later the Marquess of Milford Haven) was the uncle of Prince Philip and brother of Earl Mountbatten, and is buried in Bray. The happy couple would get married in November 1916. But Violet was also worried about her own sons, aged 17 and 20, when the war seemed unending.

May 13, 1916
Alloa House
Alloa, NB

Dearest Ralph

Jock [her son John Erskine] was up here for his 21st birthday on Ap. 26th & he had a good many boys & girls here to give him a cheery week, but Portia & Cynthia Cadogan have spent the last three weeks just missing Pneumonia following Flu, and the 1st is up & creeping about the house, & Cynthia will not get out of bed! So I have had a busy time in addition to all my committees & war work.

Nada Torby & Prince George of Battenberg got engaged up here on Ap. 10th. Then New Zealand & Australia in a fog rammed, so he got leave (New Z. his ship), much to Nada’s joy. They are radiantly happy, & are both very lucky I consider. Beatty has a fine command up here, 2 new flotillas – & the “wobbly eight” departed lower down…. Rumours of 5th Bat. S coming to this part. Q. Eliz. & co. Hope you understand all these hieroglyphics.

Edward Stanley’s thigh wound not serious I hear, but fear Harry Ashley very severe in spine. He may not recover, & if he does may be always paralysed – too sad. Only just 22, & his mother’s only child & adoration. She is gone over to France to be with him.

That Irish business too awful. I heard of 16,000 casualties but can hardly believe that. Dillon’s speech even more disloyal than reported in yesterday’s papers (12th) & has had a bad effect in Ireland! Much better leave Maxwell in entire command there for a bit. Asquith, Birrell & Co should all mount the scaffold!
Expect you saw a bit of the P.O.W. He is back here, & I suppose will go to France again soon. Do you ever see Scatters Wilson? He is coming home on leave about June 10th. Neil Primrose I shall not see, as he cannot get south before middle of next month for a fortnight or so. Jock’s Medical Board may pass him for active service next month, but I doubt his inside letting him stay out for long. He cannot walk 4 miles!

Tommy [possibly her younger son Francis, born in January 1899] joins the Special Reserve of Scots Guards in Sept. till end year. When oh! when? Not a glimmer of an ending yet! He will be 17 ½. I can hardly believe it!…

Yours ever
Violet M.

Letter from Violet, Countess of Mar and Kellie (1868-1938) to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C21)

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We should have a soldier, a sailor and George Curzon to run the country

Walter Erskine, Earl of Mar and Kellie, was Colonel of the Sutherland Highlanders. His wife Violet (1868-1938) wrote to Ralph Glyn with her views on Gallipoli, and the political situation at home. She was not impressed by the appointment of Queen Mary’s brother Adolphus, Duke of Teck, to a senior army role.

44 Grosvenor Square
Monday 10th Feb [1916]

Ralph dear

I loved getting a letter from you, & I have been a long time answering it, as I was laid low at Alloa for three weeks in January with Flu…

We are here till the first days of March. I wonder if you will be home before that? If so, I would so like to see you.

Yes, that evacuation of Gallipoli must have been too wonderful, & one was relieved to know that that Army was safely away from that crassly stupid Expedition. I have seen Eddy Dudly, who is all right again, & I hear Scatters [Wilson] may be getting a [illegible] leave, as he has a bad foot.

London is depressed & gloomy, & the PM looks as if he hadn’t a care in the world!! I would like to sweep them all away, & have a soldier (which?? Robertson I suppose) or sailor (Jellicoe) & a civilian – George Curzon I think, as a Triumvirate to see this war through. The latter is strong in mind & action. Great administrative abilities, keeping India, Persia & Mesopotamia like his pocket, which none of the other 22 do, & a grasp of detail in every subject, & a glutton of work. Perhaps you may not agree.

Dolly Teck’s appointment is “pour rire”. We are evidently not at war!!

Am going to tea at Buc. Pal. this evening…

Rumour has it that the German Fleet is coming out. Let us pray for a successful issue for us – as there must always be a great deal of luck at sea!…

[Her son] Jock is on Lord Erroll’s Staff. Lowland 65th Div. at Bridge of Allan, which is nice for us…

I envy you being in Egypt. I don’t believe there will be much doing there after all….

Arthur Paget goes off to Russia almost at once to present Czar with Field Marshal’s Baton! Pity you are not here to go with him again!

Yours ever
Violet M.

Letter from Violet, Countess of Mar and Kellie (1868-1938) to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C21)