Beer money

What a contrast from yesterday. Yesterday was day-glow skies, a turquoise Med, canary yellows, berry reds and skin tones ranging from soft sand on the younger models to leatherback turtle on wealthy ladies of a certain age who had sat out in the sun a tad too long.

Today was grey skies over Surrey at Polesden Lacey, National Trust tidiness, blue rinses, sensible flat-soled shoes, walking sticks, quilted jackets and stretch-slacks by good old M&S.

The house was once owned by Dame Margaret Greville, a brewery heiress and a popular society hostess in the 1920s and 1930s. Her wealth came from McEwan's, the Scottish brewery. Possibly because she was the illegitimate daughter of the brewery founder, William McEwan, she was sometimes the subject of gossip among the London-based establishment where people envied her friendship with Edward VII.

But she was proud of her heritage and would order barrel-shaped jewellery from Faberge. "I'd rather be a beeress than a peeress," she once said. Like quite a few of her circle in the 1930s, she admired Adolf Hitler and met him at one of the Nuremberg rallies. But the admiration did not extend beyond the outbreak of war and she bought the nation a Spitfire that cleared up any doubt about her loyalties.

Harold Nicholson couldn't stand her and called her a "fat slug filled with venom", but she had a generous side and on her death, left her Rolls Royce to her butler. Her jewellery - including Marie Antoinette's necklace - was left to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Margaret Greville's weekend parties at Polesden Lacey were legendary. What a pity that she asked for her diaries to be shredded on her death.

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