BOOK OF THE WEEK
ENID: THE SCANDALOUS HIGH SOCIETY LIFE OF THE FORMIDABLE 'LADY KILLMORE'
By Robert Wainwright ( Allen & Unwin, £16.99, 368pp)
Enid Lindeman's first husband was a commoner, her second a general, her third a viscount, her fourth an earl. Every one of these husbands died quite young, while she was still married to them.
It's no surprise, then, that her friend Somerset Maugham gave her the nickname 'Lady Killmore'.
She wasn't a husband-murderer, but she does come across as a hard-hearted social climber. A serene, enigmatic, tomboyish beauty who enjoyed riding and gambling, she sailed undaunted through her four widowhoods, eventually making the ultimate sacrifice of aborting her last baby to enable the brother of her final deceased husband to inherit the title.
Fourth time lucky? Enid wed the Earl of Kenmare in 1943. The bride and bridegroom after the ceremony, Kightsbridge, London
Her moral code was: 'Never be afraid, never be ill (or don't talk about it) and, above all, never be jealous.'
My jaw kept dropping as I devoured Robert Wainwright's wonderfully racy biography, full of comedy and tragedy and populated by some of the most dissolute and eccentric aristocrats of the 20th century.
Who would have guessed that young, sporty Enid, an Australian wine merchant's daughter who grew up near Sydney, would one day be driving along Park Lane in a Bentley with her pet cheetah in a diamond collar?
The fun started when a 45-year-old American tycoon, Roderick Cameron, spotted 21-year-old Enid at a charity ball in Sydney Town Hall in 1913.
Enid moved into the villa La Fiorentina on the French Riviera in 1939 with husband number three Marmaduke Furness
Enid, 21, married her first husband American tycoon Roderick Cameron, 45 - together they had a son Rory. Pictured: Enid and Rory pictured in 1914 after the death of her first husband
He married her and whisked her off to a grand, but lonely, life in Manhattan, teaching her the basics of gambling. Roderick popped his clogs two years later (cancer), just before their son Rory's first birthday, leaving most of his fortune to Enid, which made her, for ever after, prey to gold-digging men.
She tried going back to Australia, but found it too parochial. Off she went to Paris, working as a volunteer nurse by day — she bought and kitted out her own ambulance to collect injured soldiers from the front — and changing in the evening into beaded and fringed dresses from the House of Worth to dine at top restaurants. Marriage number two was arranged by an older friend of Enid's, Lord Derby, to Lieutenant Colonel (later Brigadier-General) Frederick Cavendish.
Known as 'Caviar Cavendish' for his high living, actually he was an impoverished aristocrat who had been swindled out of his inheritance.
As Enid's daughter Pat explained: 'It was considered best to get rich, young widows safely married and let them get on with whatever they wanted to do. Lord Derby cleverly produced my father.'
What Enid wanted to do, it seems, was to have affairs; she later let on to Pat that, while she and Cavendish were stationed in Egypt with the 9th Lancers in the early Twenties, someone had dared her to sleep with all the officers in her husband's regiment, and she couldn't resist.
She and Cavendish had two children, Pat and Caryll. It was her money, not his, that enabled him to keep a string of polo ponies. The family spent two months of every summer living it up in Le Touquet, before Cavendish died of a cerebral haemorrhage in 1931, leaving an estate worth just £286. Luckily (or unluckily), Enid still had her Cameron money.
Enid bought and kitted out her own ambulance to collect injured soldiers during WWI
Along came shipbuilding millionaire Marmaduke Furness, who had buried his pitifully ill young first wife, Daisy Hogg, at sea during what sounds like the yacht voyage from hell, and had then divorced Thelma, Lady Furness, as a result of her affair with the Prince of Wales.
When 'Duke', as he was always known, first spotted Enid in a Le Touquet casino, he was holding a winning poker hand, but was so captivated that he threw it in. He wooed her with jewels, flowers and a chauffeured Rolls-Royce.
She sent them all straight back, playing hard-to-get. He raised his game, offering her a trip back to Britain on his private plane, and she surrendered.
On marrying him in 1933, she handed over her Cameron fortune; not a good idea.
Enid guiding a polo pony. She and Cavendish had two children, Pat and Caryll. With her money the family kept a string of polo ponies
Enid with her son Rory who she had with her first husband Roderick Cameron
Furness was, by all accounts, vile with a furious temper. Enid's terrified children came to meet him and she told them to bow and curtsey and call him 'Daddy'. 'I am not your father,' he said to them, 'and do not address me as such.'
He ordered Pat's dog be put down because he made too much noise. Enid intervened, but the dog had to be given away. 'I had always disliked my stepfather, but now I hated him,' said Pat.
Duke was a terrible snob, estranging himself from his daughter Averill (from his first marriage) when she married a handsome hunter he called 'a bloody tradesman'.
Enid, meanwhile, had four lady's maids, six cooks and her own private plane, as well as the cheetah. Duke had what we would now diagnose as OCD, furious if his shoelaces hadn't been ironed, and he had to have his nails buffed three times a day.
Enid: The Scandalous High-society Life of the Formidable 'Lady Killmore' By Robert Wainwright ( Allen & Unwin, £16.99, 368pp)
They kept a dozen Rolls-Royces in Kenya, where Duke owned a safari lodge. He and Enid became part of the infamous Happy Valley set for three champagne-soaked months of each year — although Enid was never keen on orgies and would step over the writhing naked bodies when she got up in the night.
There was misery behind the facade. Duke was increasingly eaten up with self-loathing, and descended into drug and alcohol-fuelled binges.
When Enid fell off her horse, he managed to procure unlimited morphine from his doctor for them both. She weaned herself off it; he didn't and became seriously ill.
Did Enid win big in the casinos, or was it Duke's money that enabled her to acquire, in 1939, one of the great properties on the French Riviera, Villa La Fiorentina? No one is quite sure. In 2014, it was rumoured to be on the market for $525 million — making it one of the most expensive houses in the world.
It sounds like a paradise, but when war broke out it became a gilded prison in a country thick with Nazi collaborators.
In October 1940, Duke died from morphine addiction, aged 56. Enid and Pat managed to get back to England by selling off jewellery and hiding paper money in Pat's hair under her beret.
Husband number four, Valentine Castlerosse, Earl of Kenmare, weighed 21 st and sounds sweet and very good company, apart from the occasional furniture-throwing jealous rage. Enid was advised by the doctor to withhold sex because Castlerosse's heart might not take it. She went against the advice. 'It was one of the only pleasures left to him, so how could I ration him?'
To his delight, Enid fell pregnant, aged 51. But Castlerosse died of a heart attack less than a year after their wedding, while Enid was still pregnant with their son. Tragically, she agreed to have an abortion, under pressure from Castlerosse's furious mother so her own son Gerald could inherit the title.
Gerald died nine years later, and the titles of Kenmare and Castlerosse became extinct.
Enid lived on until 1973, spending her final widowhood breeding thoroughbreds in South Africa.
But she could never quite escape the endless inferences in the world's gossip columns that she had bumped off all her husbands.