In 1865, following the deaths of both her father and grandfather in quick succession, Frances ‘Daisy’ Maynard inherited the estate of Easton Lodge. She was just three years old. She grew up to be a noted beauty of considerable wealth and was courted by many suitors. Even Disraeli encouraged a union between Daisy and Prince Leopold, the youngest son of Queen Victoria but instead Daisy accepted an offer of marriage from one of the Prince’s closest friends, Lord Brooke. He was destined to inherit the title of Earl of Warwick and Daisy’s fortune provided much-needed support for his estate. With Prince Leopold as best man, the couple wed at Westminster Abbey and settled, not at their London home in St James, but here at Easton Lodge.
As the Countess of Warwick, Daisy became an iconic leader in society, not least because of her 9-year liaison with Edward, Prince of Wales. She devised lavish and extravagant entertainment for the Prince’s entourage, known as the Marlborough Set.
However, alongside her life within this grand social scene, the Countess continued to play an increasingly active role in the welfare of the local community, with particular emphasis on educational reform, and especially for women.
By the end of the 19th century, the Countess had commissioned many gardens within the 4-acre grounds of her cottage Stone Hall, situated at the far side of the deer park. These were designed in the formal and vibrantly coloured Victorian style of the day, and included The Garden of Friendship, The Border of Sentiment, The Rosarie, Shakespeare’s Border, the Scripture Garden and the Rock Garden.
Even though the Countess of Warwick is inextricably associated with high society and immense wealth, in fact she had, by the end of the 19th century, given her life over to Socialism and was deep in debt. The transformation to Socialism had taken place after stinging criticism from and lengthy discussions with Robert Blatchford, the then editor of the left-wing paper, The Clarion. The attack on her lifestyle followed a particularly extravagant social event at Warwick Castle in 1895, the Bal Poudre.
It was her enthusiasm for the Socialist cause and pacifism that ultimately severed Daisy’s links with royalty and The Establishment.
The Countess wrote many books, including one based on her gardens at Stone Hall, called “An Old English Garden”, one on William Morris, a wildlife book and even the introduction for one on cats entitled “Mieaou”. She also wrote two autobiographies.