Lady Margaret Etrenne Hannah Crewe-Milnes (Nee Primrose)

Lady Margaret Primrose
Lady Margaret Primrose
Illustrated London News 21 April 1899

Margaret Etrenne Hannah Primrose, who was known as Peggy most of her life, was the second daughter and child of Archibald and Hannah Primrose, nee De Rothschild and was born in The Durdans Epsom Surrey on 1 January 1881, her father's "New Year Gift". Her father, Archibald Philip Primrose (1847-1929), the 5th Earl of Rosebery, not only had the title of Lord Rosebery but was also a member of the Order of the Garter and of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. He was a Liberal Party statesman and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom between 1894-95. Margaret's mother, who was known as the Countess of Rosebery (1851-1890), was an English social leader and philanthropist and the daughter of Baron Mayer Amschel de Rothschild and his wife Juliana, nee Cohen. When her father died in 1874 she became the richest woman in Britain.

The famous painter Millais painted a portrait of the 3 year old Peggy in 1884 which received comments in 1885, by the Auckland "STAR'S" London correspondent;
'None of the many delightful children the artist has painted surpasses this one. Sir Frederick Leighton contributes a companion portrait of Lady Sybil Primrose, an elder sister, but she seems a stiff prim child beside the quaint little Peggy'.
The paintings were hung above the mantelpieces in the drawing rooms of their home in 38 Berkeley Square. Queen Victoria was very fond of Peggy and her sister Sybil, and as a special mark of favour, they were both privately presented to her Majesty when they made their debut into society.

At the age of 18 Peggy became engaged to her father's old friend Robert Offley Ashburton Crewe-Milnes (1858-1945), the Earl of Crewe, who was 41, and on 15 April 1899 married him in Westminster Abbey, with 10 bridesmaids in attendance and a guest list of over 600. The marriage made her stepmother to her new husband's three daughters from his first marriage, the eldest Annabel Hungerford Crewe-Milnes (1881-1948) being only 5 months younger than Peggy, and 15 year old twins Celia Hermione and Helen Cynthia (who was known by her middle name of Cynthia) Crewe-Milnes. Robert's son Richard Charles Rodes Crewe-Milnes (1882-1890) from his first marriage had died when he was seven years old.

Lady Crewe c.1899
Lady Crewe c.1899

Peggy became known as Lady Crewe and Baroness Houghton on her marriage and was described as being an extremely clever, tactful, and witty woman who came to the fore as a political hostess and helped her husband in his political work. In the summer of 1904 Robert and Peggy held a ball in their town residence of Crewe House, formly called Wharncliffe House, in Curzon Street Mayfair. One of their guests was 29 year old Winston Churchill, and it was here that Winston first met his future wife, 19 year old Clementine Hozier. Winston Chuchill went on to be one of the United Kingdom's most remembered Prime Minsters during the Second War World.

In early February 1911, Peggy and Robert had a son who they named Richard George Archibald John Lucian Hungerford Crewe-Milnes, named maybe in memory of Robert's first son. Peggy's father Lord Rosebery thought her husband to be a reliable politician but a poor speaker. When it was announced to him that his daughter was in labour, Rosebery quipped, "I hope that her delivery is not as slow as Crewe's". Their son Richard died, aged 10, on 31 March 1922. Because of the lack of a male heir, all the titles ended with Robert's death, aged 87, on 20 June 1945.

On the 10th February, few days after Richard's birth, a fire broke out in the roof of Crewe House in which 40 rooms were situated. Fourteen fire engines, a hundred firemen plus Lord Crewe and his aristocratic neighbours succeeded in bringing it under control by 1.15am with no personal injury. There was however considerable damage to the upper part of the building resulting in their home having to be more or less rebuilt and redecorated. Peggy and her new son, who had both been in the left wing of the house and furthest away from the blaze, moved back to her father's home in Berkeley Square. Although Crewe House was where they lived during parliamentary sessions, they preferred Crewe Hall, the Earl's beautiful Cheshire seat. A daughter, Mary Evelyn Hungerford Crewe-Milnes was born in 1915. She married George Victor Robert John Innes-Kerr in 1935 but the couple divorced in 1953.

As a result of Robert being created 1st Marquess of Crewe and Secretary of State for India (1910-1911) on 22 June 1911, Peggy became styled as Marchioness of Crewe and was decorated with the award of Imperial Order of the Crown of India.

On 1 January 1920 Peggy was appointed one of the first women magistrates in Britain, for the county of London.

Margaret Etrenne Hannah Crewe-Milnes died aged 81 on 13 March 1967 after 22 years of being a widow.

The Times 14 March 1967
The Times 14 March 1967

This article was researched and written by Hazel Ballan.
With thanks to Ian Wright.

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