MP’s daughter dodged kidnap bid at Harrods
Models’ grandmother declined role in Gone with the Wind
Angela Delevingne, who has died aged 102, was the grandmother of the models Poppy and Cara Delevingne, and her death was thus noted with more publicity than that granted to most centenarians who have lived out of the public gaze for some years.
Cara posted online that her grandmother was “the kindest, most intelligent and wickedly funny human I have ever had the pleasure of knowing let alone being related to.”
Angela Delevingne died Dec. 30, 2014, but the family announced the news only more recently,
Angela Margo Hamar Delevingne was born at her parents’ home in Onslow Gardens, South Kensington, London, on July 8 1912, the eldest of four children. Her earliest recollection was of being carried downstairs by the butler during a Zeppelin raid in the First World War.
Her father, Hamar Greenwood, was a British lawyer who had been born in Canada. His closest university friend was the taciturn William Lyon Mackenzie King, who later became prime minister.
Greenwood returned to live in Britain and served in the cabinet of then- prime minister Lloyd George as chief secretary for Ireland from 1920 to 1922, thus being closely involved with the Republican fight for independence. Owing to fears about the IRA, his children remained in London and were given police protection. When Angela was about seven there was an attempt to kidnap her in Harrods, but her detective knocked the assailant to the floor.
Later Greenwood became Tory MP for Walthamstow. He retired from politics with a peerage, first as a baron ( in 1929) and then as Viscount Greenwood ( in 1937).
Angela’s mother, Margery ( Margo) Spencer, descended from the Hudson soap family ( the business was later bought by Lever Brothers). For powerfully supporting her husband in Ireland, Margo was appointed DBE in 1922.
The family was well connected. Lord Greenwood’s sister was married to politician Leo Amery and Angela’s maternal aunt was Edwina Mountbatten’s stepmother. Angela’s sister married the son of celebrated artist Philip de Laszlo.
Angela was educated at Queen’s Gate school in South Kensington, and St. Monica’s, Walton Heath. When she was 15 she was sent to a finishing school in Florence. She then went to paint at the Slade School of Art, but her mother took her out when she took to walking around in sandals.
In a quest for independence, she got a job working in Foyle’s bookshop in the Strand, at age 17. The Evening Standard celebrated this with the headline: “Peer’s daughter works for a living,” as a result of which resentful colleagues at work stole her overcoat.
Angela was presented at court in 1930, and for a while was wooed by Francis Yeats- Brown, author of The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, a man 26 years her senior.
In 1937, despite the distinct reservations of her mother, she married ( Edward) Dudley Delevingne, a handsome and dashing figure who had been briefly married to Countess Felicia Gizycki, heiress to the Chicago Tribune, owned by her U. S. mother, Eleanor ( Cissy) Patterson.
At the time Delevingne was described as “an impoverished insurance broker” ( in fact stockbroker) and part of the raffish set of the then- Prince of Wales. His spirited and beautiful sister Doris was married to gossip columnist Viscount Castlerosse, who described Dudley as “tall, slim, and not very energetic.” Felicia’s mother was happy to send her lawyer to London to handle her daughter’s divorce.
Dudley had propositioned Angela by sending a note over while she was having tea with her parents at the Gloucester Hotel on the Isle of Wight during Cowes Week in 1935. It read: “Meet me in the hotel.”
When her mother asked her about the note, she replied quickly that it was meant for someone else. They made an assignation to meet on the beach at 3 p. m., and a happy marriage followed, although she and her mother were estranged.
Life thereafter was glamorous, with visits to Hollywood. They honeymooned with Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard and became friends with Clark Gable. As a result, David O. Selznick offered Angela a part in Gone with the Wind, but she had to decline since she was pregnant. They also visited Venice, staying with Doris Castlerosse, by then separated, in the Palazzo Venier dei Leonie.
On one visit they arrived exhausted to find the palazzo empty. They went to bed only to be woken at 4 a. m. by a full orchestra playing music at their bedside. Doris thought they might appreciate this welcome, and had brought the orchestra from a party she had been attending.
Doris, whose attitude to sex was “there is no such thing as an impotent man, only an incompetent woman,” had had affairs with numerous men.
The Delevingnes’ later life was quieter, though no less glamorous. They had two children before the Second World War, Venetia ( who died in 1987) and Edward, and two after it, Charles and Caroline. They lived in London, and also in Surrey and then Wiltshire.
Dudley served with the Royal Fusiliers in North Africa during the Second World War, and then became a successful property man, finding Thatched House Lodge, Richmond, for Princess Alexandra and Angus Ogilvy, and Sutton Place, near Guildford, for Paul Getty.
Dudley died in 1974. In her long widowhood, Angela enjoyed working in antique shops, collecting representations of elephants in many forms and painting watercolours.
As a centenarian, she declared that she had been sustained by whisky and crossword puzzles.