Daisy was born as Frances Evelyn Maynard in 1861. Her mother was Blanche FitzRoy who was a descendant of Charles II through two of his mistresses Nell Gwyn, and Barbara Villiers and her father was The Honourable Charles Maynard. Charles was due to inherit his father’s titles and fortune, but both Charles and his father Henry Maynard, 3rd Viscount Maynard died within months of each other. Three-year-old Daisy inherited most of her grandfather’s estates, making her a wealthy heiress while still only a child.
After Charles Maynard’s death, Blanche remarried; the marriage to Lord Rosslyn, who was a close friend of Queen Victoria’s brought the family into the circle of the Royal Family. It was suggested that Daisy should marry Prince Leopold, Queen Victoria’s youngest son, but this did not go ahead.
In 1881 Daisy married Francis Greville, Lord Brooke. Three children; Leopold, Marjorie and Charles had been born by 1885. After producing a male heir for her husband, Daisy became more of a socialite. She was the ‘it girl’ of the time and along with her husband, became part of the Prince of Wales’ Marlborough house set. Marlborough House was the home of the Prince of Wales and his wife Alexandra of Denmark and became a hub for society in London. Edward had a strict upbringing under tutors and governesses and was only released from this monotony at the age of twenty -two when he married. Unlike his parents, Edward enjoyed racing, gambling and putting on balls.
From 1886 onwards, Daisy partook in a string of affairs. Within their social circle, this was seen as acceptable, and her husband Francis knew all about them. One such affair went horribly wrong for Daisy; when the wife of one of her lovers became pregnant, Daisy was wild with anger and wrote to her lover Lord Charles Beresford explaining her feelings. This letter was actually read by Lady Beresford, and when others who read it threatened to expose Daisy’s affair to the wider public, she turned to her friend the Prince of Wales for help. Edward defended Daisy, even after being pushed over by Lord Charles in a scuffle and it was after this incident that Daisy and Edward became lovers.
Daisy was Edward’s semi-official mistress for nine years. During this time her husband inherited the Earldom of Warwick, Daisy became Countess of Warwick, and the family moved into Warwick castle. This leap into the higher nobility allowed Daisy to spend much more time in public with Edward. Daisy encouraged Edward in his extravagant, thrill-seeking ways; she organised parties at her mansion in Essex and had a railway line put in which would bring her guests in discreetly. Wife-swapping was a popular pastime amongst the Marlborough House set, and the ladies often wore short tea dresses with no corsets, which was the opposite of how a Victorian lady should behave. Being a mistress was not seen as shameful within Daisy and Edward’s circle, as many of their friends lived in similar set-ups and a lot of them had nurseries filled with children who looked little like their apparent fathers.
During her time as Edward’s mistress, Daisy also found the time to play a huge part in social reform. Daisy offered her home as a meeting place for trade unions and funded countless charities. She founded needlework and agricultural colleges for women and also devoted herself to the plights of women’s suffrage, unemployment and free school meals for children. When her affair with Prince Edward came to an end, Daisy became more devoted to her reform work and became a socialist, joining the Social Democratic Foundation. Daisy’s social circle changed drastically as she left high society behind and began spending time with the likes of George Bernard Shaw.
Before and after World War One, Daisy published twelve books covering a wide variety of subjects; gardening, the First World War, Socialism, the arts and crafts movement and also her own memoirs. When trying to publish her memoirs, Daisy came up against George V, the son of her old lover Edward; the publication of some of her letters was stopped as it was deemed that the copyright belonged to the king. The memoirs were later released although they had been heavily censored. Her memoirs are still some of the most cited from the Edwardian period.
In 1923 Daisy stood as Labour Party candidate but came in at third place. Daisy continued to support the party and even offered to give her house to them, but this offer was rejected due to Daisy’s status and privilege. Daisy achieved a great deal in her seventy-six years. She died in 1938, her husband Francis had died fourteen years earlier and despite Daisy’s eccentricities and strings of infidelities he is known to have said that he would have rather be married to Daisy, than any other woman in the world.1