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The Sunday Sale - Property from the Collection of the Late The Hon. Mrs Angela Lascelles
The Hon. Mrs Angela Lascelles (1919-2007)
Angela Lascelles was for many years a member of the Royal Family on account of her marriage to the Queen's cousin the Hon. Gerald Lascelles, the younger son of the 6th Earl of Harewood and H.R.H. Princess Mary, The Princess Royal, the only daughter of H.M. King George V.
Angela Estree Lyssod D'Arcy Dowding was born on 20 April, 1919 in London, the daughter of (Charles) Stanley Dowding and his wife, Lilian Lawlor (later Lady Fox) and brought up in Regent's Park. Educated at Tortington School, Arundel and a Parisian finishing school, Angela was determined to become an actress and enrolled at the Central School of Speech and Drama.
Having abandoned her course on being offered a part in Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit in the West End, Angela Dowding went on to appear in various tours with the Malvern Players. In 1943 she was engaged by ENSA to join a repertory company, alongside Tommy Trinder, Mildred Shay, Pat Kirkwood and Jack Hawkins, whose wife Doreen remained a lifelong friend. They played to troops in Egypt, Italy, India, Ceylon and Burma and disbanded in 1946. Returning to London, Angela appeared in a number of West End productions, often appearing with the celebrated comedian Ralph Lynn and also had a bit part in an Arthur Askey film, Miss London Limited (1943).
On 15 July, 1952, she married Gerald Lascelles at St Margaret's Westminster, the ceremony being attended by the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Margaret. A crowd of over 10 000 people lined the nearby streets.
In the first years of their marriage the couple lived at 21 Albion Mews, Bayswater, in a flat that later proved to be the site of the pub in Margery Sharp's novel Britannia Mews. At this time their son Henry was born, on 19 May, 1953, preventing his mother from attending the Coronation.
In the same year they heard from Angela's stepfather, Sir John Fox, one of the Crown Commissioners, that Fort Belvedere, near Sunningdale, was no longer needed by the Queen. The former home of the Duke of Windsor, Fort Belvedere had lain empty since the Abdication in 1936. Gerald asked his mother the Princess Royal, if the Queen would consider the possibility of his becoming a tenant. The Queen agreed, and a Crown Lease was granted in 1955.
The original building was a triangular belvedere, a tower from which to view scenery, with three turrets, designed in about 1750 for Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, who had recently moved into nearby Cumberland Lodge on being appointed Ranger of Windsor Great Park. The architect was almost certainly Henry Flitcroft, who was employed by the Duke from the 1730s and undertook substantial works in Windsor Great Park in the late 1740s. It was transformed into the present castellated house in 1827-9, for George IV, by Sir Jeffry Wyatville, for use as a banqueting house.
The military appearance of the house was completed by the decision to move the Duke of Cumberland's collection of guns from Cumberland Lodge to the Belvedere in 1827. The set of 31 guns were used to fire salutes on certain Royal birthdays and continued until the death of the last Bombardier, Sergeant Turner, an artillery pensioner, in 1907.
The Lascelles found Fort Belvedere in a rundown condition. The garden was over-grown with brambles, bracken and weeds and the interiors were dilapidated. Angela took charge of the restoration, employing Stanley Peters to oversee the interior decoration. She commissioned murals of views of Harewood House and Windsor Castle from Oliver Carson, and copied the dado from the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. The Princess Royal volunteered to help with the garden, removing brambles from the climbing roses.
Gerald and Angela moved in in 1956 and much of what the Duke of Windsor had created at the Fort was abandoned, and reduced in size to be more manageable, but the battlement walk was retained. Angela was credited with improving the Fort greatly, and turning it into a stylish family home.
Always excellent hosts, Angela and Gerald Lascelles entertained such luminaries from the world of motor sport as Jack Brabham, Jim Clark and Graham Hill, and jazz stars, including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Count Basie.
They lived at Fort Belvedere until their divorce in 1978. Angela moved to Virginia Water Cottage in Windsor Great Park, and remained on good terms with the Royal Family, the Queen continuing to invite her to the Royal Box at Ascot.