A part of the late Lord Montagu’s private apartment in Palace House is being opened to visitors for the first time with the launch of a new exhibition, The Lady and the Rebel. The exhibition is a tribute to two remarkable women in the Montagu family who, between them, spanned the whole of the 20th century.
The newly opened section includes the library which was used by the late Lord Montagu as a sitting room and office. A great devotee of opera, this is where Lord Montagu would play his records and, when the windows were open, visitors approaching Palace House could sometimes hear his favourite music playing across the lawn.
The Lady and the Rebel exhibition, which lines the corridor outside the library, tells the story of Pearl Pleydell-Bouverie and Elizabeth Montagu through their own words and possessions.
Lord Montagu said: “My grandmother Pearl was born in 1895 and became the chatelaine of Beaulieu when she married my grandfather John in 1920. Her devotion to the estate and the family over the following decades ensured continuity during some very difficult years. She came to be loved by everyone in the community and remained here until she died in 1996, aged 101.
Pear Crake prior to her marriage to John Montagu
He added: “My aunt Elizabeth was born in 1909, the child of my grandfather and his first wife Cis. Elizabeth rejected the social conventions of the time, preferring to travel in Europe and mix with some of the leading artists and musicians of the period. Her career started with acting and went on to include modelling, writing, music, travel, military service, intelligence work and film production. Happily, her final years were spent back at Beaulieu where she died in 2002.
“The stories of these women give both a local and international perspective on many of the significant events of the 20th century. It is a great pleasure to celebrate their lives in the family home they both knew so well.”
The story of Elizabeth, the one-time heir to the Beaulieu Estate, was recently told in the film The Honourable Rebel which just gone on sale on DVD. The film was narrated by actress Diana Rigg and mostly shot on the Beaulieu Estate, and follows Elizabeth’s life from childhood through to her marriage.
Pearl and Elizabeth’s stories come together when Pearl became Elizabeth’s stepmother on her marriage to John 2nd Baron Montagu. Born in 1895, Pearl was only 14 years older than Elizabeth but they were very different personalities. Pearl was conventional and did her best to conform to expectations while Elizabeth was curious, creative and unimpressed by being the daughter of a lord. Six years after her marriage to John, Pearl gave birth to Edward, their long-awaited son, which freed Elizabeth of the responsibility of being heir to the Beaulieu Estate.
Portrait of Elizabeth Montagu by Man Nell
A false bookcase door entrance for visitors to the library
The entrance to the newly opened library at Palace House is through a false bookshelf door which contains many strangely titled books including The Hospitale of Incurable Fooles, Mason’s Newe Arte of Lyinge and the Arte of Goode Living and Dying. The door originally came from Ditton Park near Windsor, a former Montagu family home, and has been re-hung with the books facing into the corridor so visitors can get a better view of it.
The books in the library consist of the collection of Henry James, Baron Montagu of Boughton, which includes his books from the 1700s to early 1800s, and the natural history collection of John Montagu, spanning the late Victorian era to the early 20th century.
The library was moved from the room below to make way for the Picture Gallery when Edward, Lord Montagu opened Palace House to the public in 1952 and created his private apartments. It contains his partners writing desk which he used for many years. Art on the wall includes two paintings commissioned during a grand tour of Europe from Italian artist Antonio Joli.
The first dedicated Soviet Russian art gallery in the UK at Beaulieu
Another section of the newly opened corridor, together with a former guest bedroom, has become a gallery space for art from the Art Russe Foundation. About 25 paintings and sculptures will be displayed in the house until a permanent gallery opens in the grounds next year.
The Art Russe collection is headed by entrepreneur and philanthropist Andrey Filatov whose aim is to raise awareness of 20th century Russian art with a wider audience. The Beaulieu collection will include artworks from the late 19th century to the 1990s which most fully reflects the main stages of development of the Russian school of art.
The exhibition includes works by Konstantin Maximov (Graduate, 1960), Mai Danzig (And the World Remembers its Saviors, 1951), Alexander Laktionov (Letter from the Front, 1951), Fyodor Reshetnikov (Low Marks Again, 1948-49), Nicholas Roerich (And We Are Not Afraid, 1922), Arcady Plastov (Botanic Lesson, 1938), Geli Korzhev (The Deserter and The Laundress, 1985-1990, Hammer and Sickle, 2003), Igor Obrosov (Greeting and Seeing off the Trains, 1980), Viktor Ivanov (Smokebreak, 1994) and others.
A selection of Art Russe’s masterpieces has also recently been displayed for private viewings at the Tower of London, in London’s Saatchi Gallery and in Abu Dhabi.
Lord Montagu said: “In the past, many stately home owners, including my ancestors, collected art from around the world and so it is entirely appropriate I should be continuing that tradition by hosting this collection at Beaulieu. Having seen some of the paintings myself, I have no doubt that they will add a new dimension to Beaulieu and will be much enjoyed by our visitors.”
- Elizabeth Montagu’s memoir The Honourable Rebel is available from the Beaulieu shop.
- The story of Pearl Montagu's early life and marriage to John Montagu are now the subject of a book, Pearl's Diary, which is available from the Beaulieu shop.
- Access to the newly opened part of Palace House, including The Lady and the Rebel exhibition and the Art Russe collection, will form part of the general admission to the attraction from the end of July 2016.