We all have a picture in our heads of what a gilded, brittle, decadent world, inter-War upper class country-house England must have been; the parties, the affairs, the weekends, the skiing at Klosters, the yachts at Cowes, those last few years when birth could offer you the world on a plate, as your playground and parade ground. Thanks to the novels of Evelyn Waugh, and endless television dramas we have all had the chance to eavesdrop on its cut glass vowels, its wealth, its indiscretions, scandals and hypocrisies, its deep involvement too in the surrounding worlds of celebrity and politics – all destined to be swept away by the outbreak of war.
What would it be like then, if one of this aristocratic generation had had the foresight, or the chutzpah, to have committed their world to film – and not just scratchy old standard 8, but top quality black and white 16 mm –hours and hours of it. And what if this were to accompany a treasure trove of other family memorabilia – photo-albums, letters, newspaper cuttings.
The result would be a unique and completely compelling journey to the heart of that great British experience – the upper classes at play as the world gets sucked into war.
Meet Bobby and Mary…. Mary, rich as Croesus, and sister-in-law of Lord Mountbatten and her fabulously good-looking husband, Bobby Cunningham Reid – WWI’s youngest DFC winning flying ace, dreamboat lover, wannabe movie mogul, sabre rattling MP (with his eye on becoming Prime Minister) – the man who married Mary in a calculated bid to throw aside his boring middle class job, and vault into the upper echelons of British Society, what Trollope called “the upper ten thousand”. It cost him ten thousand pounds to do it, ironically (borrowed from a money-lender), and it nearly cost Mary her sanity – but it worked; for over ten years he became one of Society’s most colourful, most controversial figures. And between them, they led the perfect country house life – until it all collapsed in scandal, divorce and bitterness.