Alice mourned the loss of her lover, and her exalted status as his mistress, but would never soften her unsentimental view that for people of her background, wedlock had nothing to do with romance. “Things were done much better in my day,” was her lofty reaction to Edward VIII’s abdication as King to marry Wallis Simpson, and she bullied her lesbian daughter, Violet, into a sham marriage. (Violet was the documented lover of Sackville-West.) Toute vérité n’est pas bonne à dire was the proverb Alice lived by: The truth is sometimes better left unsaid, a philosophy conveniently negating the need to mention that Violet was conceived not by George Keppel, but by Ernest William Beckett, 2nd Baron Grimthorpe and Alice’s paramour before Bertie.
For The New Inquiry’s GOSSIP issue, I wrote about the British aristocracy’s disdain for monogamy, from the Victorians to the present. (Also from the mag: Jane Hu’s jolting insights into the erudite porn of Tamara Faith Berger’s novel Maidenhead, and Sarah Nicole Prickett’s collection of Encounters With Lindsay—yup, that Lindsay.)