Venetia Stanley

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Beatrice Venetia Montagu (Stanley)

Birthdate: (60)
Birthplace: Malton, North Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom
Death: August 3, 1948 (60)
Wayland, Norfolk
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Edward Lyulph Stanley, 4th Baron Sheffield and Mary Katherine Bell
Wife of Edwin Samuel Montagu
Mother of Judith Venetia Montagu
Sister of Hon. Henrietta Margaret Stanley; Arthur Lyulph Stanley, 5th Baron Stanley of Sheffield; Hon. Edward John Stanley; Hon. Katharine Florence Clementine Stanley; Hon. Sylvia Laura Stanley and 2 others

Managed by: Simon Leech
Last Updated:

About Venetia Stanley

Beatrice Venetia Stanley Montagu (22 August 1887 – 3 August 1948) was a British aristocrat and socialite best known for the many letters that Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith wrote to her between 1910 and 1915. The youngest daughter of Edward Lyulph Stanley, 4th Baron Sheffield and Stanley of Alderley, Venetia was a namesake and collateral descendant of Venetia Stanley (1600–1633) who was renowned for her racy beauty and mysterious death.

Venetia met Asquith through her close friendship with his daughter, Violet. Asquith, who enjoyed writing letters to women in high society, began his correspondence with Venetia in 1910. However, Venetia was just one of several women who received Asquith's letters until 1912, when she went on a trip to Sicily with Asquith, Violet and Edwin Samuel Montagu, a Liberal MP who was one of Asquith's protégés. It seems that on this trip, both Asquith and Montagu fell in love with Venetia.

During the next three years, Asquith wrote more and more frequently to Venetia, even during Cabinet meetings. Venetia seems to have written to Asquith almost as often, but Asquith apparently destroyed Venetia's letters on a regular basis to maintain confidentiality. There has been a debate since 1982 as to whether the affair was sexually consummated or not. However recent evidence suggests Louis T Stanley was the illegitimate son of this relationship which has been covered up since 1912. (Neate,B Conspiracy of Secrets). At the same time, Montagu was attempting to court Venetia and unsuccessfully proposed marriage to her in 1913. Venetia liked Montagu but did not reciprocate his love. Also, Montagu had to marry within his Jewish faith in order to keep his inheritance. Although Venetia was from a freethinking family and was not a devout Anglican, conversion to Judaism seemed too great a barrier.

Asquith's epistolary obsession with Venetia (by early 1915, he was writing to her between one to three times a day) was not just an emotional dependence. He also sought her advice on how to deal with his political colleagues and even on questions of military strategy in World War I. The letters he wrote to her during Cabinet meetings are often the only minutes of those meetings that exist and a crucial source of historical information on the formation of British strategy during the war. Although Venetia was intelligent, well-read and keenly interested in politics, she apparently felt overwhelmed by Asquith's demands. As a result, she finally accepted Montagu's proposal on 28 April 1915 and wrote to Asquith of her decision on 12 May. After converting to Judaism, Venetia married Montagu on 26 July 1915.

Venetia's marriage to Montagu lasted nine years until his premature death in 1924. Despite the birth of a daughter in 1923, Venetia was unhappy in her marriage. She had affairs with Lord Beaverbrook and others. After Montagu's death, Venetia renewed her friendship with Asquith. Asquith's final excursion before his death in 1928 was a visit to Venetia. In 1928, the Liberal Party invited Venetia to stand as a parliamentary candidate for South Norfolk, where she had inherited Montagu's country house in Attleborough, but she declined the offer.

Venetia Stanley Montagu died of cancer in 1948, shortly before her 61st birthday.

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Venetia Stanley's Timeline

August 22, 1887
Malton, North Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom
February 6, 1923
Age 35
August 3, 1948
Age 60
Wayland, Norfolk