Monthly Archives: December 2020

Treaties of peace – After the war

As part of his work for the British Embassy, Lord Berwick was involved in the Peace Conference in Paris in January 1919 that immediately preceded the Treaty of Versailles.  In March 1915 Lord Berwick had written to his future wife, Teresa, from Paris. He wrote: ‘it would be very interesting to be here at the end of the war, when peace negotiations begin.’

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Thomas Henry Noel-Hill, 8th Lord Berwick of Attingham

As part of his diplomatic work, Lord Berwick attended a formal dinner and wrote to Teresa on the 27th of February 1919:

 ‘The Ambassador gave a big dinner of 60 people on Saturday to meet the Prince of Wales… nearly all the principal delegates were there, with the exception of poor Clemenceau who was of course unable to come, and Lloyd George.’

Lord Berwick admired the Borghese plate that had once adorned the dinner tables of Pauline Borghese, sister of Napoleon. Lord Berwick was interested in the supposed link between furniture at Attingham and Caroline Murat, another of Napoleon’s sisters. William, the Third Lord Berwick (1773-1842), was reputed to have acquired objects from her palace in Naples and brought them to Attingham.

Caroline-Marie Bonaparte, Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples (1782-1839) by Louis Ducis (Versailles 1775 ¿ Paris 1847)
This portrait of Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples (1782-1839) by Louis Ducis, circa 1810, was brought by Lord Berwick in 1927. It now hangs in Attingham’s Drawing Room. NT 608957

Attending the dinner, Lord Berwick thought that ‘the most picturesque figure was the Emir Feisal (leader of The Arabs in World War One), closely attended by Col. Lawrence’ (T. E. Lawrence of Arabia).

In 1925 T. E. Lawrence bought Clouds Hill, a small cottage in Dorset now owned by the National Trust. It was conveniently placed for him to retreat to whilst stationed at nearby Bovington Camp, although tragically he died in a motorcycle accident in 1935 whilst returning from the camp.

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Inside T. E. Lawrence’s home at Cloud’s Hill

Lord Berwick wrote to Teresa about the Peace Conference again on March the 13th 1919. Unfortunately, ‘all the big questions still remain to be adjudicated on, and from the little one knows, no power except perhaps ourselves is animated by the Wilsonian spirit sufficiently to give up anything they want in the general interest… but there seems to be a feeling that Germany will relapse into Bolshevism if peace is not concluded soon.’

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Lord Berwick’s diplomatic uniform in the Attingham collection

The meeting of the Allied victors to set peace terms for defeated Central Powers following the end of the First World War was long and complicated. Thirty two countries were represented at the talks.

The peace treatise document. Photograph in the Public Domain

The US President, Woodrow Wilson, would not support the punitive fines on Germany desired by other countries. In the end, the USA did not ratify the treaty and did not join the League of Nations. The British Prime Minister David Lloyd George had doubts about the harshness of the Treaty of Versailles on Germany, prophetically saying in 1918 that ‘it is essential that the settlement after this war shall be one which does not itself bear the seed of future war.’

It took six months from the end of the war to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

Lord Berwick in his military uniform outside his house at Cronkhill on the Attingham estate in 1904

On March the 24th 1919 Lord Berwick visited Noyon, France. In Noyon and its surrounding towns there was ‘hardly a house standing,’ and Montdidier was ‘entirely destroyed. Shell holes all round it.’ He wrote of the terrible damage to Noyon Cathedral, with its ‘roof entirely gone and part of the walls. All the glass gone.’ Fortunately ‘a very beautiful altar 18th century in the center of the church’ remained ‘undamaged.’ After twenty years of repair work the cathedral was restored.

Noyon Cathedral (c) Wikimedia Commons

Lord Berwick was not the only one to attend peace talks. Teresa’s uncle Luigi Villari was involved in peace negotiations in the Salonica Peace Treaty that aimed at Serbian Peace. Signed on the 29th of September 1919 between Bulgaria and the Allies in Thessaloniki, it ended Bulgaria’s involvement in the First World War. After leaving the army Luigi spent his time lecturing and writing books.

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A photograph of Luigi Villari (1876-1959) wearing military uniform on horseback taken in June 1916NT 610177.185

In July 1920 Teresa’s friend Lady Helen D’Abernon accompanied her husband on the Interallied Mission to Poland which had been organised by Prime Minister David Lloyd George to attempt to influence Polish policy through a change in government, although the Polish victory at the Battle of Warsaw made the mission defunct before it could achieve any real importance. Lady Helen D’Abernon also accompanied her husband when he was sent as the British Ambassador to the Weimar Republic in the 1920s.

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Lady Helen D’Abernon

The war changed attitudes towards women working. Early in the war women helping the war effort under the auspices of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies were treated with disdain by some people. A friend of Teresa’s sister, Gioconda, wrote after the war that she thinks that the diplomatic service ought to be open to women as well as men, as women are ‘perfectly capable of this kind of work.’