‘Scandal’ of the actress and the aristocrat recalled a century on

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HE was the the wealthy aristocrat, she the chorus girl whose sister married a miner.

When the secret marriage of Rowland George Winn (the future 3rd Baron of St Oswald) and Evie Carew became public in 1915 it was splashed across newspapers.

His shocked parents only learned of the match months when it was exposed in the Daily Mirror. Winn was forced to resign his Army commission.

Almost 100 years later the ‘scandal’ is being recalled at Nostell Priory, near Wakefield, the aristocratic estate-turned National Trust property which, like many others, was profoundly affected by the First World War.

A Heritage Lottery Fund project is helping to uncover how the war affected the family.

Dr Sarah Burnage, leading the project, said: “There is a lot of expectation placed on Rowland George Winn which makes his marriage to a chorus girl seem all the more dramatic and sensational and problematic for the family.

“We have done a little bit of digging here and her real name is not Evie Carew, it was Nellie Greene. We found out that her father was a restaurant manager, her sister married a miner and her brother worked on the stage, which we think is her route into acting and working on the stage.”

Their marriage had significant consequences, says Dr Burnage.

“It must have been devastating news and such a scandal. His marriage had quite significant consequences. The Coldstream Guards is associated with the Royal household and a rule had been brought in that actresses could not be presented at court, so when he marries Evie he’s not able to present his wife at official functions and he’s an officer in the Guards so he actually has to resign his commission and instead joins the Royal Flying Corps.”

Though a shock for his parents, it is believed that they were eventually won round and Evie did become Lady Winn when her husband inherited his title.

The couple had two children and the archives reveal that the grandparents were supportive of the couple, helping them buy a house.

Letters from Rowland to his father reveal that the latter may have had his doubts at first.

However, a generation later the archives reveal that the actress-turned-Lady was immersed in the life of Nostell Priory and the community.

* The story of the Heir and the Showgirl will be on BBC Radio Leeds on Thursday June 5 at 8.15am. Go to www.bbc.co.uk/ww1

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