Florence Macaskie (1914-2008) was the daughter of Nick Macaskie, K.C. and his wife Jane Tuohy. Florence was the eldest of five children. Nick was a successful barrister and the family lived well. The children had a nanny and the parents went abroad on holiday two or three times a year (children were not taken abroad by their parents in those days, although the whole family did go every year for a summer holiday at Arromanches on the north coast of France). This letter was written by the 11-year old Florence to her parents when they were away on a skiing trip and gives a good idea of the life led by Florence and her sister Jane (aged 7) and brother Jimmy (then a baby). Both their parents had numerous siblings, so the children were well supplied with aunts, uncles and cousins.


Nick and Jane Macaskie c.1914


Letter 5.1. Florence Macaskie in London to her parents Nick and Jane Macaskie in St Moritz, December 1925.


Dear Mommy and Daddy,


   I hope you arrived safely at St Moritz. Jimmy is much better today and Nanny took him out for half an hour in his pram. We went to lunch and tea at Auntie Dorothy’s and Penelope¹ had a dolls pram and dolls for Xmas. Brian and Diana² were there and we played all sorts of games. Brian had an awfully nice gun and we built a fort with Penelope’s bricks then we took shots at it until we knocked it down. There were three ladies there to lunch and a little girl.


   We have had some more Christmas presents this morning, one from Josephine [Paterson, an old family friend] and one from Nanny and then we went to Auntie Dorothy’s and she had a present there for us, it was from Uncle Sands [Macaskie]. Jane got a lovely little fan all made of Pheasants' Feathers. And I got a very nice Shetland scarf. Diana got one the same only a different colour. I am sorry to say that I have only written two letters and I have not practised once but I am going to today. Granny³ is much better and she got up this afternoon and I think Awken³ is going to depart for St Moritz on Monday next.


   Yvonne O’Neil has got mumps and so we can’t go to her party but she is going to have it later. We had a lovely time at Diana Dingli’s party. I won a box of Turkish delight for musical bumps and I have eaten it nearly all now so you need not expect any when you come back from St Moritz. But we have heaps of sweets and other boxes of Chocolates so you needn’t worry about not getting any.


   I wanted Jane to write a letter in her own writing but she won’t so she has dictated to me the following:


Dear Mommy,


I hope you are very well and have you been doing any skating and has the ice broken at all. And have you been trying the Outside edge. I have counted my presents and they come to twenty-one Altogether.


Much love from  




P.S. Don’t forget to R.S.V.P. this letter or you won’t get another.


Good Bye.


1000 X X from us all.





¹ Dorothy Cunningham Brown, née Macaskie, was one of Nick Macaskie’s sisters. She had one daughter, Penelope (later Windeler), who was some years younger than Florence.


² Brian and Diana Gallagher were the children of another of Nick Macaskie’s sisters. Diana was an exact contemporary of Florence’s and she saw a lot of both of them. Diana married Patrick Lane, a diplomat. Flavia was a contemporary of their daughter Nicola, with whom she stayed in Venice when Patrick was British Consul there.


³ Granny” was Jane Macaskie’s widowed mother and “Awken” was Jane Macaskie’s younger sister Dolores Tuohy, “Awken” being Florence’s childish misprounuciation of “aunt”. Being the youngest, Awken was left to look after her mother and never married.




Florence as a teenager


The family lived first at 48 Pembroke Road in Kensington in “The Red House”, a four-storey red-brick Victorian Gothic building with leaded windows and a glass and wrought iron canopy over the front steps (it was later destroyed in the blitz). In 1931, after the birth of the twins Nicola and Claudia, they moved to 27 Kensington Square, a huge five-storey mansion that had once been a school. Before the 1939-45 war, they had six servants living in, cook, kitchenmaid, parlourmaid, housemaid, nanny and nursery maid. Jane never learned to cook – although she got the cook to teach her to make mayonnaise to have with the cold meats that the cook used to leave out for their dinner on Sunday evening. But she was an active supervisor of the household. The Macaskies entertained a lot and were well known for their parties.


Florence was first at school at the Convent of the Assumption in Kensington Square, where she acquired a reputation for being thoroughly rebellious. Jane Macaskie believed that the best education for girls was to learn languages (she herself had been sent as a teenager to Freiburg to learn German, living with a German-speaking family and attending a convent as a day-girl).  In October 1929, therefore, when she was just 15, Florence was sent off to a German convent school in Baden-Baden for a year to learn German, and then to a convent in Florence for another year to learn Italian. She did learn both languages fluently, and seems from the correspondence to have been happy enough, but she chafed against the strict life of the convents.





Letter 5.2. Nick Macaskie at the Savoy Hotel Univers, Basel (on the way back from leaving Florence at her convent), to his daughter Florence Macaskie at the Convent of the Holy Sepulchre, Römerplatz 12,  Baden-Baden, 3 October 1929.


My darling Florence,

   Your mother says I must write something you can read. I will. See how perfectly I write. Long shall I remember my sweet Florence waving me farewell from the steps of the convent. I love you, I kiss you, and I bless you, and I hope and pray that you will be a brave good girl. Remember, my sweet, that you are Scotch and English and Irish with all the good qualities of all three of these great races. When you are feeling depressed and lonely, as I was wont to be sometimes when I was your age, try to be brave and to keep a stiff upper lip.

   When we left you and got into the train, I slept like a pig, but your poor mother kept awake and I expect she thought of you; so did I, both in my dreams and when I was awake. Try, my dearest, and work a little and make friends with some of the nice girls at your school. At first it will be a little difficult, but not for long. A long time ago, when I was sent by myself, a poor shrinking, nervous youth like yourself, to Belgium, I rather hated it but soon I made friends and very soon I liked it well.

   Your mother and I went and had dinner this evening at a restaurant called I believe Schützenhaus, where we had a very good dinner and talked of you and wished you were with us. I shall always wish you are with us as long as I live, because I love you dearly; but such things as school and later on perhaps a husband as bad as I am will take you away, leaving me just a wonderful longing for you. …

   I loved your convent. I thought the nuns were dears and, just because you love us, I am sure you will try to please them.

Your loving Daddy


Nick and Jane Macaskie continued their journey home via Paris, where they had an encounter with royalty, as both of them recounted in separate letters to their daughter. The King they met was Don Jaime de Borbon y de Borbon-Parma, Duke of Madrid (1870-1931), the unsuccessful Carlist claimant to the Spanish throne under the name of James III and “legitimist” claimant to the throne of France under the name of James I, also known in France as Duke of Anjou. He was educated at Beaumont College in Old Windsor, and had a military career in a Guards regiment of the Russian Army. When the Macaskies met him, he was retired and divided his time between a castle in Austria and a flat in Paris. His sister Beatrice had married Prince Fabrizio Massimo, a member of an extremely ancient Roman family.


Letter 5.3. Nick Macaskie at the Hotel Elysée-Bellevue, 2 rue Montaigne, Paris, to Florence Macaskie at the Convent of the Holy Sepulchre, Römerplatz 12, Baden-Baden,

5 October 1929.


My darling little Florence,

   Last night Jaime Lasuen [an old Spanish friend of the Macaskies] invited us to dine and, when we got to the restaurant, he was waiting at the door to tell us that His Majesty was there! I had been dreading all the time that we would have been invited to meet this King about whom we had heard so much. He is the brother of Princess Massimo. However, he was a very nice old thing and did all the talking himself in various languages.

   He was at school at Beaumont and wants to visit it again and ask for a half-holiday for the boys. Today he honoured us by lunching with us! And if he comes to London he is going to honour us again! Daddy is feeling very proud, as you can imagine, at having given lunch to a King!

   There is a motor show on here just opposite the hotel and we have wonderful illuminations at night; even the fountains are lit up. It is much more gorgeous than the motor show at Olympia, but I absolutely refuse to go inside as I know nothing about motors and Daddy knows very little more than I do. …

   We are off tomorrow [Sunday] afternoon, so I cannot write to you again until Monday. I am dying to hear how you are getting on and how you like it all.

Lots of love, darling,




Letter 5.4. Nicholas Macaskie at the Hotel Elysée-Bellevue, 2 rue Montaigne, Paris, to Florence Macaskie at the Convent of the Holy Sepulchre, Römerplatz 12,  Baden-Baden, 5 October 1929.


My beloved Florence,

   I am getting satiated with Royalty, and Bourbon at that, which is after all among the fruitiest and rarest in Europe. Last night we dined with Monseigneur Don Jaime and today he lunched with me in the fruity, veggy and smelly atmosphere of les Halles, the Covent Garden of Paris. The restaurant was good Normandy cooking, old cider and older Calvados liqueur which he chose, but your conservative, democratic father is not made for the musty forms and manners of the Court of an out-of-work King. He was quite nice, rather elderly, not unintelligent but somehow out of joint with the great world as it goes daily round.

   Your mother and I came back to the hotel a little exhausted about 5.30 to read and to think a little about our dear Florence and to write a little to her. Already we are three days nearer to seeing you, my sweet, and probably looking forward to seeing you even more than you are us.

   We are just going out to dinner and then on to a play called Marius [by Marcel Pagnol], to which we were recommended by Baron Ginsbourg¹ whom you may remember seeing at 51 [illegible] and whom we met again this morning as we walked sedately in the Champs Elysées. Tomorrow we skip across the Channel and I begin to work again and shall go on working until I see my darling Florence again.

All my love, my sweet, and many kisses from your



¹ Unidentified, but presumably a member of the Russian-Jewish Ginsbourg family – Baron Horace Ginsbourg was the best known; he was a wealthy St Petersburg banker and philanthropist and leader of the Jewish community in Russia before the Russian revolution. The family was dispossessed by the Bolsheviks and members of it probably emigrated to Paris.



Letter 5.5. Jane Macaskie at 48 Pembroke Road, London W.8, to Florence Macaskie at the Convent of the Holy Sepulchre, Römerplatz 12, Baden-Baden, 7 October 1929.


My darling little Florence,

   I was so glad to get your letter this afternoon and it came by air-post, I see. Of course you can have an egg for supper every night – two if you like. Will you say that I wish it, or is it necessary for me to write specially? I am very glad to hear that your room must be kept tidy. I hope it will have a lasting effect after you come home. Also, I think it is an excellent idea mending your own stockings. I expect you will pick up my ladders [in her stockings] for me when you come back.

   We crossed over yesterday evening in the most awful storm. You will be sorry to hear that your poor Mama was sea-sick in spite of Mothersill [a sea-sickness remedy] for the first time in nearly 20 years. But most people were much sicker than I was. Daddy was one of the few people on board who survived without being ill. Luckily, we had one of the big new boats and it came in up to time and there was plenty of room for everyone, even to be ill. A dark dago gentleman tried to pinch my basin but I opened my eyes just in time and stopped him. Some foolish people who left their Handgepäck [hand luggage] on the top deck and had it washed overboard.

   Yesterday, we changed back to winter time and Daddy and I forgot about it and hurried off to go to 10 o’clock Mass because the 11 o’clock is high, and found on coming out of the church that we had been to the nine o’clock instead. Imagine my rage and disappointment.

   Please get some soap. Ask M. Bernharda [probably a senior nun] to buy you a box. I know it is dear in Germany and I would have provided you with some had I known you would want it. Jane is very envious of the lizards [in the convent garden] and hopes you will bring one home. I hope you won’t bother. Jane has a stye and sends her love. Jimmy sends a big kiss and says how are the lizards in the garden.

Lots of love, darling,




Letter 5.6. Jane Macaskie at 48 Pembroke Road, Kensington W.8, to Florence Macaskie in Baden-Baden, 9 November 1929.


My darling Florence,

  Thanks for your letter which came last night. I am delighted to hear you have been put in such a high class. It is so much better to have to work to keep up with a high class than to slack in an easy one. … I think you must already have learnt to understand quite a lot of German to be put into such a high class so soon.

   Of course you can have your hair washed – the sooner the better. I hope for the sake of the sanitary conditions of the school that you have not awaited for this permission! You might arrange to have it done once a month. …



Letter 5.7. Jane Macaskie at 48 Pembroke Road, London W.8, to Florence Macaskie in Baden-Baden, 13 November 1929.


My dear Florence,

   I have just received a very bad report about you which made Daddy and me very sad, very disgusted and very ashamed of you! We know from experience that it is true, because it contains all the same complaints to which we are so accustomed and of which we are so heartily sick and tired from [the convent school in] Kensington all these years – continued disobedience to rules, causing the other girls to break them and do silly things behind the nuns’ backs – I didn’t know this last was your speciality – and indifference when spoken to, which has apparently been done repeatedly. Apart from the report, a letter you had written to Jean [Beaumont, a schoolfriend of Florence’s at the convent in Kensington Square] was enclosed – a silly, common effusion which might have come from any high school miss of about 12 who thought she was being clever  - and it shows only too clearly the way you are behaving. I don’t intend to send it on, in any case.

   Now, there are one or two things you must clearly understand. It is forbidden to write to your friends more than once a fortnight, as you have known all along, and to us once a week on Sundays. So you are not to do it any more. If you do, I will communicate with Jean and Claudia’s parents and see that they are not to write to you at all any more. I had no idea when I was getting so many letters from you that you were calmly breaking the rules. I imagined they were letting you write home often to begin with. Also, breaking off from the others, going into shops and coming home alone – all that must stop, or I shall ask the nuns not to send you out on walks at all.

   As to the other rules you are breaking and otherwise causing disturbance and trouble, you know best what they are and I rely on you for your own sake to stop it all and behave yourself. If we receive a single other bad report of any kind, or if we do not receive good ones for the rest of the term, we have decided not to go to Pontresina or Freiburg [Florence was due to go on a skiing holiday over Christmas in Pontresina with some old family friends of her parents who had a son her age]. You will either have to remain at the convent or come here and spend the holidays with Nanny. You see, it is costing Daddy a good deal of money to send you to Pontresina and we are doing it entirely to give you pleasure and to make you happy. But I don’t see why Daddy should make this sacrifice when you do not show the slightest intention or make the slightest effort to please us in any way. We are slowly and sadly coming to the conclusion that all the trouble we go to, to make you happy and make things pleasant for you is entirely thrown away, as you do not try in any way to repay it or show by your conduct that you have the slightest affection for us. The only way you can show it, after all, is by doing your best.

   Also, do you think it is quite worth while in your new school, where I am told everyone liked you at first, to make yourself thoroughly unpopular all round for the sake of bragging of your exploits to Jean and any others of your silly friends? I am very sorry to have to write to you like this, as I really thought you had left all this nonsense and dishonourable conduct behind at Kensington. It is dishonourable both to us and to the nuns who have been trusting you. If you go on, the only result will be the withdrawal of all the special privileges you have been given and the special allowances that have been made for you by the nuns and on our side no Christmas holiday.

   I hope you will write to me on Sunday giving me your word that all this is finally done with; that you are going to behave as you did when you first went; and that you will also give your word to Mme Bernharda to the same effect. If they refuse to keep you, we would have to find a very different kind of school which you would not enjoy nearly as much, I am sure. I am anxiously awaiting a letter to tell me you are sorry about all this and promise it will not occur any more.

Your loving Mommy.



Letter 5.8. Florence Macaskie at Römerplatz 12, Baden-Baden to her mother Jane Macaskie in London, undated (mid-November 1929).


Dear Mommy,

   I am very sorry you got a bad report about me. I have promised here that I will be good and I also promise you the same. I did not really mean to be troublesome when I went and bought those sweets, but I really did lose my glove and then the rest of the crocodile. And it is very tempting to see a lot of sweet-shops gaping at you and not go in. Besides, I have never been in a boarding school before and I find myself very cooped in, having to walk in a crocodile when I am used to wandering aimlessly from one side of the pavement to the other and being able to go into any shop I like.

   About my writing so many letters before this, I was never told until last Sunday that I was to, in the future, write home only once a week. Also, if I had really been breaking the rules, you wouldn’t have got the letters and I should have been told much sooner not to write so often.

   I admit that I have tried to make the others laugh when I shouldn’t, but often it is not me purposely at all, because they all laugh at the slightest thing, even if I make a mistake in German. I don’t really blame them, because languages can be very funny when incorrectly spoken. Anyhow, I have now promised to be good and I give you and Daddy my word that I will try my hardest, both at being good and learning German. In fact, I have been trying at German and I now understand everything, even the difficult words if I really stop to think them out, and I find myself speaking a lot.

   I quite understand that it is very ungrateful of me to behave badly here and waste Daddy’s money. I am really very sorry about it all, and about disappointing you and Daddy by not being good. You said in your letter that the nuns said I was indifferent when I was spoken to. I may have appeared so, but what I understood of the P.C. [“private conversation”, family slang for a telling-off] I quite took in and agreed with. I may have seemed indifferent because I did not cry as all the others do when they are scolded in the slightest respect. It was not because I wanted to be stubborn or anything that I did not cry, because it does not take me that way after having about 8 solid years of almost daily P.C.s at Kensington. Also, here one is simply roared at, and I was too surprised to weep.

   I hope you will have good reports at the end of the term; in fact I will try my utmost to that effect.

With lots of love,




Letter 5.9. Jane Macaskie at 48 Pembroke Road, London W.8, to Florence Macaskie in Baden-Baden, 20 November 1929


My darling Florence,

   Today I was so pleased to get your letter this morning and your promise which I know you will keep. I quite see that you were not told before not to write so many letters. I suspect they were letting you write as many as you liked just to start with. Also, I know quite well what you mean about all the girls crying when they are scolded. I remember when I was at Freiburg, most of the girls in my class were 17 or 18 and they used to get in a terrible state if any complaint was made about them. Carmen¹ and I were the only ones who didn’t take it seriously. Also, the German way of finding fault is really very exaggerated, as I know from experience. All the same, one must only allow for it and not give unnecessary trouble while you are there, because I really think the nuns started out to treat you very kindly and seem to have not been nearly as strict as they might be, on account of your being a foreigner.

   I am awfully glad to hear of the progress you are making in German. I am sure you will know it very well by next summer holidays.

   I couldn’t possibly let you go to Basle alone and stop there the night. To begin with, Basle station with its frontiers is the easiest in the whole of Europe to lose either yourself or your luggage in. And to arrive at any winter sport place without one’s kit is an absolute waste of time and money. I will find out what time the Hopes pass through. If it isn’t too early in the morning, I might be able to arrange that you should sleep at Freiburg the night before, and as that is less than an hour from Basle, you ought to be able to make the connection if the party doesn’t pass through too early. Also, Mrs Devaux¹ would I know send someone with you to hand you over safely. If necessary, I could ask her to send one of her servants who have both been with her for more than 30 years, and were quite attached to me.

   Still Daddy has heard nothing about Khartoum [where he had been engaged to act in a court case]. I think it may end in his having to go alone by any route he can find accommodation on. Of course there won’t be any Americans this year. You perhaps haven’t heard there has been the most terrific slump on the New York Stock exchange, going on for about three weeks, and millions of Americans are ruined and all the travelling ones in Europe and the East are pouring back to America on every available boat owing to having no more money. I hear all the smart and dear shops in Paris are in despair as they relied entirely on rich American women, a species for the time being extinct.

   Jimmy and Jane are very well. I must now go and take the latter off to her music lesson.

Lots of love, darling,



¹ Carmen Devaux, a contemporary of Jane Macaskie, was a member of an Anglo-French family who moved to Germany in the 19th century. The family were close friends of the Macaskies and Jane lodged with them when she was at school in Freiburg.  The Mrs Devaux mentioned in this letter was probably Carmen’s mother. See note on the Devaux family in the Annex.



Letter 5.10. Jane Macaskie at 48 Pembroke Road, London W.8, to Florence Macaskie in Baden-Baden, 26 November 1929


My darling Florence,

   Today I got a very good report of you from Mme Bernharda. Daddy and I were so pleased about it. She said that from the day you got my letter you were perfectly good and working so hard, and they are all over you again. Really, darling, one has a much better time in this life by making oneself liked rather than the other thing. She also said, which pleased us very much, that you had made very great progress in German and had such a good accent. Also you were doing very well in French, drawing and music. I do hope this blessed state of affairs will last and that we shall have no more nonsense.

   I will send you out your fancy dress, or did you take it mit [with]?  Anyhow, I will ask Nanny. Also your bridesmaid’s dress and a wool coat of mine as you have lost your own. I think if I send you that very warm three-quarter length one of mine – you know, of many colours, mainly beige-brown – it ought to be more useful and go more with everything than the pale yellow, but if you prefer the yellow, I will send it. Anyhow, keep it for Pontresina, don’t wear it at school. Your new dress I will give to Mrs Hope [with whom Florence was going on holiday in Pontresina] to avoid crumples. It hasn’t yet arrived, by the way. I don’t know what has happened to Burface [the family’s dressmaker]. She was three weeks late with Jimmy’s outfit, and large though his head is, she has made the hat far too big – it is large on Jane, even. However, I am writing to her today.  Get yourself a pair of silk evening stockings before you leave Baden-Baden as the shops there are much better than in Switzerland. Get a good quality but not too fine, because you are a bit heavy on them.

   Yesterday it was at last decided that Daddy was to go to Khartoum and I shall go with him. We will be leaving on about December 18th or 19th and if the sea isn’t rough between Genoa and Alexandria it might be a lovely trip. Daddy and I will come to Baden-Baden on our way home and spend a day or perhaps two if Daddy has the time or any money left! with you. That ought to be somewhere between January 12th and 14th – but it is impossible to say exactly the date until we have found out all about the sailing of the ships and all that. Anyhow, I take it the term will have begun again by then. As soon as I hear from you exactly when the holidays end, I will write to Mrs Devaux about meeting you on your way back through Bâle and also about sending you back with an escort to the convent. I will write tomorrow to Mme Bernharda about providing a chaperone to take you to Basle and stay the night with you there. I think it is safer to arrange for the Hopes to meet you in the Buffet, because running up and down platforms trying to meet the endless trains that come in to Basle for Swiss sports is hopeless…

Lots of love and kisses,




Letter 5.11. Nicholas Macaskie at 5 Paper Buildings [his chambers], Temple E.C.4, to Florence Macaskie at the Convent of the Holy Sepulchre in Baden-Baden, 7 December 1929


Beloved Pig Dog Florence,

   This is the girl that never writes, that cheeks the nuns, that does not work etc. I fact I was terribly disappointed to get that rotten report from the Convent. I will confess, however, that I am pleased to say that the criminal is showing signs of reforming and I only hope that the final report will compel me to fork out many doubloons, moidores [Portuguese gold coins], pieces of eight, not to say guineas [in which barristers were paid], to send you to Pontresina.

   I expect your mother has told you that she and I are off to the land of Hathor, Amun, Ra and Osiris on the 17th, via Paris, Genoa and Alexandria. She wants to come all the way with me to Khartoum, but I would rather she struck up a nice friendship with some hospitable old grump who would go with her to Luxor and see the wonders of the Valley of the Kings and of the Queens. However, qui verra, verra.

   I do hope you will write me one little letter before I go away. Many a night the hot scalding tears have coursed down my cheeks thinking of my Florence who does note care to write to me. It’s an awful sad thought, that.

   I am full of Scotch sayings because I am in the middle of a heavy case about a Scotsman who made a will and died but whom other people want to [illegible] really was an Englishman.

   I would much rather be going to Suvretta House [hotel in St Moritz] this winter, but it cannot be; the legs of mutton have to be earned as my father used to say.

   I was inoculated yesterday for typhoid and your mother was inoculated last Wednesday. She, poor wench, went all queer just after we arrived at the Greek [illegible] for dinner, so she had to go home with a maid to bed and I stopped behind and ate a very good dinner. It was a great pity because we met Lillah McCarthy¹, now Lady Keeble and Major Longman [unidentified] who is organising the Italian Exhibition of Art. Both were very interesting and amusing. As for me, I only have a sore arm.

  My darling, I have to leave now. I enclose 10/- for a good girl and thousands of kisses and all my love, you ungrateful wretch.

Your loving father,

Nick Macaskie.


¹ Lillah MacCarthy (1875-1960) was an actress and theatre manager, and a friend of George Bernard Shaw, in several of whose plays she appeared. Married first Harley Granville Barker, actor and manager; and second Sir Frederick Keeble, botanist.



Letter 5.12. Jane Macaskie at the Grand Hotel in Khartoum to Florence Macaskie at the Convent of the Holy Sepulchre in Baden-Baden, New Year’s Eve 1929


My darling Florence,

   We arrived here the day before yesterday and Daddy has been working very hard at his case, which he hopes to finish tomorrow in time to catch the night train. We get on the Nile boat the next night and arrive at Luxor on Saturday morning – just about the time when you arrive at Basle. I hope you have had a very nice holiday and lots of fun. I am sure you have, but I am longing to hear about it.

   This is a very nice place with very fine buildings and broad streets and avenues of enormous acacias, the biggest I have ever seen. There isn’t a sign of a butterfly [Florence was an avid collector of butterflies] – I think it is far too windy for them even if there were any. The sun is hot in the middle of the day, but otherwise it is not hot a bit as there is always a terrific breeze blowing off the Nile, and this hotel is right on the Nile. I know you will be sorry to hear that I was bitten by what I am told was a bug evidently in the Nile boat or the train from Cairo. He bit me good and hard about 25 times on the shoulder, and the bites have all turned into little blisters. It is most uncomfortable, as Daddy and I were invited to dine at the Palace by the Governor-General of the Sudan and I suspect he knew at once what I was suffering from [probably the same sand-flies that plagued Grace Lambert – see Letter 2.12]. All the same, we had a most delightful evening and the Palace was lovely, all marble halls and staircases and balconies and glimpses of the most lovely-looking garden in the starlight, and we were waited on by black slaves! in the most impressive scarlet and white costumes.

   Yesterday evening I went to the Zoo, which is next door to the hotel. The animals are much tamer than in London – many of them are walking around loose – gazelles and zebras and things like that, but they are also much lazier, I suppose owing to the climate. There were some awfully funny tiny monkeys behaving just like kittens. I didn’t see any jerbals [sic] but lots of Mr Baumer’s¹ tree bears.  There was a baby giraffe that was cheeky, also a baby hippo – not so cheeky.

   Yesterday afternoon, we were motored across the Nile to a place called Omdurman where there was a famous battle, and saw the native town, which was most interesting. We were followed around by troops of little boys, some of them awfully sweet and all full of fun. We saw the native market and shops and strange types from the desert doing their shopping. Altogether it was delightful and I know you would have loved to see it. There is nothing to buy here except ivory which is very good, and yesterday Daddy bought you an ivory necklace which I think you will like. He has got two beautiful hair-brush backs and has ordered two clothes-brush backs – you have to get the bristles put in at home because they are no good here. He has a sun-helmet which he looks very smart in but he hasn’t had time to have his hair cut since ages before we left London and it is nearly as long as mine. However, if the case is over tomorrow, he will have time to attend to these matters.

   I hope you are not very bored at going back to school. I expect it will be all right after a day or two. Daddy and I will sail from Alexandria on January 11th as far as I know at present, and may be with you on the evening of the 15th, or possibly not until the next day. Anyhow, we will telegraph. If we can stay a night, I hope they will let you come out for it. I expect they will. Will you ask Mme Bernharda, then we could telephone as soon as we arrive from whatever hotel we go to, and they could send you along in a taxi – it would save time.

Lots of love, darling, and a happy new year from us both.



¹ Lewis Baumer (1870-1963) was a well-known caricaturist and cartoonist who worked for the magazine Punch. He was a good friend of the Macaskies. He also illustrated children’s books and his tree-bears were possibly figures from one of these.



Letter 5.13. Florence Macaskie at the Convent of the Holy Sepulchre in Baden-Baden to her mother Jane Macaskie, undated (probably January 1930).


Dear Mommy,

  ... You know I get extra butter. Well, I usually eat it for breakfast and tea. At tea we get the most awful sweet jam – you know how I hate jam (even “Tiptree”) with bread. Well, today they removed my butter to a cupboard (which is only opened at breakfast) and told me I could not have butter for tea because the others didn’t have it too. Sometimes we get apples and bread and no jam. We are made to eat the bread dry, which is worse than anything. Please will you write to Mme Bernharda about it, because damn it all! it’s my butter and I’ve never eaten dry bread every day for tea yet and I’m not starting now!!

   Please remind Nanny about the dressing gown and things. I must have them before the 4th of March. Please!

   I’m sorry this letter is late, but I couldn’t write on Sunday as we went to an awful sentimental play. At least it was atrociously acted. I’m praying very hard for Daddy’s silk business [Nick Macaskie was applying for silk and was sworn in as a King’s Counsel on 18 February 1930].

Lots of love,




Letter 5.14. Florence Macaskie at the Convent of the Holy Sepulchre, Baden-Baden, to her mother at 48 Pembroke Road, London, 22 February 1930


   … About this butter trouble, perhaps the other girls grumble at your having butter for tea if they don’t, and the nuns may be having bother about it. After all, you have it for breakfast every morning. It won’t do you any harm to try and eat the jam for tea like the rest of them and make an act [of contrition], especially with Lent coming on. It must be very nasty jam if it is worse than dry bread. Just see how you can manage, but don’t have a row over such a trifle. I suppose, as I only asked for you to have butter at breakfast, they don’t want you to have it for tea as well – and after all, Daddy thinks it is rather hard on the other girls. I expect the nuns give you quite a good time as it is and you do a lot of things you couldn’t do if you were a German girl. …

   Lots of love and thanks from Daddy for the prayers. They are evidently being answered, as he has already had three new briefs as a K.C. – not large, but still a beginning.




Letter 5.15. Florence Macaskie at Lilienhof in Germany to her mother at 48 Pembroke Road, London W.8, 19 March 1930


   … I expect Mrs Devaux told you I am now at Lilienhof. It is awful fun. … I often go down to the pigsty with Peter¹ to catch rats. The dog does the killing. One goes into the pig’s little compartment and lifts up a piece of flooring which the dog goes rushing under; at the same time the rats run out under your feet. It’s quite fun!

   I got the parcels today. I like the coat very much; it just wants the belt taking in a little. The dress is also very nice but a bit too long in the skirt. The pink knickers are very posh; they match my chemises.

   I hope you haven’t had too bad a report from School. But I think the nuns were rather annoyed with me this term because I climbed rather a lot and, an even worse sin, I played some April fool jokes on one or two of the nuns. However, I think I can justly say I have learnt a lot more German than when you saw me. I have promised the Frau Priorin [Prioress] really to pull myself together next term and not to do any of the objected to things. I’m awfully sorry. Thanks awfully for your letter. I will write a longer one next time.

Lots of love,



¹ Jane Macaskie’s friend and contemporary Carmen Devaux (see note to Letter 4.9) married a Herr von Wogau who had a wine-growing estate called Lilienhof over-looking the Rhine not far from Baden-Baden. They had a son, Peter, of Florence’s age; and a daughter, Carmen.  Florence  stayed with the family at Lilienhof several times while she was in the Convent at Baden-Baden, and Carmen became a life-long friend.





Letter 5.16. Florence Macaskie at Lilienhof in Germany to her sister Jane Macaskie, undated (probably spring 1930).


Dear Jane,

   Thanks awfully for your letter. Needless to say the grammar was appalling and the spelling worse, and I think it is about time you learnt handwriting. My German “Missels”, as you call them, have gone; only my glands stayed a little. However, they are now successfully fading away. On Tuesday, I hope to go to Freiburg with Carmen¹, where I will spend a few days and then go back to school and black stockings and crocodiles! I had a letter from the Rev. Mother at B.B. She apparently thinks I am dying. She entreats me to have Geduld in Krankheit [patience in illness] etc. I’m hoping Carmen will help me answer the letter, as I’m blithered if I know what to say.

   Last night I had a dream, or rather nightmare, about the twins. There were at least sixteen of them in one end of an enormous perambulator which ran down terribly steep hills the whole time, dragging me after it. I’m simply longing to come home and see them. ...

   About the birds nesting, I think it extremely cruel, and you know it yourself. Anyway, it is an absolute waste of time for you to try and collect birds’ eggs, as you are always in London when there are any eggs. One other thing is that, when you happen to find a nest with six eggs in it, and there are only two you need, only take two instead of taking the whole six, and always be careful not to touch the others or the nest with your fingers. In fact, if one is really collecting seriously, one has a bottle of paste and a brush. With that, you take out the egg and leave the others in peace. If Jimbo [their brother Jimmy] wants to collect, let him, but I wish you wouldn’t, especially in that barbaric way of taking the whole caboodle. …


¹ Carmen Gronau, née von Wogau (1910-1999), the daughter of Carmen Devaux and brother of Peter von Wogau. A life-long friend of Florence’s. . She married a half-Jewish art historian, Hans Gronau, in 1933 and they wisely decided to move to London shortly after Hitler came to power. Hans subsequently joined Sotheby’s as an old master expert, and when he died in 1951 Carmen took over his job and became a director of Sotheby’s in 1958. Florence and Michael saw a lot of them both during and after the war, and Hans and Carmen were Flavia’s godparents.



Letter 5.17. Florence Macaskie at the Convent of the Holy Sepulchre, Baden-Baden to her mother at 48 Pembroke Road, London W.8, 8 June (Whit Sunday) 1930


Dear Mommy,

   Thanks awfully for your letters. I was really beginning to wonder what had happened to you all, you hadn’t written for such a long time. We are now having Whitsun holidays. Most of the girls have gone home; in fact there are only seven here. On the whole it is not so bad; we are allowed to do practically what we like inside the convent, and I am going to the swimming baths soon, I hope. It is terribly hot here, like the hottest days in London, only worse.

   My frogs are very well and most energetic; they jump about three yards when loose. Seeing them ear flies is most exciting for everyone except the fly which gets caught on the end of the frog’s sticky tongue and gradually drawn into his mouth, helped by his front paws.

   There is a Belgian girl here from Antwerp. I don’t know if I’ve already written to you about her. She is very nice. In fact, now Christel [a German girl with whom she had made friends] has left, I like her the best. We talk French sometimes, which is rather a good thing as I am forgetting my French, or at least getting very out of practice.

   Last Wednesday we went to Karlsruhe on an Ausflug [outing].  It was most awful fun. First we went into two churches, the first quite modern and perfectly dreadful like the Kinema [i.e like the pseudo-Egyptian Egyptian architecture of the Kensington Odeon, which used to be called the Kensington Kinema] outside and something between a mosque and a circus inside, all painted red and orange with long proverby things written across the walls. It was Catholic, too. The other was much nicer, a cross between Byzantine and Romanesque, and minus mosaic or marble. Then we went for a motor-boat ride round the Rhine harbour and out into the Rhine itself. When we passed steamers, it got quite rough and exciting. After that we went to the Schloss. It is very nice from the outside, but I didn’t go in. Then lunch; not too bad, but much too much of it. I had some beer, which was very refreshing.

   After lunch we went and were shown round a Balance (weighing machine) factory. It was very tiring and I am not too interested in a weighing machines. Then, being dead tired, we went to a tea-shop and had a very good tea. Then we went home – not at all bad.

   I am longing for the sixteenth when Daddy comes. Do you think there is any chance of his staying a day or two and not only a few hours? I enclose a photograph of me with the convent kitten. I was not a bit ready when it was taken, so that accounts for the pained look on my face. …





Letter 5.18. Nick Macaskie at 5 Paper Buildings, Temple E.C.4 to Florence Macaskie at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, 15 Viale Michelangelo, Florence, 29 November 1930


My dearest Florence,

   Many say that silence means consent, though no lawyer would say it does. Still, as I have forgotten to deal with your request for the four hours, or was it forty hours? riding per week you mentioned, you may take it that I have generously taken the matter into my consideration and granted your petition.

   I do not know yet definitely whether I am going to Khartoum, but if I do, I am afraid your roseate dreams of coming with me and sailing up the Nile like Cleopatra of old are bound to disappointment. Firstly, the fee would not run to it. Secondly, your mother is seriously bitten with the idea of leaving 48 Pembroke Road and moving into a dilapidated ruin of a house in Kensington Square full of the ghosts and memories of J. Barker’s smelly shop assistants [the neighbouring Department Store had been using 25 Kensington Square for storage space] which will take more than all my resources, plus those of the Bank of England, to do up, so in case this blow falls, it is a case of all hands to the pump, either to stop her or to get the money. I tell your mother that it is the fatal lure of the convent  [where the Macaskie girls went to school and which was almost next door] that lures her to Kensington Square and that eventually, like Madame de Chantal, she will step over our prostrate forms to walk into the convent and take the veil [Madame de Chantal was a 17th century French saint.  An aristocratic widow, she decided to found a convent; when her son tried to stop her entering the convent and becoming a nun by lying down in front of the door, she resolutely stepped over his body].


   A week has gone by and all that time I have carried this unfinished epistle in my bosom, so I hope you will value it. News has now come to hand that I am not to go to Khartoum before Easter, so your mother will go and fetch you about the 17th or 18th to bring you back to a merry Xmas at Home. I would I were booking again into to St Moritz, but this year, I am afraid it cannot be. Some of your prayers on my behalf have been answered because I have been engaged for the last two months in a long Government enquiry as to whether waitresses in J. Lyons and tea shops all over the country shall be given a minimum wage regulated by what is called a Trade Board or such. Not very interesting, but fairly profitable. But for the idea of the New House, we would have gone to St Moritz. Alas!

   I have also had the honour paid to me by my Inn (Gray’s Inn) inviting me to become a Bencher. This will enable me to take you to any Balls the Inn may give, but the privilege of membership is costly. I have to pay what is called 150 guineas caution money.  So you see that times are comparatively hard and it needs a hell of a lot of briefs to keep the wolf from the door, to pay my caution money, and to pay for the repairs of the new house if we get it.

   If, my bad girl, you want a little extra money to make gifts to some of your friends on leaving, let me know and I will draw my belt a little tighter and let you have what you want. I am longing to see you again, and I send you all my love and thousands of kisses. Give my love to Diana [her cousin Diana Gallagher (see note to Letter 65) who seems to have joined her briefly at the convent]. Would you like something for her?

Your loving father,

Nick Macaskie



Letter 4.19. Florence Lambert at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Florence, to her mother Jane Macaskie at 48 Pembroke Road, London W.8, postmarked 28 January 1931.


Dear Mommy,

   … The nuns are being awfully nice here. They have changed my room and given me a much bigger one without a piano and where I can put out all my ornaments and things and have nearly all my clothes. And where I can sit during the day and have much more freedom than the others. I think it is awfully decent of them. The room is lovely, big and sunny, etc. Also, they are arranging for me to go out on Sundays to see churches and on Thursdays to go shopping.

   Then they are still looking for someone to ride with. I believe that is rather difficult. I have Italian lessons every day and during recreation a nun takes me round the garden for Italian conversation. The other lessons are French, drawing, drill, leather work and sewing, then in Italian every morning literature, history or history of art. I don’t understand those very much yet, and Dante is very deep anyhow.

  Would you like me to make a purse at leather-work?

   Yesterday we went out, just our class, and saw things through telescopes in the Observatory, quite fun, and then we went over the Church of San Miniato. It is lovely; there is a crucifix by della Robbia which is very nice and the mosaic and frescoes are nice too. We were out all the morning and the weather was glorious – very sunny and a blue, blue sky. I have German too from the Hungarian girl here; she speaks very well. The Rev. Mother is very nice and so is the headmistress. There is no more room [on this sheet], so cheerio.

Tons of love to everyone,




Letter 5.20. Jane Macaskie at the Grand Hotel Eastbourne, to Florence Macaskie at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Florence, 6 March 1931


My darling Florence,

   I got your letters sent on by Mrs Beaumont [mother of Florence’s schoolfriend Jean] the day before yesterday and was glad to hear that you and your Italian are getting on so well. Do you speak it as well as German yet?

   I expect you will be wondering at my change of address, but Daddy had to come down here yesterday for a case, so I came with him. The case is going on all today and we catch a five o’clock train home. This is quite a good hotel of the English type – very large, very dear, very empty, very ordinary food, very dull people, very comfortable armchairs, very long walk to the bath and other conveniences, very cold bedroom. But we had a fire last evening. This morning I was told I couldn’t light the electric radiator until I put a shilling in the slot – what a way to run the largest and most expensive hotel in Eastbourne. Also, when we arrived last night, the beds were not even made, nor the curtains drawn in our room, although Daddy’s client had ordered it days ago. And yet people are seriously expected to spend their holidays in England.

   Last night there was a dance and Daddy and I danced the polka among other things. This morning I strolled out and, after walking along the front for miles and miles, it being a mild and sunny day with a glassy sea, I went down and sat on the beach! I was the only person in all Eastbourne who thought of such a thing – perhaps it’s verboten [forbidden]. Anyhow, all the rest of the population were sitting in shelters or on seats and chairs or bath chairs in the gardens and on the promenade. Not the place to let yourself go in. …


Letter 5.21. Jane Macaskie at 27 Kensington Square, London W.8, to Florence Macaskie at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Florence, 28 December 1931


   … Now I will tell you how we spent Christmas. Miss Halkett¹ sent some gorgeous holly and greenery and it all looks too lovely in the hall with the oak and the green paint. On Christmas Eve, Nurse and I and Jane went to the Convent [across the Square] for Mass, and it was really beautiful, especially the Procession to the Crib with the Infant Jesus. Coggie [Hume, another old friend of Jane’s] and Patricia were there, and Patricia really hates Mayfield [Catholic girls’ boarding school] and much prefers day school. Which reminds me, a perfectly dreadful book has just been written about Glendower called “Children, be happy!” by a child called Wade² who is now only 21 and I am told was expelled from Glendower and on leaving threatened the headmistress that she would ruin the School. Anyhow, she won’t do that because directly it was published eight libel actions were started against the publishers, though only one so far was fought by a schoolfellow who is grossly libelled under the thinnest disguise. In fact the authoress was so anxious that everyone should recognise the school that she put in a preface to say it was all founded on fact, and called everyone by almost their correct names. The publishers have withdrawn all the copies they can get hold of, and say there are only about 100 copies left at large. Of course, it is bound to do almost as much harm to the school as everyone seems to know what school it is about; and even if people haven’t read it, they know that a book was written that had to be withdrawn at once. Personally, I expect the book is greatly exaggerated, because you wouldn’t expect the unbiased truth from an expelled girl thirsting for vengeance. But I think the worst charge that can be brought against the Glendower specimens like Patricia and the Hornimans is that they are the most perfect bores. …

¹ Miss Craigie-Halkett was an old friend of the family; she came from a moneyed Scottish family and was generous with her gifts.

² Rosalind Herschel Wade (1909-1989), who went on to write over 20 more novels and to lecture on writing and literature.


Letter 5.22. Florence Macaskie at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Florence, to Nick Macaskie in London, 28 December 1931


Dear Daddy,

   Please don’t think me awfully piggy if I haven’t written before now, but we have had such full days since the holidays began. Thanks awfully for the really undeserved Xmas present; really the wireless was supposed to do both birthday and Xmas. Your blotter is quite ready, but it is so nice I thought it would be better to send it by Mrs Beaumont in case it got spoilt in the post. I hope you are all right now – how beastly having a cold at Christmas.

   We have been having quite fun here, but I miss home all the same. I will let you know what we did in order of days, beginning with Xmas eve.

   In the morning, we dashed round the town buying presents for people. It was too hectic for words because everyone wanted to go in a different direction and there was only one chaperone among 15 of us.  However, Jean and I ruled the others with a rod of iron and managed to get all we wanted. It was very cold sunny weather and the Arno was frozen and still is in parts. We arrived home for lunch laden with parcels of every description, including six pounds of rice and maccheroni for the poor. In the evening we had the giving of the presents, and games and things to pass the time till midnight. At 11.30 we all went to the dormitory to wake the little ones who had gone to bed singing carols (we, not the little ones). Then there were three midnight Masses, two of which we heard. The chapel looked lovely. There was no crib, only a wax Infant Jesus rigged up on one of the side altars. After Mass we had hot chocolate and went to bed – at least the others did, only Elizabeth, Rachel, Jean and I went up on the terrace and looked at the moon, which was perfectly lovely, full in a very clear sky.

   On Xmas day we heard two more Masses and then had lunch because the Masses were late. In the afternoon, Jean and I went out with Rachel and had coffee and masses of cakes at a stand-up Café Bar affair such as Florence is bristling with. Then we came home after listening to the sung Vespers in the Cathedral. They sound lovely; it is so enormous and echoey. After supper in the evening, the four of us sang English carols outside the communicating door to the nuns [i.e. their part of the convent]. …  We dressed up again and stood there in the dark with lighted candles. Imagine, Adeste fideles while the nuns came out one by one in silence to go down to the chapel.

   Boxing Day was fun too. In the morning we went to visit the seminary belonging [sic] to the priest who gives us apologetics [a branch of theology], and he showed us all over it. There is a perfectly lovely little chapel, 15th century with beautiful frescoes on the walls and marvellously carved marble altar and tabernacle. You would have liked it. Everything was so in keeping and nothing jarred at all: no paper decoration and glass flowers such as they delight in adorning the churches with in France and Italy – you know the pink paper ones at Fresné [Fresné-la-Mere in Normandy] that have been there since the canonization of the Little Flower [St Theresa of Lisieux] four or five years ago. In the afternoon Elizabeth and the three of us went up to Fiesole to visit the Convent of the Blue Sisters. They are an English nursing order who have convents for convalescing English people in Florence and up at Fiesole.  They were so nice and gave us real tea and bread and butter such as we haven’t had since home. It was just like being back in England with Xmas decorations all round the room and everything so typically English. After tea we explored the garden, which was lovely, and then we went to Benediction. The chapel [in the convent] was very nice and the singing excellent – such a change from here where they all sing through their noses. But we had to go out in the middle and dash up the hill to catch the tram to Florence. Another thing that might interest you and probably Mommy is that we saw there Vernon Johnson, the man who was a famous Anglican preacher and who made a great sensation in London a short time ago by becoming a Catholic. He is studying to be a priest now.

   I must stop now and save the rest of the news for Mommy’s letter. I hope you had a nice Xmas and that your cold is quite gone.

Lots and lots of love and thousands of kisses,




Towards the end of her stay at the Sacred Heart, Florence was joined at the school by her old schoolfriend Jean Beaumont and another English girl. The three girls wanted to go on a 10-day trip to Rome over Easter. Although Florence was now 17, she was still kept very much under her parents’ control, as this letter indicates.


Letter 5.23. Jane Macaskie at 27 Kensington Square, London W.8, to Florence Macaskie at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Florence, 19 February 1832


   … About the Roman trip. Daddy and I would both love to let you go and I think £12 seems a more reasonable estimate than your vague one of £20. I think possibly Daddy will be able to manage it for you if you really give an undertaking not to spend more than that. Of course I should prefer you to stay at the [Convent of the] Sacred Heart rather than than the [Convent of the] Assumption, because they would feel more sense of responsibility for you in one of their own convents. … There is one absolute I make, and I am sure Mrs Beaumont and Elizabeth’s mother will insist on it also – that none of you three are ever to go out in Rome alone. You must always be at least two together. Unless you promise this, Daddy and I would not consent to your going. Also, whichever convent you go to must keep the rules as to hours etc.

   Daddy has at last got back from Durham and is very busy and next week he has several cases. What he dreads is what happened last term when he had to return six cases at Leeds because the whaling case came on here [he was acting for two Norwegian whaling companies who were claiming breach of contract over the sale of whale oil]. He is afraid that the appeal in that case will interfere with his circuit work again. So you might have a few words with St Francis about it; also to get in some fees….