Lady Cynthia Asquith

  • Thread starter Hugo Rupert Talbot-Carey
  • Start date


Hugo Rupert Talbot-Carey

Reading through a book on Titanic i bought around a year ago, i came to the passenger list and those lost and saved.
Among the list of first class women saved was Lady Cynthia Asquith.
Upon reading the name Asquith and knowing it was the name of the english prime-minister in the 1910's i looked up Lady Cynthia on the internet.
I discovered she was formerley Lady Cynthia Charteris,and had married Herbert Asquith son of Prime-minister Asquith.
Going back to the book i had read, it said she was travelling alone but was saved.
I then contacted the Titanic Historical Society in America, thinking what an important person she must have been, she would have been a noteable person onboard Titanic.
The society has since told me that SHE WAS NOT onboard Titanic and the book is wrong.
Can anyone tell me for sure if Lady Cynthia was aboard Titanic or not? Many thanks,Hugo

Trent Pheifer

Hey Hugo,

Welcome to the boards!

A quick look at the passenger list on ET showed no results for a Lady Asquith. It seems her title would have stood out in researchers minds if she were onboard. If she is not on the list on ET then she was not on the Titanic. The Titanic Historical Society was right. It seems a lot of people have relatives that claim they were on the Titanic, but much is family lore. If you don't mind my asking, what book are you reading? Hope that helps.

I suspect the book was Titanic: Fortune and Fate. This generally interesting book contains a number of odd errors, such as the number of third class passengers.

Lady Cynthia Asquith was a traveller who wrote about her experiences at sea but she was not on Titanic. I don't know if there is a 1912 source for her being on board but it's possible, as a number of people were listed as passengers in early newspaper reports. George Eastman of Kodak was one such.

Hugo Rupert Talbot-Carey

Hi Dave/Trent
The book i was reading was Titanic:Fortune and Fate.
I picked it up at a little book store in Covent Garden. Most of the content is interesting,but some is a bit misguided!!
Thanx for clearing this up for me, Im sure Lady Cynthia was relieved aswell!!!

Inger Sheil

Shades of Thresh's declaration that Mrs Ismay "survived the sinking"...!

A rather misleading impression was given at the London Science Museum exhibition recently, where a Cynthia Asquith quote regarding the Edwardian era was blown up on a large board, side by side with quotes from survivors. I suspect a lot of the quotes were taken from those compiled for Last Dinner on the Titanic, which included general period material and observations from the era, but not necessarily from those connected with the Titanic. LDOTT did not state that Asquith was a Titanic passenger.

I miss those Covent Garden bookshops, Hugo - not to mention the ones in Charing Cross Road!
The Ismay story is a bit more understandable, as Mrs Ismay landed from Adriatic at Liverpool with Bruce on his return from New York. She'd actually joined the ship at Queenstown.

Hugo Rupert Talbot-Carey

The book i read Titanic fate and fortune stated that Lady Cynthia Asquith WAS a Titanic Passenger although very good sources have since proved this is false.
I dont know about Last Dinner on Titanic as i have never read it.
There are quite a few 'notables' who were thought to have been booked aboard / cancelled on the Titanic. The Mitford sisters seemed to have thought their mother and father, Lord and Lady Redesdale, were to have travelled on it, and they seemed rather disappointed that their parents missed the boat...! Kids, don't you just love them?
Hugo wrote: "...The book i read Titanic fate and fortune stated that Lady Cynthia Asquith WAS a Titanic Passenger..."

You are right. "Titanic: Fortune and Fate," while a stunning book visually, made several factual errors as well as some editorializing that I thought was in bad form.

"Last Dinner on the Titanic" was, as Inger indicated, a possible culprit in spreading the misinformation about Cynthia Asquith, who is quoted in that book's section on Edwardian fashion. I thought it was not only confusing but a little unnecessary to go to Asquith's diaries on the subject when the authors could have consulted myriad contemporary material on Lucile, who was the most obvious best source on costume of the era.
I'm a great fan of Cynthia Asquith's wartime diaries. She was evidently a woman, not only of beauty and breeding, but also of great intelligence, wit and compassion. She lost two brothers to the war and her account of each death, one after the other, and the devastating impact on her family, makes for heart-breaking reading.

As with Missie Vassiltchikov's 'Berlin Diaries' from the 1940s, there is a real sense of unreality about Asquith's experiences during the conflict - her life of aristocratic luxury and privilege, played out against a background of truly earth-shattering historical events. When the 'Lusitania' is sunk, she muses on how the event seems relatively unimportant at a time of such universal suffering, when three years earlier, the 'Titanic' disaster dominated thought and conversation for months. Lady Cynthia was a good friend of Ava Ribblesdale (Colonel's Astor's first wife who went on to whoop it up in London Society) and also visited Lucile's showroom sometime in 1915 or 1916, whilst looking for costumes for a charity matinee she was putting on with some friends. She wasn't very impressed with the dresses she was shown there and the matinee itself turned out to be a bit of a trial. The idea was to cast debutantes and Society matrons alongside professional actresses (I think Lily Elsie may have been involved) but neither group took kindly to this plan and a lot of back-stage bitchery went on!
Did Ava Ribblesdale whoop it up then? My impression of her was of someone who preferred horses to people and didn't cut the social figure that she might have if she'd chose.

I should check out Cynthia Asquith's diaries. I read the letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill two summers ago and loved them. And I know what you mean about it all being very surreal the way these people carried on in the midst of such hell.
I am by no means an expert on Ava Ribblesdale, so anybody is free to contradict me if what I'm about to say is wrong. But MY impression is that she was a woman who saw a life in Society as an end in itself and who would stop at nothing in the pursuit of her social objectives. Didn't she actually look down upon Colonel Astor as a clod-hopping bore?

Most of what I know of the woman is derived either from previous posts on this site or from 'The Langhorne Sisters' by James Fox. Ava Astor (as she then was) was a contemporary of Nancy Langhorne (soon to be a British Astor) and was, I think, instrumental in introducing her to London Society around the turn of the century. Fox's description of Ava makes for wonderful reading - he manages to paint a vivid picture of her in very few words. 'Permanently disatisfied' and 'furiously social' are two terms which ring bells with me, although (once again) I don't have the book to hand.

In later years, one of the Langhorne sisters encountered Ava walking on Fifth Avenue. In a letter home, she describes how, on a boiling hot day, Ava was dressed in furs and a low-cut gown and looked as decadent as a half-melted ice-cream.
Martin - it sounds like you've read more on her than I have. I know at least part of my impression was drawn from her obituary, which I think is on this site and praised her equestrian skills and said that she never "claimed social leadership" as she was expected to do at the time her marriage to JJ took place. Not an in-depth source, by an means.
Golly me, but with Caroline Astor as a mother-in-law, who would WANT to claim social leadership? I would have hated to tangle with her and her pet monkey, Ward MacAllister! Besides, maybe by rejecting social leadership, she was actually raising herself above the vulgar fray and so asserting her superior breeding? But, then again, I can only speculate...
"Besides, maybe by rejecting social leadership, she was actually raising herself above the vulgar fray and so asserting her superior breeding?"

Speculation, yes, but good thinking. Even if it wasn't an attitude Ava herself possessed, it would have been one many of her ilk did and do. And with good reason, IMO.