Lady Duff Gordon's Titanic Letter


Randy Bryan Bigham

In response to a letter of encouragement from her friend and client Margot Asquith, wife of British Prime Minister H.H. Asquith, Lucy Duff Gordon penned the following note on 4 pages of personal stationary headed "22 Lennox Gardens London" and dated May 16, 1912:


My Dear Margot,

What a welcome your kind letter was to us. After all the horror and confusion this last month has wrought, it is truly a wonderful relief to find ourselves among friends and family once more. At last to have Esme with me and the children whom I thought I might never see again.

We do all undervalue our daily existence. But when that is threatened how sweet are the mundane things of life! Here in the house, the dreadful back stairs I wanted to pull down now seem quite lovely and I am only too glad to be able to climb them again.

But O, Margot, the utter sorrow I feel for all the poor souls who cannot know the joy of a homecoming, whose dear ones are distracted with grief over their loss, is at times more than I can stand. The why of it all perplexes me so that I am not able quite to rest, which disturbs Cosmo exceedingly on my account as he is insistent that I should try and not think of it. And yet he thinks of it all the while and shuts himself up in the library for hours on end, dear man, worrying and looking a fright when he emerges, he is so downcast.

Our suffering is made all the more acute as you well know by the vicious reports which are making the rounds of the press and seem to be growing more outrageously vile by the day. Poor brave little Franks is here at my side, as ever, and her nearness is a comfort and a blessing. She will be with me tomorrow in the court.

I am very much pleased and touched to learn that you intend coming and showing your support for us. I feel an enormous dread of the moment we shall take the box but there is nothing for it as we must defend ourselves against the atrocious lies being printed and which have caused us the greatest distress.

Knowing you are to be there, dear one, will soothe my nerves somewhat I trust, and I am indeed thankful for your special words of encouragement at this most trying time.

Fondest love,



A transcript of this letter was made available to me by the late Earl of Halsbury, Lady Duff Gordon's grandson. As Lord Halsbury had always been very guarded with me on the subject of the Titanic, it was with some emotion on his part and mine that he handed this document to me on my last visit with him before his death from a massive stroke in January last year. There were no words exchanged though the tears welling in his eyes told me what he could not say.

I never asked Lord Halsbury how he came by this letter. I can only imagine that his grandmother had made a copy of it or that the Asquiths, whom he knew, had returned it to him at some later date.

I was feeling meloncholy today over the loss of my friend whose support and advice I sorely miss. I wanted to share this historic letter with my friends here on ET as both a token of my admiration of a very great man and a tribute to his remarkable grandmother ("Gar" he called her), whom he loved so much.

I have the intention of giving a copy of this transcript to the Titanic Historical Society.

Hi, Randy!

Thank you for posting the text of that letter -- it's a treasure. Well done, old chap.


Indeed! Thanks so much for sharing that marvelous letter and your accompanying thoughts here, Randy. It's really quite remarkable! Bravo, sir.

John Feeney
My repects, Randy, about the loss of your friend Lord Halsbury a year ago this month.
Three cheers for your find, though. This letter is something that shakes all the cobwebs off of Lady Duff-Gordon's dusty image in the lore of the Titanic and reminds us all that she was a person just like any of us.
It also shows us that she wasn't unaffected by what she had endured (are we even SURE she said to Miss Francatelli "There's your beautiful nightdress gone." right after the grisly finale of the T.'s sinking?), and that neithier was Sir Cosmo.
Congrats once more, Randy! :)

Richard K.
Randy, thanks for sharing- letters reveal so much don't they? I would love to collect letters of Titanic people someday and put together a volume- much like the book of private correspondence which was published after the deaths of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The Smith letters would be a great addition in such a format- I have a few other postcards and survivor letters. The details so fascinating- just little glimpses of their everyday life so often missing in newspaper reporting.
Thank you all so much for sharing the private writings of those who survived or the relatives of those who survived.

I can not fathom what I might of felt had I been in their situation, the depth of feeling that is expressed in the many letters and accounts that I have read over the years..

I agree, a book of letters should be done.. it would be a huge asset, to set right, what the press made wrong.

Dear Randy,

Thank you very much for sharing this letter!! It was very touching to read, as well as the story of your friend. And it's a wonderful thing that such things are treasured through all this time and still reach us.

A collection of letters like this would make a great book, maybe completed with the stories of such remarkable friendships with the families of the survivors.

My thoughts are with you.

best regards
My ET friends,

Thank all of you so much for your kind messages of appreciation about Lucy's letter. I am happy that others find it as special as I do.

When I began my research the farthest thing from my mind was that I would become as attached to the Duff Gordons' story as I have. It was also unthinkable that I would actually come to know their relatives and even count some of them as friends.

My book is finally being considered by a publisher of high reputation and preliminary word is positive so I'm kocking wood and crossing fingers all over the place.

Excerpts from Lucy's Titanic letter are included in the relevent chapter in my mss but I hope it can be published in its entirety in the kind of book of letters some of you are expressing interest in.

If this interest is any indication of how a great many others feel, then it should inspire two authors whom I understand are working on just such a volume.

I add my voice to the general call for a book of letters from or to Titanic survivors/victims and their loved ones as such a book would be of inestimable value to history - perhaps the most important book ever to deal with the subject of Titanic from the point of view of the people who sailed her.

Thanks again everybody.

Thanks for sharing this one Randy. This is something that I think a lot of Duff-Gordon detractors really ought to read. And my condolances to you on the loss of your freind.

Michael H. Standart
Many thanks for sharing this fascinating letter with us all. It goes to show how the Duff-Gordons were maligned by the media and portrayed as unfeeling.

"If this interest is any indication of how a great many others feel, then it should inspire two authors whom I understand are working on just such a volume.

Hi, Randy:

I certainly hope it does -- such a compendium would be an incredible treasure! I don't know if those two authors are peeking in, but "YES INDEED!"

I felt the same way when Shelley posted those Captain Smith letters from Mystic. These personal communications add a whole 'nother dimension to the people involved, whom we all too often see as little more than cardboard cutouts in a diorama -- two-dimensional characters in a play, rather than fully "fleshed out" human beings.

(As a side note, does anyone know if -- outside of "Titanic Voices" -- *any* significant compilation of unabridged survivor reminiscences has been published? Naturally, I'm aware of the Hearings, and I've read that Paul Quinn's books contain significant *excerpts*, but are there any actual compendia in existence?)

Many thanks!
John Feeney
Randy -

Just echoing what the others have said - good stuff! There's nothing that engages us quite as much with the story of the Titanic as a personal, candid letter - the voice of the writer speaks to the reader without the filtering through the medium of anyone else's thoughts or interpretations. It's quite as powerful (if not more so) when reading the letters of those who didn't survive, and whose correspondence ends shortly before or after boarding the ship - a voice cut off in mid-sentence. There have been moments in reading the private correspondence of these individuals, however, when the material has been so personal as to make me feel an intruder - I know of some letters that most certainly were not meant for the public, written by a man who could have had no idea that his sole place in history would be as a victim of a notorious maritime disaster.

Good news, too, on the publication front :) Best of luck to you with this, and I hope to see that book on the shelves as soon as possible.

All the best,