The price of a slice of the truth

Nearly 350 years ago William Prynne, a lawyer from Lincoln’s Inn, found himself in a dank and dirty corner of the Tower of London.
It was a place where soldiers and civil servants refused to work ‘for fear of fouling their fingers, spoyling their cloathes, endangering their eyesight and healths by the cankerous dust and evil scent.’
Prynne was King Charles II’s new keeper of the National Archives.
And he was no stranger to the Tower. He had been jailed for life, had his cheeks branded with the letters SL – for seditious libel – and his ears chopped off, for a pamphlet attacking actresses and, by implication, Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I.
A report of  the trial of William Prynne Esq, in the Star Chamber, for writing and publishing 'A Scourge for Stage-Players,' can be found in the Archives. Subsequent keepers have been less harshly treated.
Prynne wrote: ‘In raking up this dung heap I found many rare antient precious pearls and golden records &c.’
It is a sentiment echoed every day in the modern National Archives building at Kew, where researchers request 600,000 document files a year and millions of documents are viewed online.
These are just some of the gems from my researches, many of them published for the first time, but none of them worth losing an ear for.

© These pages and their content are copyright of Peter Day 2014.

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Daisy Fellowes
by John Singer Sargent

Fashion icon with a hot line to wartime German intelligence

German military intelligence opened a secret communications route to London during the Second World War – so that one of the world’s most glamorous women could keep in touch with her family in Occupied France.
Daisy Fellowes was married to Winston Churchill’s cousin Reginald and was the mistress of his Minister of Information, Duff Cooper.
She was a much-photographed fashion icon, the face and figure most often used to model the creations of leading designer Elsa Shiaparelli.
As an heiress of the Singer sewing machine family fortune she was also fabulously wealthy.
MI5 files at the National Archives reveal that the children of her first marriage, to the Prince de Broglie in Paris, were practically destitute until an agent of the Abwehr – German military intelligence – stepped in to help.
Alfred Kraus escaped to Britain after the Allies re-captured Paris in 1944 and told interrogators at Camp 020 on Ham Common, south-west London how he set up the link so Daisy could sign authorities for him to manage her French estates.
She had no idea that the flat Duff Cooper had provided for her in Chapel Street, Belgravia was to be one end of a clandestine postal system via Lisbon back to Berlin.
The Abwehr hoped that British mail censors would be too sensitive to interfere with the communications of such a well connected woman and that they could use the Lisbon forwarding address to get reports back from secret agents.
Daisy and the Price had three daughters but discovered he was gay when she caught him in bed with their chauffeur. He died of influenza while serving with the French army in 1918.
She was notoriously unmaternal and reputedly said of her daughters: ‘The eldest is like her father, only more masculine. The second like me, only without the guts. And the last is by some horrible little man called Lischmann.’

The last of the three, Princess Jacqueline, married Kraus. He was a senior manager of the Siemens electronics firm and had been put in charge of their Paris operations, manufacturing radios for the German army.
He told his interrogators that when he met Jacqueline in February 1941 she was broke and he used his position as an Abwehr agent to requisition the old Broglie family home in Paris.
Jacqueline had been working for the French Resistance and Kraus betrayed her Resistance colleagues to the Germans to save her.
The MI5 report explains that Kraus needed Daisy's written legal approval before he could take over the the Broglie estates in France. He fixed up a cover address in Portugal for the exchange of correspondence and in return arranged to release 300 kilos of gold and silver plate belonging to the Fellowes family and others. It had been left at the Carlton Hotel, Cannes when wealthy Britons fled their villas in the south of France.
Despite Kraus’s admitted espionage and treachery, questions in Parliament, and French plans to prosecute him, he was sent to an internment camp in Germany after his interrogation.
MI5 officer Helenus Milmo wrote on the file: ‘As regards the suggestion that Mrs Fellowes should be questioned, we do not think that the investigation of Kraus has revealed anything which suggests in any way that the lady is of security interest, still less that she was in any way connected with her son-in-law’s activities in Paris.’


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