Francis George Leyland Wooster

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Francis George Leyland Wooster ("Frank Wooster")
and a possible link to Bertie!
  Tree  Military  Gravestone
by James Gibbs

I am not a Wooster, but I have become interested in Francis George Leyland Wooster ("Frank Wooster") b. 13 January 1890, the illegitimate son of Liverpool shipping-magnate and patron of the arts, Frederick Richards Leyland (1831-1892) by Annie Ellen Wooster (1861-1919).

Annie was born in Camberwell, daughter of George Wooster (great grandson of Aaron Wooster and Mary Simms) of Peckham and Eliza Frances Wooster nee Hersee. Annie was one of five sisters and she had two sons by Leyland.

Although Leyland died when the boys were still very young, he provided for them and Annie was able to send them to Uppingham.

They may have inherited £100,000 each when they turned 21.

In about 1910, Frank struck up a friendship with Eugene Fould in Paris, and some time later became part of an unusual menage a trois. Shortly after Eugene's death, in 1929, he married his widow, Marie Cecile ("Mitzi") Fould Springer. She was very wealthy indeed.

By this marriage, Frank became step-father to four children, all of whom had interesting lives. For example, the eldest of the three daughters, Helene, married a Spanish diplomat and her daughter, Eleana, married Raymond Bonham-Carter. Eleana is still alive and her daughter is Helena Bonham Carter.

I became intrigued by Frank because he lived in the house next to the one my son lives in, in Northern France. Frank's life, in Paris, Vienna, Gallipoli, and Florence - fascinated me.

Here is a 'sketch'/ equisse by Suzanne Valdon of Frank.



It was at http://www.catherine-charbonneaux.com/cat/2003/20030130/p/p04.htm

Frank was regarded as very handsome,  ... v'matinee idol good looks'.

Some of the Wooster Family Group may have read 'The Hare with Amber Eyes' by Edmund de Waal and may have noticed that Frank Wooster is mentioned. (His wife's first husband was Eugene Fould, whose family was related to the de Waals and the Ephrusis.).

A few sentences from a review of a recent publication, Fault Lines by David Pryce-Jones, contain information and speculation that may interest those who enjoy Jeeves and wonder if there might be some sort of a Wooster family link with Bertie. In the October number of Commentary Magazine, Dominic Green wrote:

'...at the mansion of Royaumont near Paris, Poppy's parents, Mitzi and Eugène, were outlandishly rich and highly assimilated, at least in their own estimation. Half-unhinged by "Jewish nerves," the Fould-Springers were so cultured that they used Proust's dentist, even though his technique was "half a century out of date." Eugène was in love with Frank Wooster, a posh English idler who, having golfed with P.G. Wodehouse, may have been the inspiration for the posh idler Bertie Wooster. Mitzi was also in love with Frank. In 1922, when Poppy was eight, Frank and Mitzi left Eugène. "Homosexuals make the best husbands," Mitzi explained, remaking herself as a Protestant Englishwoman called Mary Wooster. https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/his-beautiful-launderette/

The book is published by the New Centurion (US). ISBN: 9780985905231, RRP £20. It is not stocked by Waterstones or Foyles in Bristol and may most easily be obtained by ordering on line. I am waiting for a copy that, I am sure, will have more on Frank Wooster.

Christie's recently held a huge sale of Fould Springer property in Chantilly.

The website plays down the fact that Frank was Baronne Fould Springer's second husband. After he died, she referred to him as her angel and wanted to set up monuments to him. In Montreuil sur mer in the Pas de Calais where Frank and Mitzi (and part of the time Eugène) lived, there is a 'Museum of Hope'. ('Hope' - perhaps - in the ability of Frank to communicate with her from beyond the grave!). In her will, Mitzi left the Hôtel to the town on the understanding that it would be opened as the Museum and in order to ensure a regular income for the Museum, she bequeathed the Château de Montreuil to the town. (Frank was rendered 'Franck' on the gate!)

The first picture shows the garden that Frank gave, and the second is of the plaque in that garden.

 

The next three pictures show the Hôtel d'Acary (a.k.a. 'Maison Wooster'), the Château de Montreuil, and the bridge connecting the gardens of the two properties. Frank first saw the Hôtel d'Acary, that he subsequently sometimes referred to as his 'Dream House', in about 1910, and Mitzi bought it some twenty years later. Now a hotel/restaurant, (4.5 stars from booking.com) the 14 - bedroom Château was built to accommodate members of Mitzi's family, but there is little evidence they wanted to visit or stay! Frank is sometimes credited with designing the Château that can be reached from the Hôtel d'Acary by the 'Japanese foot-bridge' - now a liability.



   

The notice on the gate of 'Maison Wooster' refers to the 'Foundation Franck and Mary Wooster' - the body set up to ensure that the gift was employed in accordance with Mitzi's wishes as a 'Musée de l'Espoir'.

However, 'Mitzi's wishes' - that were tied up with her ideas about Frank and 'religion' - were a totally inadequate basis for a museum, and the municipal authorities should never have agreed to go along with them. The trustees of the 'Fondation' never, I think, met, and the magnificent property was only ever open to the public at very restricted times - just enough to carry the day when Mitzi's heirs took the town to court for failing to comply with her wishes.

On the gate can be discerned the ghostly outline left by a notice that once carried information about opening hours. The house is now permanently closed, unsafe and, one may sadly conclude, in a 'hopeless' condition. Rather than an ornament to the town, it is an example of 'bequest blight'.

There are several reviews of Fault Lines on the web, and an interview with Pryce-Jones can be found at https://ricochet.com/podcasts/dp-j-a-life-in-full/

James Gibbs, 8 Victoria Sq, Bristol BS8 4ET

jamesgibbs@btinternet.com

Footnote: It would seem that Frank's exploits were reported far from Britain! This newspaper article from the New Zealand times was found on the PapersPast website:



There is more information on this story on the Mitchell Families Online website

  Page last updated

  09 April 2017