She outlived four husbands, spent their enormous fortunes – and earned the nickname Lady Killmore. Robert Wainwright reveals the secrets of Enid Lindeman, one of history’s most scandalous socialites.
What an entrance!
In August 1948, she stepped on to the main floor of the Casino de Monte Carlo, a silver-haired seductress with turquoise eyes, the action on the tables paused. She always drew attention, often for her fearless style of play as much as for her looks. Legend had it that she had won enough at cards one night to buy the most spectacular home on the Côte d’Azur.
At almost six feet tall, the woman was dressed in a silk evening gown with a three-tiered diamond necklace, her hair crowned with a diamond tiara – a gift from her third husband, Marmaduke the 1st Viscount Furness, to wear at the coronation of an English king. The men at the main table stood as she approached. Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, the third Aga Khan and one of the richest men in the world, smiled at her arrival. ‘My dear Enid, could you not be more discreet with your entrance? Next time, please come in black so I might be allowed to get on with the game without the undoubted distraction that your presence at my table is going to create.’
Lady Kenmare, the former Miss Enid Lindeman of Strathfield in Sydney, smiled quietly and sat down. She was ready to play.
Hello (and goodbye) to husband number one
Born Enid Maud on 8 January 1892, Lady Kenmare as she was to become, was the fifth child of Florence and Charles Lindeman, son of the man who had put Australia on the world stage for wine.
She grew up with her six siblings in the southwest Sydney suburb of Strathfield, surrounded by open spaces and secluded beaches, and left school with one goal in life: to marry well. At 21, she met a wealthy middle-aged American businessman named Roderick Cameron. He was immediately smitten by this tall, elegant woman.
It wasn’t long before they married and in 1913 a son, Rory William Cameron, was born. But their joy was short-lived: Roderick died of cancer before his son celebrated his first birthday. Back in Australia, the focus of the awful news was on his wife, as the Sydney Morning Herald noted: ‘The beautiful girl of 23 who married a millionaire of 45 is now widowed.’
But a year after her husband’s death, Enid had shed not only her widow’s weeds but her wedding ring. The money from Roderick’s will gave her the freedom to travel and – despite Europe being a war zone – in 1916, she and her son went to London then Paris, where she spent her days as a private ambulance driver for the war effort.
Paris, Cairo… and a brush with an Egyptian king
France would change Enid. She was no longer the gawky schoolgirl or the shy young wife of a New York businessman who missed her parents. Within a few months of her arrival in Paris, word got back to the London War Office that she was causing havoc among the officers. Some had even threatened suicide because she wouldn’t accept their advances. Such was her effect on men that, years later, there would be a phone call to Enid’s house from a Mrs Erskine, whose husband, an ageing retired general, was dying. ‘Where is Enid going to be buried when she dies?’ the woman asked. Surprised, the servant who answered the phone replied that she didn’t know. ‘Well, go ask her,’ Mrs Erskine demanded. ‘My husband has always loved her and as he was not able to be beside her in life, he wants to be beside her in death. Tell Enid that she must make up her mind as I don’t intend to keep digging him up.’
It didn’t take Enid long to find her next partner. On Monday, 18 June 1917 at the British Embassy in Paris, 25-year-old Enid married Frederick Cavendish, a man 15 years older than her and already, arguably, married to the army. He stayed with his regiment while Enid travelled between London and Paris with Rory. Then a few years after they married, the family relocated to Cairo, Egypt, when Frederick’s regiment was reassigned. Enid thrived in the exotic mystery of the Middle East. She recalled it later as one of the most memorable times of her life, with picnics beside the Pyramids and languid journeys drifting down the Nile; grand balls in sandstone mansions and moonlit horse races into the Sahara.
On 4 November 1922 the British archaeologist Howard Carter uncovered the tomb of the Egyptian boy-king Tutankhamun. His financial sponsor, the Earl of Carnarvon, permitted only a select few to visit the chamber with its chariot and throne glinting with gold. Enid Cavendish was among them, having met and entranced the earl. Not that she was alone in her marital transgressions. The nature of Enid and Frederick’s marriage was pragmatic. Despite their mutual affairs she gave birth to a daughter, Patricia Enid, on 30 June 1925. Romantic love may have been absent but Enid was clearly content in the relationship, with the arrival 15 months later of another son, Caryll. However, the marriage came to an abrupt end on 8 December 1931, when Frederick was discovered by his valet collapsed in the sitting room of the apartment. He’d had a cerebral haemorrhage.
Jewels, flowers, Rolls-Royce: third time lucky, surely?
Marmaduke Furness was holding a winning poker hand when he first spotted Enid Cavendish at the Le Touquet casino in the late summer of 1932. He immediately lost interest in the cards: ‘I have seen many beautiful women but, from the moment Enid entered the room, my heart stopped,’ he later told friends.
Marmaduke was one of the world’s richest men, thanks to his father and the dubious fortunes of war, for which his factories built and supplied ships. He then sold off most of the family business in a deal worth millions.
Following his first glimpse of Enid at the casino, he spent the next week showering her with gifts. He sent her jewels and flowers and put his chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce at her disposal. She sent everything back. But when he discovered that she was booked to travel back to London on the Golden Arrow, the luxury train between London and Paris, he convinced her to cancel the ticket and fly with him on his private plane. When they arrived in London, he took Enid to dinner at the Savoy, where he presented her with the title deeds to not just the apartment she was renting in Chelsea, but the entire building. Enid was hooked. ‘There was nothing in the world that Duke was not prepared to give me,’ she told friends many years later. ‘Of all the men who loved me, and some were as rich as Duke, only he laid the world at my feet.’ They married quietly on 3 August 1933 at Westminster register office. Marmaduke insisted that his new wife hand over her inherited Cameron fortune as part of the marriage agreement. Enid’s decision to trade her cherished independence for a promise of comfort, however luxurious, would prove a significant mistake and one she would regret.
Whoops, there goes another one (husband)
It turned out Marmaduke had no intention of taking responsibility for Enid’s children. At his house, Rory, Patricia and Caryll were kept out of sight, restricted to an hour in the morning with their mother. Marmaduke and Enid would travel to play in the casinos around the world from the airstrip and hangar he had built at their home. They also flew to Africa, where Duke bought a safari lodge. In Kenya there was a fleet of Rolls-Royce limousines waiting and a champagne bar.
Now in her 40s, Enid was drawing more attention than ever. But what had begun as adulation had now become skewed into an almost constant fit of jealous rage. One night at the Barrière casino, Marmaduke became enraged when he saw another gambler flirting with Enid. He challenged the man to a duel – pistols at dawn. Desperate to end the conflict, Enid delivered an ultimatum to Marmaduke. She had rented a villa near Nice and she would take the children there for the rest of the summer. Marmaduke could follow but if he stayed, the marriage was over. He put his pistols away and trailed after his wife, offering to buy her a summer palace – La Fiorentina – as a sign of his love. Enid’s choice would change her life.
Then war broke out and, in 1940, Marmaduke died. Sought by the German authorities (for aiding the escape of prisoners from the nearby detention camp), Enid and Patricia dashed across the Spanish border, Patrica’s long hair rolled into a series of curls, each concealing the last of their paper money.
Enid’s arrival back in London caused a sensation. She was a heroine: a woman who had remained in her home, defiant of Nazi Germany until the last possible moment, providing aid to the Resistance. But she also had a cloud of suspicion over her head about the death of her wealthy husband and his will.
They moved into a London townhouse. The Blitz was over but bombs were still being dropped. One fell on their garage. Enid, typically laissez faire, only reported it several months later.
She still changed lovers as casually as she did handbags. When she took her bath each night, the maids would lay out a negligee and nightgown to match the colour of the bed sheets – changed daily and sprayed with her favourite eau de parfum, Jean Patou’s Joy. A second set would also be laid out ‘in case Lady Enid wants to change during the night’.
Time to say ‘I do’… yet again
At the age of 50, Enid was looking for security rather than a passionate affair. Both arrived in the rather large figure of Valentine Castlerosse, sixth Earl of Kenmare. Each had something the other desired. Valentine needed money to bankroll his lifestyle and Enid was apparently on the verge of acquiring a substantial share of the Furness estate. Enid needed a social patron and an earl was a step up the social ladder from Viscount Marmaduke Furness. They seemed to be the perfect match.
They married and Valentine’s comings and goings from Enid’s townhouse became the norm. He disliked the staircases, claiming they would be the death of him because of his bad heart, ‘if the sex doesn’t finish me off first’. But he was happy with Enid – despite their lack of money. The papers called her a ‘penniless peeress’ and she took a job in Debenhams as the court case surrounding her inheritance dragged on. Their marriage was surrounded by drama when, at 51, Enid fell pregnant. Doubters were convinced Enid had fabricated this to protect her title. In the end, she decided to have an abortion. But Valentine’s heart did give out (not during sex) and Enid was left a widow for the fourth time.
Finally, one of the world’s richest (single) women
After Valentine’s death, Enid inherited her share of Marmaduke’s estate. She returned to her beloved French palace, La Fiorentina, which became the most famous house on one of the most famous headlands in the world. The visitors book dripped with stardust from John F Kennedy to Frank Sinatra. Even royalty visited: Prince Ranier and Grace Kelly and Edward, Duke of Windsor with his wife Wallis Simpson.
It was here during one drawn-out bridge session that friend and neighbour, playwright William Somerset Maugham, gave Enid the nickname by which she would come to be remembered. Wondering aloud about her name – Lady Kenmare – and the fact that all four husbands had died, he suggested that a more apt title would be Lady Killmore.
Enid Lindeman had been raised to be beautiful and desirable, and had succeeded beyond expectation. Where once she equated love with having to enthral a man who was prepared to buy her anything she desired, Enid now understood that the greatest gift she could be given was to have an equal place alongside, rather than behind, a man. She never married again and in later life she relocated to South Africa. She died from pneumonia in 1973 aged 81, having rattled through most of her fortune. Always very generous (and absentminded: she used to store diamond necklaces in tissue boxes), she lavished houses, farms, planes and boats on her children.
Enid: The Scandalous High-Society Life of the Formidable ‘Lady Killmore’ by Robert Wainwright will be published by Allen & Unwin on 6 August, price £16.99. To order a copy for £10.99, go to whsmith.co.uk and enter the code YOUENID at the checkout. Book number: 9781911630845. Offer valid until 16 August 2020. For terms and conditions go to whsmith.co.uk/terms.