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In October 1943, two years after the death of his wife, Margaret, David Lloyd George married Frances Stevenson, his mistress of 30 years. The king and the prime minister offered their congratulations. Lloyd George's secretary, A J Sylvester, who had organised decades of subterfuge for the couple, complained in his diary: "He has lived a life of duplicity. He has got clean away with it." It is difficult to believe that a British politician could do the same today.
The details are extraordinary. At first, the pretty 22-year-old schoolteacher was employed as the summer tutor for Megan, the young daughter of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as he then was. Soon, Frances was his private secretary, and by 1913, they were lovers. So, throughout the war and the Paris peace negotiations "The Man Who Won The War" had his "pussy" by his side more often than his wife. While Margaret stayed at the family home in Criccieth, Frances was virtual mistress of the Lloyd George household.
It was a consuming affair that required accomplices. First J T Davies as the PM's personal private secretary and then Sylvester covered for them. Society figures like the owner of the News of the World, Sir George Riddell, and Sir Philip Sassoon regularly hosted them. There was even an attempt to mask the relationship by marrying Frances to a compliant young Captain, Billy Owen. By the Thirties the affair was an open secret with both Frances' and Lloyd George's families fully aware.
There were plenty of complications. Frances had at least two abortions and when she did have a child, she took out adoption papers, never openly admitting that Jennifer was hers. She had other sustained affairs, not least with the married war hero Colonel Thomas Tweed, who as Liberal campaign manager also worked for Lloyd George. Indeed, as John Campbell comprehensively explores, it is possible that Tweed was Jennifer's real father.
So this is a story that begs you to judge its protagonists. It is difficult not to be critical of the hypocritical jealousy, the egotism and the downright insensitivity of the great Liberal. Yet despite rows and intense negotiations, both Frances and Margaret seem to have loved Lloyd George and derived enormous pleasure from their relationship with him. …