Dolores Mander

Maria Dolores Beatrice Mander
1919–2007

DOLORES MANDER, or ‘Lola’ as she was always known to her friends and family, was born Maria Dolores Beatrice Evelyn Brödermann in War-torn Hamburg, on 8 February 1919. It was a time of epidemics, Spartacist uprisings and mass starvation in the city; “like the plague” (recalled her godmother, Evelyn), when bodies were piled high in the streets.

Even the rich were not spared. Her mother, (Jeanne) Marie, tipped the scales at just seven stone. A house cow was kept to provide half a litre of milk for the baby before the spring bite of grass and clover; strictly illegal, so a donkey was in the stall as well, to drown the mooing noise.

Brodermann town house at No. 1 Esplanade, Hamburg, on the Alster

Hamburg

Her mother Marie was an English émigrée, a protégée in Germany of Evelyn, Fürstin Blücher, Lola’s English godmother, at whose castle-monastery of Krieblowitz in Silesia her parents–who should surely have known–always said she was conceived. Marie arranged for two friends of the family, Counts Ghika from Waldachia and the dashing Karl von Ledebur, to sleep by the heavily-shuttered windows, arms at the ready, standing by to protect the family’s hotel particulier off Hamburg’s Esplanade from being ransacked by rioters.

The Brödermanns were bankers, merchants and shipowners, dominant in the city’s governance (described in Christabel Bielenburg’s memoir, The Past is Myself). By now they had relaxed into a regime of marrying rich heiresses from Latin America, so they could indulge their passion for steeple-chasing and polo; and presiding with the patrician families in the stuffy Hamburg senate.

But her father Alfred, promoter of the Kolonialbank, died of throat cancer in 1923 at the height of the Weimar hyperinflation. His gilt-edged life policy was cashed in for just five English sovereigns, so ending 500 years of his family’s service to the Free City. She was four years old, and her life was never the same again.

 

 

Dolores with her brother Alfred in 1927

Dolores, Alfred, Mariquita, Edward

Einsiedeln

Marie Brödermann was widowed for the second time at the age of 37 and destitute. She uprooted her young family to settle in Alpine Switzerland, at Einsiedeln, where a baroque cloister-church by the brothers Asam had been built over St Meinrad’s ninth-century grotto. It developed into the major Marian shrine of the Alps, in a taste decried by Zwingli, Gibbon and Casanova. The miraculous black Madonna of Hermits was now dressed in Marie’s pre-War ball gowns.

The young family, well turned out by their governess and evidently metropolitan, were mistaken by the villagers for the Empress Zita of Austria and her children (who were more or less the same ages), caught up in a conspiracy of flight. They were welcomed with due ceremony by the mayor and the village band on parade, presenting their favourite chocolates to the children. Dolores was sent to the village folk school, where her relations would marvel as she prattled in the Swiss dialect, calling her the “Kellerkind”.

She and her younger brother Alfred were pioneer, fearless skiers, spending their holidays at Villa Spuondas, their godfather Heinie von Riedemann’s house in St Moritz. A sense of fun never deserted her. One of her pranks was to orchestrate her Alpine friends to drink from all eight spouts of the fountain in the main square in unison, vainly to stop up the abundant flow from the mountain springs. In later life she had a fund of party tricks, flicking butter to the ceiling with her napkin at Claridge’s, having first made sure the waiters were looking the other way.

London

Her mother, Marie, orphaned at nine, had been taken in by Lady Elizabeth Herbert (of Lea), the philanthropist, introducing her in London under the obscure Russian patronymic, ‘Nicolaieff’. Marie was a prayerful Catholic, demure and beautiful, a spiritual disciple of Lady Herbert’s son-in-law, the modernist theologian Baron von Hügel.

She had married first Francis Lane Fox, rightful heir in line to Bramham in Yorkshire. But his father ‘Primrose’ George had been disinherited with the King’s shilling when he converted to Catholicism after Oxford under the influence of Cardinal Manning in 1867. (The arrangement was surely amicable, and the butler at Bramham would put the port in front of him after dinner, deferring to him for the rest of his life with the precedence of an elder son.) They were planning to settle on the vineyard of Francis’s Weld-Blundell uncle Charles near Fort d'Eau in Algeria. Plans were dashed when Francis was diagnosed with “galloping” consumption on their honeymoon and died six months later, clothed in the habit of the Benedictine monks of Fort Augustus on Leap Day 1908.

After twelve years of wandering in Europe, Marie fled with her young family to England in 1935, to live near to the children’s (step-) grandmother, Annette Lane Fox. She had a grace-and-favour apartment above the Silver Stick Gallery at Hampton Court Palace, where Lola watched out for the ghost of Catherine Howard, which never came.

Lola was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Roehampton (today Woldingham). She worked for her godfather, Heine Riedemann, oil tycoon and foreign strategy director of Standard Oil (whose father had ‘invented’ the oil tanker). He was one of the kind friends and relations, with her banker uncle Frank Tiarks, “the brains behind Schroders bank”, who helped out the family generously in their hour of need.

The War years

 

In the late Thirties, Lola rode pillion to Switzerland behind her brother Edward, bumping over cobbled streets through French towns on the back of his motorbike. She was nearly stranded in Germany, staying in the Lower Rhine with Reichgraf Hem Hoensbroech at Schloss Haag on the outbreak of War, in 1939.

Her sister Quita had to be smuggled out of the Eastern Zone through trackless forests with Hem’s gamekeeper in a cloak-and-dagger mission organised by her brother Alfred, by then in MI9, and her cousin Jocelyn Pereira, and sanctioned by Lord Halifax.

She was discreet, and Halifax, a connection by marriage, found her a job on the staff of the Political Warfare Executive, where her charm and perfect German were deployed in prosecuting the clandestine propaganda and psychological war. In June ’44 she narrowly escaped when she returned late one lunch hour to find her office at Bush House in Aldwych had been blasted by one of Hitler’s new-fangled flying bombs, with major casualties.

Her first fiancé, John Longueville, was tragically killed aged 21 by friendly fire following the Salerno landings in September 1943. Her life took a turn for the better when she married Longueville's brother officer of the third battalion Coldstream Guards, Marcus Mander, on 24 November 1945.

Marcus inherited the family baronetcy aged just 29 in 1951. They sold the monumental family pile at The Mount soon after, and settled at Waters Upton Hall in Shropshire, near the Mander family businesses, land and charities in Wolverhampton.

 

Charles and Dolores wedding on 24/11/1945
Marcus and Dolores wedding on
24th November, 1945

The Cotswolds

Marcus was forced out of the family paint business of Mander Brothers five years later, when he converted to Roman Catholicism. This was not under Dolores’ powerful persuasion, he always maintained, but only after he had strayed into a Catholic church, for want of any other, on a business trip to Damascus.

Lola and Marcus moved to Little Barrow near Moreton-in-Marsh in the Cotswolds in 1959. The years of wandering at last ceased: they remained there for the rest of their lives. Marcus turned to farming and developing a township of 11,500 people on the family estate at Perton in Staffordshire, while Lola was a devoted mother to her family of three children, and an efficient and generous hostess.

She was a loyal consort through 61 years of marriage, an elegant entertainer with a warm and dignified bearing. She kept up pre-War standards at Little Barrow, in London, and on her sybaritic yacht Mariola (‘Marcus and Lola’), as it threaded its way to archaeological sites in then remote anchorages of the eastern Mediterranean.

John Clegg, sometime skipper to the ‘stinkpot’, recalls:

She was always witty and charming, I can remember her being non-plussed once only. We were anchored off a nudist beach in Croatia, a German swam out and in admiring the boat addressed Lola in German. “I never speak to naked men”, she said. “Madam, had I known I would have swum out fully clothed”, was the response.

Lola was strong and a source of strength in others, a wise matriarch who held together her family by force of her loving personality. She had an astonishing memory for nineteenth-century gossip and family secrets, for people and their interwoven relationships, especially an extended kindred among the five generations of the old Catholic families of England and the German-speaking clans of the Gotha whom she had known.

 

One of the first female Names to join Lloyd’s of London, she was pursued to bankruptcy as something of an example by an unforgiving Corporation in June 2000, aged 81, when she refused to pay up in respect of what she considered were fraudulent liabilities (The Times, 24 June 2000). The family house at Little Barrow had to be put on the market. No stranger to adversity and always cheerful, she retired to a gamekeeper’s bungalow on the estate while planning and building a convenient farmhouse in Georgian vernacular, with a lift, triple glazing, and underfloor heating.

 

Charles and Dolores at Little Barrow Farm in 2003
Marcus and Dolores at Little Barrow Farm in 2003

She stayed up late merrily quaffing her favourite port with her grandchildren into the small hours a week before she died. She maintained an example of steadfast faith to the end, a cheerful dowager with a sense of mischief as well as dedicated holiness. She survived her beloved husband Marcus by just eight months. She died suddenly in Cheltenham on Good Friday 2007, leaving three children and twenty descendants.

Family at Diamond Wedding, 2005