Utter Scandal But For Initiates Only

Wednesday 27th May 1936

The King gave the first formal dinner party of his reign at St. James's Palace. As such it was reported in The Times Court Circular, the indispensable guide to what the higher reaches of society were up to. If your name appeared as a Royal guest it was an unmistakable register that you were in the top bracket. Your character was unimpeachable and you could be admitted to Court. The Court Circular was read avidly and closely by anyone who was anyone.

The presence of the Prime Minister marked the event as a specially august gathering and most of the guests that night fitted very comfortably into that definition: a Royal cousin, courtiers, senior politicians, an admiral and a distinguished foreigner, Colonel Lindbergh.  But not all. Lady Cunard was certainly a peeress but her well-attended salon had a rackety reputation, underscored by her conspicuous adulterous affair with the conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham. It was, however, the last name on the list which was the object of utter horror to the relatively small number of people well enough initiated to decode both the social significance and to know what lay behind it. In the normal course of things a minor, American born ship-broker would never have been invited but his wife was scandalously close to the King.