Margot Asquith, lived from 2 February 1864 to 28 July 1945. Born Emma Alice Margaret Tennant, and also known as Countess of Oxford & Asquith, she was a writer, socialite and wit, and wife of Prime Minister Herbert Asquith. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Margot Tennant was born near Peebles in the Scottish Borders. She was the sixth daughter and eleventh child of the politician and industrialist Charles Tennant and his wife Emma Winsloe. Brought up on the family estate, Margot was inseparable from her sister Laura, and as children the two ventured far and wide, developing a life long love of both riding and golf. The two entered London society together in 1881. Laura married in 1885 and died in 1888, a loss from which Margot never fully recovered.
Margot married the politician Herbert Henry Asquith on 10 May 1894, becoming stepmother to his five children by his first marriage and drawing him into her high-flying social circle. They went on to have five children of their own, two of whom survived infancy. Herbert Asquith became Prime Minister in 1908. He was Prime Minister at the outbreak of the First World War, and continued in that role until his political downfall in 1916. At the time, many felt that Margot's outspoken views on a range of subjects and her lavish image and lifestyle contributed to the growing unpopularity which led to Asquith's resignation on 5 December 1916.
After the war the Asquiths continued to hold a central role in what was left of London society. Herbert's death in 1928 left Margot with a lifestyle she was no longer able to sustain and she spent her remaining years trying to support herself through her writing. She died of pneumonia in 1945.
Part of Margot's legacy lies in a series of quotable quotes which have long outlived her, a few examples of which are given below:
"He has a
brilliant mind until he makes it up."
"She tells enough white lies to ice a wedding cake."
"What a pity, when Christopher Columbus discovered America, that he ever mentioned it."
"He's very clever, but sometimes his brains go to his head."
"From the happy expression on their faces you might have supposed that they welcomed the war. I have met with men who loved stamps, and stones, and snakes, but I could not imagine any man loving war."
"No one ever pruned me. If you have been sunned through and through like an apricot on a wall from your earliest days, you are oversensitive to any withdrawal of heat."