Skip to main content

It has been said that, aside from Waldorf, Nancy's relationships with her friends were the most important part of her life. These friendships could bring out the best and worst in her.

To those who weren't in favour she could be bullying, possessive or sometimes difficult to get close to. To those who were in favour she was a tower of strength, energy and loyalty. Waldorf was largely excluded from these friendships but he had nothing to fear as they were always strictly platonic.

She also had her enemies - in Parliament and also in the press. MP Horatio Bottomley, the editor of the powerful weekly paper 'John Bull' was a critic of hers. In April 1930 the intellectual, Harold Laski branded her 'The Pollyanna of Politics'.

Important friendships

One of Nancy's most important and consistent friendships was with politician Philip Kerr, the Marquis of Lothian (1882 to 1940). They first met in 1909 and became very close. Like Nancy he was prone to overworking himself and then suffering from bouts of exhaustion. He was also a Christian Scientist. She offered him advice and moral support when he was feeling low. A regular visitor to Cliveden, he became her religious and spiritual advisor.

Cliveden parties

Cliveden, in Buckinghamshire had been given to Nancy and Waldorf by his father when they married. It had been built in 1850 by Sir Charles Barry, the architect of the Houses of Parliament, and modelled on a Roman villa.

Once they had settled in the Astors began to hold weekend parties. Famous authors, public figures, friends of Waldorf's from Oxford, family members and other Christian Scientists were invited - even royalty.

More and more Cliveden became a centre for ministers, MPs and reformers to meet and discuss their ideas. The conversations flowed and so did the drink - although only for the guests.

The Appeasement Scandal

In 1938, Cliveden, the Astors and their friends became a target for negative publicity when, due to their support of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's policy of 'appeasement', they were accused of sympathising with Nazi ideas.

Nancy and Waldorf did not believe that Hitler wanted war but had to backtrack when he invaded Czechoslovakia. Unfortunately, it was clear that politics had been discussed around the Astor dinner table by a group of people 'engaged in public life' and the damage to their reputation had already been done.

Download one or more of the documents below to find out more about some more of Nancy Astor's friends and foes:

T.E. Lawrence biography

Nancy Astor and George Bernard Shaw at Cliveden
© Plymouth City Council (Arts and Heritage)
Nancy Astor and George Bernard Shaw at Cliveden
© Plymouth City Council (Arts and Heritage)