Before teaching a toddler that famous song about Daisy Daisy and her bicycle built for two—maybe consider the source material. Daisy Greville was an active member of Prince Albert Edward’s Marlborough House Set and, while this may sound like a prudish club, it was anything but. The club was a notorious den of sin that Daisy Greville always seemed to be at the center of. The club specialized in unbridled adultery—oh, and they also played cards. Keep reading to learn more about history’s most scandalous socialite, Daisy Greville.
Unbridled Facts About Daisy Greville, The Saucy Socialite
1. There Was An Age Gap
Daisy Greville was born Frances Evelyn Maynard on December 10, 1861 in London’s Berkeley Square. As far as parents go, Daisy was stuck with Colonel Charles Maynard as her father, and her mother was the Colonel’s second wife: Blanche Fitzroy.
Fitzroy came from a royal background, and had more than a few connections to the King of England. Despite her status, Fitroy’s marriage to the Colonel started with a bit of scandal: when Daisy was born, her father was 50 years old, and her mother was still an 18-year-old girl.
One of the benefits of having an older man thrust at you for marriage is that after he passes, there’s a second chance at life. But would Daisy’s mom be that lucky?
2. She Didn’t Have To Worry
Daisy was the older of the two girls and her younger sister went by the nickname Blanchie, after their mother. The two girls didn’t have to worry about their future because their father was the heir apparent of Henry Maynard, 3rd Viscount Maynard. This meant that Dad was going to come into a pretty hefty inheritance and all he had to do was outlive the Viscount.
How hard could that be? Apparently, too hard.
3. He Didn’t Quite Make It
Sadly, Daisy’s father didn’t manage to outlive the Viscount and passed when Daisy was just four years old. So, who gets the inheritance when that happens? Well this was good news for little Daisy because the entire inheritance went to her. So, how much did the four-year-old Daisy get? Well, it wasn’t really about cash, it was about real estate. Daisy inherited Easton Lodge in Little Easton Essex.
Sure Daisy was now rich, but she no longer had a father. That turned out to be something that was easily remedied.
4. They Wasted No Time
So, dad was out of the way, and Daisy Greville’s mother was still young. What was the young widow to do? Once the appropriate mourning rituals were over, Fitzroy married again. Two years after her husband passed, Blanche Fitzroy had found a new man. His name was Lord Rosslyn and was was famous for hanging around the royal court.
Blanche and Lord Rosslyn got right down to it and produced five half siblings for Daisy. Life flew by quickly, and soon Daisy was ready for marriage.
5. She Met Her First Choice
Many people considered Daisy Greville to be a real catch, and she was introduced to many possible grooms. First up for grabs was Queen Victoria’s youngest son, Prince Leopold. The prince was having trouble finding a suitable bride, and was it was all due to one big problem.
Prince Leopold he had hemophilia. This meant that he bruised easily and if he ever started bleeding it would be near impossible to stop it. This was not exactly what a bride wanted to hear about her future husband.
6. She Found One
Daisy was not too keen on marrying Leopold—possibly because of his frailty. But Daisy didn’t have to look very far to find a more suitable replacement. Leopold’s assistant—or aide-de-camp—was standing right there. His name was Francis Greville and his father was an Earl. It took some convincing for Daisy’s parents but in 1881, she and Greville got the okay to wed.
7. She Saw Him
Daisy’s wedding to Francis Greville took place on April 30, 1881. It was a big, fancy wedding at Westminster Abbey, and some royal family members were present. In fact, the Prince and Princess of Wales showed up to give their blessings to the union. Daisy didn’t know it then, but this Prince would soon be having a large—and, at times, tragic—impact on her life.
8. Their Marriage Was In Trouble
Once Daisy and Francis Greville had their wedding celebration behind them, the real partying started. Daisy was making a splash in high society and the parties she threw with her husband were well attended and over-the-top lavish.
There was, however, a dark side to all this partying: both Daisy and her husband started fooling around—with other people. They were young, reckless, and out of control—inevitably, things were about to go south.
9. She Preferred Two Wheels
Around this time—when Daisy Greville was in full party mode—there was a disease that was taking over Britain. Don’t worry, it wasn’t that dangerous: it was cyclomania. Yes, people all over England were getting seriously into riding bicycles. Daisy was an early adapter, but her love for cycling was to get her into a heap of trouble.
10. There Was A Rumor
Daisy loved to cycle and the press loved to write about her two wheeled adventures. Another person who loved cycling was Prince Albert Edward, better known as Edward VII. In addition to a shared love of cycling, the prince also attended Daisy’s wedding.
Well, some members of the press put two and two together and started a rumor that Daisy and the Prince of Wales were doing more than just cycling.
All this gossip running around town prompted a musician to write a song about Daisy. One that had more than a little innuendo.
11. She Didn’t Like Him Back
Henry Dacre saw the cycling craze and wanted to cash in on it. He also wanted to poke some fun at the same time—think of him as an Edwardian Weird Al Yankovic. The most obvious part of his song, which he called “Daisy Bell”, is that it refers to Daisy Greville.
As to the identity of the narrator of the song, it’s anyone’s guess. All we know is that he’s crazy for Daisy—and she’s not exactly crazy back. Many speculated it was about Prince Albert Edward, and it was speculation like this that made Daisy one of the most talked about women in England.
12. They Moved On Up
In 1893, Daisy’s father-in-law passed. This was bad news for him, but good news for Daisy and her husband, because on his passing they inherited an Earldom. This meant a move to the prestigious Warwick Castle, and here is where the real partying would begin.
Daisy Greville had finally reached the pinnacle of society, and was part of the elite. A new crowd of party people were at her disposal—but they would later prove to be quite dangerous.
13. She Was Part Of A Set
Once the right people saw Daisy as a serious host, they invited her to join the A-list of the party circuit. These party people even had a name: The Marlborough House Set. At the helm of the set was Prince Albert Edward—the same prince that the song had accused her of sharing a tandem bicycle with.
The Prince of Wales was in charge of the Marlborough House Set, and he had a peculiar unspoken rule for its female members.
14. They Had To Be Open
Daisy was certainly a prominent member of the Marlborough House Set. She and all the other female members had to abide by a shocking rule: the male members expected them to be open to affairs. And that wasn’t the only rule. If the extramarital shenanigans led to trouble back at home, divorce was not an option.
For those who did try to part ways, the prince’s punishment was severe.
15. They Were Outcast
Prince Albert Edward was in charge of the comings and goings of the Marlborough House Set, and one thing he would not tolerate was divorce—it caused public scandals. His mother, the queen, was very much against what was going on with her son’s private life, so the prince wanted to keep it under wraps as much as he could.
As a result, if a member did seek divorce—and it was usually after a man found out about his wife’s affairs—the punishment was complete banishment from the elite club.
16. She Had A Double Standard
Daisy Greville became obsessed with everything about the Marlborough House Set. It didn’t take long for her to enter into a fully adulterous relationship with one of the members: Lord Charles Beresford. Daisy knew they were both at fault for cheating, but she had a strange double standard. When she found out that Beresford’s wife was pregnant, she went berserk. How dare he make love to his wife!
Daisy was seeing red, and she decided to put her thoughts on paper. Isn’t this always a bad decision?
17. She Ruined Her Life
Daisy wrote a vicious letter to let Lord Beresford know that she did not appreciate him getting his own wife pregnant. The letter was meant for his eyes only—except that’s not exactly what happened. Somehow, Beresford’s wife got to the letter before her husband did.
The pregnant Lady Charles read Daisy’s letter, and her entire life fell to pieces. She’d had no idea about her husband’s infidelity and there it was, written out in long hand by the woman who was ruining her life.
18. She Went To The Top
Lady Charles let a few others read the horrible letter and then gave it to her lawyer—for future use. Daisy soon found out that Lady Charles had gotten her hands on the letter and knew she was in some very hot water. As a member of the Marlborough House Set, Daisy had someone powerful to call on for help.
She went to Prince Albert Edward and tearfully begged him to assist. She had to get that letter back. Because Daisy was one of the prince’s favorites, he agreed to at least try.
19. There Was One Condition
The prince convinced Lady Charles to return Daisy Greville’s scandalous letter, but she had one condition: Daisy would have to stay away from London for the entire season. The always-ready-for-a-party Daisy flatly refused that ultimatum—no letter was worth missing a season of parties. It seemed that the prince liked Daisy’s moxie, so he changed tack and turned his ire toward Lady Charles.
20. He Pushed Him
Daisy refused to miss the party season, so the Prince of Wales gave an ultimatum to Lord Beresford and his spurned wife. The prince told Beresford and Lady Charles that if Daisy’s letter caused a scandal, their position in society would take a disastrous plunge. Beresford was so shocked by this turn of events, that he pushed the Prince of Wales into a sofa. He would have shoved him into something a little harder—or sharper—than a sofa if he’d known the entire truth.
21. She Ruined A Friendship
So, what had had happened was this: While Prince Albert Edward was helping Daisy with her letter problem, passions had arisen between them. Once these two started getting it on, the prince could hardly be friends with Lord Beresford anymore—both men lusted after Daisy.
Daisy, however, wasn’t worried about ruining a friendship. She was over the moon with the prince and showed him just how crazy she was with an elaborate purchase.
22. She Built It For Him
Daisy wanted to see Prince Albert Edward as much as she could, but she was still married—and so was he. The prince couldn’t simply come and go as he pleased, as someone would surely get suspicious. To solve this dilemma, Daisy had architects design and build a rail station close to her house. That way fewer people would see how often the prince dropped in for a “visit”.
As her passionate affair with the Prince of Wales continued, Daisy got careless. It didn’t take long before that carelessness landed her in a world of trouble.
23. She Didn’t Hide It
After a while, Daisy Greville and the prince became bored with keeping their love a secret. Soon, they started attending very public events together.
Albert Edward’s wife had put up with Daisy when things were kept under wraps. But her attitude change once it seemed like everyone knew what was going on between her husband and Daisy. As gossip about Daisy and her two suitors spread, Daisy’s reputation took a tumble.
24. He Was A Cheat
Another cheating scandal was destined to rock the Marlborough House Set. This wasn’t, however, cheating in the bedroom, but at cards. The Prince of Wales loved to play baccarat—which, because it involved gambling, was against the law.
At one infamous game, players got together and accused Sir William Gordon-Cumming of cheating. Of course, Daisy being Daisy, she found herself in the middle of everything.
25. They Assumed It Was Her
Everyone wondered who had spilled the beans about Sir Gordon-Cumming’s cheating. Since Daisy was there—and known for gossip—they assumed it was her. When the cheating and the gossiping came to light in a court of law, the media gave Daisy a very special nickname. Because her husband was Lord Brooke, they called Daisy the Babbling Brook.
But if you think this scandal was just about cards, you don’t know Daisy Greville.
26. He Came Early
Daisy Greville hadn’t put an end to her passionate romance with the prince. Yet, when he went to have one of his special visits with Daisy, he was greated with a heartwrenching surprise. The prince found Daisy in another man’s arms—Sir Gordon-Cumming’s arms, to be exact. Yes, Daisy was cheating on her husband and secret lover with the baccarat cheater.
While there was contraception back in those days, using it wasn’t that common. As such, Daisy had more than one bouncing baby surprise.
27. They Gave Him A Strange Name
Back when Daisy first married Francis Greville, they had a baby boy, who they named Leopold. If that name sounds familiar it should. It’s the same name as the man she cruelly dumped just before marrying Greville. Was this a nasty way to rub it in his face or just a strange coincidence? Let’s just put it down to Daisy’s insatiable love of the non-traditional.
28. The Apple Fell Far From The Tree
Three years after Leopold was born, Daisy had a daughter, who she called Marjorie Blanche. It may sound like Daisy and Greville were very busy in the baby making department, but that was only half true.
While Leopold certainly did take after his father, you couldn’t say the same about Marjorie. You see, Daisy later admitted that Marjorie didn’t resemble Greville for one very good reason: he wasn’t her father.
So, who did father Daisy’s second child?
29. She Had One On The Side
In 1923, Daisy confessed that Francis Greville was not the father of her second child: it was Lord Charles Beresford. Now, Beresford was quite the character. He was a navy man and politician who loved being in the limelight and sought publicity where he could find it. He also had a constant companion: his bulldog.
Well, it would seem that Beresford had another constant companion: Daisy Greville. Yet despite their intense attraction, he wasn’t the only man that Daisy got entangled with.
30. She Met Her Match
For most of Daisy’s time spent with the Marlborough House Set, she was the special companion of Prince Albert Edward. Yet, there were times when her affair with the prince overlapped with another romantic entanglement.
That’s exactly what happened when Daisy met and fell in love with the millionaire Joseph Laycock. Daisy may well have met her match in Laycock, as he rarely formed close attachments to anyone—even his wife.
It was all about the fun for Laycock, but Daisy was in danger of getting in over her head.
31. He Had To Choose
While Daisy was having a passionate affair with Laycock, he was having a passionate affair with Katherine Mary Hare, known as “Kitty”. Kitty received a divorce notice from her husband because of her affair with Laycock, so she wasn’t about to let him off the hook.
If all these romantic comings and goings seem confusing on paper, imagine living them. In the end, Laycock chose to marry Kitty. After all, Daisy already had a husband. That hadn’t stopped her from falling head over heals for Laycock, but it was still the end of their whirlwind affair—or was it?
32. She Kept Score
Joseph Laycock chose to marry Kitty, but that didn’t mean that he suddenly wanted to be monogamous. Unsurprisingly, marriage didn’t stop Daisy and Laycock from continuing their passionate romance. It also didn’t stop Laycock from fathering yet another child with Daisy. At this point Daisy had four living children. If you’re having trouble keeping track, here’s the score: one was from her husband, one from Beresford, and two from Laycock.
Daisy was really making a name for herself—and critics were starting to notice her.
33. She Was Hot With Anger
Journalist and author Robert Blatchford, took aim at Daisy’s outlandish lifestyle. He wrote a scathing critique of Daisy and people like her. He criticized them for their “conspicuous consumption”, especially while other people around were poor and suffering.
Daisy, hot with anger, marched right into Blatchford’s office with one demand: an immediate apology.
34. She Learned From Him
Instead of getting her apology, however, Daisy got something better: an education. Daisy sat down with Blatchford and learned from him. Blatchford was a socialist, and Daisy’s meetings—and there were many—with him would have a lasting impact on Daisy’s life. Daisy was learning so much from Blatchford and now she wanted to know even more.
35. She Joined Forces
The editor of the Pall Mall Gazette was WT Stead, and Daisy turned to him for more inspiration. Stead was responsible for raising the age of consent for women to 16—it had previously been a ridiculously low 13. Stead fought for women’s rights, and Daisy was soon fighting with him. One of the issues they supported together was women’s use of the bicycle. Daisy and Stead made sure that any woman could get their hands on a bicycle—no matter the cost.
But Daisy’s charitable acts didn’t stop there: she was just getting started.
36. She Fought
Alongside Stead, Daisy campaigned for education and the well-being of the poor. She also took on women’s rights, where she fought for education and employment. Sadly, all these charitable acts—and her luxurious living—made her bank account hit rock bottom. Instead of fighting for women’s right to work, it looked like she’d have to get a job herself.
But even in dire straights, Daisy had no aptitude for saving money—just spending it.
37. She Wanted To See Green
Some of the things Daisy Greville spent her money on were simply outrageous. At her home in Easton, she hired a renowned garden architect to create more than 10 acres of parkland. This included a sunken garden, and a canal of lilies.
But Daisy didn’t stop at just a garden, she wanted more. She started with a menagerie of birds and then decided she needed something on the land as well: ponies. The crowning glory of Easton’s little zoo, however, was something quite extraordinary: a striking white peacock.
Of course, all this was costing money—something she was quickly running short of.
38. She Depended On Him
All this time, Daisy had been living off of her inheritance from her grandfather. It also didn’t hurt her pocket book that she was an intimate consort of the prince—who, in the meantime, had become the King Edward VII of England. So, even if Daisy had squandered a good deal of her inheritance, surely the King would make sure she always had money, right?
Yes, he would—but only as long as he was king. And his reign was about to come to a tragic end.
39. She Had Intel
After the passing of King Edward VII, information was the most valuable thing that Daisy posessed. Throughout his life, the king had dozens of extramarital lovers. Daisy knew their names and where the proverbial bodies were. But who would believe the word of someone with the nickname Babbling Brook? Well, for those who refused to believe her, Daisy had scathing proof.
40. She Kept Them
Daisy was about to throw her deceased lover under the bus, and it was all for the love of money. She had in her possession the letters King Edward had written to her. In the letters, the king wrote about his many, many affairs.
Believe it or not, the king had been quite discreet when he was alive, and the public wasn’t aware of how far he had crossed the line into adultery. No one thought he was a saint—or even close to it—but the juicy truth was bound to shock his royal subjects.
Daisy grabbed her handful of letters and set off to sell them.
41. She Went To The Top
Daisy took her stack of indecent letters and went straight to the top. She approached the new King—Edward’s son—and let him know what was in the letters and how damaging they would be to his father’s memory and for the monarchy in general.
A royal secretary quickly put an end to Daisy’s plan and said that since the letters did not belong to her, she legally couldn’t sell them. Did Daisy have a Plan B? Of course she did.
42. She Wanted Only One Thing
A court of law agreed that Daisy had no right to sell or publish King Edward’s letters. This didn’t stop Daisy, though. She turned to the American media and looked for a buyer there.
It seemed that nothing was going to get in the way of Daisy embarrassing the deceased monarch. Of course, there was one thing that could stop her: cold hard cash.
Daisy was desperate to get some much needed money to pay off her debts, but how far would she go?
43. She Received An Offer
The monarchy was in trouble. If Daisy Greville’s letters became public, they would do untold damage to an already weakened royal family. That was when a wealthy British politician—and man of industry—came to the royal family’s rescue.
Arthur Du Cros knew that Daisy wanted money, so that’s what he gave her. He offered her the equivalent of $80,000 USD for the letters—almost $8 million in today’s dollars.
Daisy looked at the offer and said, “Yes, please”. But would it be enough?
44. She Made A Deal
Daisy was still in debt after her big payout. That’s when she got a wild idea: she’d write a memoir. Of course, no one wanted the memoir—likely filled with scandal involving the royal family—to ever see the light of day. So, they struck a deal with Daisy. All her troubles would disappear if she promised them one thing: before she published her memoir, she had to let them edit out the parts they didn’t like.
45. It Hit The Shelves
Daisy Greville’s memoir—Life’s Ebb and Flow—hit the shelves after being heavily redacted. It couldn’t have been too toned down, however, as it received a scathing review from someone close to the countess: her own daughter called the memoir vulgar “muck”.
Obviously, Daisy’s daughter wasn’t the most unbiased critic. Apparently, the book was quite well-written and today, many see it as a valuable insight into society during the Edwardian era.
It seemed like Daisy had found a passion to replace her constant chasing of men: writing.
46. She Rode Alone
Throughout her remaining years, Daisy continued to write. Her books—there were about 12—covered various social issues, history, and also gardening. While the public knew her as a tandem bike rider, in reality she rode alone. After her husband passed, Daisy never remarried. Though, it’s safe to assume she still had a few gentlemen sharing her bicycle every once in a while.
Daisy Greville passed from natural causes on July 26, 1938. She was 76 years old.
47. It Wasn’t Enough
Remember when Daisy got her big payout from Arthur Du Cros? Sadly, that huge fortune only covered part of her deliriously high debt. By 1928, Daisy was in financial trouble again and facing a terrible future: life in a cold, hard prison cell.
Daisy knew she couldn’t publish the letters from King Edward, but she got a sneaky idea: she could publish stories from the letters in the form of a memoir. And the rest, as they say, is history.
48. She Did It Again
Daisy Greville had more kids than most people thought. In 1885, just one year after her daughter was born, Daisy found herself pregnant again. This time, it was a son, who she named Charles. But the joy of another baby was soon overshadowed by the pain of tragedy. Sadly, Charles passed when he was just 16 months old.
According to rumor, however, this child was also a product of Daisy and her secret beau, Beresford. Since all this was happening while she was married to Francis Greville, in the public eye, all her babies officially came from her husband. Of course, we now know that wasn’t true at all.
49. He Didn’t Want Her Near Him
No one can deny that Daisy Greville and Joseph Laycock had a lot of fun together. Well, fun for Laycock, turned into pregnancy for Daisy. While Daisy’s husband was likely used to filling in as the fake dad, the Prince of Wales felt slighted that his secret girlfriend had had a baby with another man.
Albert Edward was reaching his boiling point with Daisy and told her that he was going to distance himself from her. That wasn’t so bad. As we know, worse trouble was on the way when Laycock’s girlfriend found out about Daisy’s pregnancy.
50. She Lost Him
In 1910, King Edward VII heard that his horse had won a race, and he replied: “Yes, I have heard it. I am very glad”. Sadly, these rather banal sentences were the King’s last words. He had been suffering a lung ailment and those were his final words before he fell unconscious.
With the passing of the king, Daisy—now close to 50—had to face her financial problems alone. What would Daisy do? Get a job? Not a chance.
When Daisy had properly mourned the passing of her lover, friend, and King, she did something heartless: plotted a way to get his money. Luckily for the royal family, Daisy’s plan fell through and she went onto cement her scandalous legacy with her salacious memoir.