Report by Gill Hollands.
Bobbie Neate’s new book is called Conspiracy of Secrets which is about a family tragedy and serendipity. The book took nine years to write and research, five of which were full time. When it was published, it was classified as a biography on Asquith which she was most unhappy about, but the classification has remained.
Bobbie was one of four children. Her reason for writing this book is because of her stepfather, Louis Thomas Stanley. She describes him as a psychopath; he had no sense of guilt, he was persuasive, used his power, was attractive and a wonderful liar. He took in everyone around her mother. Louis had always been very secretive about his birth, his upbringing and his parents; even about what he did in the war. If questioned by the children, they were beaten and sent to bed. It was not until her mother became ill that he poured her money into her care, with a team of thirty nurses plus carers. Her mother had had a stroke and he had not called for any medical assistance. The family had to fight him for access to their mother; it ended in involving the Police and the matter was taken to Court.
Bobbie stated that the start of a book is always crucial. Hers begins ‘Names have always fascinated me’. Louis did in fact mix with many famous people, e.g. Bonham-Carter, the Aga Khan, and she was intrigued by his social connections.
The book Thirty-seven Days refers to Herbert Henry Asquith but it is very dry. However, in it she found a picture of Asquith and compared it to one of her stepfather. (These were passed around at the meeting.) The likeness is striking. Digging deeper, she found that Asquith, who became Prime Minister in 1912, despite having seven legitimate children already, had a girlfriend, Venetia Stanley who was twenty one at the time. Venetia came from a wealthy family, who owned Alderley Hall which had forty bedrooms. She was fond of animals and kept a penguin, monkeys and even a bear. She was his eldest daughter Violet’s (who later became a Bonham-Carter) best friend. Venetia and Violet went on hustings with Asquith for two elections that took place in 1911.
Infidelity was rife amongst politicians. Even Lloyd George was known to have an affair with his secretary in the same year.
However, despite a double page spread in the Daily Mail no family came forward to deny it. As now, when something is to be hushed up, people keep quiet. It emerged that Asquith wrote five hundred letters which are held in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, but Bobbie discovered that the scandalous letters had been omitted. Bobbie found several however, that made it clear Asquith turned to Venetia for advice during the war and he trusted her judgement. Her letters were kept under his pillow. Churchill often became irate with Asquith as he would write these letters in cabinet meetings.
In summary, Bobbie learned that Asquith was a bragger as was her stepfather and she feels the characters fit, to confirm that indeed her stepfather was the illegitimate son of Herbert Henry Asquith.