David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale

David Bertram Ogilvy Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale (13 March 1878 – 17 March 1958), was an English landowner and was the father of the Mitford sisters, in whose various novels and memoirs he is depicted.[1]

The Lord Redesdale
The Mitford family in 1928
The Mitford family in 1928
Personal details
Born13 March 1878
Died17 March 1958 (aged 80)
Sydney Bowles (m. 1904)
ChildrenNancy, Pamela, Thomas, Diana, Unity, Jessica, and Deborah
ParentsAlgernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale
Lady Clementine Gertrude Helen Ogilvy
EducationRadley College
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/serviceNorthumberland Fusiliers
Royal Air Force
Battles/warsSecond Boer War
World War I
 • Second Battle of Ypres

Early life

Mitford's legendary eccentricity was evident from an early age. As a child he was prone to sudden fits of rage. He was totally uninterested in reading or education, wishing only to spend his time riding. He later liked to boast that he had read only one book in his life, Jack London's novel White Fang, on the basis that he had enjoyed it so much he had vowed never to read another,[2] although in fact he read most of his daughters' books.

His lack of academic aptitude meant that he was not sent to Eton with his older brother, but rather to Radley, with the intention that he should enter the army. But he failed the entrance examination to Sandhurst, and was instead sent to Ceylon to work for a tea planter.


Redesdale was the second son of Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale and Lady Clementine Gertrude Helen Ogilvy. The Mitfords are a family of landed gentry from Northumberland, dating back to the 14th century; Redesdale's great-great-grandfather was the historian William Mitford. His father, Bertram, called Bertie, was a diplomat, politician and author, with large inherited estates in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire as well as Northumberland. He was raised to the peerage in 1902, and thus his son then became known as The Hon David Freeman-Mitford, although the surname Mitford was more commonly used.[3]

Work and war

In early 1900 he returned to England from Ceylon, and on 23 May 1900 he joined the Northumberland Fusiliers as a second lieutenant.[4] His battalion served in the Second Boer War in South Africa, where Mitford soon joined in the fighting, in which he served with distinction and was wounded three times, losing one lung. He was briefly taken prisoner by the Boers in June 1900 but escaped. In May 1901 he was appointed an Aide-de-camp to Lord Methuen, a senior commander during the war, and on 10 August 1901 he was promoted to lieutenant.[4] He was seconded to serve with the 40th (Oxfordshire) Company of the Imperial Yeomanry,[5] and returned to the United Kingdom in April 1902.[6] After his return, he was back as a regular lieutenant in his regiment in July 1902,[7] but resigned from the army three months later, in October 1902.[8]

For a time his father-in-law employed him as manager of The Lady, but he showed no interest in, or talent for, this. The Mitfords travelled regularly to Canada, where Mitford owned a gold claim near Swastika, Ontario: no gold was ever found there, but he enjoyed the outdoor life. His neighbour Harry Oakes did strike gold nearby in 1912.

On the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, he immediately rejoined the Northumberland Fusiliers. He was commissioned a lieutenant and served as a logistics officer in Flanders, gaining a mention in despatches for his bravery at the Second Battle of Ypres,Although there is no available record of this, [9] where his elder brother Clement was killed. With only one lung and by now a captain he was invalided out of active service in 1916. After his father's death in 1916, being now Lord Redesdale, he was briefly appointed Provost Marshal for Oxfordshire, with responsibility for ensuring the enlistment of new recruits. In 1918–19 he served as a ground officer with the Royal Air Force.[10]

Lord Redesdale

As Lord Redesdale he was often silent in the House of Lords, but joined the House of Lords Select Committee on Peerages in Abeyance in 1925.

Although Redesdale was now a large landowner, he was not a wealthy man: the estates were poorly developed and rents were low. With seven children to feed and five servants to pay, he could not maintain the expense of his large home at Batsford in the Cotswolds. He bought and extended Asthall Manor and then moved to nearby Swinbrook. Here he indulged his passion for building by building a new large house, named after the village, which appears as the family home in the books of his daughters Nancy and Jessica. The expense of these moves nearly ruined Redesdale, who was a poor manager of money. This, plus his increasing disappointment that all his later children were girls, led to the deterioration of his temperament which became legendary through his daughters' portrayals of his frequent and terrible rages.

Political views and family splits

As a peer, Redesdale was a member of the House of Lords, then a hereditary chamber, apart from the bishops and law lords. He attended the House conscientiously, although he was not really interested in party politics or in legislation, except for being opposed to nearly all change. In the 1930s, however, both he and his wife developed a strong sympathy for fascism, and Redesdale became known for his extreme right-wing views, particularly anti-Semitism. His daughter Diana, herself a keen fascist and from 1936 the wife of British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley, described him as "one of nature's fascists." As a result, he was permanently estranged from his daughter Jessica, who was a communist from her teenage years, and partly estranged from his eldest daughter Nancy, who was a strong anti-fascist though not as left-wing as Jessica.

Notice of a demonstration organised by the British Brothers League

His wife Sydney's father Thomas Gibson Bowles had been one of the strongest parliamentary supporters of the Royal Navy while he was an MP; and her maternal uncle William Evans-Gordon MP was a retired British Indian Army officer who was opposed to uncontrolled immigration into Britain, was allied to the British Brothers League, and helped to enact the Aliens Act 1905.

Redesdale was an instinctive xenophobe; he came back from the First World War with a dislike of the French and a deep hatred of the Germans. He was widely quoted as saying that: "Abroad is bloody". As Uncle Matthew, who was modelled on Redesdale,[11] put it in his daughter Nancy's novel The Pursuit of Love: "Frogs are slightly better than Huns or Wops, but abroad is unutterably bloody and foreigners are fiends."[12] He was initially scornful of the enthusiasm shown by his daughters Diana and Unity for Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler: Hitler was, after all, a Hun. In November 1938, however, the Redesdales accompanied their daughters to Germany, where they attended the Nuremberg Rally and met Hitler, with whom Unity and Diana were already acquainted. Both the Redesdales were immediately won over by Hitler's apparent charm and his declarations of Anglophilia. Redesdale later spoke in the House of Lords in favour of the Anschluss[13] and of returning Germany's colonies, and became a strong supporter of Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement towards Germany. Lady Redesdale went further, writing articles in praise of Hitler and in support of National Socialism.[14]

The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 precipitated a series of crises in the Mitford family. Redesdale was above all a patriot, and as soon as war was declared he recanted his support for Hitler and once again became violently anti-German. Lady Redesdale stuck to her Nazi sympathies, and as a result the pair became estranged, and separated in 1943. Unity, who was in love with Hitler, attempted suicide in Munich on the day war was declared and suffered severe brain damage. She was brought home an invalid and Lady Redesdale cared for her until her death in 1948. Diana and Oswald Mosley were interned in 1940 as security risks and spent three years in prison. Jessica's husband, Esmond Romilly, was killed in action in 1941, deepening her bitterness towards the "fascist branch" of the family – she never spoke to her father again, nor to Diana until 1973, although she was reconciled with her mother in the 1950s.

Personal life

In February 1904, he married Sydney Bowles (1880–1963), whom he had first met ten years previously, when he was 16 and she was 14. She was the daughter of Thomas Gibson Bowles, a journalist and Conservative MP, who in 1863 had founded the magazine Vanity Fair, and some years later the women's magazine The Lady.

The couple had one son and six daughters, who all used the surname Mitford rather than Freeman-Mitford. On Nancy's birth certificate David listed his occupation as: "Honourable";[15] the girls were known collectively as the Mitford sisters:

Later life

In 1945, Tom Mitford was killed in action in Burma, a blow from which Redesdale, already depressed by the break-up of his marriage, never recovered. According to Nancy Mitford's biographer: "Although she [Nancy] was deeply grieved by his death, it did not mean for her, as it did for her parents, that all pleasure in life was over." Redesdale retreated to Inchkenneth, an island In the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland, which he had purchased in 1938. Later he moved to Redesdale in Northumberland, his family's ancestral property. He lived there as a virtual recluse. By 1950, when Nancy visited him, he was "frail and old." He died there in 1958 and was buried at Swinbrook, where three of his daughters (Nancy, Diana and Unity) are also buried. His title passed to his brother Bertram.

In fiction as "Uncle Matthew"

Redesdale is the model for Uncle Matthew, Lord Alconleigh of Alconleigh, in Nancy's novels The Pursuit of Love (1945) and Love in a Cold Climate (1949).[11] In a typical passage from the former: "As soon as breakfast was over, he would begin striding about the hall, bellowing at the dogs 'Come here, blast you! Get off that coat!' Kick. 'Stop that noise, blast you!' – shouting for his loader [gun], damning and blasting anyone rash enough to cross his path."[16] He would keep his bloodhounds in practice by having them track his children. Uncle Matthew also kept a wartime entrenching tool on a chimneypiece that still had an enemy's hair and brain parts on it.[17] Nevertheless, both daughters' accounts make it clear that between rages Redesdale was an indulgent father who loved riding and hunting with his children.

Uncle Matthew was played by Michael Aldridge in the 1980 Thames Television series Love in a Cold Climate.[18] In a 2001 BBC production he was played by Alan Bates (see Love in a Cold Climate (TV serial)).[19]


  1. ^ Jonathan Guinness and Catherine Guinness: The House of Mitford: Portrait of a Family; Viking (1984).
  2. ^ Mitford, Deborah (2010). Wait for Me!. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. pp. 4–5. ISBN 978-0-374-20768-7.
  3. ^ Biographical information from Selina Hastings, Nancy Mitford (Hamish Hamilton 1985), chapter 1.
  4. ^ a b Hart′s Army list, 1902
  5. ^ "40th Company, 10th Battalion". Angloboerwar.com. Retrieved 6 March 2014.
  6. ^ "The War – Invalids and others returning home". The Times (36755). London. 30 April 1902. p. 10.
  7. ^ "No. 27475". The London Gazette. 19 September 1902. p. 6022.
  8. ^ "No. 27480". The London Gazette. 7 October 1902. p. 6346.
  9. ^ PRO Kew; file WO 372/14/42889 (Does not exist)
  10. ^ National Archives, Kew, file AIR 76/419; name misspelt as "Redesdale, David Bertram Ogilvy Freeman Wilfred".
  11. ^ a b "A touch of class, by Maggie Brown". The Guardian Friday 26 January2001. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  12. ^ Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love, 113
  13. ^ "British Foreign Policy. (Hansard, 29 March 1938)". Hansard.millbanksystems.com. 29 March 1938. Retrieved 20 December 2011.
  14. ^ Selina Hastings, Nancy Mitford, 119
  15. ^ Independent article by Calkin J, 2010; accessed on 25 September 2014
  16. ^ Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love, 28
  17. ^ "'The Pursuit of Love' – Nancy Mitford – Fun Facts, Questions, Answers, Information". Funtrivia.com. Retrieved 20 December 2011.
  18. ^ "Photographic press agency and picture library". Rex Features. Retrieved 20 December 2011.
  19. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0278548/fullcredits#cast
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Algernon Freeman-Mitford
Baron Redesdale
Succeeded by
Bertram Freeman-Mitford
1938 in Scotland

Events from the year 1938 in Scotland.

2nd Baron Redesdale

The 2nd Baron Redesdale might refer to:

John Freeman-Mitford 2nd Baron Redesdale, of the creation of 1802 (afterwards 1st Earl of Redesdale)

David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale, of the creation of 1902

Asthall Manor

Asthall Manor is a gabled Jacobean Cotswold manor house in Asthall, Oxfordshire. It was built in about 1620 and altered and enlarged in about 1916. The house is Grade II listed on the National Heritage List for England.Early in the 20th century the house was the childhood home of the Mitford sisters.

Baron Redesdale

Baron Redesdale, of Redesdale in the County of Northumberland, is a title that has been created twice, both times in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was firstly created in 1802 for lawyer and politician Sir John Mitford (later Freeman-Mitford). He was Speaker of the House of Commons between 1801 and 1802 and Lord Chancellor of Ireland between 1802 and 1806. His only son, the second Baron, served as Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords from 1851 to 1886. In 1877, he was created Earl of Redesdale, in the County of Northumberland, in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. Lord Redesdale never married, and on his death in 1886 both titles became extinct. The Earl bequeathed his substantial estates to his first cousin twice removed, the diplomat, politician and writer Sir Algernon Freeman-Mitford, the great-grandson of historian William Mitford, who was the elder brother of the first Baron Redesdale.

In 1902, the Redesdale title was revived when Algernon Freeman-Mitford was raised to the peerage as Baron Redesdale, of Redesdale in the County of Northumberland, on 15 July 1902. He was succeeded by his second but eldest surviving son, David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale, who is chiefly remembered as the father of the famous Mitford sisters. He was also a member of the Right Club, founded by Archibald Maule Ramsay. His only son, the Hon. Thomas Freeman-Mitford, was killed in action in Burma in 1945. Lord Redesdale was therefore succeeded by his younger brother, the third Baron. He was High Sheriff of Oxfordshire in 1935. He died childless, and on his death in 1962 the title passed to his younger brother, the fourth Baron. He also died childless, and was succeeded by his nephew, the fifth Baron. He was the son of the Hon. Ernest Rupert Bertram Ogilvy Freeman-Mitford, fifth son of the first Baron. As of 2017, the title is held by the fifth Baron's son, the sixth Baron, who succeeded in 1991. He is a Liberal Democrat politician, who in 2000 was created the youngest life peer ever as Baron Mitford, of Redesdale in the County of Northumberland.

Batsford Arboretum

Batsford Arboretum is a 55-acre (220,000 m2) arboretum and botanical garden near Batsford in Gloucestershire, England, about 1½ miles north-west of Moreton-in-Marsh. It is owned and run by the Batsford Foundation, a registered charity, and is open to the public daily throughout most of the year.

The arboretum sits on the Cotswold scarp and contains around 2,900 trees, with a large collection of Japanese maples, magnolias and pines. It maintains the national collection of Prunus (sato-sakura Group) — Japanese Flowering Cherry — under the NCCPG National Plant Collection scheme run by the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens.

David Freeman

David Freeman may refer to:

David Freeman (music historian) (born 1939), collector, historian, and authority on old-time and bluegrass music

David Freeman (musician) (born 1957), member of The Flys and The Lover Speaks

David G. Freeman (1920–2001), badminton player

S. David Freeman (born 1926), American engineer, attorney, and author

David Freeman (footballer) (born 1979), Irish footballer

David Scott Freeman, main character in 1986 film Flight of the Navigator

David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale (1878–1958), English landowner and father of the Mitford sisters

David Freeman (athlete) (born 1982), Puerto Rican middle distance runner

David Freeman (screenwriter) (born 1926), American screenwriter

David Freeman (solicitor) (1928–2015), British solicitor

Dave Freeman (British writer) (1922–2005), British comedy writer

Dave Freeman (American author) (1961–2008), American advertising executive and co-author of 100 Things to Do Before You Die

David Freeman (business owner) (born 1984), Australian business owner

David Freeman (journalist)

David Justin Freeman, Christian minister, private educator and conservative political activist

Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire

Deborah Vivien Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, (born Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford and latterly Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire; 31 March 1920 – 24 September 2014) was an English aristocrat, writer, memoirist and socialite. She was the youngest and last surviving of the six Mitford sisters, who were prominent members of English society in the 1930s and 1940s.

Diana Mitford

Diana, the Hon. Lady Mosley (17 June 1910 – 11 August 2003), born Diana Freeman-Mitford and usually known as Diana Mitford, was one of the Mitford sisters. She was first married to Bryan Walter Guinness, heir to the barony of Moyne, and upon her divorce from him married Sir Oswald Mosley, 6th Baronet of Ancoats, leader of the British Union of Fascists. This her second marriage took place at the home of Joseph Goebbels in 1936, with Adolf Hitler as guest of honour. Subsequently, her involvement with Fascist political causes resulted in three years' internment during the Second World War. She later moved to Paris and enjoyed some success as a writer. In the 1950s she contributed diaries to Tatler and edited the magazine The European. In 1977, she published her autobiography, A Life of Contrasts, and two more biographies in the 1980s. She was also a regular book reviewer for Books & Bookmen and later at The Evening Standard in the 1990s. A family friend, James Lees-Milne, wrote of her beauty, "She was the nearest thing to Botticelli's Venus that I have ever seen".

Football Lads Alliance

The Football Lads Alliance (FLA) is a movement in the United Kingdom founded by John Meighan in 2017. According to The Times, "the movement was set up as a self-proclaimed 'anti-extremist' movement" but has increasingly become associated with far-right politics and far-right activists.The Premier League has warned clubs that "the group is using fans and stadiums to push an anti-Muslim agenda". Concern has also been expressed that the Alliance is "giving cover to the far right" and "uses a secret Facebook page full of violent, racist and misogynistic posts".

Jasmine Guinness

Jasmine Leonora Guinness (born 28 September 1976) has been a designer and a fashion model since 1994. She is also an heiress to the Guinness brewing fortune.

Jessica Mitford

Jessica Lucy 'Decca' Freeman-Mitford (11 September 1917 – 22 July 1996) was an English author, one of the six aristocratic Mitford sisters noted for their sharply conflicting politics.

Jessica, who represented the far left, married her second cousin Esmond Romilly, killed in World War II, and then American civil rights lawyer Robert Treuhaft, with whom she joined the American Communist Party and worked closely in the Civil Rights Congress. Both refused to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, but later resigned from the party out of disillusion with Stalinism.

Her memoirs Hons and Rebels, and a social commentary The American Way of Death, both became classics.

Lady Sophia Topley

The Lady Sophia Louise Sydney Topley (née Cavendish; born 18 March 1957) is the third child and second daughter of the 11th Duke of Devonshire and his wife, Deborah Mitford. She is the younger sister of the (present) 12th Duke.

Mitford family

The Mitford family is an aristocratic English family, whose principal line had its seats at Mitford, Northumberland. Several heads of the family served as High Sheriff of Northumberland. A junior line, with seats at Newton Park, Northumberland, and Exbury House, Hampshire, descends via the historian William Mitford (1744–1827) and were twice elevated to the British peerage, in 1802 and 1902, under the title Baron Redesdale.The family became particularly known in the 1930s and later for the six Mitford sisters, great-great-great-granddaughters of William Mitford, and the daughters of David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale, and his wife Sydney Bowles. They were celebrated and at times scandalous figures, who were caricatured by The Times journalist Ben Macintyre as "Diana the Fascist, Jessica the Communist, Unity the Hitler-lover; Nancy the Novelist; Deborah the Duchess and Pamela the unobtrusive poultry connoisseur".

Pamela Mitford

Pamela "Pam" Freeman-Mitford (25 November 1907 – 12 April 1994) was one of the Mitford Sisters.

Patrick Guinness

Patrick Desmond Carl Alexander Guinness, KCEG KLJ (born 1 August 1956 in Dublin) is an Irish historian and author and one of heirs of the Guinness business dynasty. Son of Desmond Guinness and Marie-Gabrielle von Urach, he was educated at Winchester College and Trinity College Dublin. He is a financial analyst. He formerly represented Sotheby's in Ireland.


Swinbrook is a village on the River Windrush, about 2 miles (3 km) east of Burford in Oxfordshire, England. The village is in the civil parish of Swinbrook and Widford. Widford is a hamlet about 0.5 miles (800 m) west of Swinbrook. The 2011 Census recorded Swinbrook and Widford's parish population as 139.

The Lady (magazine)

The Lady is one of Britain's longest-running weekly women's magazines. It has been in continuous publication since 1885 and is based in London. It is particularly notable for its classified advertisements for domestic service and child care; it also has extensive listings of holiday properties.

Tom Mitford

Major The Honourable Thomas David Freeman-Mitford (2 January 1909 – 30 March 1945) was the only son of David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale, all other children being the daughters collectively known as the Mitford Sisters. Tom Mitford was killed in action during World War II.

Unity Mitford

Unity Valkyrie Freeman-Mitford (8 August 1914 – 28 May 1948) was a British socialite, known for her relationship with Adolf Hitler. Both in Great Britain and Germany, she was a prominent supporter of Nazism, fascism and antisemitism, and belonged to Hitler's inner circle of friends. Following the declaration of World War II, Mitford attempted suicide in Munich, and was officially allowed safe passage back to England in her invalid condition, but never recovered.

Unity was a member of the Mitford family, tracing its origins in Northumberland back to the 11th century Norman settlement of England. Her sister Diana was married to Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists.

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