Lady Anne Blunt in the London Times
Copyright 1992 by R.J.CADRANELL
from Arabian Visions December 1992
Used by permission of RJCadranell
Readers are probably familiar with the name of Lady Anne Blunt, who founded England’s Crabbet Arabian Stud with her husband Wilfrid Blunt in 1878. Most articles written about Crabbet focus on the horses with little more than a glimpse of the woman behind them.
Lady Anne Blunt died in Egypt on December 15, 1917. Two weeks later, on December 29, her obituary ran in the London Times. It offers a summary of her life and accomplishments outside of her horse breeding interests:
The Late Baroness Wentworth
A correspondent writes:–
A distinguished and well-beloved personality has just passed away in the person of Baroness Wentworth — better known as Lady Anne Blunt. It is now half a century since she and her brother Lord Wentworth (afterwards second Earl of Lovelace), attracted much interest in London society as grandchildren of the poet Byron. A few still remember her charm as a girl. Her face, with its exquisitely delicate features, dark brown eyes, and expression of high intelligence and warmth of heart, was attractive at all ages. Her figure was small but beautifully made, and though simple and unassuming as a child, she had a gentle, old-fashioned dignity of manner which was all her own. An additional charm was the softness of her voice in speaking. It will be remembered that this attraction is recorded of her famous grandfather.
She learnt drawing from Ruskin. Her gift for sketching was unequaled, especially as regards horses, and the rapidity of her pen-and-ink drawings could never have been guessed from their minute perfection. An architectural drawing done by her at the age of 12 was hung in the Royal Academy. The beautiful house at Crabbet Park was designed by her. That her artistic and literary gifts are not better known to the world at large is due to her retiring nature and love of self-effacement; she always preferred to enjoy the triumphs of her friends. She was a first-class chess player, mathematician, and linguist, being a most distinguished Arabic scholar. She had much knowledge of music, and had been a friend of Joachim. She was a remarkable long-distance runner until she dislocated her knee on one of her desert journeys. Medical help not being at hand, she continued to ride for weeks with her swollen and useless leg supported by the foot in a rope tied to her waist. At the age of 77, she could still vault on to a horse unassisted, and while in the prime of her strength habitually rode a buck-jumper, which afterwards “put down” the crack Australian roughrider of that day. Perhaps this was her proudest achievement.
To her stoical endurance of pain and hardship, her asceticism and self-sacrifice, she joined a light-hearted gaiety, a delightful humour and lavish generosity and loyalty of nature, together with fathomless sympathy for the sufferings and weakness of others.
In 1869 she married Mr. Wilfred Blunt [sic], of Crabbet Park, Sussex, who survives her (then in the diplomatic service and not yet known as a poet), and for years moved in the best literary and general society of her day, always holding her own and distinguished among the best of company. But her heart was not in drawing-rooms. She worshipped the sun and the wind and the hills and the freedom of outdoor life, happiest always in the saddle, or caring for the welfare of her numerous family of Arab horses, so well-known to all her visitors both at Crabbet and at her Egyptian home at Sheykh Obeyd, near Cairo. Her perfect horsemanship, her absolute fearlessness, and the extremely abstemious habits which she inherited from a very remarkable father (the first Earl of Lovelace) made her singularly well fitted for the adventurous journeys which she undertook in the seventies and eighties of the last century. She rode (the only woman in the cavalcade) with her husband through the wildest parts of the Mesopotamian and Arabian deserts, penetrating to jealously guarded fastnesses and often in no slight peril. She crossed the Tigris, Euphrates, and Kherkha rivers, either on a goatskin raft or clinging to a swimming horse. Knowing the formidable nature of these rivers, she foretold the military difficulties in those regions. To the end of her life the romance and delight of these wild journeys were never far from her memory.
Her last years were mainly lived in Egypt, whence since 1915 she had been unable to return at all. She spent her time dispensing kindness to all about her, and especially to the soldiers, wounded and unwounded, who now surrounded her. It was within a few weeks of her 80th birthday that she simultaneously finished a book (her History of the Arabian Horse), which it is believed is likely to become a classic, and inherited the ancient barony that had descended to her through her grandmother, Lady Byron. About a month later she fell ill, and the strength that had up till then seemed extraordinary for her age at last failed her. For those whom she has left here it is a tragedy. For herself, no. She lies for ever under the Eastern sun, in the land of her heart, and her memory will not soon fade. To the end of her life she had the heart of a child, the brain of a scholar, and the soul of a saint.
Who was the correspondent who wrote to the Times about the passing of Lady Anne Blunt? It was someone familiar with her entire life, from her ancestry to her debut in London society to her marriage and desert journeys. The writer knew Lady Anne had designed the house at Crabbet and about her knee injury. Wilfrid Blunt’s name was spelled incorrectly, but that could have been done in typesetting at the Times.
It is probably safe to guess that the writer was Lady Anne’s daughter, Lady Wentworth. Mention is made of Lady Anne’s completion of a book on the Arabian horse. This manuscript she willed to her daughter. The tone and phrasing of the piece are strikingly similar to Lady Wentworth’s discussions of her mother in her own book, The Authentic Arabian Horse. The “my mother was a saint” theme runs throughout Lady Wentworth’s written commentary on her mother’s life. Whoever the writer was, he or she has left a moving portrait of a foundation Arabian breeder.