Born: February 7, 1888, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Died: April 9, 1951, Opio, France
Lived: Castello San Peyre, Chemin San Peyre, 06650 Opio, France (43.66375, 6.9928)
Buried: Opio, Opio, Departement des Alpes-Maritimes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France, Plot: Lower level
Readers of Winifred Fortescue's books will be very familiar with her close friend Elisabeth Starr, 'Mademoiselle', (and her dog 'Squibbs'), an American who took French citizenship and lived just down the mountain at Castello San Peyre.
Address: Chemin San Peyre, 06650 Opio, France (43.66375, 6.9928)
Type: Guest facility (open to public)
The Castello features in most of the books, as a home, a billet for soldiers, etc. It had formerly sheltered eight peasant families and their animals. In “Escape to Provence” by Maureen Emerson, the author states that according to local lore it had past served as one of the grand summer dwellings of the monks of a local monastery, possibly the rich and powerful Benedictines of île St Honorat off the coast of Cannes. (An order now replaced by Cistercians). Having worked hard for the Red Cross in the area during WWI, Eisabeth Starr stayed on at the Castello during WWII and was primarily responsible for the setting up of the the Foyers du Soldat for the French troops in Provence and the Alps. Sadly, after Winifred's escape to England, she died of malnutrition during the war and Winifred never saw her again. Augustus John painted “The Pool At The Castello” in oils in 1946. It shows the little hut that Winifred and Elisabeth shared during the general mobilisation - long gone. The painting went up for sale at Christies in 2005. John was a tenant, or more likely a guest, there on two occasions.
Who: Elizabeth Parrish Starr (April 29, 1889 – 1943) and Winifred Fortescue (February 7, 1888 – April 9, 1951)
Winifred Fortescue was a British writer and actress. The wife of Sir John Fortescue, librarian and archivist at Windsor Castle and reputed British Army historian, she became formally styled Winifred, Lady Fortescue when he was knighted in 1926. Winifred (Peggy) Fortescue’s close friend, Elisabeth Parrish Starr, ('Mademoiselle' in the books), grew up in the elegant Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia in the 1890s. A personal tragedy caused Elisabeth to leave her home and eventually join those other Americans who sailed to France during WWI to take part in the United States voluntary aid programme to Europe. Her brother, Dillwyn, had already joined the British Army in 1914, becoming an officer in the Coldstream Guards. He died leading his platoon in a charge at Ginchy, during the battle of the Somme in 1916. Elisabeth and Peggy spent several bucolic years in Provence, before the general mobilisation in France and the threat of invasion by Nazi troops prompted Elisabeth, with Peggy’s help, to found her Foyers des Soldats de France. When the threat of occupation grew, Peggy fled to England, where she spent the war years giving lectures to raise funds for the Fighting French. Meanwhile Elisabeth, refusing to leave France, stayed behind in her ‘dim old house’, hiding displaced children and falling under the yoke of Vichy France. Driven by her desire to help the French and in particular, the running of her Foyers des Soldats de France, Elisabeth stayed on in her Castello during WWII providing whatever help she could and at times hiding displaced children from the Germans. She was mostly alone except for her loyal dog. Food became harder and harder to obtain including for Elisabeth. Towards the end of 1942 Elisabeth grew very weak and was fading away. She died at the beginning of 1943 after the harshest winter of the war to date. Although officially recorded as heart failure she had really, like many others, died of malnutrition. She was 54 years old. Elisabeth was buried in the little cemetery at Opio, to be joined some 8 years later by her loyal friend Winifred.
Queer Places, Vol. 3 edited by Elisa Rolle
Release Date: July 24, 2016
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