Warwick had not taken the news that his engagement was ended, well. Within a week of the engagement being broken, he had incurred extensive bills at the Ritz Hotel, had a request from the Metropolitan Police for his driving license after an accusation of driving dangerously, and had lashed out at his family. His mother accused of him of being both silly and impertinent’ and ‘I should be furious were I not sorry for you for being so eaten up with conceit.’ She reminded him of his duties as a peer of the realm and to ‘try and pay some of your debts, instead of incurring new ones with Rolls Royce cars you can’t afford.’ His brother, Richard, was far more explicit in a letter to his brother. Unsigned, but bearing his handwriting, Richard wrote:
For God’s sake try and cool down for a bit. You are a silly old fool aren’t you fat Fulke, I hope it helps you to go and have your time on the quiet without all this nonsensical, publicity engagement-business, anyway thank God you’ve finish with [Margaret Whigham], because although I quite realise that my opinion is not of any great interest to you – I personally don’t think that being in love alone are quite sufficient to marry one…I don’t know the Lady personally, but as really judging by the thoughts, ideas, experiences, feelings, opinions, etc. etc. etc. which she confides so sweetly and wholeheartedly to our special correspondent, and the poisonous information from them what knows her…sometimes, in spite of being quite aware that you’re Fulke Warwick and so on, I feel almost ashamed of you….
A public break-up
As Richard alluded to, the heartache for Warwick was not only the loss of his future wife but that the break-up had been played out so publicly. It had made the front-page of the Daily Mirror and interviews with Whigham, her friends, and friends of Warwick had been highly embarrassing for the young earl, who only weeks before had employed the press to publicise his preparations! Whigham wrote to Warwick ‘I am so sorry about all this beastly publicity. I know what you must be feeling about it.’
Exposure in the popular press was not endorsed by all members of Society and the ancient families despised the new breed of celebrity-seekers and lowly middle-class party-goers that had erupted after the war. When Warwick, a young noble of an ancient household, had plunged headfirst into this new world of stardom and fame, the old order turned away in scorn. At that moment, he was an embarrassment to his name.
Comfort in vain
Whigham, now engaged to the American Charles Sweeney, tried to comfort her former love:
Darling I am sorry about this, it was all unintentional but I feel just awful about wasting a sweet person like you. I didn’t mention you [to Charles Sweeney] at all because I thought it would make me look so horribly bitch-like as though I’d done the job of playing two very sweet people against each other and I suppose in a way I did do that, but I was really only focusing on you and I couldn’t be happy with myself over all the damage I’ve done. It just shows that marriage doesn’t help people or make them as immune as we imagine, I won’t ever forget that!!
She even joked ‘darling isn’t it like us to want to get marriage in the worst financial crisis in history!’ But all the sweet talk and various excuses could not comfort the young earl whose public embarrassment had outweighed his private heartache. He journeyed back to Egypt the next month and within four years he had crossed the channel to take up employment in Hollywood in his desperate pursuit to rebuild his public image, find a purpose for his existence, and escape the clutches of British Society….little did he know what he was walking into!
One should not feel too sorry for dear old Warwick, however, as the papers in the Warwickshire County Record Office equally show us that throughout this whole engagement, Warwick was secretly courting another young debutante, his second cousin, Rose Bingham with private dinners at the Ritz and organising house parties at her father’s estate. One year after his failed engagement, Warwick had married his aristocratic cousin, Rose Bingham, with much of the same pomp and ceremony as he had anticipated with Whigham.
Alas, as Whigham would coolly write later in 1932, ‘our love was wonderful but our lives would just never have fitted.’
All quotes are from Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR1886/645 – Personal and Official Papers, 20th Century (Grevilles of Warwick Castle). The letters are unorganised and uncatalogued within this box.