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Violet Trefusis papers

Call Number: GEN MSS 427

Scope and Contents

The Violet Trefusis Papers document the life of Violet Trefusis, particularly her later life of the 1940's-1960's, and her career as a writer. The Papers consist of correspondence, writings, photographs, and a miniature portrait of Trefusis. The material spans the years 1924-1971, and has been organized into four series: Correspondence, Writings, Additional Materials, and January 2003 Acquisition. The January 2003 Acquisition has not been merged with the rest of the collection and is listed separately.

Series I, Correspondence (1939-1956) , contains letters to and from Violet Trefusis. The majority of the correspondence consists of 72 letters to John Phillips, whom Trefusis met in 1960. In them she discusses her life in Florence, Paris and Saint-Loup-de-Naud, her travels around Europe, her health, and her many friends and acquaintances. With these letters is a spiral-bound photocopy of typescripts of many of the letters, including explanatory footnotes by Phillips. The letters to Trefusis include letters from Alice Keppel, detailing Keppel's life during and after World War II, and mentioning money concerns, family matters and acquaintances. There are also several letters from Trefusis' sister, Sonia Keppel (Mrs. Ronald Cubitt), primarily discussing their mother and the sale of their mother's possessions after her death. Also included are letters from the French and British governments regarding Trefusis' return to France after the war, and her nomination to the Légion d'honneur, as well as one letter from Harold Nicolson, husband of Vita Sackville-West. Other correspondence includes letters from Alice Keppel to her husband George Keppel discussing Sonia (whom she calls "Doey") and Violet (called "Bye"), one letter from Frank Ashton-Gwatkin and one from Alice Segodnia, both to John Phillips.

Series II, Writings (1940-1956) , contains holographs and typescripts of novels, memoirs, plays, short stories and other writings by Trefusis, including several of her broadcasts for the BBC, and descriptions of people she knew, including Colette, the Sitwells, and Louise de Vilmorin.

Series III, Additional Materials (1924-1939) , contains a large photograph album with approximately 600 photographs taken in the 1920s and 1930s, primarily by Violet's father, George Keppel, at the Keppels' Villa dell'Ombrellino in Florence. The album contains photographs of many members of the aristocracy, nobility and literary elite of the day, including Lady Clementine Churchill, Antoinette, duchesse d'Harcourt, Raymond Mortimer, Winaretta, princesse de Polignac, Sir George Reresby Sitwell, and Osbert Sitwell. A list of names of individuals appearing in the album is available in the Appendix. A full listing of the contents of the album, including a description of each photograph, is included in the box with the album. Also included in this series is a miniature oval portrait of Trefusis as a child.

The January 2013 Acquisition contains letters written to Violet Trefusis, a photograph of Denys Trefusis, third party correspondence, and two lists of books kept by Violet's friend Gilone (Princesse de) Chimay during the war, with Violet's autograph notes.


  • 1919 - 1971


Language of Materials

Chiefly in English, some materials in French.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Restricted Fragile materials in box 6 and in the portfolio may only be consulted with permission of the appropriate curator. Preservation photocopies or photographic prints for reference use have been substituted in the main files.

Conditions Governing Use

The Violet Trefusis Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Maggs Brothers Ltd. and Bertram Rota Ltd. on the Edwin J. Beinecke Book Fund and Starling W. Childs Library Fund, 1994, 1996, and 2003.


Organized into four series: I. Correspondence, 1939-1971. II. Writings, 1940-1956. III. Additional Materials, 1924-1939. IV. January 2003 Acquisition, 1919-1955.


3.06 Linear Feet ((7 boxes) + 1 portfolio)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Collection contains correspondence, writings and other materials by or related to Violet Trefusis. The correspondence consists chiefly of approximately 500 letters from Trefusis to John Phillips written in the 1960's. Also included are letters to Trefusis from her mother, Alice Keppel, her sister, Sonia Keppel, and her husband, Denys Trefusis; several governmental departments in France and England concerning Trefusis's re-entry into France after World War II; and her nomination to the Légion d'honneur. Writings include holograph and typescript drafts of Trefusis' memoirs, novels, plays and other writings. Other materials include a photograph of Denys Trefusis; a miniature case portrait of Trefusis as a child; and an album containing photographs of friends of the Keppels, taken by George Keppel between 1924-1939 at the family's Villa dell'Ombrellino in Florence, including many members of European nobility and royalty.


Violet Keppel was born in London on June 6, 1894. When Violet was a child, her mother, Alice Keppel, became the mistress of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), until his death in 1910.

In 1904, Violet began an enduring friendship with Vita Sackville-West. The relationship developed into a difficult and tumultuous love affair that lasted from approximately 1918 to 1921, and which for a time alienated Violet from her mother and from society. It also caused problems with her husband, Major Denys Trefusis, whom she had married in 1919. They eventually reconciled publicly, if not privately, and moved to Paris in autumn of 1921. Denys Trefusis died of tuberculosis in 1929, the same year Violet published her first book, Sortie de secours.

In 1927, Violet purchased a medieval ruin in Saint-Loup-de-Naud, outside of Paris. The complex became her home until 1940, when she was forced to flee to England the escape the German invasion. She spent the war years in England, resuming her friendship with Vita Sackville-West, and publishing several more works, including her novelized version of her affair with Vita, Broderie anglaise. She also broadcast for the Free French on the BBC. After the war, she returned to France. In 1950 she was awarded rank of Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur for her wartime broadcasts. She published her autobiography, Don't Look Round, in 1952. Alice Keppel died in 1947, leaving her daughter Violet as the proprietor of L'Ombrellino, the Florentine villa the Keppels had purchased in the 1920's. Violet Trefusis died in Florence on February 29, 1972.

Appendix: Contents of Photograph Album (in Series III)

This album contains approximately 600 black and white photographs, many with partial or full captions. Below are names which appear as captions in the album, in the fullest possible form. Names which appear in quotes are transcribed exactly as they appear in the album. A more detailed listing of each photograph is included in the box with the album.


Acton, Arthur Mario

Acton, Harold

Adair, Enid

Aird, Jack

Airlie, Lady

Alaister Innes-Ker, Lady

Albermarle, Lady

Albermarle, Lord

Alington, Lord

Allendale, Lady

Allendale, Lord

Alliem[?], Miss

Allren[?], Laura

Amici-Grossi[?], Jessie

Anglesey[?], Marjorie

Antinori, Marchesa Ethel

Antinori, Marchesa Lucia

Antinori, Marchesa Paola

Arlen, Michael

Atherton, Mrs.

Averta, Conte

Bacchiocchi, Marchese

Balsan, Mme

Barnard, A[illegible]

Bate, Vera

Bearsey[?], Margary

Beaufort, Louise

Beccarei[?], Bridget

[Beck?], Clare

Beck, Mrs.

Belmont, Mrs.

Belmont, Perry

Belvor, Commander

Bengué[?], Marquise de

Bentinck, Freddy

Bentinck, Lady Henry

Bentinck, Lord Henry

Berners, Lord

Bibesco, Elizabeth

Bibesco, Princesse M.

Billy, Comte de

Blow, Mr[?]

Blow, Mrs.

Blundell, Eustace

Bowes-Lyon, Fenella

Bozio[?], L.

Brand, Elizabeth

Branwell[?], Chris

Brassey, Miss

Brassey[?], Margaret

Breteuil, Comtesse de

Brett, Mrs.

Bride, Miss [illegible]

[Brisnen?], Daisy de

Broadmead[?], Anne

Broadmead[?], Philip

Brock, Miss

Brock[?], Sir O.

Brougham[?], Eileen

Buccleuch, Duchess of

Burn, Michael

Burns, Mrs.

Calabrini, Elsie

Cantegalli, [Signor?]

Cantegalli, Signora

Carlisle, Lady

Cawdor, Lady

Cederström, Baron

Cederström, Baroness

Cederström, Hermione

Cederström, Rolf

Cerutti, Signora

Chadourne, Marc

Chambrun, Contesse de

Channon, Sir Henry

Channon, Honor

Chelmsford, Lady

Cheton[?], W.

Chetwode, Lady

Chrichton, Barbara

Christie-Miller, Lavender

Christina, Infanta of Spain

Christopher, Prince of Hesse

Churchill, Lady Clementine

Churchill, Mr. [Winston?]

Churchill, Sarah

Churchills, Diana

Cohen, Elizabeth

Colebrooke, Lord

Colefax, Sir Arthur

Colefax, Lady [Sibyl?]

Collerell[?], Louie

Colville, Lady Joan

Contes[?], Lady

Cora, H. E. Signor

Corsini, Contessa

Cowley, Lady

Crewe, Lady

Cromwell, Mrs.

Cubitt, Rosalind

Curzon-Howe[?], Count

Ajeta, (Blasco?), Marchese d'

Darling[?], Lord

Dashwood, Lady

Dashwood, Sir John

Davidson, Lady Theodora

Decazes, Duc

Dickinson, Oswald

Duff, Sir Michael

Dumfries, Eileen

Dunn[?], Miss

Dunn[?], Mrs.

Dunsford, Lady

Dupré, François

Dupuy, Madame

Dycke, Monseigneur, Arch-Bishop of Hungary

Earle, Mrs.

Edmonstone, Eddie

Edmonstone, Sir Archibald

Elliot, Mrs.

Enniskillen, Lady

Erskine, Hamish

Erskine, Lady

Erskine, Viola

[Erskine?], Sir William

Esher, Lady

Esher, Oliver Sylvain Baliol Brett, Vicount Esher

F. de Villarosa[?], Don

F. de Villarosa[?], Dona

Fagalde[?] , Lucila

Fane, Charmian

Fane, Har

Fane[?], Mrs.

Farinola[?], Marchese

Fauchier-Magnan, M.

Fauchier-Magnan, Mme

Forbes, M[illegible]

Forbes, Mrs.

Fox-Strangways[?], John

Franchetti, Baron

Franchetti, Baronessa

Gaetani[?], Dona Cara

Gage, George

Gage, Lady

Gaigneron, Conte de

Gaigneron, Jean de

Gainford, Lady

Gainford, Lord

Gamba[?], Signor de

Ganford[?], Lady

Garrett, Mrs.

George, Grand Duchess

Gerache, Principessa

Gherrardesca[?], Count B.

Gilmour, Jock

Gilmour, Lady Mary

Ginori, Marchese

Glass, Donald

Glyn, Esmé

Glyn, Lady

Goldsmidt[?]-Rothschild, Comtesse

Gordon-Cumming, Cicily

Graham, Lady Sibyl

Graham, Mrs. Murray

Graham, Sir Ronald

[Grove?], Diana

Gudacheff[?], Princess

Guernsey[?], Gladys

Guest, Ivor Forbes

Guicciardini, Contessa Egeria

Hélène, Contesse Potowska[?]

Haig, Xandra

Hamilton-Spender[?], Lady

Hankey, Colonel

Harcourt, Antoinette, duchesse d'

Harcourt, Lady

Hardinge, Lord

Hare, John

Hare, Patricia

Harmsworth, Lorna

Harris, Bogey

Hartmann, Mrs.

Hayes, Count

Herbert, David

Herbert, Sidney

Heuraux, Mr.

Heuraux, Mrs.

Hindlip, Lady

Hollywell, Mrs.

Hope, Lady Joan

Hornby, Anthony

Hornby, Michael

Howard, Lady

Howard, Lord

Howard, Rachel

Hyde, Martha

Ilchester, Lord

Innes-Ker, Anne

Innes-Ker, Joan

Irene, Princess of Greece

Iveagh, Lady

Iveagh, Lord

James, Mr.

[James?], Venitia

James-Ker, Lady Aleister

Jaucourt, Marquise de

Jebb, [Mr?]

Jebb, Mrs.

Jenkinson, Barbara

Jenkinson, Bobby

Jersey, Lady

Jersey, Lord

Jones, Nancy

Kapurthala, Maharaja of

Karolyi, Contesse

Keppel, Alice

Keppel, Cela

Keppel, Cynthia

Keppel, Derek

Keppel, George

Keppel, Sonia

Kerchove[?], Baron

Koch, Jerry

Lansberg[?], Bertie

Larisch[?], Contessa Maiora

Lasteyrie, Count

Leith, Cuckoo

Leith[?], Mrs.

Leitts[?], Mrs.

Leslie, Mrs.

Leslie, Shane

Levis-Mirepoix, Duchesse de

Lindermann, Professor

Lindsay, Mrs.

Lindsay, Ruby

Linlithgow, Lady

Linlithgow, Lord

Listowel, Lady

Londonderry, Lady [Edith Helen?]

Lorraine, Louise

Lowther, Alice

Lowther, Edith

Lowther[?], Lady

Lützow, Count

Lützow, Countess

Ludlow, Lady

Ludre, Marquise de

Lutyens[?], Mrs. Kev

Lytton, Lady Hermione

M[illegible]dorf, Count

Macdonald, Miss

MacLean, [Mr?]

MacLean, Mrs.

Manners, Lord Cecil

Manners, Lady Ursula

Manningham-Buller, Miss

Marjoribanks, Jean

Marlborough, Duchess of

Marling, Miss

Marling, Sir Charles

Marling[?], Miss

Marshall, Mrs.

Marshall-Roberts, Irene

Massari, Duchessa

Maxwell Scott, Marie-Louise

Mazzachetti[?], Signorina

McBride, Jessie

McClintock, Mrs.

McDonnell, Fox

McKenna, Cicilia

McKenna, David

McKenna, Reginald

McNeill, Barbara

Melson-Smith, Jim

Melson-Smith, Lady Norah

Mendelsohn, Mme

Menzies, Angus

Michelham[?], Lady

Miller, Herbert

Misciatelli, Marchesa

Misciatelli, Marchese

Mittrewsky[?], Contesse

Molete[?], Miss

Molyneux, Dick

Molyneux, R.

Moncrieff, Elizabeth

Moncrieff, May

Moncrieff, Lady

Monson, Lady

Monson, Lord

Montgomery, Lady

Morgan, Evan

Morgan, Loïs

Morrison-Bell, Clive

Morrison-Bell, Lady

Morrison-Bell, Patricia

Mortimer, Raymond

Muir, Lady

Muir, Sir Kay

Mulholland, Olivia

Mundy, Mrs. Miller

Murany[?], Cissy

Murray Graham, Mrs.

Murray, Eve

Myron-Taylor, [Mr?]

Myron-Taylor, Mrs.

Narischkine, Contesse

Neame[?], Lionel

Nelson, Hope

Nelson-Smith[?], G.

Obolensky, Alice

Odom[?], Mr.

Ogilvy, Joan

Origo, Marchesa

Ormsby[?], Miss

Orselli, Signora

Paget, Caroline

Paget, Elizabeth

Panouse, Conte de la

Paul[?], Mrs.

Paul, Prince of Greece

Paul, Prince of Yugoslavia

Pease, Trixie

Pinsent, Cecil

Pirie, Mrs.

Placci, Carlo

Polignac, Winnaretta, princesse de

Poniatowski, Princesse

Ponsonby, Fritz

Ponsonby, Loelia

Ponsonby, Ria

Portman, Colonel

Portman, Mrs.

Pratt, Lady Mary

Priestly, Miss

Primrose, Lady Helen

Princesse de Chimay

Raben, Count

Raben, Countess

Ribblesdale, Lady

Ricasoli, Baronessa

Ridley, Lady

Robeck[?], Mr. de

Robeck[?], Mrs. de

Rochefoucauld, Comte de la

Rodd, Lady

Rodd, Sir Rennell

Rodney, Lady

Ronalds, Bertha

Roseberry, Lady

Rucellai, Theresa

Ruffo, Marinetta

Ruffo[?], Princess

Rumbold, Constantia

Rumbold, Lady

Rumbold, Sir Horace

Ryan, Miss

Sanminiatelli, [Count?]

Sanminiatelli, Contesse

Scott, Elizabeth

Sebright, Lady

Sellairs, Miss

Sermonetta, Victoria

Sharpshanks, Mrs.

Sitwell, Mrs. Sacheverell [Georgia Sitwell]

Sitwell, Sir George Reresby

Sitwell, Osbert

Smith, G. M.

Smith, Jimmy

Sommi, Marchese

Sophia, Queen of Greece

Spalletti, Conte

Spalletti, Contessa

Spinola, Helen

Spinola, Marchesa

St. Just, Lady

Stanley, Alex

Stanley, General

Stanley, Mrs.

Stavordale, Harry

Stavordale, Nell

Stiebel, Baron

Stocko[?], Eric

Stonol[?], Francis

Strafford, Lord

Streatfield, Rosemary

Stuart, Lady Margaret

Suarez[?], Evie

Sutherland, Diana

Sykes, Camilla

Sykes, Christopher

Talleyrand-Périgord, Mlle de

Taveredi[?], Count

Thesiger, Margaret

Thomas, Mrs.

Thorpe, Gerald

Thorpe, Mrs.

Thursby, Poppy

Torreta, Marchesa

Torreta, Marchese

Torrigiani, Marchese

Toutman, Mrs.

Townley, Lady Susan

Townley, Sir Walter

Tree, Nancy

Tree, Ronald

Tree[?], Mrs.

Trefusis, Denys

Trefusis, Violet Keppel

Tuckerman, Miss

Tweedmouth, Lady

van der Berg, Count

van der Berg, Countess

Vay de Vaya, Abbé Mitré

Vickers, [Mr?]

Vickers, Mrs.

Vieugué, [Mr?]

Vieugué[?], Mary

Vigiano, Prince

Villanneve, Marchesa

von Vorst, Marie

von Wedel, Carmen

Warburton, Mrs.

Ward, Muriel

Ward, Peggy

Warren, Miss

Watkins, Lord

Watkins, Mrs.

Weiller, M. Paul-Louis

Weiller, Mme

Wemyss, Lady Victoria

Wemyss, Lilian

Wemyss, Michael

Wentworth, Count[?]

White, Lady

White, Miss

Wiccolini[?], Dona Ada

Wilkinson, Vivienne

Williams, Hester[?]

Williams, Mrs. Hwfa

Wilson, [Mr?]

Wilson, Sarah

Windisch-Graetz, Princess

Winn, Mrs.

Worthey[?], Mrs. Stuart

Wyndham, [Mrs?]

Wynn, Pauline

Y[illegible], Zita

Yendrassek[?], Mrs.

Yorke, Louisa

Yorke, Vangie

Yznaga, Emily


























"Prince Michael"

"Princess Catherine"

"Princess Helen"














Dogs and pets:

"Fan-Fan" (dog)

"Frisky" (dog)

"G. G." (dog)

"Greta" (dog)

"Jack" (dog)

"Millicent" (monkey?)

"Pete" (dog)

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.

The bulk of the collection was processed in 1998. The January 2003 Acquisition received a basic level of processing in 2015, including rehousing and minimal organization. This acquisition has not been merged with the remainder of the collection. Instead, it is described separately in the contents list below, identified by a unique call number and titled according to month and year of acquisition.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

This collection includes materials previously identified by the call numbers Uncat MSS 460 and Uncat MS Vault 328.

Guide to the Violet Trefusis Papers
Under Revision
by Kathryn Rawdon
December 1998
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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