1945-51: His diaries again give a detailed picture of JLM's life from 1946 to 1949. These were grim years for the country but important ones in the history of the N.T., for which JLM now did his greatest work, organising the acquisition and opening of many famous houses. He also wrote the first of his architectural books - The Age of Adam (1947) and Tudor Renaissance (1951). These are now recognised as pioneering works, among the first to bring the subject to a wide audience; while not pretending to academic scholarship, he made it his policy to write about no building until he had seen it.
In 1949 he fell in love with the beautiful Alvilde Chaplin (née Bridges), whom he had met during the war with her patroness Princess 'Winnie' de Polignac. One year his junior, she was a gifted but astringent character, a lesbian whose friends included many homosexual men; her marriage (1933) to the handsome but philandering Anthony (later 3rd Viscount) Chaplin had only briefly been consummated, resulting in a daughter, Clarissa. The diaries describe the progress of the affair, at one moment of which JLM, Alvilde, Chaplin and Chaplin's young mistress (and future wife) Rosemary Lyttelton were all living together. Though infatuated with her, JLM had some doubts about marriage; but he proposed at the end of the year, Chaplin being happy to be divorced in order to wed Rosemary. Before committing himself, JLM had made enquiries in Catholic circles as to whether Alvilde was likely to receive a papal annulment of her marriage, so he could marry her in the eyes of the Church of which he remained a practising member; he received positive assurances, but in the end no annulment was granted. This was a blow to his faith; but they nevertheless married at a London registry office in November 1951, Harold and Vita acting as witnesses.
1951-58: JLM's marriage brought about a change in his pattern of life. He had never fully recovered from his wartime illness, and by the late 1940s was suffering from overwork and exhaustion. At the end of 1950 he relinquished his post as the N.T's Historic Buildings Secretary to take up a half-time position as its Architectural Adviser. Alvilde was living as a tax exile in France; in 1950 she bought a house at Roquebrune, in the mountains between Monaco and Menton. For the rest of the decade, they wintered together at Roquebrune; JLM spent six months of each year in England working for the N.T., for three of which she would join him; and they travelled on the continent, he doing research for his architectural books.
JLM took his marriage seriously, and derived many advantages from having a rich and accomplished wife who shared his cultural and social interests. She made the little house at Roquebrune delightful, cosetted him, entertained superbly and created an exquisite garden. His more leisured life enabled him to write two excellent books, The Age of Inigo Jones (1953) and Roman Mornings (1956), which won him critical acclaim.
Yet he was not happy. As he had feared, she could be moody and possessive. He got bored with life in the South of France and the society there. Although they had enjoyed a physical relationship before marriage, Alvilde was afterwards less willing to satisfy him in this regard; this caused frustration, as he struggled to put his homosexual life behind him. Then, in 1955, she embarked on a tempestuous lesbian affair with Vita Sackville-West, with whom she shared a passion for gardening. This was conducted with discretion, and JLM affected not to notice it; but the situation was widely known among their circle and did not lessen his unhappiness.
1958-67: JLM turned fifty in August 1958. The next decade was to be the most troubled of his life. He became disillusioned with the two institutions he loved most, the Roman Catholic Church and the National Trust, eventually drifting away from the first and resigning from the staff of the second; and his passionate love affair with a younger man led to difficulties in his marriage and much trauma. In 1961, Alvilde gave up her French domicile and bought a house in the Cotswolds, Alderley Grange, where she created a famous garden. JLM loved this house - their 'Sissinghurst' - and it was undoubtedly a factor in keeping them together during several rocky years of marriage.
Despite the trauma, JLM wrote two of his best books during these years - Earls of Creation (1962) and St Peter's (1967). Although the latter, lavishly illustrated and written with papal approval, did not achieve the commercial success predicted for it, the deaths of his mother and his eccentric Aunt Dorothy (the pipe-smoking lesbian widow of his father's childless brother) brought him some capital for the first time, lessening his financial dependence on his wife.
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