The Blue Room

The Blue Room acquired its marvellous deep blue colour from Lady Leonie Leslie, before she later moved into the Mauve Room. Sammy Leslie replicated the blue colour in the bathroom, which was once the dressing room. Subsequently it was transformed to an `Odeon cinema' cum TV room, with suitably hideous colours and plastic seats, for Sammy and her little sister, Camilla.

The walls in the Blue Room are adorned by sketches and paintings. The Lady in White is a fine pastel portrait of the family's lovely American Aunt, Anne Cockrane, as is the smaller sketch beside it. Her sister, Lady Marjorie Leslie, appears in the second sketch, and in the small oil painting. The larger oil is of Lady Baggot, and was painted by her father, the first Sir John Leslie. The older lady is Mrs. Henry Clay Ide, mother to Anne and Marjorie, who died at a young age, leaving three daughters, Adelaide, Anne and little Marjorie. Their father was Chief Justice of Samoa when the Ides and the Robert Louis Stevensons were the only white people living on the paradise island which inspired Stevenson's famous `Treasure Island.' When not busy writing, Stevenson improvised stories for the Ide children!

The Ides left Samoa, regretfully, when Mr. Ide was appointed Governor General of the Philippines, then under American rule. They lived at the Malacanan Palace in Manila which was much smaller in those days as it was not yet required to store Mrs. Imelda Marcos's 3000 pairs of shoes.

From Manila, Marjorie and Anne paid a state visit to the old Empress Dowager of China in Peking, as ladies-in-waiting to Alice Roosevelt, who was officially representing the United States. The Empress presented each with a jade bracelet and ring which are on display in the Drawing Room. Their visit took place at a time when no Europeans were allowed into `The Forbidden City'.

From the Philippines, Mr. Ide, then a widower, was relocated to Spain as the US Ambassador. Anne had already married Senator Burke Cockrane, who taught Winston Churchill the art of public speaking, so Marjorie accompanied her father to the Madrid embassy as his official hostess.

She found the rigidity of Spanish court life under King Alfonso XIII very dull. There was nothing for a young woman to do but visit Madrid's incomparable Prado and other museums, chaperoned by a strict "duenna". This gave her an eye for genuine articles. She bought a number of fine pieces including the elaborately carved chest standing by the piano in the Drawing Room. She and Queen Ena were the only tall blonde ladies being chauffeured around Madrid. They had identical limousines with armorial bearings on the doors, so Marjorie was obliged to acknowledge graciously the many sweeping bows and curtseys from passing `grandees' or terrible offence would have been taken against the poor Queen.

Her best friend in Madrid was the Duke of Alba who, for some reason, was highly intrigued by the ability of the Irish hero Cúchulainn to father 500 children a night. Perhaps this was because the Duke himself had more palaces than he could count and was also privileged to wear 17 hats in the presence of the King of Spain.

The Ide sisters had many adventures and survived countless earthquakes (24 on one terrifying Christmas Day). They sailed through boiling seas in the aftermath of the mighty Krakatoa eruption, the greatest ever on record, and narrowly escaped a 600-foot tidal wave that followed the eruption (which essentially blew the whole island into the sky).

Marjorie often said that once you've lived among the kind happy Polynesian Samoans, whose language contained no word for `sin', you were spoiled forever living among the white race again. Samoa was, until white men spoiled it, a true Garden of Eden, where the idea of wrong or evil did not exist. All went well until missionaries arrived, forced the natives to wear clothes, read pious books and introduced them to guilt.

Marjorie dearly loved animals. She founded the Spanish Society for the Protection of Animals. But she had a fatal attraction for wild animals. Whenever a tiger escaped from a zoo, it would find its way to her. In Manila she spent a night, unknowingly, with a man-eating tiger who'd taken refuge under her father's billiards table.

Anne and Marjorie were great friends of Alice, the daughter of President `Teddy' Roosevelt, who shocked Washington with her outlandish pranks. When Congress complained, the President replied, "I can run the United States of America, or I can run my daughter. I cannot run both!"

Marjorie, however, ran Castle Leslie Estate all through the last war and found it very dull that the nearest she could get to the action was through her bedside radio. She continued to run the estate until her death in 1951. She is buried in the little garden cemetery she built.

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