Lady Rhondda takes her place in the House of Lords

Last night I was privileged to hear a talk in Parliament about Lady Rhondda given by Professor Angela V John, at an event to mark the acquisition of a portrait of Lady Rhondda by the House of Lords. The portrait has been newly conserved and framed, and looks fantastic.

Palace of Westminster WOA 7177 Viscountess Rhondda
Margaret Haig Thomas, Viscountess Rhondda (1883–1958). Palace of Westminster Collection WOA 7177.

The portrait was acquired by the House of Lords Works of Art Committee thanks to the efforts of Baroness Gale of Blaenrhondda and Jessica Morden MP. It’s great that the Parliamentary art collection will now include such a picture, showing Rhondda as a dignified, strong, independent woman. The Lord Speaker, Baroness de Souza, said at the reception that Rhondda had a look of ‘humane determination’, which seems just right to me. The icing on the cake is to know that the artist who painted the portrait is also a woman, Alice Mary Burton (1893-1968).

Angela V John is a great authority on Lady Rhondda and is currently writing a biography of her which I very much look forward to reading in future. Her talk was full of fascinating detail about Rhondda’s fight to take her seat in the House of Lords, and this quote from Lord Birkenhead drew an incredulous gasp from the audience:

We are confronted with a proposal that we should admit a number of privileged ladies—who have simply been given their privilege in order that, physiologically, they may act as the conduit pipe through which the blood of distinguished men may pass from one generation to another…

Palace of Westminster Collection WOA 7177

The audience included Professor Lord Kenneth O Morgan, who actually met Lady Rhondda when he was young, and also descendants of Rhondda’s mother’s family. It was wonderful to learn that the brooch in the painting was given by Rhondda to her goddaughter, and it is still in the family.

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