ICON: Eddy Sackville-West

26 February 2024

Charles Edward "Eddy" Sackville-West was born in 1901 as the heir to Knole Park, one of the titans of the country house scene in Kent.

Sadly, Eddy could not be said to have inherited the house in the fullest sense of the term. He was a gay man at a time when being so was illegal in England, and spent much of his youth in Germany as a result, before buying a house of his own in England — Long Crichel, which he shared with his partner Eardley Knollys.

Eddy officially took ownership of Knole on the death of his father in 1962, but two years earlier his cousin Lionel had been moved in on the presumption that Eddy would not leave an heir. Eddy never returned to Knole, and would die three years after inheriting.

The National Trust has kept Knole since 1945, and today provides an honest exhibition about Eddy's life and the circumstances surrounding it. Visiting, it is hard for one not to feel a sense of sadness — even the rooms that he kept in his youth have a feeling of someone lodging rather than being comfortable enough to put down roots.

At least at Long Crichel, Eddy seems to have to have found space for a good life, entertaining scores of friends and sharing a house with people he loved. Musically gifted from childhood, he devoted much time to championing British composers, and worked on musical drama for radio with Benjamin Britten.

Possibly overshadowed by his more famous cousin Vita Sackville-West, Eddy's influence on the history of the English country house  may have been subtle, but have lasted just as long.