Monday, August 10, 2020

Joyce Brittain-Jones - a King's companion

August 1942 at a gala performance by Cochrane's Circus at Hampstead Heath.  This gala was organized by Princess Romanovsky-Pavlovsky (nee Lady Mary Lygon), who was one of Joyce's best friends.  The gala was in aid of Yugoslavia and was also attended by King Peter of Yugoslavia  (David Horbury Collection)

If you read through the few books in English about the Greek monarchy, and especially King George II, you will not find many references to Joyce Brittain-Jones. You might see a reference to a Miss Brown, as the American minister in Greece referred to King George II's companion. Lady Diana Cooper called her Mrs. Jones. The latter was more accurate.

Joyce Wallach was born in Allahabad, India, in 1902 although her early life was spent in England.  Before her marriage, she was presented at Court, where she was described as "one of the most beautiful women of the year."

Her father, William, was a barrister.  At Temple Church in London,.  Joyce married  Jack Brittain-Jones on January 19, 1924. The couple had one daughter, Pauleen Victoria.

In 1931, Brittain-Jones, who served with the 1st Battalion Black Watch in India, was named as comptroller to Lord  Willingdon, the Viceroy.    Joyce and their daughter did not join them until 1934.

It was in London in 1932 when Joyce Brittain-Jones met King George II of the Hellenes.  The king, then in exile, was estranged from his wife, Princess Elisabeth of Romania.  Their marriage was dissolved by divorce in 1935.

The king and his youngest sister, Princess Katherine, visited India in 1934/35.  It was during this visit that his relationship with Joyce became serious.  He was recalled to Greece in November 1935 and looked forward to the time when Joyce could join him.    She remained in India until March 1936, when she left her husband in India.  She filed for divorce, charging Jack with adultery.

[In December 1937, in London,  Jack Brittain-Jones married Rosemary Chance.]

The king, whose marriage to Elisabeta of Romania, would end that summer, realized he was in love with the British commoner. The Brittain-Jones marriage soon ended in divorce, and Joyce joined the king in Athens after his recall to the throne in November 1935.

Until World War II, Joyce lived at the royal family's summer palace on Mount Parnis, about 30 miles from Athens. There "she usually knitted or read," while the king entertained their guests. Joyce Brittain-Jones was very different from Elena Lupescu or Wallis Simpson. She provided the king "the quiet domesticity that was denied him in his loveless first marriage," according to a 1946 profile of Mrs. Brittain-Jones. that was published in the Washington Post. During their 12 years together, the couple were "not frequenters of the pleasure spots by the international glamour set."

Embed from Getty Images 

 Joyce Brittain-Jones was by the King's side when he was forced to flee to Crete, in 1941. She accompanied him to Egypt and London and was with George II when he traveled to the United States in 1943.

In exile in London during the second world war, King George II lived at the Claridge's Hotel but was a frequent guest at Mrs. Brittain-Jones' suburban home, where she lived with her daughter. During the war, Joyce worked at an armaments factory, although she and the king spent a lot of time together in British society, which welcomed her. 

The king's cousin, Princess Marina, the Duchess of Kent, considered Joyce to be an "intimate friend."

After the war, the king and Joyce shared a home, where they "could lead the quiet, dignified life of an English gentleman and his wife." But the winds again changed in Athens, and elections in March 1946 brought about a clear support for the king. In September, the King returned to Greece in triumph.

Several sources stated that the King would abdicate if Joyce was not permitted to join him in Greece.  A careful examination of Foreign Office papers by historian David Horbury provides no evidence of this nor did he find an alleged letter from Princess Katherine to the Foreign Office, stating that Joyce should be allowed to travel to Greece, and act as her lady-in-waiting.

Mrs. Brittain-Jones turned down the King's proposal of marriage because she felt that their marriage would have jeopardized his return to Greece.

The king was depressed and not well.  He was missing the woman he loved. He had hoped that Joyce would be in Greece by Christmas. In a letter to his sister, Queen Helen, the Queen Mother of Romania, on October 28, 1946, he wrote: "I'm hoping Tim [his sister, Princess Irene, Duchess of Aosta] might come for Xmas with Joyce."

Earlier in October, Joyce denied a rumor that she was going to marry the King. "There is absolutely no truth in the story, " she told reporters.  "I know the King.  He is a great friend of mine, and while he was in London, I extended to him the hospitality of my home.  I have known him for about 15 years."

She also hotly denied "the story that the King is thinking of making me Lady-in-waiting to his sister, Princess Catherine, so I can go to Athens with her, I deny absolutely."

She added that if she went to Greece after Christmas it would be a private visit with friends.   

"The King made many friends in England, and  I am deeply upset to have been singled out as a subject of these stories."

Joyce had to cancel her plans to be in Greece for Christmas as her father, William Wallach, was unwell.  He died in January 1947.   She was unwell, as well, in the early stages of Parkinson's disease.   

On April 1, 1947, King George II died in Athens and was succeeded by his younger, brother, Paul.

Two years later, on September 22, 1949, Joyce Brittain-Jones married Lt. Col. Edwin Boxshall, whose father served had served as a British Consul in Romania. The couple was married quietly at a registry office in London.

Joyce Boxshall died on July 7, 1974, at the St. George's Nursing Home, London, after "a long illness bravely borne." She was survived by her husband and her daughter, Pauleen Aiers, who worked for the British High Commission in Canberra.

Although George II had acquired a home at 45 Chester Street, London for Joyce, they never lived in the house as it needed repair and it was difficult to obtain materials in post-war London.  The King's housekeeper, Elizabeth McLindon lived in the house, where on June 8, 1946, she was murdered by her lover, Arthur Banks.   He was found guilty and sentenced to death.  His hanging took place at Pentonville on November 1, 1946.

After King George II's death,  King Paul gave the house to his sister, Princess Katherine.   It has been assumed that Joyce would inherit the house, but King George II died intestate.  King Paul was his next of kin, and he made the decision regarding ownership of the Chester Street House.

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Anonymous said...

I purchased an old scrapbook and there was a photo ID'd as Ms Brown and King George. I could send it to you if you'd like.

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

I would love to see it

Unknown said...

hi there. well, have you ever been sent this pic??? waiting with bated breath!! cheers.

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

No, not was sent the photo.

Unknown said...

Unknown said...

I have a photo of her and King George II

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

I have seen a photo, but do not have one

MAXny said...

I believe there is a photo of her and George II welcoming Edward VIII and Ms.Simpson when they visited Greece. I can't remember the name of the yatch... It starts with an N.

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

the Nahlin

niles said...

The King looked remarkably like Prince Philip, his cousin.