Secret life story of psychic MP Winifred Coombe Tennant

  • 18 May 2011
  • From the section Wales
Winifred Coombe Tennant with David Lloyd George at the National Eisteddfod at Treorchy, 1928 (Picture:The National Library of Wales)
Image caption With Lloyd George at the 1928 National Eisteddfod

Details of the life of Welsh Liberal politician, Winifred Coombe Tennant, have been revealed in new book.

In the 1920s Coombe Tennant was well known in political, artistic and spiritualist circles.

She was a suffragette, a supporter of Welsh Prime Minister Lloyd George, a psychic medium and for a decade wore traditional Welsh costume every day.

The book is based on her diaries and is written by author and art historian Peter Lord.

Mr Lord told BBC Radio Wales Ms Tennant was an "extraordinary woman".

"This diary is a unique document from a difficult period," he said.

"It runs from 1909 to 1955 and the part we have just published runs until 1924, but it gives intimate details of every aspect of her life.

"She was involved in politics, the women's movement, the suffragette movement and stood for parliament in 1922 in the Forest of Dean.

"All the details of that run side by side with those of her extraordinary private life where she was the most closely studied spiritual medium of the period.

"That's why the book is called 'Between Two Worlds', because it reflects the tension between the two."

Coombe Tennant is often remembered as one of the significant art patrons of the last century and befriended Welsh artists and collected their work.

But this new book reveals how she went under a pseudonym to study scripts she claimed to have received from spirits.

She was the UK's first female representative to the League of Nations and knew the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George well and also the Irish revolutionary, Michael Collins, at a historic time in Irish history.

She also conducted an extra-marital affair with the cabinet member, Gerald Balfour, brother of the former Prime Minister, and the pair had a child, Henry, who they were apparently convinced would be the "messiah".

The affair remained a family secret until 50 years after her death in 1956.

The Diary of Winifred Coombe Tennant 1909-1924, is published by the National Library of Wales.

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