Lady Berry

Lady Berry at the dinner[1]
Marie Edith Merandon du Plessis, 45, (1888-1976), a French Mauritian was a descendant of Pico della Mirandola, the Renaissance poet and the second wife of Sir Gomer Berry.[2] They were married in 1931. Her first husband was the Dutch Consul in London. She and Gomer led an active social life and her astute business mind persuaded her husband not to sell the Sunday Times, which proved to be very smart. Her later activities for the Daily Sketch War Relief Fund and for Mauritius and Greece were recognised with the O.B.E., Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur and Commander of the Royal Order of the Phoenix of Greece.


One of the five people for whom we do know something definite, she was seated to the right of the keynote speaker Sir Norman Angell, himself to the right of Lady Rhondda. Perhaps her husband was to her right.


She most probably will have wanted to hear Sir Norman’s views on the gathering storm clouds over Europe, her own ideas probably well informed from her own experiences when married to the Dutch Consul in London. And if Sir Norman was smart, he probably would have picked up some shrewd observations from her too at a time when he was grappling with his pacifist leanings in the face of impending aggression.


Marie Edith Merandon du Plessis was born on 19th February 1888, the daughter of Nicholas Emile Merandon du Plessis, possibly at Constance, Flacq, Mauritius, birthplace of her older brother René Merandon du Plessis who lived in Mauritius (his great-grandson won a rowing bronze medal for GB&NI in the 2012 Olympics). Divorced from her first husband, Cornelius William Dresselhuys, the Dutch Consul in London, Edith married Gomer Berry on 30th April 1931, two years before the dinner.[3] [4]


Edith and Gomer had no children but had a high social life, as suggested in a recent blog: “20th July 1936: At the Kemsley’s (James Berry, 1st Viscount Kemsley, and his second wife, Edith, née Merandon du Plessis) ball at Chandos House, a grandiose, high season affair with ‘all London’ present”.[5] Her daughter from her first marriage, Ghislaine Dresselhuys, later Lady Foley, and who died in the year 2000, made her name, inter alia, as a member of the BBC’s What’s My Line? Panel.[6]

Edith was a power in her own right, her astuteness acknowledged in the business advice given to her husband. She is credited with persuading him at the last minute to hold on to the Sunday Times in 1937, given that it was then outselling the Observer and went on to quadruple sales.[7]

At the beginning of WW2 she formed the Daily Sketch War Relief Fund which under her chairmanship was responsible for sending millions of pounds worth of clothes and comforts to troops in all parts of the world. Her natural interest in Commonwealth affairs led to her playing a leading part in the visits to the UK of overseas journalists under the Kemsley Empire Journalist Scheme. She was appointed OBE in 1953 for her work for Mauritius in the UK. She later became a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur.

After WW2 Edith was made a Commander of the Royal Order of the Phoenix of Greece by the King of the Hellenes for her services to Greece. Edith was also a Commander of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. Though she had health problems later in life, Viscountess Kemsley outlived Gomer, and died in 1976.[8]


[1] Western Mail, 25.3.1933

[2] Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, 3.8.2016, accessed 13.1.2018

[3] The Peerage accessed online 2.4.2019

[4] There are several images at National Portrait Gallery, not available for downloading


[6] Obituary, Lady Foley, The Telegraph, 24.5.2000, accessed online 13.1.2018.

[7] Adrian Smith, Berry, (James) Gomer, first Viscount Kemsley, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, updated 4.10.2008

[8] The Times, 15.9.1976

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