Mrs Elizabeth Lucas

e lucas square 2
Elizabeth Bettancourt [1]
Elizabeth Lucas, 59, (1873-1951) I believe was a writer who also during WW1 ran an refuge for orphaned and wounded children at the small Chateau de Bettancourt-la-Longue, south east of Reims, close to the Belgian border. Her daughter Audrey helped. Born Florence Elizabeth Gertrude Griffin, she was the wife of Edward Verrall Lucas, writer, who also contributed to Time and Tide and they worked together on children’s books. After the War they lived apart.


If sharing “war stories” or tales of France was a welcome idea then Elizabeth may have enjoyed being with Winifred Holtby, Elizabeth Haldane, Cicely Hamilton or Stephen Gwynn.


We need to know more – though she would undoubtedly be someone fearful of the direction things were taking in Berlin.


Florence Elizabeth Gertrude Lucas née Griffin was born in the second half of 1873 in Hampstead to Elizabeth Douglas Reid, born in Edinburgh c1827, and died at 86, in 1913, and James Theodore Griffin, born Rochester, New Jersey, USA (1825-1902), an agricultural engineer who had held a commission in the American Army.

Elizabeth had an older brother William Hall Griffin, a writer and Professor at Queen’s College, University of London, born in Rochester, NY in c1857 and who died on 16th December 1907 when living at 45 Buckland Crescent, Hampstead. With his Liverpool born wife Emily he had a son and two daughters: his son Douglas Morley Griffin, an architect and surveyor, died of his wounds in northern France on 16th July 1916 at the age of 26 and was buried at the Abbeville Communal Cemetery. She also had a sister Ethel M Griffin, born in 1872-73 (either about a year older or a twin?).

The so-called “death penny” medal struck for Elizabeth’s nephew Douglas Morley Griffin, who died of his wounds near Abbeville, Somme 1916[2]
Records suggests that Elizabeth also had a sister Ethel M Griffin, born in 1872-73 (either about a year older or a twin?). Yet at the same time Elizabeth does not appear in the records (either in 1881 or 1891). The Ethel M does not occur in the birth records. A little curious.

Edward Verrall Lucas, 1930s, © National Portrait Gallery[3]
On 29th April 1897 Elizabeth married Punch magazine writer Edward Verrall Lucas, (born in Eltham, Kent, in 1868, died 1938), in New College Chapel, Hampstead.

WhatShallWeElizabeth and Edward worked together on some children’s books (such as What Shall We Do Now?, with things for children to do) and she also wrote under the name Mr. C. Greene. They had one daughter, Audrey, who was born in 1898. In 1911 they were living at 86 Great Portland Street, London, though Edward signed the form as from Kingston Manor, Lewes.[4] [5] [6]

Elizabeth at Bettancourt, seated second from right.  Her daughter Audrey is the other side of the matron (centre). [7]
In 1915, with financial backing from J.M. Barrie and from the Society of Friends (Edward, her husband, a Quaker, was also a friend of Barrie) Elizabeth set up and ran a home for orphaned and wounded children at the small Château de Bettancourt-la-Longue, south east of Reims, close to the Belgian border. Her daughter Audrey helped out.  

Elizabeth wrote later “It was owing to Sir James’s generosity that the château had been equipped and staffed to care for some fifty or sixty children who were brought into us from the bombed regions around – but chiefly from Rheims. Sir James financed the little œuvre liberally in his anxiety to do what he could for the children of France – who were then so much more unfortunate than the children of England; and he gave me a free hand in the running of the great gaunt house, empty when we first came to it except for the heaps of dirty straw left by the Germans who had occupied it, and just one table of immense length in the bookless library.”

“It was through the Society of Friends , so trusted and privileged by the French, that permission was given to us to use the château. Members of the Society fetched in the children for us, sent a doctor to us when necessary, and helped in every way to make the running of the house less difficult.  To a certain extent the château was a clearing house from which children could be moved on to greater safety in homes further south; but many of them stayed with us for months, and some of the older ones who had proved themselves helpful remained all the time I was there.”[8]

Medal of the Chateau de Bettancourt, Dated: 1915-16; These images may be subject to copyright – reproduced here under Fair Use.[9]
In thanks Barrie had a medal struck and presented to Elizabeth for her work.

Elizabeth and Edward went their own ways after the war, which might explain why she is addressed as Mrs Elizabeth Lucas despite E.V. Lucas being still alive.


Lucas Family
The Lucas Family, from “Dear Turley”[11]
We have little further information so far. E.V. Lucas died in on 26th June 1938 and their daughter Audrey went on to have a career on the stage (acting in Peter Pan), as a writer, as a lover of Evelyn Waugh and later married as Mrs Scott.[10] Audrey certainly would have more stories to tell. She was residing at 41 Doughty Street (Bloomsbury) WC1 at the time of a 1925 trip to New York.

Elizabeth died aged 78 on 11th December 1951, then living at 25 Ladbroke Square. A week after her death The Times carried a ninth century “lament for a dead abbess”, translated by Helen Waddell, in tribute[11]:

“Thou has come safe to port, I still at sea;

The light is on thy head, Darkness in me;

Pluck thou in heaven’s field, Violet and rose;

While I strew flowers that will thy vigil keep;

Where thou dost sleep,

Love, in thy last repose.”


[1] As published with her article “War Work at Bettancourt, 1915” in the book “Dear Turley”, Ed, Eleanor Adlard, Frederick Muller Ltd. London 1942. Photographer unknown. Also published in Inspirational Women of World War One Blog, Elizabeth Lucas 1873 – 7th October 2017 accessed 20.4.2019

[2] Shared on

[3] Edward Verrall Lucas, by Howard Coster, bromide print, 1930s, NPG Ax136076, © National Portrait Gallery, London

[4] From the ODNB entry for EV Lucas, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, written by E. V. Knox, revised by Katharine Chubbuck, 2004

[5] Edward Verrall Lucas, Elizabeth Lucas, Three Hundred Games and Pastimes or What Shall We Do Now? – A Book of Suggestions for Children’s Games and Activities

[6] Edward Verrall Lucas

[7] [8] “War Work at Bettancourt, 1915” in the book “Dear Turley”, Ed, Eleanor Adlard, Frederick Muller Ltd. London 1942. Photographer unknown.

[9]  From the J. M. Barrie Collection held at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale; Copper and enamel pendant made by the Artificers’ Guild Ltd., London, presented by Barrie to his friend Elizabeth Lucas who was for fifteen months director of an orphanage she founded in a château at Bettancourt, near Rheims, France.

[10] Audrey Lucas web blog 

[11] “War Work at Bettancourt, 1915” in “Dear Turley”, Ed, Eleanor Adlard, Frederick Muller Ltd. London 1942. Photographer unknown.

[12] For Elizabeth Lucas, The Times, 19.11.1951 p8

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