ABSTRACT

A family photograph, taken just before the First World War in 1913, shows Lady Bowlby surrounded by her six children. Her husband, Sir Anthony, the King’s surgeon, is not there – he is, as usual, at work. She is flanked by her two favourite sons, John and Tony, aged about four and five, looking boldly and brightly into the camera. On her lap sits the baby Evelyn. The two older girls, aged eight and eleven, stand dutifully and demurely to one side. Finally there is two-year-old Jim, the weak member of the family, dubbed a ‘late developer’, lacking the physical and intellectual vigour of his brothers and sisters. A hand appears around his waist, partly propping him up. But whose hand can it be? Is it his mother’s? No, hers are firmly around the baby – a rare moment of physical closeness, as it turned out. Can it be one of his older sisters? No, their hands are politely by their sides. It is in fact the hand of an invisible nurse, crouching behind the tableau vivant, the tiny and perfectionist ‘Nanna Friend’ who, with the nursemaids and governess, provided the childcare in this fairly typical example of the English haute bourgeoisie on the threshold of the modern era.