Born in England on April 8, 1957, Lady Houston became England’s second richest woman by 1926 – the result of three lucrative marriages. She was the consummate supporter of Britain’s WWI effort. She sent socks and matches to soldiers serving in Europe, labelling the match boxes with A Match for Our Matchless Troops from Lady Byron. In 1917, Lady Houston was appointed Dame Commander, Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her establishment of Bluebird’s Nest, a rest home in Hampstead for nurses serving in WWI.
Lady Houston’s support for British aviation began in 1931 when the Supermarine company ran short of funds to ready its S.6B model for the impending Schneider Trophy Race. Author Miles MacNair noted in his book, Lady Lucy Houston DBE: Aviation Champion and Mother of the Spitfire, “’The timely boost her donation gave to the accelerated development of the Rolls-Royce engine and to Mitchell’s airframe design which would become the prototype of his iconic Spitfire fighter.”
Mostly motivated for political reasons at the time, Lady Houston contributed 100,000 pounds sterling (four million today) to ensure Britain’s participation in the Schneider Trophy Race. As she stated, “Every true Briton would rather sell his last shirt than admit that England could not afford to defend herself (in the race).” Only two contestants prepared to take off on September 13, 1931 – two Supermarine S.6Bs. Nearly a million spectators crowded the coast of Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight to watch the racers speed over the 217.48-mile course. Flight Lieutenant John N. Boothman finished in first place with an average speed of 337.7 mph.
In 1932, Lady Houston offered £200,000 to strengthen the British army and navy but her contribution was turned down by the National Government. In response she wrote to the Prime Minister. “I alone have dared to point out the dire need for air defense of London. You have muzzled others who have deplored this shameful neglect. You have treated my patriotic gesture with a contempt such as no other government would have been guilty of toward a patriot.”
Lady Houston financed the Houston-Mount Everest Flight Expedition in 1933. A Westland Wallace, a British two-seat biplane flown by Sir Douglas Douglas-Hamilton and David McIntyre, made the first successful flight over the summit of Everest in April 1933. Her support again possessed a political motive. It was a show of opposition for her country’s granting independence to India. In a cable congratulating the winners of the MacRobertson England to Melbourne Air Race, Lady Houston wrote “Your achievement has thrilled me through, oh brave men of my heart… If this does not make the Government sit up, nothing will … Sleep well and feel proud of yourselves, as we all are … God bless you both.”
At the age of 76, Lady Houston purchased the Saturday Review and began including editorials alerting Britain to the weakness of its political leaders and the dangers of Communist infiltration of Britain. She had grown frustrated by what she felt was the weakness of the country’s Prime Ministers and promoted a movement to place Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, and, finally, her friend Edward VIII, into the role of virtual dictator of the country. How the future might have been different!
Dame Lucy Houston, so distraught with King Edward’s abdication, refused to eat and passed away from heart value on December 29, 1936.