The letters of Julian Grenfell form part of the Panshanger archive, arguably the most important collection in the care of Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies. The house called Panshanger, demolished in 1953, was in the parish of Hertingfordbury, between Hertford and Welwyn Garden City, the family home of Lord and Lady Desborough.
Julian was born in London on 30 March 1888. The family seat was at Taplow Court in Buckinghamshire, but Ettie, Julian’s mother, inherited Panshanger in 1913 on the death of her aunt by marriage, Katie Cowper, wife of the 7th Earl Cowper.
Julian was a good scholar and sportsman. He took the ordinary entrance exam for Eton in 1901 and appears to have been happy there. Towards the end of his time at Eton he began to have battles with his mother, that were to continue on and off for the rest of his life. He learned at an early age to hide any worries, problems, depressions or anxieties from his mother and to bottle them up, making himself dangerously withdrawn. He disliked socialising and was much happier outdoors.
He went up to Balliol College in the autumn of 1906, originally to take Greats, but towards the end of his time there, from late 1909 to early 1910, he suffered from a nervous breakdown. As a result he took a pass degree, but this was sufficient to get him a commission in the army, which had long been his ambition.
On leaving Oxford, Julian joined the 1st Royal Dragoons, and in November 1910 Julian left for India with his regiment, then to South Africa. The regiment left South Africa in August 1914, going to camp on Salisbury Plain. Then on 6 October they sailed to France – Julian’s division fought near the Menin Road at Ypres. He appeared to love war and not to fear death. In May 1915 Julian was knocked down by a shell and died on 26th May.