Tag: Arthur Tree

A Rich Life: Ethel Tree Beatty

       Marshall Field’s Unruly Daughter


The beautiful, vivacious–and very rich Ethel





By  Megan McKinney


Ronnie Tree, the only child of Arthur and Ethel Tree to survive infancy, was under three when the innocence of his toddler years was invaded by a completely adult world. At the beginning of 1899, little Ronnie’s mother—already separated from his father, Arthur Tree—was fox hunting near Newmarket, Suffolk, when she met British war hero David Beatty, who was captivated by the beautiful, vivacious and very rich Mrs. Tree. Although devastated, Arthur willingly released Ethel from their marriage and gained custody of Ronnie. Although the boy spent little time in his mother’s properties, they were an impressive portion of the Tree tradition of grand style and well worth studying.

A favorite estate of Ethel and David Beatty was Brooksby Hall, a late 16th century manor house, which sits on 800 acres of land between Leicester and Melton Mowbray. David and Ethel were ardent fox hunters and at the time Melton Mowbray was still the center of fox hunting England; from this base it was possible to go out with a different hunt six days a week.

Ethel had two sons during her second marriage, David Field Beatty in 1905 and Peter Randolph Louis Beatty in 1910. David would marry four times and Peter never at all.

Ethel with her sons, David and Peter Beatty at Brooksby Hall

Ethel’s affair with David Beatty while married to Tree was not a random occurrence, which is possibly why the heartbroken Arthur gave her up so willingly. Both she and Beatty carried on affairs with others throughout their marriage and Ethel was a notoriously poor mother. She basically abandoned her son Ronnie from her first marriage; then in 1912,  she left the children of her second marriage with her husband while she scooted off on a gambling trip to Monte Carlo

Dingley Hall, in Northamptonshire, was another long-time residence of the Beattys.   

Although Ethel was buried at Dingley Hall when she died in 1932 and David requested in his will that he join her, the war hero is interred at St. Paul’s Cathedral. As a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath he also has a stall plate in the Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey.   

This handsome drawing room was a favorite in Dingley Hall, one of the Beattys’ long-time properties.

Another property was the steam yacht Sheelah, which the Beattys contributed to the Admiralty as a hospital ship during World War I, with Ethel stepping up to bear the cost of fitting her out.

In 1919, David was raised to the peerage when he became the first Earl Beatty, making Ethel Countess Beatty.

Ethel Beatty and her son, David.

Young David would inherit his father’s title. By contrast, his brother Peter’s life was dreadful, and it was “generally accepted” that he was illegitimate. He had had birth complications that were thought to originate from a venereal disease carried by Ethel. They affected his eyesight and muscle control for the rest of his life, which ended in 1949 when he died by his own hand after learning he would lose his sight completely.

Oddly, however, his nickname was “Lucky” because of success in betting on racehorses, and he would also own one of England’s great historic properties, which will be examined in an upcoming segment of this series.

Ronnie Tree

It is with Lady Beatty’s eldest son, Ronnie Tree, his wives, his taste and his almost unlimited funds from the Chicago-based Lambert Tree Trust that the wonder of the glorious Tree-related houses and their sumptuous interiors escalate.


Join Classic Chicago Publisher Megan McKinney’s Great Chicago Fortunes next for the story of Ronnie Tree and his first wife, the fabulous interior designer Nancy Lancaster.


Edited by Amanda K. O’Brien

Author Photo: Robert F. Carl



A Rich Life: The Lambert Trees




By Megan McKinney



Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire, England

Chicago’s Tree family lived well, so well that it will take the next eight or so weeks for us to adequately view their enviable dwellings and remarkable lives. It started off relatively modestly in the 19th century, but, as their story progresses, you will explore with us, for example, the house about which the May 2018 issue of Town & Country magazine asked, Is Heron Bay in Barbados the Most Exquisite House in the World?

Credit: Architecture & Design in Barbados

Before Heron Bay, Ronnie Tree’s mid-20th century Palladian house in Barbados, there would be many other glorious Tree dwellings throughout the English-speaking world.

We will have such residences as the Ogden Codman French Renaissance Revival style town house on New York’s Upper East Side.

As well as this grand entry carved into an antebellum Virginia plantation house and such English estates as Ditchley Park in Oxfordshire, below, with Nancy Lancaster’s sumptuous interiors.

An Alexandre Serebriakoff watercolor of The Blue Drawing Room, Ditchley Park

During the early years of World War II. when the “moon was high,” Winston Churchill’s country retreat, Chequers, became visible to enemy aircraft. On these weekends, the Prime Minister would stay as guest of third generation Trees at Ditchley Park, smoking his cigars late at night in the room above. But we will come to that in a later issue.

The family patriarch was Judge Lambert Tree, a Washington D.C. native with a law degree from the University of Virginia. After moving out to Chicago, he married, in 1859, Anna Josephine Magie, daughter of Chicago pioneer H. H. Magie.

A distinguished Chicago citizen, Judge Tree’s great wealth came from real estate and his name continues to be known through the Tree Studio complex on Chicago’s Near North Side.

The Lambert Trees and their only child, Arthur, lived in the mansion above at 94 Cass Street, now Wabash. Among their neighbors were the Joseph Medills, Edward T. Blairs and Cyrus Hall McCormicks. Arthur Tree would marry a Chicago contemporary but not a North Side neighbor.

Growing up in elegance at another fashionable Chicago address,1905 South Prairie Avenue, was Ethel Field, daughter of department store tycoon Marshall Field.

Although the Field parents were at war with each other, they indulged Ethel and her brother, Marshall Jr. In 1886, when the Fields hosted the Mikado Ball for 17-year-old Marshall Jr. and 14-year-old Ethel, it was the most elaborate private event Chicago had seen. The party was catered by Sherry’s of New York and required two private railroad cars to bring in linen, silver and gourmet food at a cost of $75,000. More than 400 guests attended the ball and received party favors designed by the painter James McNeill Whistler.

Albertine Huck

Marshall Jr. married Chicagoan Albertine Huck in 1890 and they settled in an English country estate, spending only a few months a year in their Chicago house at 1919 Prairie Avenue.

On January 1, 1891, Marshall Field Jr’s 17-year-old sister Ethel married Arthur Tree in an opulent ceremony held at the Fields’ Prairie Avenue house. Although Ethel and Arthur were both Chicagoans, they had met during a foxhunt in England. Both preferred that country to their own and, after their marriage, they commissioned English architect Edward Goldie to design Ashorne Hill, a Warwickshire estate neighboring that of Marshall Jr. and Albertine.

Ashorne Hill  

The Arthur Trees’ first two children, Gladys and Lambert, died in infancy, leaving only Ronald Arthur Lambert Field Tree, known throughout his life as Ronnie.


Ronnie Tree is the central figure in Megan McKinney’s Classic Chicago series, A Rich  Life: The Trees . He will lead us into the coming segment, sub-titled Marshall Field’s Unruly Daughter.


Edited by Amanda K. O’Brien

Author Photo: Robert F. Carl