Memoir of Eugen Millington-Drake, 1889 - 1915
Scope and Contents
Upstream: Seventy Years on the Thames and the Plate
Memoirs of Sir Eugen Millington-Drake
Edited by Jill Quaife
Volume 1: 1889-1915
Comprising a memoir edited by Millington-Drake’s Personal Assistant Jill Quaife, using Millington-Drake’s diaries, articles published in the Macnaghten Old Boy Circulars [a publication for students who attended Eton when Hugh Vibart Macnaghten was a housemaster from 1898 to 1902], and other passages written by his sister, Jessy. The record was initially intended for a family readership. It was subsequently published by Dolman Scott Publishing in March 2022.
The memoir begins by introducing Millington-Drake’s parents, Henry Drake (who was a Paris representative of the family firm, Mincing Lane sugar brokers J.V.Drake and Co.) and Ellen Granger Millington. Millington-Drake’s mother was the only child of English parents and grew up on 516 Fifth Avenue in New York, before becoming a journalist in 1878, moving to Paris. It was in Paris that Henry and Ellen met, marrying in 1888 and living in a flat on Avenue du Bois de Boulogne.
Millington-Drake recalls how he spent much of his early years in Paris and displays much interest in transport. He was sent to England in 1895 to live with his uncle Edgar, after his father was diagnosed with typhoid. He stayed with the Brocklehurst family at Broome Park near Canterbury, before returning to Paris and then staying in the Cap Martin Hotel on the French Rivera. In 1907, his father became President of the British Chamber of Commerce in Paris. Millington-Drake’s memoir contains short accounts of some of these guests, as well as profiles written by his sister, Jessy.
Millington-Drake was initially taught at home before attending Park Hill, Lyndhurst [Hampshire] when he was 10 years old. He describes accounts of bullying, joining football and cricket teams, and a visit by Princess Beatrice. In 1908, he left Park Hill to attend Eton at the age of 12 years and two months, an arrangement orchestrated by his mother. Reflecting on his time at Eton, Millington-Drake recounts memories of Hugh Vibart MacNaghten, schoolmaster at Eton, his experience of becoming a ‘fag’ [servant for an older student] and some of his friendships, rowing achievements, and a visit from King Edward VII.
In 1904, when he was in the Upper Fifth at Eton, he became fagmaster [a senior student who has a junior student as a servant], a moment which he relays by reproducing a typescript copy of a letter sent to his grandmother, who he describes as allowing him to keep his ‘head above water’. In 1905, he won the House Fours [a rowing race towards the end of the season] for the first time and in 1906 the King’s French Prize. Millington-Drake also enjoyed performing, which he describes in detail, as well as the impact of heavy rowing commitments on his body. He includes descriptions of some of the disagreements with his mother over the summer.
In November 1907, he began studying at Magdalen College in Oxford, where he describes the various friendships cultivated, including with Basil Blackwell, and joining the Bullingdon Club. In the summer, he stayed at the country house of the von Ow-Wachendorffs in Germany. Once back at university, he writes about how he transitioned back into rowing, relationships with members of the rowing team, and selection for the Magdalen and Varsity rowing crews. He shares information on his holidays: summer holidays in Bonn, Germany; then Budapest and Vienna; and Christmas holidays in Florence and Tuscany. He recalls how his decision to spend the Christmas holidays away from his mother and sister irked his mother. The emotional impact of this impacted his rowing.
While at university, Millington-Drake describes the various social engagements he attended, including a fancy-dress ball with Count Felix Elton. He notes how he was disappointed not to make the Oxford Rowing Team in 1910 so instead turned to athletics. However, in 1911, he made the Oxford Rowing Team. During the Easter break of 1910, Millington-Drake visited the United States with his family, which he recounts in detail. He also records the death of King Edward VII and travelling to London for the funeral, meeting the Prince of Wales at Oxford and his role preparing an album to give to Godfrey Thomas in advance of the Prince’s visit to Cape Town.
Millington-Drake spent much time at universities in Berlin and Munich, returning to Oxford for his Finals, where he attained a second-class degree. He then took his diplomatic service exams. After passing these exams, he writes about working for the Foreign Office in 1912 on the Shatt Al-Arab question. On 17 March 1913, he worked as an attaché to the British Embassy in St Petersburg, Russia. It was here that he began a friendship with Felix Youssoupoff, known at the time as Count Elston. His memoir details his move to Russia, including preparations of his new flat, highlights of the Russian season [social events], and the wedding of Felix to Princess Irenè.
The last part of the memoir records the escalation of the First World War, recalling a telegram from Edward Grey confirming that Britain was at war. Millington-Drake describes some of the escalating military developments and working into the early hours of the morning every day. It was at the outset of war that he received a telegram notifying him that he would be transferred from St Petersburg to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he was promoted to Third Secretary at the British Embassy, and was the only diplomatic (career) secretary to the Minister Sir Reginald Tower.
The memoir is followed by an appendix which includes a reproduction of the preface to a souvenir booklet issued on the opening of the Macnaghten War Memorial Library at Eton, for which Millington-Drake sourced various books and arranged for them to be signed by their authors.
- Existence: 1889 - 1915
Conditions Governing Access
The diaries and letter books (ref. MLDK 11) may only be seen with the permission of the family. The rest of the collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge.
Language of Materials
Catalogued by Cherish Watton, Archives Assistant, August 2022.