Marcia Falkender

Obituaries of Marcia Williams (1932-2019), private and political secretary to Harold Wilson, 1956-83 (at 10 Downing Street, 1964-70 and 1974-76), who took the surname Falkender by Deed Poll and received a Life Peerage as Baroness Falkender, of West Haddon, in 1974, mention that her mother Dorothy, born in 1902, was said to have been an unacknowledged child of Edward VII and that an aide-de-camp named Falkender obliged him by claiming to be the child's father [e.g. The Guardian, 16 February 2019]. No further details of the claimed liaison are known and the story seems to have been invented to hide the humble status of the family.

Lady Falkender's mother, Dorothy Matilda Falkender Cowley, was born illegitimately at 151 Battersea Park Road, Wandsworth, 8 March 1902, the daughter of Jane Cowley formerly Woodcock, a charwoman. Jane Cowley gave the information of birth to the Registrar on 25 April 1902. The child was baptised 'Dorothy Cowley daughter of Jane Cowley, of Battersea, London', at West Haddon, Northamptonshire, on 7 September 1902. As Dorothy Cowley, aged 9, she was living with her grandmother Matilda Woodcock at West Haddon in 1911, the census saying that she was born at '16 Battersea Road'. The widowed Matilda Woodcock took in laundry work at home and died in 1929. Dorothy Matilda Cowley, as of West Haddon, had married by Banns (the name and occupation of her father being left blank in the entry) at All Saints, West Haddon, 19 April 1926, Harry Field, aged 22, bricklayer, of West Haddon, son of Harry Field, bricklayer. He was born 12 November 1903. In 1939 they were with their three children at 46 Norfolk Street, Glossop, Derbyshire, he being a brickworks manager. He died at 2 Hardys Lane, West Haddon, 29 December 1972; his administration being granted PPR, 6 March 1973 (£24,500). She died as Dorothy Matilda Falkender Field in Westminster in June 1978.

Dorothy's mother, Jane Cowley, was also illegitimate, being born before the marriage of her parents, John Woodcock and Matilda Townsend. She was baptised Edith Jane Townsend at West Haddon, 12 July 1874, and her parents married at West Haddon, 17 August 1876. As Edith Jane Woodcock she had married John Cowley at West Haddon on 19 January 1893 and had one child, Lucy Kathleen, in 1894 who died shortly afterwards and was registered in the surname Cowley-York. John Cowley, sometimes called John York Cowley, served in the Royal Artillery from 1885 to 1897 but his later history has not been found. Jane Cowley had meanwhile left him and gone to South London where in March 1901 she was living in one room at 151 Battersea Park Road and describing herself as single, aged 25, charing [RG13/443-146-53]. Her whereabouts after the birth of her child the following year has also not been found.

The only person called Falkender living in the London area at the time of Dorothy Cowley's conception in June 1901 was one William Falkender who on 31 March 1901 was a Lance Sergeant in the 3rd Coldstream Guards and a patient in the Military Hospital at Kidbrooke in Kent, single, aged 23 [RG13/563-172-25]. Born William Thomas Falkender on 6 June 1878 and a labourer he had enlisted in the Guards in July 1896, rising to Sergeant in 1902, and having served in England throughout was discharged as medically unfit in October 1903. His parents lived at Wallsend, Northumberland and he returned to that area, subsequently marrying and dying at Gateshead in 1949. What connection he had with Dorothy Cowley or Edward VII, if any, is presently unknown.