Stephens Lyne Stephens died in February 1860, with Lynford Hall incomplete. It would not be occupied until 1862. He bequeathed Grove House and his art collection to Yolande absolutely, and Lynford Hall to her for her life. She also inherited the Paris property for life.14 She became more pious, outwardly at least, commissioning from her late husband’s architect, William Burn, an elaborate mausoleum and sarcophagus which were placed in the grounds of Grove House in 1864,15 contributing to religious foundations in Paris and Roehampton, and from 1879 funding the construction of one of the largest Catholic churches in England, the Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge.16 From the early 1860s her grief was tempered by a liaison with, and devotion to, Edward Claremont, the married British military attaché in Paris, who was a friend of the Marquess of Hertford and of his son, Richard Wallace.17 It was with Claremont’s advice, and possibly that of Wallace, that Yolande expanded her art collection. It was also on Claremont’s advice that in 1875 she sold the hôtel Molé and found an apartment on the Champs-Elysées.18 A partial account of the apartment is given in a letter of June 1882 from Claremont’s daughter-in-law to her mother: ‘The rooms are a dream, all opening out of each other, full of curios: china, pictures, and tapestry. My room is very pretty. The walls are covered with copper-coloured brocade and the furnishings are pale blue.’19
Edward Claremont died in 1890, and it was to his son, Harry, who had taken over the management of Yolande’s affairs from his father, that she bequeathed Grove House and her residuary estate in England. Harry died in 1894, a few months after Yolande’s death on 2 September 1894, having, as required by the will, changed his surname to ‘Lyne Stephens’.20 Yolande’s lawyer, Horace Pym, inherited her residuary estate in France, including the Champs-Elysées property.21 The French estate was the subject of a number of bequests, including one to the National Gallery of three paintings.22 By her English will of 8 March 1887, Yolande, then 75 years old, had bequeathed part of her art collection at Roehampton and Lynford to the nation, with her pictures going, as the Lyne Stephens Collection, to the National Gallery, and furniture and porcelain to the South Kensington Museum. On 12 June 1894, however, she revoked the bequests under the English will to both institutions, so that, save for the bequests made to them under her French will, Yolande’s collections fell into residue and were auctioned in 1895 and 1911.23 The apparent reason for the revocation, made a few weeks before her death, was that the Finance Bill of 1894 proposed an increase in the rate of death duties on large estates.24
14 For these dispositions, see Roberts 2003, pp. 277–80.
15 Cocke 2011, pp. 473–4 and figs 44 and 45.
16 She also financed the construction of the Catholic churches of Our Lady and St Stephen, Lynford, in 1878 (www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/lynford/lynford.htm) and of St Francis of Assisi, Shefford, Bedfordshire, opened in 1884 (www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk and Bedfordshire Archives and Record Services, inv. Z551/3).
17 For Yolande’s liaison with Claremont, see Roberts 2016, pp. 102–6, 119–26, 151–69, 183–93; and for Claremont’s friendship with Hertford and Wallace, see Blount 1902, pp. 265–6.
18 The date is given in Paris mon Village (n.d.).
19 Cited in Roberts 2003, p. 303.
20 Ibid., pp. 319–20. For a slightly irreverent obituary of Yolande Lyne Stephens which alludes to her racier dancing days, see the New York Times, 23 September 1894.
21 Roberts 2003, p. 314.
22 On these paintings, see Campbell 1998, p. 15.
23 Ibid. The will as a whole was not revoked. Consequently, probate of it, and of the codicil revoking the bequests, was granted, and copies of both documents can be inspected at the Probate Registry.
24 See The Times, 8 May 1895, p. 8 (‘It is said … with what truth we know not, that the old lady had left many of her beautiful French pictures to the nation and that she altered her will in consequence of Sir William Harcourt’s Budget of last year, so that the National Gallery has had to content itself with two less costly pictures’), and Roberts 2003, p. 320. Estate Duty was introduced by the Finance Act, 1894. The duty arising was charged on the value of all property passing on death, and the rate was 8 per cent on estates worth over £1,000,000. Some relief from this provision in respect of works of art was given in the Finance Act, 1896. Among the pecuniary beneficiaries of Yolande Lyne Stephens’s French will was Mme Frédéric Reiset, widow of the former director of France’s Musées Nationaux. Given that, and Yolande’s strong continuing connection with France, it seems strange that she thought only to benefit London’s National Gallery. Curiously, on 23 May 1894 – so just months before Yolande Lyne Stephens decided to revoke her bequest to the National Gallery – Lady Wallace made her will leaving what is now called ‘The Wallace Collection’ to the ‘British Nation’. On 24 April 1895, however, she made a codicil, making her bequest in effect conditional on HM Treasury levying no estate duty in respect of the collection. Doubtless this, and the loss to the nation of the English part of the Lyne Stephens bequest, were instrumental in procuring the legislation of 1896 giving relief from duty on works of art.
25 For example, no. 98 (Velázquez’s Philip IV) had been in the Salamanca sale in Paris on 3–6 June 1867 and so acquired by Mrs Lyne Stephens then or soon thereafter, but, Murillo’s Triumph of the Eucharist, had been in the Pourtalès sale two years earlier.