Siddhesh Joshi (Editor)

Alice and Claude Askew

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Name  Alice Claude
Parents  Jane Leake, Henry Leake
Movies  John Heriot's Wife

Died  October 5, 1917
Role  Author
Ex-spouse  Claude Askew
Alice and Claude Askew
Books  Aylmer Vance: Ghost-Seer, The Stricken Land Serbia as We Saw It - Scholar's Choice Edition
Siblings  Henry Dashwood Stucley Leake, Frances Beatrice Levine Leake

Alice Askew (18 June 1874 – 6 October 1917) along with her husband, Claude Askew (27 November 1865 – 6 October 1917) were British authors, who together wrote "over ninety novels, many published in sixpenny and sevenpenny series, between 1904 and 1918".



Claude was born on 27 November 1865 at No. 4 Holland Park, Kensington in London and christened Claude Arthur Cary. He was the second son and youngest of five children of Fanny Georgiana Charlotte Askew (née Browne 1830–1900) and Rev. John Askew, M.A. (1804–1881). Claude's older sisters and brother were: Amy Ellen Cary Askew (10 June 1857 – 29 April 1945), Isabel Emily Florence Askew (16 November 1858 – 30 October 1928), Mabel Fanny Mary Askew (23 February 1861 – 21 August 1941), and Hugh Henry John Percy Cary Askew (18 September 1862 – 14 April 1949).

Claude was educated at Eton College (1879–1883), "... and there wrote a play in blank verse...." It was probably during this period — certainly after 1877 and before 1883 — when Claude was taken on a holiday to Vevey (between Montreux and Lausanne) on Lake Geneva, where he met the future King Peter I of Serbia – then in exile in Geneva. "I was a small boy, spending my holidays with my people at Vevy on the Lake of Geneva, and at the hotel we struck up an acquaintance with Prince Peter Kara-Georgevitch. He was then in the prime of life, tall, dark, handsome—not yet married." He wrote this many years later recalling this childhood encounter when he met up with him once more – this time with his wife Alice and during the much darker circumstances of the 'Great Serbian Retreat' during World War I (see below). "At Koshumlja to-day we saw the King. Curiously enough, this was the first time that I have come across him since I have been in Serbia, though Alice has seen him at Topola. He is a fine old man, and neither trouble, sickness, nor age has bowed him."


Alice was born on 18 June 1874 at No. 3 Westbourne Street, near Hyde Park in London, England; and christened Alice Jane de Courcy on 5 August 1874 at the church of St. Michael and All Angels in Paddington, London. She was the eldest daughter of Jane Leake (née Dashwood 1844–1912) and Henry Leake (1829–1899), who following his retirement from the British army, was granted the honorary rank of Lt-Colonel. At the time of her birth he was a Captain, on half pay, late of the 70th (Surrey) Regiment of Foot. She had two younger siblings: Henry Dashwood Stucley Leake (17 Feb 1876 – 2 June 1970), and Frances Beatrice Levine Leake (27 May 1878 – 29 Aug 1884).

She began writing "for her own amusement" before her marriage, did have one short story published under her own name alone (or rather initials), "A. J. de C. L." = Alice Jane de Courcy Leake: 'A Modern-Day Saint', which appeared in 1894 in Belgravia of London.

Marriage and partnership

Alice and Claude were married on 10 July 1900, at Christ Church, Lancaster Gate, London.

A PICTURESQUE WEDDING: “There was a large and fashionable congregation on Tuesday afternoon at Christ Church, Lancaster Gate, to witness the marriage of Mr. Claude Arthur Cary Askew, second son of the late Rev. John Askew, M.A., to Miss Alice Jane de Courcey Leake, only surviving daughter of the late Lieut.-Colonel Henry Leake, late 44th and 70th Regiments, and of Mrs. Leake, 3, Westbourne Street, Hyde Park. The bridegroom, who is the proprietor of the Anglo-American Exchange, of London, New York, and Paris, has a host of friends and acquaintances among American visitors now in London, many of whom were present at the ceremony. ....”

Shortly after their marriage, Alice and Claude Askew began writing together and the first novel under their joint names, The Shulamite, was published in 1904. Afterwards Claude, together with Edward Knoblock, wrote a stage adaptation of it, which was first produced in 1906 at the Savoy Theatre, London starring Lena Ashwell, and a little later with Miss Ashwell in the same role in New York City. In 1921 Paramount Pictures produced a silent film version with the title Under the Lash starring Gloria Swanson, and directed by Sam Wood. The couple went on to publish "a large number of novels and serial stories".

In 1915, during the First World War, both Alice and Claude Askew traveled to Serbia as part of a relief effort with a British field hospital that would be attached to the Second Serbian Army. They were also Special Correspondents for the British newspaper Daily Express. As Claude himself describes their role: "As for Alice and myself, we went out essentially as writers, though we were prepared to turn our hands to odd jobs if called upon to do so. We had assisted Dr. Hartnell Beavis in London with the formation of the unit, the raising of funds, and the collection of stores. It was the reports in the English Press of the terrible state into which Serbia had fallen during the winter of 1914–1915 that first inspired us to work for that gallant little country." He wrote this in their personal account of their experiences and impressions accompanying the Serbian army on its famous 'Great Retreat' across the mountains from Prishtina to Alessio, during the winter of 1915–16, which was published in 1916 under the title: The Stricken Land: Serbia As We Saw It. The authors had spent some six months in Serbia before the retreat and wrote with sympathy and real knowledge of Serbia and the Serbian character. Claude Askew was given the honorary commission of a major in the Serbian army.

Following the 'Great Serbian Retreat' (see: Serbian Campaign), when the bulk of the Serbian army had been evacuated to the Greek island of Corfu, Alice and Claude both returned to England, which they reached by April 1916. By sometime in May, after finishing and arranging the publication of The Stricken Land, Claude was back with the Serbian army – now at Salonika (as Thessaloniki was then called in English), where he was working out of its Press Bureau. But Alice remained in London to give birth to her third child, who was born towards the end of July 1916. She was also spending the time in England soliciting support for the relief work with Serbia. But in October she also returned to the theatre of war and was with her husband Claude in Salonika until about the end of April of the following year, when she went to Corfu to work with the Serbian Red Cross there, under Colonel Borissavljevitch.


Sometime between at least September and October 1917, Alice and Claude were on leave in Italy – perhaps in Rome to meet up with their two older children. Then they set out to return to Corfu. During the night of 5–6 October 1917 (or possibly the 4th) when they were traveling on the Italian steamer Città di Bari from Taranto to Corfu, it suffered a torpedo attack by the German submarine, SM UB-48 "about 37 miles from Paxo" (or Paxoi) and was sunk. Both drowned in the incident. Claude's body was never recovered, but on 29 October the body of a woman was "found on the seashore at Porto Karboni on the island of Korčula" by a local fisherman. The next day it was examined by the authorities and, from various letters and telegrams that were found about her person, identified as that of the "well-known English lady writer Alice Askew of London." Alice Askew was then buried that same day 30 October 1917 at Porto Karboni. And a stone cross was erected there, bearing the following inscription (roughly translated from the original Croatian): "ALICE ASKEW english writer delivered up from the sea 29 and buried officially 30 october 1917."

Previously – on 21 October 1917, a memorial service for Alice and Claude Askew was held at the Serbian Church in Corfu, attended by a large number of both Serbian and British officials. It was conducted by the Archbishop of Serbia, "who paid an eloquent and touching tribute to the benevolent work of Major and Mrs. Askew, to whom, he said, the Serbian people owed eternal gratitude".

Alice and Claude Askew were survived by one son and two daughters.

Selected works

  • The Shulamite (1904)
  • The Plains of Silence (1907)
  • Lucy Gort: A Study in Temperament (1907)
  • The Rod of Justice (1910)
  • Two Apaches of Paris (1911)
  • The Stricken Land: Serbia As We Saw It (1916)
  • References

    Alice and Claude Askew Wikipedia

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