Thank you for doing this. You appear very loyal, willing to threaten your job as a nanny to defend your friend who is accused of murder. You live in an exciting time because society is changing and it appears your hopes are changing as well.
Elise Cooper: Why did you decide to become a nanny of sorts?
Louisa Cannon:I needed to get away from London and my friend Jennie was with Miss Nancy when I bumped into her just before Christmas 1919. Miss Nancy mentioned that the nursery maid had left and they were in need of another, what with Lady Redesdale expecting another baby at the time. I thought it couldn’t be too hard to pick up what to do, and I’m good enough at sewing too, because of helping my mother with laundry and mending the linens for the big houses.
EC: Now that many of the girls are older you have morphed into a chaperone-what is that like?
LC: Nanny Blor looks after the littlest ones, and I think because Miss Nancy and Miss Pamela and I are not too far apart in age, it was more natural for it to be me going with them to London. Although I know London, I don’t know it the way they know it. I’d never have seen the insides of some of the houses they go to, let alone the parties and the nightclubs. Sitting with Miss Nancy or Miss Pamela I hear all kinds of conversations that the likes of me would never be party to usually.
EC: You have become an amateur sleuth-why?
LC:I didn’t mean to! But Mr. Sullivan became a friend of mine, when he was working for the railway police – he’s a sergeant with the Metropolitan Police now – got me interested. Nanny Blor’s sister knew the nurse who was murdered on the train, and that got everyone involved somehow. I didn’t really want to get caught up in it all but somehow it happened, and knowing Miss Nancy and hearing what the police were investigating. it meant I was the one who could put the pieces together I think.
EC: Alice Diamond is a larger than life criminal-are you afraid of her?
LC:Yes, but not because I thought she would be violent. It was more that she was the most powerful woman I’d ever seen. I didn’t know a woman could command attention in a room like she could. And she does whatever she wants. I’m not saying those are necessarily good things and she’s a thief – that’s bad, of course. But there’s something amazing about seeing a woman know what she wants and go after it, with no man stopping her.
EC: Do you ever wish that you can trade places with the “Bright Young Things,” those you work for, and become part of the rich and famous?
LC:I don’t think that I want be rich and famous, I want to be myself. But I don’t see why I shouldn’t be myself and have a little of what they have sometimes. I do like those beautiful dresses. It’s all just pretend in a way, like putting wallpaper up. What you look like on the outside – does that mean that’s what you are on the inside? I don’t know. I feel sometimes like what I wear betrays me and that if someone could really see me, they’d see me in something different. But I am who I am, I can’t change that and I don’t know that I really want to.
EC: How would you describe your relationship with Guy?
LC:Oh. That’s hard to do. I like Guy, I like him a lot. We’ve been friends for some years now and I know he has been sweet on me in the past. It’s just complicated because I want to work, and if I marry, I have to quit my job. But for Guy, life could go on just the same as before, only he’d have a wife instead of his mother doing his washing and cooking his meals. It’s an exciting time for women right now – 1925! We can go out to work and earn our own money, and not have a father or husband telling us what to do. I want some of that.
EC: Since this is 1925 are you a supporter of women’s suffrage?
LC:Yes, of course. We’ve got the vote now – well, sort of, if you’re over 30 years old and a house owner. But it’s better than the nothing we had before. I believe in women’s rights. There aren’t enough men around since the war and women have to be able to go out to work to support themselves.
EC: Do you think he is unusual in that he treats women as equals-considering his police partner is a woman?
LC:Yes, I think Guy is unusual, which is why I like him and why it gets complicated between us. He does show real respect for women, and he listens. Not many men do that. Though I don’t know that he’s very interested in trying to change the world, he’s quite happy to keep the status quo, I think. So he’ll be good to women but I don’t think he wants them in charge or anything like that. What man does?
EC: Is it more fun to be around Nancy or Pamela?
LC:They’re both very different. Miss Nancy is quite sharp, you have to be careful not to be on the wrong end of her. But she can also be very funny, and a lot of fun. She’s the most daring, the most willing to try something new. If it wasn’t for Miss Nancy I wouldn’t have had the courage to go to the 43 nightclub, and I’m grateful to her for that. Miss Pamela is quieter but she’s steady and kind. The others rely on her to be their rock. If you were in trouble, Miss Pamela’s the one you’d want on your side.
EC: What do you like doing for fun?
LC:I don’t get much time for fun but I like reading – Lady Redesdale tells me books to read for history and she is kind enough to let me borrow from their library. Otherwise, I go for long walks with the littlest girls – Debo and Decca – and I love learning more about the flowers that grow in the country. I grew up in London and didn’t see much more than the odd patch of grass and oak trees. Out here in the country you can see for miles and miles, nothing but fields and hedgerows and birds soaring in the skies. It makes me feel free.
EC: What are your hopes and dreams?
LC:I don’t know that I dare think beyond next week. But I suppose it would be nice to think that I might be a woman of some significance somehow, one day. That seems a bit silly, I know. I had to leave school at fourteen and I don’t know any science. I’m not sure what work I might be able to do but I’m always looking about, you read about things in the newspapers that would have seemed impossible only a few years ago.
JESSICA FELLOWES is an author, journalist, and public speaker, best known for her five official New York Times bestselling companion books to the Downton Abbey TV series. Former deputy director of Country Life, and columnist for the Mail on Sunday, she has written for the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, She has knowledge of the 1920s era and has now ventured into writing a series of historical crime fiction with returning characters Louis Cannon and Guy Sullivan.