Stephen James Napier Tennant (21 April 1906 – 28 February 1987) was a British aristocrat known for his decadent lifestyle. It is said, albeit apocryphally, that he spent most of his life in bed.
He was born in England, the youngest son of a Scots peer, Edward Priaulx Tennant, 1st Baron Glenconner, and the former Pamela Wyndham, one of the Wyndham sisters and of The Souls clique. His mother was also a cousin of Lord Alfred Douglas (1870–1945), Oscar Wilde’s lover and a sonneteer. On his father’s death, Tennant’s mother married Lord Grey, a fellow bird-lover. Tennant’s eldest brother was Edward – “Bim” – who was killed in the First World War.
During the 20s and 30s, Tennant was an important member – the “Brightest”, it is said – of the “Bright Young People.” His friends included Rex Whistler, Cecil Beaton, the Sitwells, Lady Diana Manners and the Mitford girls – part of the set that made the Nordstrom Sisters popular at The Ritz in 1939. He is widely considered to be the model for Cedric Hampton in Nancy Mitford’s novel Love in a Cold Climate; one of the inspirations for Lord Sebastian Flyte in Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, and a model for Hon. Miles Malpractice in some of his other novels.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Tennant had a sexual affair with the poet Siegfried Sassoon. Prior to this he had proposed to a friend, Elizabeth Lowndes, but had been rejected. (Hoare relates how Tennant discussed plans with Lowndes about bringing his Nanny with them on their honeymoon.) His relationship with Sassoon, however, was to be his most important: it lasted some four years before Tennant off-handedly put an abrupt end to it. Sassoon was reportedly depressed afterwards for three months, until Sassoon married in 1933 and became a father in 1936. When Tennant died in 1987, he had far outlived most of his contemporaries.