Britain's first Labour prime minister had a 15-year love affair with an earl's daughter which has just emerged, nearly a century on, in a stash of secret letters, the Daily Telegraph said on Thursday.
Ramsay MacDonald, a socialist who became leader in 1924 and headed three governments, had a passionate relationship with Lady Margaret Sackville, a society poet and daughter of the 7th Earl de la Warr, the paper reported.
After his wife died in 1911, MacDonald wrote the first of his yearning missives to Sackville, whose friends included Irish poet WB Yeats, two years later.
Although the politician proposed at least three times, Sackville refused to marry him, perhaps fearing the reaction of her aristocratic circle and amid concerns about religion, the newspaper said.
MacDonald was raised a Presbyterian, while Sackville was a Roman Catholic.
But rejection did not quell her lover's fervour.
"Dearest beloved, it is such a beautiful morning that you ought to be here and we should be walking in the garden.
"And if we were walking in the garden, what more should we do where the bushes hid us?" he wrote in one undated letter.
Their relationship even seems to have extended into his time as prime minister -- in 1924, he invited her to spend the night at Chequers, the official prime ministerial country residence north-west of London.
The letters were kept at the home of Sackville's bank manager in Cheltenham, western England, after her death in 1963 before being handed to Britain's official historic manuscript collection.
They were discovered at the National Archives in Kew, southwest London.