Sunday, 9 March 2014

Three deaths in the British royal cousinage

It is quite rare for Queen Elizabeth II of Britain to attend funerals, but on Friday she was present at the funeral of her cousin, Lady Mary Clayton. She was one of three relatives of the British royal family who have died recently.
Lady Mary Cecilia Clayton, who died on 13 February at the age of 96, was the daughter of the late Queen Mother's elder sister, Rose, and her husband William Spencer Leveson-Gower, 4th Earl Granville. She was born on 12 December 1917. In 1956 she married Samuel Clayton, with whom she had a son, Gilbert, and a daughter, Rose. Lady Mary Clayton was one of the trusted relatives who were authorised to give interviews to authors and documentary makers, but had by the time of her death not been seen in several years. Her funeral was held in the Royal Chapel of All Saints in Windsor Great Park, near the Royal Lodge, on Friday 7 March. Among the mourners were Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, the Countess of Wessex and Princess Beatrice.
Another first cousin of Queen Elizabeth, Katharine Bowes-Lyon, died on 23 February at the age of 87. Born on 4 July 1926, Katharine Juliet Bowes-Lyon was the fifth and youngest daughter of the Queen Mother's elder brother, Hon John Bowes-Lyon, and his wife Fenella, née Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis. Like her sister Nerissa, who died in 1986, Katharine was mentally disabled and was eventually confined to a mental hospital. In 1963 their mother listed both sisters as dead in Burke's Peerage, which caused some headlines when it was revealed that they were still alive. Their sister, Princess Anne of Denmark, would visit them occasionally, but other relatives seem to have genuinely believed that they were indeed dead.
The concert pianist Marion Thorpe, who died on 6 March at the age of 87, was first married to Queen Elizabeth's first cousin, the late 7th Earl of Harewood, and secondly to Jeremy Thorpe, leader of the Liberal Party. Born Maria Donata Nanetta Paulina Gustava Erwina Wilhelmine Stein on 18 October 1926, she was an Austrian Jew who fled to Britain after the German takeover in 1938. In 1949 she married George Lascelles, Earl of Harewood, the eldest son of Princess Mary of Britain and then eleventh in line to the British throne, with whom she had three sons before divorcing in 1967. Lord and Lady Harewood were both lovers of classical music and the Countess was co-founder of the Leeds International Piano Competition, which was first held in 1963, and co-authored a successful series of piano tutor books. In 1973 she married the Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, but rarely appeared in public after the 1979 trial in which Thorpe was charged with, but acquitted of conspiring to murder an alleged lover.


  1. Thank you. It is interesting to learn of the royal families' more obscure relations (of whom there shall indubitably be many more in generations to come, the era of royal intermarriages having passed).

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