Happy Birthday to the Dowager Duchess of Grafton! As the Queen’s Lady-in-Waiting for almost seven decades years, and Mistress of the Robes for over 50 years, the Duchess has been witness to a plethora of glittering occasions, often wearing this illustrious borrowed tiara, whose feature has been almost two years in the making!
But first lets learn about the Duchess! Born Ann Fortune Smith to Captain Evan Cadogan Eric Smith and Beatrice Williams, her brother, Sir John Smith, was a financier with the family’s Smith’s Bank of Nottingham, an MP, and the founder of the Landmark Trust. In 1946, she married the Earl of Euston, the heir of the 10th Duke of Grafton and an illegitimate descendent of King Charles II, who succeeded to the title in 1970. Between 1953 and 1966, the Countess was a Lady of the Bedchamber to the Queen and since the retirement of Mary, Duchess of Devonshire in 1967, the Duchess has been the Mistress of the Robes, the Queen’s leading Lady-in-Waiting, through she largely retired from Official Duties in recent years. The Duchess also served as Justice of the peace for West Sussex between 1972 and 1990. The Duke and Duchess had five children and remained happily married until his death in 2011. Their grandson is the 12th Duke and now resides at the family seat, Euston Hall. We wish Her Grace a very Happy Birthday and Many Happy Returns!
Wearing a full-length dark woollen coat with bright multi-coloured Hermes silk headscarf, and black patent leather, low-heeled court shoes, I saw Her Grace sweeping across the gravel forecourt and up the few low, red-carpeted steps to the Privy Purse door, and into the Palace.
I remember The Duchess being very well-spoken with impeccable manners, just like Her Majesty, and always presented with a subtle application of make-up in natural colours, and the very sweet scent of Floris perfume – quite elegant.”
The Tiara originates with Gertrude ‘Trudie’, the 3rd Baroness Denman, a prominent women’s rights activist, whose husband served as the fifth Governor-General of Australia. After wearing it during her tenure as Viceregal Consort of Australia, Lady Denman loaned the Tiara to her friend, Eugenie ‘Queenie’, Lady Wavell, when her husband became the second last Viceroy of India. While Lady Denman was not pictured in the piece, Lady Wavell wore the tiara for a portrait by Cecil Beaton in 1944. The then Earl of Euston, who became the husband of the Duchess, was an Aide-de-camp to Lord Wavell. (Thank you to the Hon. Mrs Hugo Grimston for this information)
While she wore another tiara for a set of Cecil Beaton portraits taken before, this Tiara was worn by the Duchess at the Queen’s 1953 Coronation at Westminster Abbey, when the then Countess of Euston led the Ladies-in-Waiting behind the Queen during the procession. The Tiara was borrowed from her sister-in-law, Julia Smith, who was the grand daughter of Lady Denman (h/t to Beth on RJWMB). In the 1950s and 60s, the Tiara was not frequently photographed as the Duchess was not the leading Lady-in-Waiting and did not attend as many glittering events as the Mistress of the Robes, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. However, she can be seen in the background of a fair number of pictures and films, often wearing this Tiara.
After becoming the Mistress of the Robes in 1966, the Duchess took an increasing public role, and State Banquets at home and abroad were a guaranteed place to catch a glimpse of the Duchess of Grafton wearing the Tiara, where she was a part of processions and usually had a high place at the table. The Tiara was also worn to countless State Openings of Parliament, when the Duchess followed the Queen in the procession and stood beside the Throne during the Queen’s Speech.
The Tiara was seen on various Official Tours and State Visits around the world, notably including a State Visit to Belgium in 1966, the Italian State Visit to Britain in 1969, a State Visit to France in 1972, a State Visit to the Vatican in 1980, a State Visit to Morocco in 1980, and a Diplomatic Reception at Buckingham Palace in 1991, as well as countess State Banquets and Gala Performances in Britain. The Tiara was almost always paired with a diamond riviere, diamond chandelier earrings, and a multi-gem brooch. The last appearance was at the State Opening in 2003, which is around the time the Duchess retired from many duties.
However, the tiara has not disappeared, and now belongs to her niece, the Countess of Verulam, the daughter of Julia Smith, who loaned it to her daughter-in-law, Viscountess Grimston, born Lady Rossanagh Innes-Kerr, for the Royal Caledonian Ball. In 2008, the Grafton Tiara was also loaned to Gallia McDermott, when she married the Hon. Hugo Grimston, younger son of the Earl and Countess of Verulam. The Duchess of Grafton (the Dowager Duchess since 2012) may have stopped wearing tiaras, but through these new wearers, we are sure that the Tiara will be seen for many years to come!