Mary, Princess Royal
March 5, 2011 9:44 PM   Subscribe

I know an elderly woman who claims to have been a good friend of Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood. I believe her story and wanted to verify it.

She claims to have been to boarding school with Mary in England and even stayed at Buckingham Palace several times. Ive looked but cant find any details about Mary's education and early friends. Can anyone help me?
posted by soymilk to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Princess Mary who was born in 1897?

If Mary were still alive she'd be 113. If they were at school together and close enough friends to have been invited to BP then they'd have to have been similar ages.

So how old is your friend?
posted by elsietheeel at 9:56 PM on March 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah, your friend has to be more than a century old for this to be true. Are you certain she's not... mistaken?
posted by Justinian at 11:29 PM on March 5, 2011

Wikipedia also indicates that she was educated by governesses, at home, not at a boarding school.
posted by katyggls at 12:17 AM on March 6, 2011

Yes, the first members of the Royal family to go to school were the current Prince of Wales and his siblings. Previously boys often went to military training at a young age, but girls had governesses.
posted by plonkee at 1:41 AM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

boarding schools were used during wartime in the UK for multiple purposes. Mary had several roles, (?WRACS?) I think which could have seen them both in a boarding school in Britain. I would not immediately discount this and look for an educational link.

Does your friend have a history with WWII and England?
posted by Wilder at 5:41 AM on March 6, 2011

look for example at her Dame Grand Cross for this order

there is a huge amount of women's history in wartime that is unwritten. If you read any of the one's that are documented like the Queen Alexandra's nurses, FANYs, WRACS, WRENs etc., you often come across unlikely friendships forming. If your friend was somehow related to one of those orders, groups and came from a good enough family, this might be a possibility.

However, if this is the period when Mary lived at BP your friend is extremely old. Could she have helped on this appeal?

The most likely connection is through nursing.
While Mary enrolled in Great Ormond Street for her nursing course (nurses at that time were in the equivalent of boarding school rigorously monitored by senior staff, she herself would have stayed at home. Could your friend have been a nurse who made friends and so was invited to spend some holiday or weekends at the Palace?
posted by Wilder at 5:59 AM on March 6, 2011

Just for fun, here's a somewhat somber photo of the Wedding of Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles in 1922 - showing the bridesmaids.
Lady D Gordon-Lennon, Lady E Bowes-Lyon (top row, closest to the groom--she would marry Mary's brother and become Queen, the mother of today's Queen Elizabeth), Lady Mary Cambridge, Princess Maud, Lady D Bridgeman, Lady May Cambridge, Lady Rachel Cavendish, Lady Mary Thynne (sp?).
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:01 AM on March 6, 2011

My friend was born in 1911 and its turning 100 this year. I'll look into the WWII nursing link as this is a possibility and find out more info about her involvement in the war. Shes said several times it was a boarding school, and that they were best friends, but she could also be mistaken in the smaller details. Her recollections of the Palace seem fairly detailed, she described it as a lonely place filled with servants and they would spend their time chasing each other around and sliding down bannisters. She said that Mary confided to her that she never wanted to marry, as she would never be sure if they wanted to be with her for love or for status, so this seems to fit in with Marys history and her somewhat unhappy marriage.
posted by soymilk at 3:17 PM on March 6, 2011

Wow! What an opportunity you have! Have you thought about asking to interview her about some of her life experiences? I just did this with two of my aunts and their experiences as young ladies during the depression/WWII. We had a great time and I learned a lot.
posted by Leah at 6:16 PM on March 6, 2011

It sounds a lot more like a school story than anything that happened in real life. Befriending a girl at boarding school who turns out to be a royal princess, visiting lonely Buckingham Palace while on holiday, running around and playing and sliding down banisters; that sort of thing is straight out of Enid Blyton or similar. A story with your friend's claims should be met with skepticism in any case but the significant difference in ages makes it seem hugely unlikely that Princess Mary would have been school-age friends with a girl 14 years her junior. Assuming she even went to boarding school in the first place (you should be able to verify Mary's attendance with the name of the school).

I suppose it's possible that your friend really did know Princess Mary and has simply mixed up details over time I'd probably just enjoy her stories as stories and nothing more.
posted by 6550 at 11:59 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, I agree that there is much room here for error and misinformation. My friend certainly gets details wrong and is inconsistant in her telling of her life stories and her memory and cognitive capacity is certainly effected by her great age. Some things that I am taking into account:

- she is not the kind of person to "make up stories" according to everything I know about her. She has a very 'proper' English character and seems very conformed to the English traditional view of 'correct behaviour'.

- she tells the same snippets from her 'life' over and over as if they were actual events that had made such a deep impression on her memory. If they were imaginings I wouldn't expect them to have been ingrained as her short term memory is not good.

- Sometimes the details differ from story to story, but this seems to be due to a level of time distortion and disorientation. For example, she speaks of an encounter in the theatre some time later where Mary recognised her. Sometimes she relates this story as if it happened in the place where she is living, which doesnt make sense, and other times its set in a theatre, which accounts for the details of the Box she was sitting in etc.
posted by soymilk at 1:09 AM on March 7, 2011

Your friend would have been school-age when WWI was going on, and Princess Mary was heavily involved in visiting hospitals and sending care packages and other morale efforts, which would probably have been covered in newspapers and newsreels of the day. So she would have been a public figure for children to identify with at the time.

I just want to say that either way this is a great story, and what a neat person to have as a friend.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:01 AM on March 7, 2011

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