23 February 2016

Jewel History: Empire Marys' Gift (1922)

"Empire Marys' Gift"
(originally appeared in the Times on 24 Feb 1922)

It was announced yesterday that the contributions to the wedding gift from the Marys of the Empire [1] to Princess Mary [2] amount to considerably over £8,000, and that Her Royal Highness has decided to accept for herself a small rope of pearls, which was presented yesterday, and to devote the remainder of the sum to the founding of a training home in connection with the Girl Guides [3].

When the scheme was started just over two months ago, very modest ideas were entertained by the committee, of which the Hon. Mrs. Geoffrey Hope Morley is chairman, as to the amount which would be received, both because only an intimation that donations would be received was made -- it being felt that anything in the nature of strict organization would be out of place in these difficult times -- and that the small sum of 10 shillings was set as the strict limit. Early this month, however, it became apparent that the steady stream of small sums from 6 pence upwards would amount to a goodly total.

The idea has been from the beginning that the gift would be a personal one, and various jewels of rare beauty were considered. When, however, the news came to the princess's ears, Her Royal Highness resolutely refused to allow the money to be spent in this way, preferring that it should be used by her to benefit others. At first the princess would only consider accepting what in such a connection can be considered only as a mere trinket. The earnest representations of the committee that such a course would cause considerable disappointment to many donors all over the Empire, however, induced the princess yesterday to modify her decision, and to accept for herself a small but very beautiful rope of pearls, which was presented privately during the afternoon.

This represents far less than half the gift, the rest of which will be given by Her Royal Highness to found a training home, to bear her name, in connection with the Girl Guides, for want of which that excellent body is much hampered. Her Royal Highness has been influenced in her decision by the fact that the Guides are at work all over the Empire, and that the benefits they confer are open to the whole of its girlhood.


The second of Their Majesties' receptions in connection with the wedding of Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles [4] took place last evening at Buckingham Palace, and was attended by some 800 guests. The Diplomatic Corps was more largely represented than on Tuesday afternoon, and the spectacle was a particularly brilliant one, the predominance of rich metal tissue brocades and oxidized lace, and the stately effect of the trains worn with many of the gowns (though not, of course, approaching the pre-war regulation length), being specially noticeable.

Their Majesties, with Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles, received their guests in the Throne Room, and the Ball Room and Picture Gallery, where a number of the wedding presents were on view, was also used. The string band of the Scots Guards played.

Queen Alexandra [5], Princess Victoria [6], the Duke of York [7], Prince Henry [8], Prince George [9], and other members of the royal family were present, but Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll [10], who only arrived in the evening from the South of France, did not attend after her long journey.

The display of wedding presents was greatly admired, special admiration being expressed for the gifts of the royal family and for that of the bridegroom to the bride. A joint gift from the royal family was a parure of sapphires and diamonds, and the King [11] has added a personal present of a necklet, tiara, and bracelet of similar stones, and the Queen [12] a sapphire brooch with setting of very fine diamonds. The Prince of Wales's [13] gift is a bracelet of very fine diamonds and sapphires. The Queen of Spain [14] gave a ring with a combined setting of diamonds and sapphires. Queen Alexandra's gift is a necklet of very fine pearls and drop emeralds, and the Earl and Countess of Harewood [15] have given a magnificent diamond brooch.

The members of the Cabinet have subscribed to a wedding present for Princess Mary, and the gift was handed privately to Her Royal Highness last evening. It comprises three very large pieces of antique silver of great interest and beauty. The selection was made by Lord Curzon of Kedleston [16], and it is understood that the actual presentation was made by him and the Prime Minister [17] jointly in the presence of those colleagues attending the party, and in one of the private rooms off the State Apartments.


It had been generally expected that Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles would travel by a special train when they set out for their honeymoon. This will not, however, be the case. They will leave Paddington in a special saloon attached to the 4 PM train for Shifnal, which is scheduled to arrive there at 6:45 PM. The train passes through Wolverhampton and Birmingham on its journey, where, no doubt, the bride and bridegroom will receive great popular welcomes. Up to the present no arrangements have been made for the decoration of Paddington Station, and it is generally understood that it is desired that the departure should not be attended by ceremonial.


1. The Marys of the Empire were a group of women from around the Empire who -- you guessed it -- were all named "Mary." Each county in the UK apparently appointed one Mary to act as its organizer; in Sussex, for example, Lady Mary Howard was designated. A previous group of "Marys" from around the British Empire had given Princess Mary's mother, Queen Mary, a diamond brooch as a coronation gift in 1911; a group of "Georges" had given her father, King George V, a badge of the Order of the Garter (which is often just called a "George") as a wedding present in 1893.

2. Princess Mary of the United Kingdom (1897-1965) was the only daughter of King George V of the United Kingdom and his queen consort, Princess Mary of Teck. She married Viscount Lascelles (later the 6th Earl of Harewood) in 1922. Almost ten years later, her father created her Princess Royal, a title traditionally given in Britain to the eldest daughter of the monarch. Mary was an integral part of the royal family until her death from a heart attack in 1965.

3. The Guide Association (usually known as the "Girl Guides") is a scouting organization for girls in the United Kingdom. Princess Mary became the organization's honorary president in 1920. She held the post until her death, when Princess Margaret became president. Following Margaret's death in 2002, the Countess of Wessex took up the post. The extra proceeds from the Marys of the Empire wedding gift fund (and a portion of the proceeds from the public exhibition of her wedding gifts) went to the furnishing and upkeep of a building at Foxlease, which is still the training center of Girlguiding today.

4. Henry Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood (1882-1947) was Princess Mary's husband. He was still Viscount Lascelles at the time of their wedding in 1922; he succeeded to his father's title in 1929. Henry was 15 years older than his bride. The marriage was reportedly not a love match, but their eldest son wrote that Henry and Mary were ultimately happy together. The couple had two sons, George and Gerald.

5. Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom (1844-1925), born Princess Alexandra of Denmark, was Princess Mary's paternal grandmother and one of her godparents.

6. Princess Victoria of the United Kingdom (1868-1935) was one of the sisters of King George V (and, therefore, Princess Mary's aunt). Victoria never married and served as her mother's companion until Alexandra's death in 1925. She was also one of Princess Mary's godparents.

7. King George VI of the United Kingdom (1895-1952), then the Duke of York, was one of Princess Mary's elder brothers. At the time of Mary's wedding, he was deeply in love with a Scottish aristocrat, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon; she was one of the bridesmaids at the wedding. He proposed to her (for a second time) a month after the wedding, but Elizabeth said no. She finally agreed to marry him early the next year. They are the parents of the current queen, Elizabeth II.

8. Prince Henry (1900-1974) was one of Princess Mary's younger brothers. He was created Duke of Gloucester in 1928. At the time of Mary's wedding, he was in the midst of his military career. He would later marry Lady Alice Montagu Douglas Scott; their son, Richard, is the current Duke of Gloucester.

9. Prince George (1902-1942) was Princess Mary's youngest living brother. In 1934, the year of his marriage to Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, he was created Duke of Kent. Two decades after this wedding, he died in a plane crash in Scotland. His elder son, Edward, is the current Duke of Kent.

10. Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll (1848-1939) was Princess Mary's great-aunt. She was the sixth child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She was widowed a decade before the wedding, and she had largely retired from public life by 1922.

11. King George V of the United Kingdom (1865-1936) was Princess Mary's father.

12. Queen Mary of the United Kingdom (1867-1953), born Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, was Princess Mary's mother.

13. The Duke of Windsor (1894-1972), then the Prince of Wales and later King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom, was Princess Mary's eldest brother. He was heir to the throne at the time of Mary's wedding.

14. Queen Ena of Spain (1887-1969), born Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, was Mary's first cousin once removed. She was the daughter of Prince Henry of Battenberg and Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom (a daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert). Ena married King Alfonso XIII of Spain in 1906. Her great-grandson (and godson) is currently reigning as King Felipe VI of Spain.

15. Henry Lascelles, 5th Earl of Harewood (1846-1929) and his wife, Florence, were the parents of Mary's new husband, Viscount Lascelles. The 5th Earl had been a diplomat during the reign of Mary's grandfather, King Edward VII. And there was another connection to one of Mary's wedding guests: Henry and Florence's younger son, Edward, was married to Joan Balfour, a niece of Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll.

16 George Curzon, 1st Marquess of Curzon of Kedleston (1859-1925) was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in 1922; he had previously served as Viceroy of India. We've talked before about the glittering jewels that belonged to his first wife, Chicago-born Mary Victoria Leiter.

17. In February 1922, the British prime minster was David Lloyd George (1863-1945).