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This spring Harewood House celebrates the life of its ‘Yorkshire Princess’ who left a lasting legacy in interior and exterior renovation of the historic property. And, commemorating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, a special exhibition traces her life from childhood to motherhood. Emma Clayton finds out about Royal Harewood
2:54pm Thursday 16th February 2012 in Features
Harewood House was home to Princess Mary, the Princess Royal, through four decades.
Her love of the county, and the affection its people felt for her in return, led to her becoming known as ‘the Yorkshire Princess’.
This spring Harewood House is celebrating Jubilee year with an exhibition remembering its princess, the Countess of Harewood.
Royal Harewood: Celebrating the Life of The Yorkshire Princess runs throughout the historic house and out into the gardens she loved.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is also commemorated, with an exhibition of intimate family photographs of the Monarch.
Born in 1897, Princess Mary was the third child and only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, and held the title of Princess Royal. She married Viscount Lascelles in 1922 at Westminster Abbey – Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, later Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mother, was a bridesmaid – and they moved to Harewood House in 1929.
The couple had two sons; George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood, who died last year, aged 88, and the Honourable Gerald Lascelles. Princess Mary’s grandson, David Lascelles, Earl of Harewood, is the current Earl.
The Princess took a keen interest in the interior decoration and renovation of the Lascelles family seat, and in farming pursuits, particularly cattle breeding.
She and her husband introduced many modern amenities to the property and commissioned architect Sir Herbert Baker to design a suite of rooms for them. Both keen gardeners, the couple introduced changes and improvements to Harewood’s gardens that can be seen by visitors today.
Built in the 18th century, Harewood House is one of the treasure houses of England. Its art collections are regarded as among the finest in the country, and it also hosts exhibitions of contemporary art.
The Earl and Countess of Harewood were avid collectors. With the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Harewood House is displaying, for the first time, many of the things that were precious to the ‘Yorkshire Princess’; from personal items such as exquisite fans to gifts from heads of state and presents from her royal relations by the great designer Fabergé.
Harewood was her family home, where she brought up her children and continued to live, with her elder son and his family, for nearly 20 years after her husband’s death in 1947. She became chancellor of the University of Leeds in 1951, and continued to carry out official duties, representing the Queen on a number of occasions.
Princess Mary saw Harewood through times of tremendous change and died there, while walking around the lake with her son and two of her grandsons, in 1965. She was buried at Harewood after a private family funeral at York Minster.
Six British monarchs reigned during her lifetime: Queen Victoria (her great-grandmother), Edward VII (her grandfather), George V (her father), Edward VIII and George VI (her brothers) and Elizabeth II (her niece).
The Princess made history in 1965 when she visited her brother, the Duke of Windsor, formerly Edward VIII, at the London Clinic where he was recovering from eye surgery. When she met his wife, the Duchess of Windsor, it was one of the Duchess’s few meetings with her husband’s immediate family up to that time.
While her brothers have been the focus of films and TV dramas, comparatively little is known about the Princess Royal. George VI, or Bertie as he was known to the Royal family, was the focus of The King’s Speech, the Oscar-winning movie about his battle to overcome his stammer when he became King following his brother’s abdication. And new film WE, directed by Madonna, explores the relationship between Edward VIII, or David as he was known to family, with American divorcee Wallis Simpson, which led to his abdication.
Now Royal Harewood puts the spotlight on Princess Mary. Family photographs, portraits, period footage and precious personal items allow visitors to see Harewood as the family home it has always been, especially for the Princess who preferred the country to city life and loved Harewood more than anywhere.
To celebrate this year’s Diamond Jubilee, Harewood is also hosting a special collection of photographs lent by the Queen from the Royal Collection. Taken by favourite royal photographer Marcus Adams, the collection provides an insight into the life of the child destined to become Queen.
The images capture with great charm the early life of the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. They range from Princess Elizabeth’s first sitting, when she was just seven months old in 1926, to life as the new Royal Family, the pre-war years, the family’s last sitting in 1941 at Windsor Castle, then later a new generation of royals; with Prince Charles and Princess Anne photographed by Adams 13 times between 1949 and 1956.
Some of the images on display are formal, some are fun, some are striking portraits with their own distinctive style. Two vintage prints of Prince Charles and Princess Anne taken in October 1952 when they attended Marcus Adams’s studio together will appear in the exhibition for the first time, and in the Terrace Gallery visitors will have chance to see a short piece of film of a very young Princess Elizabeth, gaining an intimate glimpse into a royal childhood.
The Royal Collection, one of the world’s greatest art collections, is held in trust by The Queen for her successors and the nation. It is administered, cared for and conserved by the Royal Collection Trust.
The Royal exhibitions are Harewood open at the end of March. Funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund is also being used to support public engagement, including reminiscence groups, school participation in workshops and community events.
Royal Harewood: Celebrating the Life of the Yorkshire Princess runs from March 31 to June 17