Sunday, January 10, 2021

Introducing Lady Sybil Grant

A footnote in The Quest for Queen Mary by James Pope-Hennessy (edited by Hugo Vickers) runs:

Lady Sybil Grant (1879-1955), eccentric daughter of 5th Earl of Roseberry. She was a writer and designed of ceramics. In later life, she spent much time in a caravan or up a tree, communicating with her butler through a megaphone.


david walsh said...

Just to help your readers who may be interested, but who may baulk at having to buy a complete volume dedicated to the late Queen Mary, there is a useful little mini-biography of Lady Sybil on the web from an Epsom local history group (she lived thereabouts).

She was a lady of many enthusiasms, some unexpected. Take dirigibles. The biog says "In September 1919 Sybil opened her “Airships in Peace and War” Exhibition at Princes Gallery Piccadilly, which had the support of the Air Ministry. This exhibition of “a collection of very interesting exhibits” was accompanied by music from the Masked Airship Band. All the proceeds went to the airship bed at St Dunstans."

In addition, it was conceded, she was unusual. "Sybil increasing became an eccentric and reputably was heard to be shouting at her butler using a megaphone. Further eccentric behaviour was her habit of spending most of her time living in a caravan or up trees. From the diaries of James Lees-Milne, he says of Lady Sybil Grant. “On her head was an orange bonnet draped with an orange scarf. She had orange hair and her lips are the vividest orange I have ever beheld. She took me to the orangery where she lives all the time.” She was known locally as being independent, endearing and, when she thought the occasion warranted it, cantankerous. This was the case in 1948 when she refused to preside at the first Burns Night of the local Epsom Caledonian Association because potatoes, which were on ration for a short time, were on the menu."

The full blog is on

Jonathan Calder said...

Thank you for the link, David: I may return to Lady Sybil one day. There is a nice picture of her with a gypsy caravan on Getty Images, but sadly it's not one I can embed.

The Queen Mary book is more fun than it sounds. It is essentially Pope-Hennessy's diaries from the 1950s when he was researching his book on the old girl. He talks to all sorts royal fossils and aged retainers and it includes all the stories he had to leave out of his official biography of Mary.

david walsh said...

Thanks. I'd love to see a clip of the Masked Airship Band.