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The public life of a twentieth century princess: Princess Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood

Citation: Tebble, Wendy (2018) The public life of a twentieth century princess: Princess Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood. Masters thesis, University of London.

Wendy Tebble Thesis.pdf

Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

The histiography on Princess Mary is conspicuous by its absence. No official account of her long public life, from 1914 to 1965, has been written and published since 1922, when the princess was aged twenty-five, and about to be married. The only daughter of King George V, she was one of the chief protagonists in his plans to include his children in his efforts to engage the monarchy, and the royal family, more deeply and closely with the people of the United Kingdom. This was a time when women were striving to enter public life more fully, a role hitherto denied to them. The king’s decision was largely prompted by the sacrifices of so many during the First World War; the fall of Czar Nicholas of Russia; the growth of socialism; and the dangers these events may present to the longevity of the monarchy in a disaffected kingdom. Princess Mary’s public life helps to answer the question of what role royal women, then and in the future, are able to play in support of the monarchy. It was a time when for the most part careers of any kind were not open to women, royal or otherwise, and the majority had yet to gain the right to vote. Her work was carried out during four periods: the First World War, which broke out when the effects of the industrial revolution were still being felt by the majority of the poor and working class, in health and housing in the big cities; the inter-war years at a time of economic depression, unemployment and deprivation for so many; the Second World War; and the post war period 1945-1965. The princess’s particular areas of interest were philanthropic, civic, regimental and diplomatic, both at home and abroad. Philanthropy was to become a major factor in the royal family’s efforts to provide publicity and support for the charitable organizations working to alleviate the plight of so many of the nation’s deprived citizens. Given that Princess Mary may be said to have disappeared from British history the resources for my research have been limited, first, to the entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, the National Archives, and the only published biography. Newspapers have been consulted both nationally and 4 foreign, in particular The Times Court Circular; without this publication research would have been almost impossible. Not only did it provide a record of her daily engagements throughout her lifetime, but it provided knowledge of the many organizations with which the princess was connected. Thus, I was able to gain access to their archives, where available; locally, regional and foreign. Histories of the various organizations were also helpful when Princess Mary’s involvement was described, even if only briefly. The Royal Archive at Windsor does not hold her papers, but on occasions staff were able to answer my questions. Princess Mary’s archive at Harewood remains uncatalogued. Despite the various limitations on my research I believe I have obtained an overview and understanding of Princess Mary’s public role, and its value to the nation and the monarchy. During her life time she set the template for the public role of future princesses, and other females, within the royal family.

Creators: Tebble, Wendy and
Subjects: History
Keywords: Mary, Princess Royal (1897-1965) Royalty, Great Britain Ruling elites, Great Britain, 20th century
Divisions: Institute of Historical Research
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • 2018 (completed)


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