Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Duchess of Abercorn (1946-2018)

The Duchess of Abercorn, the wife of the 5th Duke of Abercorn, an Irish peer, has died "following an illness."   She was 72 years old.

The Duchess was born Alexandra "Sacha" Anastasia Phillips on February 27, 1946 in Tucson, Arizona, the eldest of five children of Lt. Col. Harold Pedro Phillips and Georgina Werhner, who was the second of the three children of Sir Harold Werhner Bt., and Lady Anastasia  (Zia) Torby,  second of three children of Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia and Countess Sophie von Merenberg.

The Countess of Merenberg was a granddaughter of the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.

Her baptism took place at St. Margaret's Westminster, and her godparents included the Duchess of Kent and Lord Mountbatten.

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Sacha made her debut in society in the summer of 1964 at a dance hosted by her grandmother Lady Zia Werhner.  The date was held at at the Werhners' home Luton Hoo and the guest list was rather impressive:  Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh,  Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, Prince Michael of Kent, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, the Margrave of Baden and Prince Ludwig of Baden,  Princess Margaret and the Earl of Snowdon and Princess Alexandra and the Hon. Angus Ogilvy.

The dance was held in Luton Hoo's ballroom and the "grounds were floodlit, according to The Times."

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Lady Zia  was certainly pleased when Sacha, then only 20 years old, became engaged to the Marquess of Hamilton, the elder son of the 4th Duke of Abercorn.

The wedding took place at Westminster Abbey on October 20, 1966.   It was a true royal occasion as Prince Andrew served as a page and the guests included the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, the Duchess of Gloucester,  Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, and Lord Mountbatten.

The reception was held at St. James's Palace.

Lord Hamilton served as a Member of Parliament for Fermanagh and South Tyrone from 1966 until 1970.  He succeeded in his father as the 5th Duke of Abercorn in 1979,  As the dukedom of Abercorn is in the Peerage of Ireland, the Duke took his seat n the House of Lords (until 1999), sitting with a subsidiary title, Marquess of Abercorn, which is in the peerage of the Great Britain.

The Abercorn's family seat is Baronscourt in Newtownstewart, County Tyrone.

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 The Duchess of Abercorn is survived by her husband, their three children, James, Marquess of Hamilton (& his wife Tanya), Lady Sophia and Lord Nicholas (and his wife Tatiana) and five grandchildren,  James, Viscount Strabane, Lord Claud Hamilton, Soraya and Caspian Arouzi, and Miss Valentina Hamilton.  She is also survived by her three younger sisters,  Fiona Burnett of Leys, Marita Knight and Natalia, Duchess of Westminster.

The late Duchess's genealogical connections are fascinating.  Her maternal great-grandfather, Grand Duke Michael of Russia, was married morganatically to Countess Sophie von Merenberg, who was herself the the daughter of Prince Nikolaus of Nassau and Natalya Alexandrovna Pushkina, the daughter of the famed Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.   Prince Nicholas was the brother of Grand Duke Adolphe of Luxembourg, who gave the title Countess Torby to Sophie von Merenberg after her marriage.  This title was passed to Sophie and Grand Duke Michael's children.

Countess Zia married Sir Harold Werhner, Bt.  Their family seat was Luton Hoo, now an exclusive hotel.   Zia's younger sister, Nada, married Prince George of Battenberg, the elder brother of the future Earl Mountbatten of Burma.  Within a year of their marriage,  Prince George of Battenberg became the Earl of Medina as their father, Prince Louis of Battenberg, renounced his German titles and was created Marquess of Milford Haven, Earl of Medina and Viscount Alderney.

George, the 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven was the young Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark's guardian, although it must be said that Philip spent more time with the Wernhers than with the Milford Havens.  Philip was close to Lady Zia's three children,  Alex (who was very much the older brother to Philip) and his two younger sisters, Georgina and Myra.  This circle of friends included Philip's first cousins, Patricia and Pamela Mountbatten (the daughters of the then Lord Louis Mountbatten) and David, the 3rd Marquess of Milford Haven and Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret of York.

Sacha's father's maternal first cousin, Janet Mercedes Bryce, was the second wife of David Milford Haven, who died in 1970.

The Duke of Abercorn is a first of the late 8th Earl Spencer, father of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

This post will be updated after I get home and can access more information on the late Duchess. She was interviewed by the Financial Times in 2017.






Stephen said...

The Duchess also has 2 grandchildren from her daughter Lady Sophia Arouzi, twins Soraya & Caspian born in 2015

1971 said...

Interesting for those outside these circles that Lord Mountbatten was godfather and a later a close friend of Sascha Abercorn when his wife Edwina had been the lover of Sascha's father (prior to his marriage). And as stated above Sascha's mother was the neice of Louis Mountbatten's sister in law Nada.