Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Myra, Lady Butter (1925-2022)


Tatler Magazine (June 2012) described Lady Butter as "the smartest woman in Scotland," even "without the Queen in tow."  She was always "immaculately dressed" and lead "Highland society with brio."  

Myra Alice Wernher was born March 18, 1925, at Coates Crescent, Edinburgh, the third and youngest child of Sir Harold Wernher, BT, and Countess Anastasia "Zia" Torby who was the eldest of three children of Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia (1861-1929) and his morganatic wife, Countess Sophie von Merenberg, elder daughter of the elder daughter of Prince Nikolaus Wilhelm of Nassau and his morganatic wife, Natalia Alexandrovna Pushkina, the daughter of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.  

Countess Zia de Torby was granted the style and precedence of the daughter of an Earl by a Royal Warrant of King George V, on September 1, 1917, and was styled as The Lady Zia Wernher.

Myra's birth was announced in the Court Circular on March 10, 1925.  "Lady Zia Wernher gave birth to a daughter on Sunday."   Her baptism took place on June 4, 1925, at Holy Trinity Church, in Marylebone.  Her godparents were the Crown Princess of Sweden, Lady Amy Coats, Mme de Ellis, Lt. Col. J.G Lowther, and Mr. Marshall Field.   

The Crown Princess of Sweden was represented by her sister-in-law, the Marchioness of Milford Haven, who was Lady Zia's younger sister.   The former Lady Louise Mountbatten was the second wife of the future King Gustav VI of Sweden.  When he succeeded to the throne in 1950, Louise became Queen Louise of Sweden.

She had an older brother, George Michael Alexander, known as Alex (1919-1942), and an older sister, Georgina (1910-2011) who was married twice, first to Harold Phillips (1909-1980) and then to Sir George Arnold Ford Kennard, 3rd Bt, (1915-1999).

Myra and her older siblings were childhood friends of Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret.  This friendship continued throughout their lives.   Their maternal aunt, Nada, was married to George, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven (ne Prince George of Battenberg,) who was Prince Philip's guardian.   

Myra and her siblings spent their childhood at Lubenham, where Princess Elizabeth, then only two and a half years old, came to tea -- 'two little things running about."  A few years later, Myra and Elizabeth had swimming lessons together along with other young girls at the Bath Club in London.  

"They got hold of some girls to be part of the thing to make it more fun," Lady Butter told the Sunday Telegraph in 2021.

@Bassano  National Portrait Gallery

Every summer for six weeks, the family traveled to Downie Park in Scotland.  The children "worshipped Scotland," where their home was packed with friends.   They would spend all day out, "fishing or up in the hills."

Bassano  National Portrait Gallery

The girls were brought up "very strictly."  Gina was "inclined to be rebellious, but "Myra, small and bright, much younger, a great mimic, seemed set to be a brilliant musician."   

Myra would later describe her parents as "a terrific example of self-discipline and service.  They made us aware of our good fortune in life. Pa was completely unmaterialistic but admired good things and would have been happy anywhere. Ma was very demanding but would have made herself comfortable in different circumstances. They were people of great strength."

Lady Zia and Queen Elizabeth II shared a love of horse racing.

When Georgina married Harold Phillips at St. Margaret's Westminster in 1944, Myra and Princess Alexandra were her two bridesmaids.   Two years later, Myra became engaged to David Henry Butter, a "member of an ancient Scottish family" that had owned land in the Pitlochry area since the 12th century. His mother Agnes Marguerite Clark was American.

from a member of Lady Butter's family

Their society wedding took place on November 5, 1946, at St Margaret's, Westminster.  Queen Mary, who was accompanied by Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, attended the wedding along with the Duchess of Kent, Princess Andrew of Greece, Admiral the Hon Sir Alexander and Lady Patricia Ramsay, and Admiral Viscount Mountbatten of Burma and Viscountess Mountbatten.

Myra was given away by her father.  She wore a "gown and train of shell-pink tulle heavily embossed with silver in a floral design, and a long tulle embroidered with silver and she carried an ivory-bound Prayer book," according to the Times.

Four-year-old Prince Michael of Kent carried the bride's train.  He was dressed in the Royal Stuart tartan "with a white silk blouse and red shoes.  Princess Alexandra of Kent, 9, and the Hon. Diana Herbert were the bridesmaids.  Their dresses were "shell-pink picture frocks, with head-dresses of mixed flowers matching their bouquets."

The reception was held at the Dorchester Hotel.   

Myra and her husband divided their time between a London home and their estate in Cluniemore.

Lady Butter and her sister, Georgina, along with their parents, Sir Harold and Lady Zia Wernher, were guests at Prince Philip's wedding to Princess Elizabeth.  She told the Daily Mail in 1997: "The war had been so grey that the Royal Wedding seemed to signify the world coming to life again.  Everyone was determined to have a new dress for the day and I wore a blue ribbed silk dress by Dior.  It was one of the first three-quarter-length dresses, and I wore it with a feathered hat.  I had new shoes and a bag, too -- any excuse.

"All the people from the Commonwealth made the ceremony very colourful and the choir superb.

"The Princess looked truly glittering. Her dress was beautiful and she was obviously in love. Philip looked very dashing in his naval uniform -- and it really did seem like a fairytale wedding."

After the wedding, Myra and her family "rushed home and changed, then sped off down the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where we stood there shouting to get them out on the balcony. Everyone I know claims the credit for getting them out on the balcony."

Queen Elizabeth II is the godmother of Myra and David's eldest child, Sandra Elizabeth Zia.  Princess Alexandra is the godmother of Myra's fourth daughter, Georgina Marguerite 

Myra and her husband David offered their "Perthshire haven" in Pitlochry to the Duke of Kent when he was courting Katharine Worsley and Princess Alexandra when she began dating the Hon. Sir Angus Ogilvy.  Alexandra and Angus first met at Myra's parents' home, Luton Hoo.

Major Sir David Butter, who was appointed KCVO in 1991, died on May 29, 2010, at Cluniemore, Pitlochry at the age of 90.

During ITV's coverage of Prince Philip's funeral in April 2021, Lady Butter shared her sadness at his death.  She was asked what the queen had lost with her husband's death; "The world, I think.  Incalculable."

In March 2022, Lady Butter, who had founded the Pushkin Prizes in Scotland more than 30 years ago, returned the Pushkin Medal, which has been presented to her on "the personal decree of President Putin."   She began the Pushkin Prizes after visiting the palaces in St. Petersburg where her family had lived.

She had received the honor in recognition of her work "bringing Scottish and Russian pupils together," reported The Times.

Lady Butter wrote to Russia's consul in Edinburgh, saying she was returning the medal "with great regret."

"I regarded the medal as such an honour when it came to Scotland in better times. We have always felt our deep roots with our ancestors in Russia and the great friendships received over the past years. However, to witness the terrible suffering taking place now is unbearable. Every human being only wishes to live in a peaceful world and we can only pray that the war will end with the utmost speed."

Lady Butter is survived by her five children: Sandra Morrison (1948), Marilyn, Countess of Dalhousie (1950), Rohays, Princess Galitizine (1952),  Georgina, Countess Péjacsevich de Veröcze (1956), and Charles Butter (1960) eleven grandchildren,   Charles Morrison, Sophie, Morrison, Lady Lorna Lefebvre, Lady Alice Dickinson, Lord Ramsay, Princess Sasha Galitzine, Princess Nada Galitzine, Count Alexander Péjacsevich de Veröcze, Countess Anastasia Péjacsevich de Veröcze and Julia and Henry Butter, as well as numerous great-grandchildren, including the Hon. William Ramsay, who is second in line to the Dalhousie earldom.

If you want to learn more about the Wernher family, I recommend this book:

Catherine II  - Paul - Nicholas I - Grand Duke Michael - Grand Duke Michael - Countess Zia - Myra


Christina O. said...

What an interesting upbringing she had. I wouldn't be surprised if the Queen attended the private funeral service.

Michael Rhodes said...

Once again, a fulsome, well researched musing.

Noore said...

A sad loss for Her Majesty.