Lady May Abel Smith

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May Helen Emma Abel Smith
née Cambridge
Born Princess May of Teck
Lady May Helen Emma Smith.jpg
Spouse Henry Abel Smith
Issue Anne Liddell-Grainger
Richard Abel Smith
Elizabeth Wise
House House of Württemberg (by birth)
Father Alexander Cambridge, 1st Earl of Athlone
Mother Princess Alice of Albany
Born (1906-01-23)23 January 1906
Died 29 May 1994(1994-05-29) (aged 88)

Lady May (Helen Emma) Abel Smith (née Cambridge, born Princess May of Teck; 23 January 1906 – 29 May 1994) [1] was a member of the British Royal Family, a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, as well as a great-great-granddaughter of King George III and niece to Queen Mary, consort of King George V. Furthermore she was related on her mother's side to the royal family of the Netherlands.

Early life[edit]

Princess May as a toddler with her mother and brother Rupert.
Teck-Cambridge Family

Princess May was born at Claremont House, near Esher in Surrey, England. Her parents were Prince Alexander of Teck (later the 1st Earl of Athlone), the youngest son of Prince Francis, Duke of Teck and Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge. Her mother was Princess Alexander of Teck (née Princess Alice of Albany), the daughter of Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, youngest son of Queen Victoria and his wife, Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont.

As a daughter of Prince Alexander of Teck, May was styled Her Serene Highness Princess May of Teck at birth.

Lady May Cambridge[edit]

During World War I, anti-German feeling in the United Kingdom led Princess May's cousin, King George V, to change the name of the royal house from the Germanic House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the more English-sounding House of Windsor. The King also renounced all Germanic titles for himself and other members of the British Royal Family who were British subjects.

In response, May's father, Prince Alexander, renounced his title of a Prince of Teck in the Kingdom of Württemberg and the style His Serene Highness. Alexander, along with his brother, Prince Adolphus of Teck, adopted the name Cambridge, after their grandfather, Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge.

A few days later, the King created Alexander Earl of Athlone and Viscount Trematon. Alexander was now styled The Right Honourable Earl of Athlone. His daughter was now styled Lady May Cambridge, and his surviving son adopted the courtesy title of Viscount Trematon. Alexander's wife, Alice, born a British princess, retained her title and style, Her Royal Highness, and became known as Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone.

She served as a royal bridesmaid on numerous occasions; three times in Westminster Abbey: in 1919 to HRH Princess Patricia of Connaught on her marriage to Captain Alexander Ramsay RN; in 1922 to HRH The Princess Mary on her marriage to Viscount Lascelles; and in 1923 to the Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon on her marriage to HRH The Duke of York.[2]

Marriage[edit]

Lady May married Henry Abel Smith (later Sir Henry) on 24 October 1931 in Balcombe, Sussex, [3] close to the Athlone residence at Brantridge Park.

The bride was attended by four child bridesmaids; Princess Elizabeth, Rosemary Madeline Hamilton Fraser, Jennifer Bevan and Kathleen Alington: and eight adult bridesmaids; Hon. Imogen Rhys (daughter of Walter Rice, 7th Baron Dynevor), Lady Mary Whitley, Phyllis Seymour-Holm, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, Princess Ingrid of Sweden, the later Princess Sibylla of Sweden (see below), Verena Seymour (daughter of Sir Edward Seymour and granddaughter of the 4th Marquess Conyngham), and Wenefryde Tabor.[4] The best man was Cecil Weld Forester, 7th Baron Forester of Willey Park.

Princess Ingrid of Sweden, future Queen Consort of King Frederick IX of Denmark, introduced her fellow bridesmaid, Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (daughter of Prince Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and former Duke of Albany - grandson of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert through their son Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany) to her brother, Prince Gustav Adolf (father of King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden), whom Princess Sibylla married a year later (20 October 1932) at the Kirche St.-Moritz Coburg (a wedding that King George V is supposed to have forbidden the Royal family to attend because of Charles Edward's association with the Nazi Party. The virulently anti-communist NSDAP at that moment was actually still rather acceptable in royal circles).

Family[edit]

Sir Henry and Lady May Abel Smith were married for over 60 years and had three children:

Name Birth Death Notes
Anne Mary Sibylla Abel Smith 28 July 1932 Married on 14 December 1957 to David Liddell-Grainger (26 January 1930 – 12 March 2007); they were divorced in 1981 but have five children:
  • 1) Ian Liddell-Grainger (born 23 February 1959); married on 31 October 1985 to Jill Nesbitt (born 9 March 1956). Three children:
    • 1A) Peter Richard Liddell-Grainger (born 6 May 1987)
    • 1B) Sophie Victoria Liddell-Grainger (born 27 December 1988)
    • 1C) May Alexandra Liddell-Grainger (born 9 September 1992)
  • 2) Charles Montagu Liddell-Grainger (born 23 July 1960), married Karen Peta Humphreys on 23 January 1992, but they divorced in 1999. He then married Dr. Martha Margaretha de Klerk on 20 October 2008.[citation needed]
  • 3) Simon Rupert Liddell-Grainger (born 28 December 1962), married, firstly, on 26 January 1984 to Romana Maria Rogoshewska (born 17 September 1945); married, secondly, on 4 February 2000 to Natalie Judith Poulard. Two children:
    • 3A) Simon Alexander Liddell-Grainger (born 27 June 2000)
    • 3B) Matthew Willis Liddell-Grainger (born 8 October 2003)
  • 4) Alice Mary Liddell-Grainger (born 3 March 1965), married on 13 August 1990 to Pietro Panaggio. Two children:
    • 4A) Danilo Pietro Panaggio (born 19 March 1996)
    • 4B) Jessica Alice Panaggio (born 24 June 1998)
  • 5) Malcolm Henry Liddell-Grainger (born 14 December 1967), married on 1 August 1994 to Helen Bright. One son:
    • 5A) Cameron Henry Liddell-Grainger (born: 14 April 1997)
Colonel Richard Francis Abel Smith 11 October 1933 23 December 2004 Married on 28 April 1960 to Marcia Kendrew (born 27 March 1940). One daughter:
  • 1) Katherine Emma Abel Smith (born 11 March 1961), married to The Hon. Hubert Wentworth Beaumont (born 13 April 1956) on 16 October 1980. Four children:
    • 1A) Amelia May Beaumont (born 12 November 1983)
    • 1B) George Wentworth Beaumont (born 24 August 1985)
    • 1C) Richard Christian Beaumont (born 27 May 1989)
    • 1D) Michael Patrick Beaumont (born 23 April 1991)
Elizabeth Alice Abel Smith 5 September 1936 Married on 29 April 1965 to Peter Wise (born 29 December 1929) but divorced in 1975. One daughter:
  • 1) Emma Charlotte Abel Wise (1 September 1973 – 9 June 1974)

Later life[edit]

Lady May did not carry out any royal duties due to being only a distant member of the royal family. She did attend some major royal events such as the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer. At the latter event, Lady May was credited with popularising the counterweights at the back of women's necklaces to prevent the clasps from turning around, which she often wore herself on her usual pearl necklaces.

Between 1958 and 1966, Sir Henry Abel Smith served as the Governor of Queensland. May accompanied Henry to Brisbane, as vice-regal consort. They retired in 1975 to Barton Lodge at Winkfield in Berkshire, England.

Lady May died one year after her husband. They are both buried at the Royal Burial Ground, Frogmore, not far from Windsor Castle. Her funeral was held at St George's Chapel, Windsor on 9 June 1994. It was attended by the Duke of Gloucester and Princess Alexandra, representing the Royal Family.[5]

Titles[edit]

  • Her Serene Highness Princess May of Teck (1906 – 1917)
  • Miss May Cambridge (14–17 July 1917)
  • Lady May Cambridge (1917 – 1931)
  • Lady May Abel Smith (1931 – 1994)

From her birth, she was known as Princess May of Teck, a title from the Kingdom of Württemberg. She was later named for a few days Miss May Cambridge after the British Royal Family and its relatives ceased using their German titles in 1917, and her father adopted the surname "Cambridge". She was subsequently styled Lady May Cambridge, when her father was created Earl of Athlone, and Lady May Abel Smith after her marriage in 1931.

Ancestry[edit]

References[edit]