Sybil Fane, Countess of Westmorland
Born on 20 August 1871 at 40 Upper Brook Street in Mayfair, London, Lady Sybil was the daughter of Robert Francis St Clair-Erskine, 4th Earl of Rosslyn and Blanche Adeliza Fitzroy. Her sisters were Millicent, Duchess of Sutherland and Lady Angela Forbes; and Daisy, Countess of Warwick was a half-sister, from their mother’s previous marriage to Hon. Charles Henry Maynard.
She was renowned for her beauty, and had no qualms about enhancing it by the use of cosmetics, which was considered daring at the time. She was connected with the group known as The Souls, having been introduced by George Curzon.
On 28 May 1892 she married Anthony Mildmay Julian Fane, 13th Earl of Westmorland. The wedding took place at St. Michael’s in Chester Square, Belgravia, London. Upon her marriage, Sybil took the title Countess of Westmorland. The couple had the following children:
- Lieutenant-Commander the Honourable Vere Anthony Francis St Clair Fane, 14th Earl of Westmorland (15 March 1893 – 12 May 1948)
- Lady Enid Victoria Rachel Fane (24 April 1894 – 9 September 1969)
- Major the Honourable Mountjoy John Charles Wedderburn Fane (8 October 1900 – 9 October 1963)
- Lady Violet Gloria Sybil Fane (born 11 April 1902)
In July 1897 Sybil attended the Duchess of Devonshire’s grand ball, at Devonshire House in Piccadilly, London. The ball was held in celebration of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, and was one of the most extravagant aristocratic parties ever. Guests were asked to attend dressed as allegorical or historical figures from before 1815. Sybil dressed as Hebe, goddess of youth, carrying a gold cup in her hand, with an enormous stuffed eagle strapped to her shoulders, in imitation of a painting by Joshua Reynolds. The society photographers, Lafayette Studios of Bond Street London, erected a tent in the garden, and the printed photographs of the guests still exist in the Devonshire archives at Chatsworth. Consuelo, Duchess of Marlborough remembers Sybil as the outstanding beauty of the Devonshire House Ball:
- "She had perhaps the most perfect face. I can see her now in a Greek peplum impersonating Hebe. The grey feathers of a life-like stuffed eagle perched on her shoulder, set off the glorious sheen of her red hair".
Sybil Fane, Countess of Westmorland, dressed as an allegory of Great Britain - Lafayette Studio, February 1900
Sybil’s husband, Anthony Fane, 13th Earl of Westmorland, 1893
- University of Hull, Directory of Royal Genealogical Data: Sybil Mary St.Clair-Erskine
- University of Hull, Directory of Royal Genealogical Data: Blanche Adeliza Fitzroy
- Adby, Jane and Charlotte Gere (1984). The Souls, p.179 & p.184. London : Sidgwick & Jackson. ISBN 0-283-98920-3
- thepeerage.com: Lady Sybil Mary St.Clair-Erskine
- The Aristocracy: Born to Rule: 1875-1914. BBC Television. (1997)