Anne Parsons, Countess of Rosse

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The Countess of Rosse
Anne Messell.jpg
Personal details
Anne Messel

(1902-02-08)8 February 1902
Gloucester Terrace, Paddington, London, England
Died3 July 1992(1992-07-03) (aged 90)
Nymans, Sussex, England
Ronald Armstrong-Jones
(m. 1925; div. 1934)

ChildrenSusan Vesey, Viscountess de Vesci
Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon
Brendan Parsons, 7th Earl of Rosse
Martin Parsons
Known forFounder of The Victorian Society

Anne Parsons, Countess of Rosse (née Messel, previously Armstrong-Jones; 8 February 1902 – 3 July 1992), was a society hostess and one of the founders of The Victorian Society and the mother of Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon.


Anne Messel was born 8 February 1902, the second child and only daughter of Maud (daughter of Edward Linley Sambourne) and Leonard Messel. She was the sister of Linley Messel (1899–1971) and celebrated theatrical designer Oliver Messel (1904–1978). She grew up in Sussex, close to the home of her grandparents at Nymans. She was educated at home; needlework and gardening were among her early interests. The presence of illustrations in surviving family letters and diaries reveals that she also had some artistic talent.[1]

Marriage and children[edit]

Anne made her debut in society in 1922. Her poise and fashion sense were praised by society columnists in newspapers such as the Daily Express and Evening News. Her friends included Edward James and Tilly Losch, Zita Jungman, and society photographer Cecil Beaton.[1]

She married Ronald Armstrong-Jones on 22 July 1925 and they were divorced in 1934. They had two children:

  • Susan Anne Armstrong-Jones (12 February 1927 – May 1986), who married John Vesey, 6th Viscount de Vesci of Abbey Leix, on 20 May 1950. They had four children and eight grandchildren:
    • Hon. Emma Frances Vesey (born 17 March 1951), who married Norman Zalkind in 1986 and had one daughter:
      • Susan Zalkind (1987)
    • Hon. Catherine Anne Vesey (born 19 May 1953), who married Bruno Cretton in 1984 and had four children:
      • Matthew John Cretton (born 1985)
      • Cecily Anne Cretton (born 1986)
      • Alexis Pierre Cretton (born 1988)
      • Madeleine Cretton (born 1991)
    • Thomas Eustace Vesey, 7th Viscount de Vesci of Abbey Leix (born 8 October 1955), who married Sita-Maria Arabella, daughter of Brian Michael Leese, later de Breffny, of Castletown Cox, County Kilkenny, by his wife Maharaj Kumari Jyotsna Dutt, daughter of Maharajadhiraja Bahadur Sir Uday Chand Mahtab, last ruler of Burdwan Raj,[2][3] on 5 September 1987, and had three children:
      • Hon. Damian Brian John Vesey (born 1985)
      • Hon. Cosima Frances Vesey (born 1988)
      • Hon. Oliver Ivo Vesey (born 16 July 1991)
    • Hon. Georgina Mary Vesey (2 Sep 1963 – 14 March 1965)
  • Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon (7 March 1930 – 13 January 2017) he married Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon on 6 May 1960 and they were divorced on 5 July 1978. They had two children and four grandchildren:
He married Lucy Davies on 21 July 1978; they were divorced in 2000. They had one daughter and three grandchildren:
  • Lady Frances von Hofmannsthal (17 July 1979) she married Rodolphe von Hofmannsthal in 2006:
    • Rex von Hofmannsthal (born 2 May 2008)
    • Maud von Hofmannsthal (born 1 December 2009)
    • Sybil von Hofmannsthal (born 29 August 2013)

Antony had an illegitimate son by Melanie Cable-Alexander and an illegitimate daughter by Camilla Fry.

Anne married Michael Parsons, 6th Earl of Rosse, on 19 September 1935. Rosse had extensive estates in Ireland and was nicknamed "The Adonis of the Peerage".[1]

They had two sons and five grandchildren:

  • Brendan Parsons, 7th Earl of Rosse (born 21 October 1936), who married Alison Cooke-Hurle on 15 October 1966 and had three children:
    • Lawrence Patrick Parsons, Lord Oxmantown (born 31 March 1969), who married Anna Lin Xiaojing in 2004 and had two children:
      • Hon. Olivia Rose Xuewei Parsons (born 8 January 2006)
      • Hon. William Charles Yufan Parsons (born 28 June 2008)
    • Lady Alicia Siobhan Margaret Nasreen Parsons (11 March 1971)
    • Hon. Michael John Finn Parsons (born 9 November 1981)
  • Hon. Desmond Oliver Martin Parsons (23 December 1938 – 16 July 2010), who married Aline Edwina Macdonald on 22 May 1965 and had two children:
    • Rupert Alexander Michael Parsons (born 3 September 1966)
    • Desmond Edward Richard Parsons (born 30 October 1968)

The couple travelled extensively, and Anne was present at the coronations of both King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II.


In 1947, the house at Nymans was badly damaged by fire, and the countess travelled to Staplefield to help. Her parents vacated the house and bought Holmsted Manor nearby as their new home. The earl and countess continued to use the house, following repairs, and it passed to the National Trust on her father's death in 1953. After the earl's death in 1979, the countess returned to live at Nymans and retained some responsibility for the appearance of the gardens.[1]

The Victorian Society[edit]

At a Guy Fawkes night party in 1957, inspired by her house at 18 Stafford Terrace and the reaction of its 32 visitors, Anne, Countess of Rosse proposed founding a Victorian Society to encourage the preservation and appreciation of what was then unfashionable art and architecture. A handful of enthusiasts, including Sir John Betjeman and Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, agreed to support the cause. The Victorian Society was founded at 18 Stafford Terrace in February 1958 with the aim of preserving Victorian and Edwardian architecture and encouraging research into the art and history of the period.[4][5]

Title and styles[edit]

  • 8 February 1902 – 22 July 1925: Miss Anne Messel
  • 22 July 1925 – 1934: Mrs Ronald Armstrong-Jones
  • 1934 – 19 September 1935: Mrs Anne Armstrong-Jones
  • 19 September 1935 – 5 July 1979: The Right Honourable The Countess of Rosse
  • 5 July 1979 – 3 July 1992: The Right Honourable The Dowager Countess of Rosse


  1. ^ a b c d Anne Messel: the Story of a Bright Young Thing. National Trust. 2018.
  2. ^ Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage 2003, vol. 1, p. 1116
  3. ^ Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage, 2000, ed. Patrick Montague-Smith, p. 476
  4. ^ Heald, Henrietta. "Parsonstown: The genius of the Parsons family: London Links". Parsonstown website. Retrieved 19 December 2017.
  5. ^ "History of the Victorian Society". The Victorian. The Victorian Society 1. 1998. Retrieved 19 December 2017.