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
(m. 1925; div. 1934)
(m. 1935; died 1979)
Known forFounder of The Victorian Society

Anne Parsons, Countess of Rosse (née Messel, previously Armstrong-Jones; 8 February 1902 – 3 July 1992), was an English socialite and one of the founders of The Victorian Society. She was the mother of Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon and Brendan Parsons, 7th Earl of Rosse.

Early life[edit]

Anne Messel was born 8 February 1902, in London, the second child and only daughter of Maud (daughter of Edward Linley Sambourne) and Lieutenant-Colonel Leonard Messel. Her family was of German-Jewish background.[1] Messel was the sister of Linley Messel (1899–1971) and the stage set designer Oliver Messel (1904–1978). She was raised in Sussex, close to the home of her grandparents at Nymans and 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.[2]


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.[2]

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.[3][4]

Personal life[edit]

She married Ronald Armstrong-Jones on 22 July 1925 and they were divorced in early 1935. They had two children:

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".[2]

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
  • Hon. Desmond Oliver Martin Parsons (23 December 1938 – 16 July 2010), who married Aline Edwina Macdonald

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


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.[2]


  1. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. British Academy, Oxford University Press (Online ed.). Oxford. ISBN 9780198614128. OCLC 56568095.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. ^ a b c d Anne Messel: the Story of a Bright Young Thing. National Trust. 2018.
  3. ^ Heald, Henrietta. "Parsonstown: The genius of the Parsons family: London Links". Parsonstown website. Retrieved 19 December 2017.
  4. ^ "History of the Victorian Society". The Victorian. The Victorian Society 1. 1998. Archived from the original on 30 August 2017. Retrieved 19 December 2017.