Geneviève Ward

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Dame Geneviève Ward
Geneviève Ward circa 1860

Lucy Geneviève Teresa Ward, Countess de Guerbel, DBE (27 March 1837 – 18 August 1922), also known as Countess de Guerbel and more popularly known as Dame Geneviève Ward,[1] was a United Kingdom-based American-born Russian soprano and actress.[2] She was appointed Honorary Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire on her 84th birthday in 1921.[3][4][5][6]

Life and career[edit]

Ward was born in New York City to Colonel Samuel Ward, and his wife, Lucy. She was the granddaughter of Gideon Lee, a former mayor of New York City. At the age of three she accompanied her parents to Europe. She began to display a preference for the arts, and devoted herself by turns to the study of painting, sculpture, and music. By degrees, music absorbed her entirely, and her proficiency on the piano attracted attention.[citation needed]

On 10 November 1856, at age 19, she married a Russian count, Constantine de Guerbel. After a few years' stay in Europe, the family returned to New York, and soon afterward made the acquaintance of Henriette Sontag,[7] who encouraged Ward to study singing. When the Ward family returned to Europe, Sontag gave Geneviève a letter of introduction to the composer Rossini. In 1862, after Ward's last role in La Traviata, she retired due to vocal difficulties. Ward later became a stage actress, noted for dramatic roles.[8]

Later years[edit]

She published a volume of reminiscences, Before and Behind the Curtain in 1918.[9]


Geneviève Ward, Countess de Guerbel, died of heart disease at her home in Hampstead on 18 August 1922, aged 85.


  1. ^ As she was not a British subject, her appointment as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) did not strictly entitle her to use the title of "Dame", but it is often used in reliable sources, including the Dictionary of National Biography and The Times.
  2. ^ She was a Russian national, almost certainly due to her marriage to the Count de Guerbel, according to Lindsey Mills, Deputy Operational Manager, Honours and Appointments Secretariat, 1 Horse Guards, London, UK.
  3. ^ The Countess de Guerbel was awarded an honorary damehood in the Order of the British Empire, as per Lindsey Mills, Deputy Team Leader, Honours Operations Honours and Appointments Secretariat Cabinet Office (per email communication).
  4. ^ Obituary, The Times, 19 August 1922.
  5. ^ "The King and Miss Genevieve Ward: Honoured on Her 84th Birthday", The Times, 28 March 1921
  6. ^ Biography, Who Was Who
  7. ^ Henry Wikoff (1863) Memoir of Ginevra Guerrabella, T.J. Crowan: New York.
  8. ^ Reference to Ward as "AMERICAN-BRITON" and to her damehood,; accessed 31 March 2014.
  9. ^ Geneviève Ward profile