Lady May Abel Smith

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Princess May of Teck
Lady May Abel Smith
Lady May Helen Emma Abel Smith (née Cambridge).jpg
BornMay Helen Emma
(1906-01-23)23 January 1906
Claremont, Esher, Surrey
Died29 May 1994(1994-05-29) (aged 88)
London, England
Sir Henry Abel Smith
(m. 1931; died 1993)
IssueAnne Liddell-Grainger
Richard Abel Smith
Elizabeth Wise
FatherPrince Alexander of Teck
MotherPrincess Alice of Albany

Lady May Helen Emma Abel Smith (formerly Lady May Cambridge, née Princess May of Teck; 23 January 1906 – 29 May 1994)[1] was a relative of the British Royal Family. She was a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and a niece of Queen Mary. Due to anti-German sentiment in England during World War I, George V changed the name of the royal house from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor and renounced all of his German titles and the German titles of members of the British royal family. In response, May's family renounced their German princely titles and the style of Serene Highness and adopted the surname Cambridge, after her ancestor the Duke of Cambridge. Her father was then created the Earl of Athlone, and she was granted the precedence of the daughter of an earl with the courtesy title of Lady.

Early life[edit]

Princess May as an infant with her mother Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, and brother Rupert Cambridge, Viscount Trematon

Princess May of Teck was born at Claremont House, near Esher in Surrey, England, the only surviving child[2] of the German nobleman Prince Alexander of Teck, later granted the British title of Earl of Athlone, the youngest son of Francis, Duke of Teck by his wife the German-born Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, daughter of Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, the youngest surviving son of King George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Her mother was Princess Alice of Albany, the daughter of Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, youngest son of Queen Victoria, by his wife Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont. As a daughter of Prince Alexander of Teck, May was styled at birth Her Serene Highness Princess May of Teck.

During World War I, anti-German feeling in the United Kingdom led Princess May's uncle[3] King George V, to change the name of the British royal family from the Germanic Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the more British-sounding Windsor. The king also renounced all Germanic titles for himself and other members of the British Royal Family who were British subjects.

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

A few days later, the king elevated Alexander to the Peerage of the United Kingdom as Earl of Athlone and Viscount Trematon. Alexander was now styled The Right Honourable Earl of Athlone. His daughter then became styled as Lady May Cambridge, befitting a daughter of an Earl, and his surviving son adopted as a courtesy title his secondary title of Viscount Trematon, as befitted the eldest son of an Earl. Alexander's wife, Alice, born as 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 Princess Patricia of Connaught on her marriage to Captain Alexander Ramsay, RN; in 1922 to Princess Mary on her marriage to Viscount Lascelles; and in 1923 to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon on her marriage to Prince Albert, Duke of York,[4] later King George VI.


Lady May married Henry Abel Smith (later Sir Henry) on 24 October 1931 in Balcombe, Sussex,[5] close to the Athlone residence at Brantridge Park.

The bride was attended by four child bridesmaids: Princess Elizabeth of York (later Queen Elizabeth II), Rosemary Madeline Hamilton Fraser, Jennifer Bevan and Kathleen Alington. Her eight adult bridesmaids were the 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 future Princess Sibylla of Sweden (see below); Verena Seymour (daughter of Sir Edward Seymour and granddaughter of the 4th Marquess Conyngham;, and Wenefryde Tabor.[6] 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 Gustaf Adolf (father of King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden), whom Princess Sibylla married a year later (20 October 1932) at the Kirche St. Moriz Coburg.


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 Romana Rogoshewska on 26 January 1984. He remarried Natalie Poulard on 4 February 2000. They have 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, being only a distant member of the royal family, did not carry out any royal duties. 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.

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 in hospital 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 Castle, Windsor, on 9 June 1994. It was attended by the Duke of Gloucester and Princess Alexandra, representing the royal family.[7]


  • 23 January 1906 – 14 July 1917: Her Serene Highness Princess May of Teck
  • 14 – 17 July 1917: Miss May Cambridge
  • 17 July 1917 – 24 October 1931: The Lady May Cambridge
  • 24 October 1931 – 29 May 1994: The Lady May Abel Smith

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.



  1. ^ "Lady May Helen Emma Abel Smith". National Portrait Gallery, London.
  2. ^ Kelly's Handbook, 1969, p.114, re Sir Henry Abel-Smith
  3. ^ Through his marriage to her paternal aunt Princess Mary of Teck, while he was her first cousin once removed through her mother, Princess Alexander of Teck
  4. ^ "The Queen Mother in pictures - The royal wedding group photograph". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  5. ^ "The Royal Wedding of Lady May Cambridge 1931". British Pathe.
  6. ^ "The Wedding of Lady May Cambridge and Henry Abel Smith". National Portrait Gallery, London.
  7. ^ "Court Circular". Independent. 10 June 1994.