Setsuko, Princess Chichibu

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Princess Chichibu
Setsuko Matsudaira.jpg
BornSetsuko Matsudaira (松平節子)
(1909-09-09)9 September 1909
Walton-on-Thames, London, England, UK
Died25 August 1995(1995-08-25) (aged 85)
Tokyo, Japan
Toshimagaoka Imperial Cemetery, Bunkyo, Tokyo
Yasuhito, Prince Chichibu
(m. 1928; died 1953)
HouseImperial House of Japan
FatherTsuneo Matsudaira
MotherNobuko Nabeshima

Setsuko, Princess Chichibu (雍仁親王妃勢津子, Yasuhito Shinnōhi Setsuko, born Setsuko Matsudaira (松平節子, Matsudaira Setsuko); 9 September 1909 – 25 August 1995) was a member of the Japanese Imperial Family. The Princess was the wife of Prince Chichibu, the second son of Emperor Taishō and Empress Teimei. She was, therefore, a sister-in-law of Emperor Shōwa and an aunt of the emperor Akihito.

Early life[edit]

She was born in Walton-on-Thames, England. Her father Tsuneo Matsudaira (1877–1949) was Japanese ambassador to the United States (1924) and later to Great Britain (1928), and still later, Imperial Household Minister (1936–45, 1946–47). Her mother was the former Nobuko Nabeshima.

Although technically born a commoner, she was a scion of distinguished aristocratic families with close ties to the Japanese Imperial Family on both sides. Her paternal grandfather, Katamori Matsudaira, was the last daimyō of Aizu, a cadet branch of the Tokugawa dynasty. Her maternal grandfather was Marquis Naohiro Nabeshima, former daimyō of Saga. Her mother's elder sister, Itsuko (1882–1976), married Prince Morimasa Nashimoto, an uncle of Empress Kōjun.

In 1925, while her father was ambassador to the United States, Setsuko was educated at the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. (1925–1928).[1] Upon her return to Japan, Empress Teimei chose Setsuko to marry her second son, Prince Chichibu. She married the Prince after her uncle, Viscount Morio Matsudaira, formally adopted her, thus removing the status incongruity between the prince and his bride, by making Setsuko the adopted daughter of a viscount.


The Prince and Princess Chichibu on their wedding day.

On 28 September 1928, aged 19, she wed Yasuhito, Prince Chichibu, and became Princess Chichibu. The bride and groom were eighth cousins, thrice removed, as both were descended from Nabeshima Katsushige, the first lord of Saga.[2] Prince and Princess Chichibu had no children, as Princess Chichibu's only pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. But by all accounts their marriage was filled with love and happiness for each other.

In 1937, the prince and princess were sent on a tour of Western Europe which took several months. They represented Japan at the May 1937 coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in Westminster Abbey and subsequently visited Sweden and the Netherlands as the guests of King Gustav V and Queen Wilhelmina, respectively. Princess Chichibu stayed in Switzerland while her husband met Adolf Hitler in Nuremberg at the end of the trip. She felt a great love for the United States and for England and, as an anglophile, was greatly saddened by Japan's entry into the Second World War on the side of the Axis powers.


After the Prince's death of tuberculosis in 1953, Princess Chichibu became president of the Society for the Prevention of Tuberculosis, honorary president of the Britain-Japan Society, the Sweden-Japan Society, and an honorary vice president of the Japanese Red Cross. The Princess, who was fluent in English, made several semi-official visits to Great Britain and Sweden.


Princess Chichibu died before her 86th birthday of heart failure on 25 August 1995.

Her autobiography, which was published posthumously as The Silver Drum: A Japanese Imperial Memoir, was translated in English by Dorothy Britton.

Titles and styles[edit]

Styles of
Princess Chichibu
Imperial Coat of Arms
Reference styleHer Imperial Highness
Spoken styleYour Imperial Highness

Setsuko was styled as "Her Imperial Highness The Princess Chichibu". Prior to her marriage she was styled as "The Honourable Setsuko Matsudaira".


National honours[edit]

Foreign honours[edit]

King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden invested her with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Seraphim on 8 April 1969. On 23 July 1962, she became an Honorary Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire. On 9 October 1978, Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon (on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II) invested Princess Chichibu as an Honorary Dame Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George.


Patrilineal descent[edit]


  1. ^ Roosevelt, Eleanor (May 28, 1953) "My Day". The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Digital Edition
  2. ^ a b "Genealogy". Reichsarchiv (in Japanese). Retrieved 5 September 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • Princess Chichibu. The Silver Drum: A Japanese Imperial Memoir. Global Books Ltd. (UK) (May 1996). Trans. Dorothy Britton. ISBN 1-86034-004-0
  • Ema, Shuichi. Chichibu no Miya Hi Setsuko no shogai. Kaibushiki Kaisha Kuppon (1996). ISBN 4-88975-601-9 (Japanese)
  • Fujitani,T. Splendid Monarchy: Power and Pageantry in Modern Japan. University of California Press; Reprint edition (1998). ISBN 0-520-21371-8
  • Lebra, Sugiyama Takie. Above the Clouds: Status Culture of the Modern Japanese Nobility. University of California Press (1995). ISBN 0-520-07602-8

External links[edit]