Lady Georgiana Grey – the oldest resident at Hampton Court Palace
When Lady Georgiana Grey died in 1900 at the age of 99, she had been living at Hampton Court Palace for almost 25 years. How had she come to be living at the Palace at the ‘grace and favour’ of Queen Victoria?
Lady Georgiana was born at Ham, Surrey, on 17 February 1801, the daughter of politician Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, and his wife Mary Elizabeth. Georgiana was educated at home, learning literature, languages, music, embroidery and art.
By 1829, Georgiana’s three older sisters had married and her younger sister Mary was betrothed. In April of that year, Countess Grey wrote to Georgiana expressing her love for her daughter: ‘What have I to make life desirable to me but you? Your three dear sisters that are married can no longer belong to me, and though I do love my poor Mary very truly, yet I cannot conceal from myself (and I fear it is but too apparent to her) that my feeling for you is of a perfectly different nature - almost from your birth you have been the object and delight of my life’.
Georgiana was considered as a great beauty, talented in art, music, and politics. After Queen Victoria succeeded to the throne in 1838, Georgiana enjoyed regular invitations to attend state balls, concerts, and dinners at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Osborne House. The Queen wrote in her journal that Georgiana was ‘clever and agreeable’, and the two women became friends.
General Charles Grey, Georgiana’s younger brother, was private secretary to Prince Albert between 1849 and 1860. He went on to serve Queen Victoria as private secretary from 1861 until his death in 1870. Georgiana’s elder sister, Lady Caroline Barrington, was appointed Woman of the Bedchamber in 1837 and Superintendent to the Queen’s daughters. When Georgiana fell on hard times following the death of her mother in 1861, the Queen gave her an apartment at Kensington Palace, and then, in 1875, Apartment VI at Hampton Court Palace, where she lived with about four or five servants.
Charming, affable and generous, Georgiana travelled widely and had many friends. In his History of Hampton Court Palace published in 1891, Ernest Law wrote: ‘It is no secret that Lady Georgiana is now within a few months of her ninety-first year; but, with every sense and faculty unimpaired, she is as strong, well, and healthy as most people at half her age. We may add that her apartments are still one of the chief social centres of Hampton Court, her dinners and parties being the pleasantest in the Palace, while to her the young men and ladies in the Palace and its neighbourhood, have owed many delightful dances and theatrical entertainments in the Oak Room’.
Lady Georgiana Grey died at Hampton Court on 14 September 1900, having lived a long life filled with an endless round of functions, parties, dinners, fetes, and balls hosted by the Royal Family, foreign ambassadors and the cream of the British and European aristocracy. She had been presented to three reigning monarchs, taken part in the coronation ceremony of King William IV and Queen Adelaide, and attended the coronation of Queen Victoria. Georgiana was buried at Howick, the Grey family seat in Northumberland.
CC-BY Gary Hynard
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British Newspaper Archive e.g. obituary of Lady Georgiana Grey in Surrey Comet 15 September 1900.
Letters to Lady Georgiana Grey from her mother c. 1823-1839 – Borthwick Institute for Archives HALIFAX/A1/8/3.
Sarah E Parker, Grace & Favour - A handbook of who lived where in Hampton Court Palace 1750 to 1950 (Historic Royal Palaces, 2005).
Ernest Law, The History of Hampton Court Palace: Orange and Guelph times Vol. 3 (London, 1891).