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29 Apr 2021

Bride and joy!

Written by Antonia Laurence-Allen, Curator for Edinburgh and East
Black and white photograph
The 12th Earl of Galloway and the new Countess of Galloway exiting St Margaret’s, Westminster, flanked by bagpipers, 1924 | Newhailes collection
With the wedding season approaching, Antonia (Curator for Edinburgh & East) shares one of her favourite items from the Newhailes collection with us.

A happy bride and groom exiting a church in London, 1924 – this is a photograph that makes me smile. But, what connection does this have to the National Trust for Scotland?

The pictured couple – Randolph aged 32 and Philippa aged 19 – would welcome a daughter into their lives the following year. The little girl would be given the lengthy name of Antonia Marian Amy Isabel Stewart, and she would eventually go on to marry Sir Mark Dalrymple and come to live in his family home of Newhailes – just a little to the east of Edinburgh, in East Lothian. In fact, Lady Antonia (as she became known) outlived her husband by over 45 years and passed ownership of Newhailes to the National Trust for Scotland in the 1990s.

This photograph of Lady Antonia’s parents tells us a little of her family history. Antonia’s mother, Philippa, and her Aunt Catherine were both known as ‘court beauties’. Their father Jacob had operated an electrical and railroad supply business based out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire in the USA; their mother Marian was the granddaughter of the District Attorney for the District of Columbia. Their life in America was one that the Countess of Carnarvon has described as typical for an ‘East Coast monied family’, with trips back and forth from a townhouse in New York City and the country home in Portsmouth.

However, Philippa and Catherine had in fact mostly grown up in London. In 1911, their father died suddenly, leaving his wife with four young children. She swiftly decided to move the family to London, where they stayed initially with a cousin. Catherine was 12; her sister Philippa only 6. As they settled into London life and the girls grew older, the family became known as ‘good company’. Lady Carnarvon describes Catherine as having ‘a soft prettiness’, while Philippa had more of a ‘dark-haired, dark-eyed intensity’.

A sepia photograph of a young woman, with long dark hair in two plaits.
Countess of Galloway, Philippa Fendall Wendell (1900–74) | Newhailes collection

Philippa met Randolph, 12th Earl of Galloway, at her sister’s wedding in 1922. The glamorous Catherine was well-known in London society and married the 6th Earl of Carnarvon (Lord Porchester, or ‘Porchey’). They lived at Highclere Castle in Hampshire (known most famously today as the setting for the TV series Downton Abbey). In her book Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey, the Countess of Carnarvon writes: ‘Catherine was a favourite with all Porchey’s friends. Very pretty, with an entrancing smile, she was flirtatious and fun. She was always impeccably stylish in the latest fashions.’

After being bridesmaid to her sister in 1922, Philippa courted Randolph and continued to attend parties. In 1923, she was presented to King George V and Queen Mary. The papers reported huge crowds stretching down the Mall from Buckingham Palace, watching the parade of cars in hopes of seeing the beautiful debutantes. There were 12 American women presented that day – Philippa Wendell being described as the sister of Lady Carnarvon and wearing a ‘picturesque gown of white satin with silver lace paniers and a silver train.’ (The Cincinnati Enquirer, May 31, 1923). In November 1923, her husband-to-be, Randolph, was a groomsman at the wedding of Princess Maud (granddaughter of Edward VII) and Lord Carnegie.

All these weddings and parties flung the American socialite and the British aristocrat together – Philippa and Randolph originated from very different worlds but found themselves members of the same social set. This photograph is one of my favourites from the Newhailes collection because it shows an informal moment of joy, at a wedding that must have been filled with formality. It’s the happiness radiating from Philippa’s smile as she races out from the church that captures my heart; I also love her dress!

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