Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Nerissa and Katherine

John Herbert Bowes-Lyon death notice from the Times, 11 Feb. 1930, page 17. The text reads:

"MR. JOHN BOWES-LYON. The Duke and Duchess of York were present at the funeral at St. Paul's, Walden, yesterday, of the Hon. John Herbert Bowes-Lyon. The service, which was conducted by the Rev. H. S. C. Whitehouse (the vicar), was of the simplest character.

"The chief mourners word the Hon. Mrs. John. Bowes-Lyon (widow), the Earl and Countess of Strathmore (parents), Lord and Lady Glamis (brother and sister-in-law), the Duke and Duchess of York (brother-in-law and sister), the Hon. David and the Hon. Michael Bowes-Lyon (brothers), the Hon. Patrick and the Hon. Malcolm Bowes-Lyon (uncles), Lady Elphinstone and Lady Rose Levesori-Gower (sisters), Captain and Mrs. Geoffrey Bowes-Lyon, and Mr. P. K. Hodgson, private secretary to the Duke of York. 

Others present Included:—

"Lady Evelyn McDonnell, Lady Nina Balfour, the Dowager Countess of Leven and Melville, Major-General Sir Torquhil Matheson, Viscount and Viscountess Hampden, Mrs. Martin Smith, Mr. Ronald Nall-Cain, Colonel H.J. Sowerby, Colonel Tom Sowerby, Colonel Richard Oakley, Mr. Hugh Pitman. Mr. John Carton (representing the National Farmers' Union), Mrs. Guy Kindersley. Mr. Grenfell White. Mr. A. W. Bailey Hawkins. Mr. J. B. Bailey Hawkins, Major A. G. Bailey Hawkins, Miss Lowther. Miss de Beaumont.

"A memorial service for the Hon. John Bowes-Lyon will he held at St. Michael's, Cornhill, at 12.30 p.m., to-day."

John Herbert "Jock" Bowes-Lyon (1 April 1886 – 7 February 1930), was the second son of the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and the Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne, the favourite brother of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (the future Queen Elizabeth and later the Queen Mother). 

He was an uncle to Queen Elizabeth II, although he died when she was a small child.

Jock Bowes-Lyon was educated at Oxford University where he played first-class cricket for the university side in three matches in 1906 and 1907, playing as a fast-medium bowler.

On 29 September 1914, John married The Honourable Fenella Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis (19 August 1889 – 19 July 1966), the younger daughter of Charles Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis, 21st Baron Clinton. 

They had five children, all girls:

  • Patricia Bowes-Lyon (6 July 1916 – 18 June 1917), died in infancy
  • Anne Ferelith Fenella Bowes-Lyon (4 December 1917 – 26 September 1980)
  • Nerissa Jane Irene Bowes-Lyon (18 February 1919 – 22 January 1986)
  • Diana Cinderella Mildred Bowes-Lyon (14 December 1923 – 1986) m. Peter Gordon Colin Somervell. Their daughter Katherine (b. 1961) is a god-daughter of Queen Elizabeth II.
  • Katherine Bowes-Lyon (born 4 July 1926)

Before the outbreak of World War I, John worked as a stockbroker in the City of London for the firm Rowe and Pitman.

In 1915, he was posted with the Black Watch and just prior to the Battle of Aubers Ridge that year, he accidentally shot himself in his left forefinger. 

It was amputated the following day and while receiving treatment in the UK, he admitting having experienced a nervous breakdown in 1912 and also suffered from neurasthenia.

 Late that year, he was posted to the Ministry of Munitions and then in the Territorial Army in 1916. After the war, he was twice threatened with courts-martial after having failed to show on parade for demobilisation and later returned to his job in the City.

Jock died at the family home of Glamis Castle just after midnight on the morning of 7 February 1930 of pneumonia, aged 44, leaving his widow to care for their four young children alone. 

(Two of them, Nerissa and Katherine, were severely mentally disabled.) 

Three days later he was buried at St Paul's Walden Bury.

His widow was a leading guest at the 1947 wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. 

Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon

Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon are two of the daughters of John Herbert Bowes-Lyon and his wife Fenella (née Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis)

As John was the brother of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon the Queen Mother, the two daughters are first cousins of Queen Elizabeth II, sharing one pair of grandparents, Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and Nina Bowes-Lyon, Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne.

In 1987, it was revealed that Nerissa and Katherine had been placed in Earlswood Hospital for the mentally disabled in 1941.

Although Nerissa died in 1986, and Katherine is still alive (as of 2012), both had been listed in Burke's Peerage as being dead since the 1963 edition.

Suggestions of a royal cover-up were rejected in the press by Lord Clinton, who thought that his aunt Fenella 
(the mother of the two daughters) 
had completed the form for Burke's Peerage incorrectly due to 'vagueness'; 

however, Burke's Peerage included specific dates of death for both sisters.

According to a 2011 television documentary about the sisters, "throughout their time at the hospital, there is no known record that the sisters were ever visited by any member of the Bowes-Lyon or royal families, despite their aunt, the Queen Mother, being a Patron of MENCAP" (the charity for people with a learning disability). 

Nurses interviewed on the documentary said that, to their knowledge, the family never even sent the sisters a birthday or Christmas gift or card. 

When Nerissa died in 1986, none of her family attended the funeral. She was buried at Redhill Cemetery.

Her grave was only marked with plastic tags and a serial number until her existence was revealed in the media, after which the family added a proper gravestone.

Three other mentally disabled cousins also lived in Earlswood Hospital. Harriet Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis (1887–1958), sister of Nerissa and Katherine's mother Fenella, married Major Henry Nevile Fane, and 3 of their 7 children lived in Earlswood Hospital: Idonea Elizabeth Fane (1912–2002), Rosemary Jean Fane (1914-1972), and Ethelreda Flavia Fane (1922–1996).

Prof. David Danks, then director of the Murdoch Institute, thought that a genetic disease may have killed male members of the family in early childhood.

In 1996 the surviving cousins were moved to Ketwin House care home in Surrey; when it closed in 2001, they were moved to another care home in Surrey.

 Earlswood Hospital, Redhill, Surrey

In a rare insight into the Queen’s personal feelings, Lady Elizabeth Anson, her cousin, has told Mandrake that the monarch feels “hurt” by the documentary that Channel 4 screened this month about Katherine and Nerissa Bowes-Lyon, the nieces of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

“I thought it was such an unfair thing to do to the Queen, and I know she was very hurt about it,” Lady Elizabeth tells me at the launch of Perceptions, a book about her brother, the celebrated photographer Patrick Lichfield, at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge.

Lady Elizabeth adds that she doesn’t think that the monarch has watched the programme, emotively entitled The Queen’s Hidden Cousins, but she has found viewing it herself distressing. “I watched it and I was horrified. I was dreading it as soon as I found out they were making the programme,” she says.

The documentary, which suggests that the Royal family behaved callously towards Nerissa and Katherine, the mentally handicapped children of John and Fenella Bowes-Lyon, the older brother and sister-in-law of Queen Elizabeth, seems to Lady Elizabeth to be “an intrusion of privacy”.

She accuses Channel 4 of “capitalising on the royal connection and ignoring the facts, as the sisters have always been looked after by that family”.

Of Katherine, the Queen’s surviving cousin, who is now aged 85, Lady Elizabeth says that, contrary to the programme’s claims, she is well looked after in a care home suited to her needs. “She has regular visits, too,” she adds.

The programme asserted that John Bowes-Lyon never visited his daughters as they grew up, but failed to mention that he had died in 1930.

1 comment:

  1. I know the former german Kaiser is not very beloved in GB (though he did NOT start WWI, tried to stop the outbreak- well, that's a different story).
    But his Daughter-in-Law gave borth to a daughter with Down's Syndrom (in 1915), and this girl was always beloved and adored by the whole family, grew up amongst her siblings till she was given to the first boardng school for diasabled children in the Thirties, she was always part of the family, postcards with her pictures were sold, as they were sold with the pictures of her siblings,. and the family never made a difference between the children (four boys, than Alexandrine Irene, than the youngst sister). Her last surviving sibling was Louis Ferdinand, he visited her till she died in 1980 in her own house, and now she rests at the side of her brother Friedrich.
    I have girl's books from the 1910's, she was, as said before, born in 1915, and she was presented by her proud mother on several pictures throiugh the years, as the other chidren have been. When you look at those pictures, you see a happy family.