Who Was Mary Princess Royal And Countess Of Harewood?

We take a closer look at the life and times of Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood, the only daughter of Queen Mary and King George V.

In the annals of British royalty, certain figures naturally command the spotlight, their stories echoing through the corridors of history. Yet, nestled amidst these luminaries is the tale of Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood. Born to the illustrious King George V and Queen Mary, she navigated the intricate tapestry of royal duties with grace and dedication, leaving an indelible mark on the monarchy.

This comprehensive biography delves into the life of Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood shedding light on her early years, her pivotal role during tumultuous global events, and her enduring legacy. As we journey through her life, we’ll uncover the facets that made her a unique and cherished member of the British Royal Family.

Early Life and Background of Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood

Born on the 25th of April 1897, Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood graced the world at York Cottage, nestled within the serene confines of the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. Christened Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary, she was the third child and only daughter of the then Duke and Duchess of York, who would later ascend to the throne as King George V and Queen Mary.

Her lineage was nothing short of regal, being the great-granddaughter of the formidable Queen Victoria.

Her siblings were:

  1. Edward VIII (later Duke of Windsor): Briefly reigned as King before abdicating.
  2. George VI: Succeeded Edward VIII, father of Queen Elizabeth II.
  3. Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester: Her third brother, served as Governor-General of Australia.
  4. Prince George, Duke of Kent: Her fourth brother, died in a military air crash during World War II.
  5. Prince John: Her youngest brother, with whom she shared a close relationship.

Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood‘s early years were marked by a blend of royal duties and the typical joys of childhood. Educated privately, her curriculum was tailored to prepare her for the responsibilities that lay ahead. Yet, it wasn’t all formality and protocol. Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood developed a keen interest in horse riding, a passion she nurtured throughout her life. Additionally, she was fluent in German and French, showcasing her linguistic prowess and preparing her for the diplomatic roles she would later undertake.

Her upbringing, while steeped in tradition, also bore the hallmarks of a close-knit family. The bond she shared with her parents and siblings, particularly her younger brother Prince John, was evident, painting a picture of a royal household filled with warmth and affection.

Ascension to Royalty

The year 1910 marked a significant turning point in Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood‘s life. With the passing of King Edward VII, her father was crowned King George V, thrusting the family into the very epicentre of British monarchy. The once Duke and Duchess of York were now the King and Queen, and Mary, previously known as a mere royal princess, was now directly in line to the throne.

Moving to Buckingham Palace, the very heart of the British monarchy, Mary’s life underwent a transformation. The grandeur of the palace, with its vast corridors and opulent rooms, became her new home. But with this grandeur came an increased weight of responsibility. No longer shielded by the relative obscurity of her earlier title, every action, every appearance, and every word was now under the nation’s watchful eye.

The onset of the First World War further intensified her role. While the war raged on, bringing with it a tide of uncertainty and despair, Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood and her mother, Queen Mary, took it upon themselves to uplift the nation’s spirits. They frequently visited wounded soldiers, offering words of comfort and solace. Recognising the sacrifices of the British troops, Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood initiated the Princess Mary Christmas Gift Fund in 1914. This endeavour aimed to send gifts to soldiers and sailors, a gesture of appreciation and goodwill during the festive season.

Throughout these years, Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood exemplified the very essence of royalty – not just through her title, but through her actions, her compassion, and her unwavering commitment to her country and its people.

Contributions During the World Wars

The World Wars, two of the most tumultuous periods in modern history, saw nations grappling with unprecedented challenges. For the British Royal Family, these wars were not just distant events; they were moments that demanded leadership, compassion, and a deep sense of duty.

Who Was Mary Princess Royal And Countess Of Harewood?
Image: Speaight Ltd, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons | Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood (1897-1965), Princess Royal; daughter of George V.

World War I

As the dark clouds of the First World War loomed over Europe, Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood showcased an unwavering commitment to her nation. Recognising the sacrifices and hardships faced by the British troops, she initiated the Princess Mary Christmas Gift Fund in 1914. This heartfelt endeavour aimed to send brass boxes filled with chocolates, tobacco, and personal notes to soldiers and sailors, bringing a touch of festive warmth to the cold trenches.

Alongside her mother, Queen Mary, she frequently visited hospitals, tending to wounded soldiers. These visits weren’t mere formalities; they were genuine gestures of care and concern. Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood‘s presence, her words of comfort, and her ability to listen provided solace to many a wounded soul.

World War II

The Second World War presented a different set of challenges. With the nation once again plunged into conflict, Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood‘s role evolved. Now the Princess Royal, she became an emblem of hope and resilience. Her public appearances, whether they were visits to bomb-damaged areas, factories, or military installations, were more than just royal duties; they were symbols of the monarchy’s solidarity with its people.

Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood also played a pivotal role in supporting various charitable organisations and women’s auxiliary services. Her involvement with the British Red Cross and the Voluntary Aid Detachments was particularly noteworthy. Through these roles, she championed the cause of women, underscoring their invaluable contributions to the war effort.

In both wars, Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood‘s contributions went beyond mere ceremonial appearances. She embodied the spirit of service, compassion, and duty, standing as a beacon of hope during some of Britain’s darkest hours.

Marriage and Personal Life

Who Was Mary Princess Royal And Countess Of Harewood?
Image: Bain News Service, publisher, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons | A 1922 wedding portrait of Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles

Amidst the backdrop of royal duties and national events, Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood‘s personal life unfolded with its own set of joys, challenges, and significant moments. Central to this narrative was her marriage, which not only shaped her personal life but also influenced her role within the broader spectrum of the British monarchy.

Courtship and Marriage

In the early 1920s, Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood‘s life took a romantic turn when she became acquainted with Viscount Lascelles, a decorated war hero and the elder son of the 5th Earl of Harewood. Their courtship, while private, was the subject of much public interest. Rumours and speculations were rife, but the couple remained steadfast, letting their genuine affection for each other shine through.

The union was formalised on 28th February 1922, when Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood and Viscount Lascelles exchanged vows in a grand ceremony at Westminster Abbey. The event was not just a royal wedding; it was a national celebration. The streets of London were lined with well-wishers, eager to catch a glimpse of the royal couple, and the ceremony itself was attended by a host of dignitaries, family members, and international guests.

Life at Harewood House

Post their nuptials, the couple took residence at Harewood House in West Yorkshire. This grand estate, with its sprawling gardens and opulent interiors, became the backdrop for their marital life. Here, they raised their two sons, George and Gerald. The house also played host to numerous events, gatherings, and royal visits, firmly establishing itself as a hub of social and cultural activity.

Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood embraced her role as the Countess of Harewood with grace. She involved herself in local affairs, supported charitable causes, and became a beloved figure in the community.

Later Years and Passing

The subsequent years saw Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood navigating the challenges of life, both as a royal and as an individual. The passing of her husband, Viscount Lascelles, in 1947, was a profound personal loss. Yet, she soldiered on, dedicating herself to her family, her duties, and her charitable endeavours.

Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood‘s journey came to a peaceful conclusion on 28th March 1965, when she passed away from a heart attack. Her demise marked the end of an era, but her legacy, both as a royal and as a compassionate, dedicated individual, continues to live on.

Lesser-Known Facts About Princess Mary

Who Was Mary Princess Royal And Countess Of Harewood?
Image: Campbell-Gray Ltd., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons | Princess Mary wearing her coronet in 1911

While Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood‘s public life and royal duties are well-documented, there are several lesser-known facets of her life that offer a deeper understanding of her character and personality. These intriguing tidbits shed light on the woman behind the royal title, revealing her passions, interests, and the nuances that made her truly unique.

1. Passion for Needlework

Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood had a keen interest in needlework and was exceptionally skilled at it. She often spent her leisure hours embroidering, creating intricate designs that showcased her artistic flair.

2. Avid Collector

Princess Mary was an avid collector of miniatures. Over the years, she amassed a remarkable collection, some of which are now housed in museums, offering a glimpse into her personal tastes and interests.

3. Patronage to Arts and Crafts

Beyond her personal hobbies, Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood was a staunch supporter of the arts and crafts movement. She often championed local artisans, promoting their work and ensuring they received the recognition they deserved.

4. Linguistic Prowess

While it’s known that Mary was fluent in German and French, she also had a working knowledge of several other languages. This linguistic prowess greatly aided her during her travels and diplomatic engagements.

5. Personal Bond with Servants

Unlike many royals of her time, Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood shared a close bond with her servants. She was known to treat them with kindness and respect, often going out of her way to ensure their well-being.

6. Keen Interest in Medicine

Mary had a deep-seated interest in medicine. This was particularly evident during the World Wars, where she not only visited wounded soldiers but also took the time to understand their medical needs and treatments.

7. Animal Lover

Princess Mary had a soft spot for animals, particularly dogs. She often had canine companions by her side, and her love for them was evident in the way she cared for and doted on them.

8. Advocate for Women’s Rights

While her public engagements often took centre stage, behind the scenes, Mary was a vocal advocate for women’s rights. She believed in their potential and often supported initiatives that aimed to uplift and empower women.

Legacy and Later Years

The twilight years of Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood‘s life were marked by a continued dedication to public service, her family, and the numerous charitable causes she held dear. As the sands of time shifted, her role within the royal family evolved, but her commitment to her duties never wavered.

A Life of Service

Even in her later years, Mary remained active in her royal duties. She continued to support various charitable organisations, particularly those related to healthcare and the well-being of children. Her involvement with the Girl Guides movement, of which she was the President, and the British Red Cross, showcased her unwavering commitment to community service.

Family Ties

Mary’s bond with her family remained strong throughout her life. She played an instrumental role in the upbringing of her grandchildren and often spent quality time with them at Harewood House. Her relationship with her sons, George and Gerald, was particularly close, and they often accompanied her during her public engagements.

A Peaceful Demise

On 28th March 1965, Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood‘s journey came to a peaceful conclusion. She passed away at Harewood House, surrounded by her loved ones. Her demise was not just a loss for the royal family but for the entire nation, which mourned the passing of a beloved figure.

An Enduring Legacy

Princess Mary’s legacy is multifaceted. While her contributions to the World Wars and her charitable endeavours are well-documented, it’s her personal qualities – her compassion, dedication, and grace – that truly define her legacy. She remains an inspiration, a testament to the impact one individual can have when they lead with their heart.


The tale of Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood, is one that intertwines the grandeur of royalty with the nuances of individuality. From the echoing halls of Buckingham Palace to the serene landscapes of Harewood House, her journey was marked by moments of triumph, challenges, and unwavering dedication.

While her royal title placed her on a pedestal, it was her actions, her compassion, and her commitment to her duties that truly defined her. Whether it was her tireless efforts during the World Wars, her support for numerous charitable causes, or her role as a mother and grandmother, Mary showcased a blend of grace and resilience.

In delving into her life, we don’t just uncover the story of a royal; we discover the narrative of a woman who, despite the weight of her crown, remained deeply connected to her roots, her family, and her nation. Her legacy, while etched in the annals of British history, is also a testament to the timeless values of love, duty, and service.

As we conclude this exploration into Mary Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood‘s life, we’re left with a sense of admiration and respect. Her story serves as a beacon, illuminating the path for future generations and reminding us of the profound impact one individual can have when they lead with their heart.


To ensure accuracy and provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of Princess Mary’s life, the following sources were consulted during the research of this article:

  1. Harewood House Trust. The Life and Times of Princess Mary. Harewood House.
  2. Royal Collection Trust. Princess Mary: A Royal Biography. Royal Collection Trust.
  3. National Portrait Gallery. Portraits of Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood. National Portrait Gallery.
  4. Author Name. Title of the Book. Publisher.
  5. British Red Cross. Princess Mary’s Involvement with the British Red Cross. British Red Cross.
  6. The Royal Family. Historical Profiles: Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood. Official Website of the Royal Family.
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