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Royal Jewels: Who Was Mrs Greville?

greville
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Margaret Greville is not a commonly known name. However, her legacy can be seen on several members of the British Royal Family to this day. Many of the tiaras, necklaces, and brooches worn today in the royal family were originally owned by The Hon. Mrs Ronald Greville, but how did they end up in the possession of the royals? 

Born in December 1863, Margaret Helen Anderson was the daughter of William McEwan, a wealthy brewery owner, and his mistress, Helen Anderson. The couple married in 1885 after her husband’s death, when Margaret was 21 years old. (Questions about her legitimacy would be raised for several years.) McEwan was a multimillionaire, and Margaret was a strong prospect to any suitor. In 1891, she married Captain Ronald Greville, the heir to a baronetcy and a member of the sociable Marlborough Set. 

Ronald died in 1908, though, and the couple had not had any children. In 1906, they had bought Polesden Lacey, a country house in Surrey, and after Ronald’s death, Margaret became a popular society hostess, using the home as her base. Her first party was in June of 1909, and Edward VII was the guest of honour. She was also good friends with the future Queen Mary. 

In 1923, she also hosted a royal honeymoon at Polesden Lacey- that of the Duke and Duchess of York. The couple spent two weeks there in May 1923, and it is this that led to the tiaras and jewelry that we still see today. 

Margaret passed away in September of 1942, at Polesden Lacey. Given that she had no children, she made several specific bequests to notable figures. She left £20,000 to Princess Margaret, and £12,500 to her dear friend, Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain. And most notably, she bequeathed all of her jewelry and jewels to Queen Elizabeth (the future Queen Mother), to ensure that her jewels would be worn by queens. 

Unfortunately, no one outside of the Royal Family knows the true extent of the collection, but it has some legendary pieces in it. It is said to have included a necklace that belonged to Marie Antoinette. And several of the tiaras seen on members of the Royal Family today were included. 

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

The platinum and diamond Greville tiara, known unofficially as the honeycomb tiara, was worn several times by the Queen Mother and is now worn by the Duchess of Cornwall. And the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara, worn by Princess Eugenie at her 2018 wedding also comes from the same collection. Other pieces gifted include the Greville Festoon Necklace, the Greville Ivy Clips, the Greville Chandelier Earrings, the Ruby and Diamond Floral Bandeau Necklace, and the Greville Pearl Drop Earrings. 



About author

Historian and blogger at AnHistorianAboutTown.com