Archivists at Bettys have discovered an intriguing link between a princess and the Yorkshire tearoom.
Historians at the much-loved Harrogate institution have revealed that Bettys made special chocolates for the daughter of the King when she lived at Harewood House.
Princess Mary was the only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, and she married Henry Lascelles, heir to the earldom of Harewood, in 1922. She then spent the rest of her life in Yorkshire, dying at the family's Harewood estate in 1965. Her elder brothers, Edward and Albert, (as George VI) later became kings, and she is the aunt of the present Queen.
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Bettys archivists found a newspaper cutting from 1931 which carried details of the chocolates they had commissioned in honour of Mary when she was Countess of Harewood. The original chocolate box has now been reunited with other items from the Harewood House Trust's collection which form a display about her life at the stately home.
The Trust is running the exhibition as Princess Mary is a character in the new Downton Abbey film, which was shot at Harewood. The plot revolves around a royal visit by her parents to Yorkshire in 1927, when she was still living with Henry at their first marital home, Goldsborough Hall near Knaresborough. In real life, the tour of Yorkshire took place in 1912, when Mary was only 15, and the King and Queen stayed at Wentworth Woodhouse, near Rotherham.
The Bettys connection raises the intriguing possibility that Princess Mary took refreshment in the tearooms during her regular visits to Harrogate. She opened many public buildings, including the Mercer Gallery, and often attended the Harrogate Flower Show.
Ruth Burke-Kennedy from Bettys said:
"As part of our centenary celebrations we have recreated the chocolate box, including some of the flavours that were originally included. Princess Mary was a very proud ambassador for Yorkshire and we’re very excited to have a connection to her. We are now looking for evidence that she took tea at the most fashionable cafe in town."
Her private letters, diaries and other possessions remain at Harewood as part of the Princess Mary Archive. They have recently been studied as part of a TV documentary series called The Queen's Lost Family, which focused on the lives of King George V's children as adults.
The new exhibition at Harewood, which opened in September, capitalises on Mary's legacy, and items now on display to the public include her wedding dress train and other items of clothing worn during the marriage ceremony at Westminster Abbey.
The letters, many of which she sent to her brothers and friends, cover three decades of social history, from the 1920s until the end of World War Two. The archive consists of 170 boxes of items, including letters written by Mary when she was just five years old.
Press cuttings and diary entries are also included in the cache, which has been studied in detail by staff at Harewood over the past 20 years, although it has yet to be fully catalogued.
The exhibition explores her family relationships as a daughter, sister, wife and mother.
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Harewood House Trust assistant curator and archivist Rebecca Burton said:-
"Highlights include the intimate correspondence between Princess Mary and family members following her engagement in 1922, and a display of the newly-conserved train of Princess Mary’s wedding dress, embroidered with emblematic flowers of the British Empire, alongside her bridal slippers and a floral headdress.
"The exhibition will appear throughout several rooms on the State Floor and Below Stairs, and follows heightened interest in Princess Mary, and the release of the Downton Abbey film, which was filmed at Harewood House."
Princess Mary was Countess of Harewood from 1929 until her husband, the sixth Earl of Harewood, died in 1947 and their eldest son George and his wife assumed the titles. She continued to live on the estate as Dowager Countess until she suffered a fatal heart attack while walking with George and his children in the grounds in 1965. Her funeral was held at York Minster and she is buried at Harewood. She was 67 when she died, and had lived through the reigns of six British monarchs, from her great-grandmother Queen Victoria to her niece Queen Elizabeth II.
Her sons, George and Gerald, were both first cousins of the Queen. Her grandson David is the current Earl of Harewood. Some of her belongings were sold at auction by Christie's in 2012.
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Mary had five brothers - Edward was king for less than a year before he abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. The throne then passed to Albert, father of Queen Elizabeth II, who became King George VI. Of her three younger siblings, Henry was the last of the family to die, in 1974, and George was killed in an air crash during World War Two, leaving a widow and three children. John, the 'lost prince', suffered from epilepsy and spent most of his life away from the public eye, dying at the age of 13 in 1919.