Obituary: Patricia Hambleden

Patricia Herbert, courtier: born 12 November 1904; Lady of the Bedchamber to the Queen (from 1952 Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) 1937-94; DCVO 1953, GCVO 1990; JP 1961; married 1928 William, third Viscount Hambleden (died 1948; three sons, two daughters); died Ewelme, Oxfordshire 19 March 1994.

LIKE MANY members of the Queen Mother's Household, Patricia Hambleden held on to office until an advanced age, partly because the Queen Mother, now 93 years old, has naturally been reluctant to replace old and valued friends, partly because the attachment of members of the Household to the Queen Mother is so strong that they are determined to carry on as long as she.

And Lady Hambleden's stint as a Lady of the Bedchamber, which lasted more than half a century, did not in itself reflect the true length of that attachment, for she and the Queen Mother were friends long before either was married. Her death, following so soon after those of her fellow courtiers Ruth, Lady Fermoy, and Sir Martin Gilliat, will be a severe blow to the Queen Mother.

Born in 1904, Patricia Herbert was the only daughter of the 15th Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery. Her family were no strangers to royal service. A 16th-century ancestor, Sir William Herbert, created Earl of Pembroke in 1551, was Master of the Horse; the fourth Earl was Lord Chamberlain; in more recent times Patricia's grandfather was Lord Steward of the Household to both Queen Victoria and Edward VII. Having in Tudor times established their headquarters at Wilton House, in Wiltshire, which became a favourite place of resort for Charles I, the family seldom strayed far from the centre of affairs, and it was no surprise when in 1935 Patricia Hambleden's brother, the 16th Earl, was appointed an equerry to the Duke of Kent. On the Duke's death in 1942 he became private secretary and comptroller to Princess Marina, who had already appointed his wife a lady-in-waiting.

It was at Wilton that the then Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon attended Patricia Herbert's coming- out dance in 1922. Lady Patricia was debutante of the year, despite the misfortune of her father choosing that very year to go bankrupt, but somehow almost all the treasures at Wilton were saved, her strongminded mother taking in hand both her husband and the family finances. In 1928 Lady Patricia married the third Viscount Hambleden, and in 1937, when the new Queen Elizabeth had need to enlarge her Household, she invited Patricia Hambleden to be a Lady of the Bedchamber. At first Lady Hambleden declined, afraid that royal duties would interfere with her family life (she was to have three sons and two daughters), but when the Queen promised that she would not be called upon during school holidays, she agreed, remaining with the Queen Mother for the rest of her life.

Tragically, Lord Hambleden died, from a brain tumour, after only 20 years of married life, leaving Patricia with a young family to bring up on her own. In the first volume of his memoirs, Second Son (1972), her brother David Herbert described her as 'a saint, intelligent and humorous, without an ounce of snobbery in her veins', and what was refreshing about Patricia Hambleden's love and respect for the Royal Family was that it was not wholly uncritical. As sharply observant as her mistress, she believed that the conduct in recent years of some of the younger members of the royal family had caused the Queen Mother far more personal anguish than her concern over the abdication of Edward VIII.

Like most courtiers, Lady Hambleden remained grateful for the trips overseas, but endured a good deal of tedium while in waiting at Balmoral and Windsor. Charades and racing daemon, two of the Queen Mother's favourite after-

dinner pastimes, are not to everyone's taste, although the dinners themselves Lady Hambleden always found exemplary. Of the Queen Mother's cleverness she was never in doubt. 'You were never bored with the Queen Mother,' she used to say. 'She always had something amusing or interesting to say. In 50 years I only once saw her cross, and then she wasn't really cross; someone hadn't opened a door or something.' Lady Hambleden thought the way the Queen Mother retained her famous outward serenity in the face of family problems was to pretend that the problems did not exist.

Even when semi-retired, and living in comfortable seclusion in a charming Oxfordshire dower house, lame and in considerable pain, Lady Hambleden kept in close touch with royal affairs, partly through her niece, Mary Morrison, a Woman of the Bedchamber to the Queen. At 85 she rallied round to help acknowledge the thousands of letters and presents sent to the Queen Mother on her 90th birthday. The member of the royal family she most respected, apart from the Queen and the Queen Mother, was the Princess Royal. The one of whom she was most fond was the Duke of Kent - 'such a nice creature'. She was at one time chairman of the NSPCC, and carried out voluntary work for King's College Hospital. In 1953 she was appointed a Dame Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, and in 1990, to celebrate the Queen Mother's 90th birthday (by that time she had served her for 53 years), she was advanced to Dame Grand Cross.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum