Russian Royalty in Leicestershire

Interestingly, we have connections to Russian Royalty in Leicestershire. In last month’s Kibworth & District Chronicle, ‘Duggie’s Ramblings’ referred to an obituary, HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

The question focussed on where the Wernher family lived in the country? I can confirm that Thorpe Lubenham Hall was their residence. This is situated on the outskirts of the village of Lubenham.

I was unaware Prince Philip holidayed there, but I do know Their Royal Highnesses Princesses Elizabeth & Margaret Rose did.

The Russian Czars

The British Royal Family was particularly close to the Wernhers. This was through their links with the Mountbattens & their relationship to the Russian Czars.

Prince Philip’s mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, was the daughter of Princess Victoria of Battenberg. From 1917, Princess Victoria became restyled as the Marchioness of Milford Haven. Her mother was Princess Alice, a daughter of Queen Victoria.

The Marchioness had four children. George, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, Princess Alice, Princess Louise and Prince Louis. Louis became 1st Sea Lord and Earl Mountbatten of Burma.

George, the 2nd Marquess, married Nadia de Torby in 1916, her sister was Anastasia de Torby. After marrying Sir Harold Wernher in 1917 she was known as Lady Zia Wernher. The sisters were great granddaughters of Czar Nicholas I, through their father, Grand Duke Michael of Russia. Undoubtedly Russian Royalty in Leicestershire!

Thorpe Lubenham Hall

When my late mother, Esme Hatfield (nee Jones) was a child, she lived in a cottage on The Green, Lubenham. When Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose came to stay at Thorpe Lubenham Hall she saw them playing in the grounds.

My mother, like H.M. The Queen, was also born in 1926. She remembered watching the Princesses during the winter months, being pushed along on dining chairs on the frozen pond. The pond was situated to the left of the driveway just inside the grounds.

Russian Royalty in Leicestershire visit Thorpe Lubenham Hall pictorial
Thorpe Lubenham Hall.

She also recalled seeing the famous racehorse, Brown Jack grazing in the paddock on the other side of the drive. On one occasion my mother and her sister Nancy visited the hall to receive school prizes from Lady Zia. As they waited in the vestibule my mother spotted a large bowl of fruit on a table. Lady Zia noticed how focussed the two little girls were on the forbidden fruit. So much interest, that she asked them to choose something from the bowl to take home. Two oranges were selected – that prize ranked higher to them than the school awards they received on the day!

Sir Harold and Lady Zia bought Thorpe Lubenham Hall from Sir Gordon Cunard in 1920. Sir Gordon was the brother of Sir Bache Cunard from Nevill Holt Hall, near Medbourne. Both the brothers were grandsons of Samuel Cunard the founder of the Cunard Shipping Line.

Lady Zia Wernher. Courtesy of

The Wernhers

The Wernhers lived at Thorpe Lubenham Hall for many years before moving to Luton Hoo. which is now a hotel. Luton Hoo had previously been the home of Sir Harold’s elder brother Derrick. Prior to that, home to their father Sir Julius Wernher, a diamond magnate in South Africa.

Sir Harold, Major General in the Second World War, played an important role in coordinating the logistics of ‘Operation Overlord.’ He was also president of Electrolux and former chairman of Plessey, both large concerns in domestic electrical equipment and electronics.

After moving to Luton Hoo, Sir Harold & Lady Zia’s daughter, Georgina Phillips & family resided at Thorpe Lubenham Hall. The family often received visits from H.M. The Queen and Prince Phillip.

One such occasion is well documented following the service at All Saints Church, Lubenham in 1958. The Royal Family, including Prince Charles and Princess Anne, walked with the Phillips family back to the hall.

Incidentally, two of Georgina’s daughters married Dukes. Alexandra, known as Sasha, became the Duchess of Abercorn and Natalia, the Duchess of Westminster – mother of the present Duke.

It was interesting to note that Sir Harold and Lady Zia, together with Sir Julius, are all buried in the Wernher Mausoleum. The gothic Mausoleum is in the churchyard and adjoining Holy Trinity Church, East Hyde, near Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire.

To clarify the links between all these notable figures, I have produced a family tree showing how everyone is related.

Royal Family Tree. Can be viewed more clearly by increasing the magnification on your screen.

Glyn Hatfield