The Honourable Mrs Duncombe
20 May 1861
Volume 3, page 271, sitting number 3768.
Born on 15 February 1833 and baptised three days later at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Mabel Violet Graham was the second daughter of the statesman Sir James Graham, 2nd Bt. Her mother Fanny Callander was considered one of the great beauties of her day.
On 7 August 1851 at St George’s Hanover Square she married William Ernest Duncombe, who from 1859 to 1867 represented the North Riding of Yorkshire in the Conservative interest. In 1867 he succeeded his father and became 2nd Baron Feversham and the following year he was created the 1st Earl of Feversham.
The couple appear on the 1861 census living at Leases Hall, Aiskew, North Yorkshire. Also present on the night of the census were their first two sons, William (aged 8) and James (aged 7). The household included a governess, a housekeeper, a butler, two footmen and nine other servants, with two grooms living in outlying buildings.
In all, their marriage produced seven children. Of these, three predeceased their parents.
When the census was taken in 1911 the Earl and Countess were at their London residence in Eaton Square. Also present were fourteen servants, including three sick nurses to look after the elderly couple.
Lord Feversham died, aged 85, on 13 January 1915 at Duncombe Park, Helmsley, leaving an estate valued at £47,585.
The Dowager Countess of Feversham died, aged 82, on 28 August 1915 at 87 Eaton Square, London. She was buried beside her husband in the churchyard of All Saints, Helmsley.
A personal tribute by ‘one who knew her well’ appeared in The Times on 1 September 1915:
‘Lady Faversham belonged both intellectually and by aesthetic preference to the most brilliant period of the second French Empire rather than to the duller and quieter respectability of the mid-Victorian epoch. Amongst her most intimate friends were the Countess of Pourtalès, the Marquise of Persigny, and other meteoric stars who flashed across the Paris stage between 1852 and 1870. Gifted not only with unusual beauty and high spirits, but with a pungency of observation and a grace of wit rarely found except among our neighbours and Allies across the Channel, she seemed fitted both by capacity and inclination to be the centre of a brilliant salon. But the loss of her eldest son, Viscount Helmsley, in 1880, and of her eldest daughter, the Duchess of Leinster, in 1895, confirmed her in the view that society and the outer world are only for the young, and that the family circle is the most becoming and happiest frame for those who have passed the ninth lustrum.
‘As the mother of the four lovely Duncombe sisters, Hermione Duchess of Leinster, Helen Lady D’Abernon, Lady Cynthia Graham, and Lady Ulrica Baring (perhaps the most striking examples of feminine beauty ever produced in one family either in this or any country), Lady Feversham had many points of interest and communion with the generation that succeeded to her own. All those who were privileged to enter the charmed circle of her intimacy will long remember the delicacy of the old-world grace that gave to her wit such singular distinction – no less than the warmth of heart and liveliness of sympathy, which made her as much beloved in age as she had been admired in youth.’