Caroline Vatcher, Artist and Last Duchess of Leeds

Caroline Vatcher on the eve of her wedding to the Duke of Leeds.
Photo (c) Keystone Press / Alamy.

Caroline Fleur Vatcher was born on 31 May 1931 on the Isle of Jersey of the Channel Islands. Her parents had made their home on Jersey at 1 Dummy Lane, St Helier. Caroline was only child of Henry Monckton Vatcher (1887-1954) and Beryl Methwold Walrond (1896-1973), who wed in 1920 at Sudbury, Suffolk. Caroline’s father Henry served in the Royal Engineers in France during the First World War. 

The marriage record of James Vatcher and Rosamond Monckton, 1886.
The announcement of the Vatcher/Monckton wedding in The Morning Post of London, 10 July 1886.
A report of the Vatcher/Monkton nuptials in The Nottinghamshire Guardian of Nottingham, 16 July 1886.

Caroline Vatcher descended from several aristocratic and landed British families. Her paternal grandparents were the Reverend James Raynold Morley Vatcher (1861-1931), Rector of Whitcombe, and Rosamond Isobel Monckton (1860-1946), who married on 8 July 1886 at All Saints’ Church in Knightsbridge, London. The Rev. James Vatcher was the son of Henry Vatcher (1809-1886) and Eliza Frances Tonkin Higgs (d.1912). Rosamond Monckton was the daughter of Colonel Edmund Gambier Monckton (1809-1872) and Arabella Martha Robinson (1824-1880). Caroline Vatcher’s paternal great-grandfather was William George Monckton-Arundell, later Monckton, 5th Viscount Galway (1782-1834); Caroline’s second cousin was George Rupert Monckton-Arundell, 12th Viscount Galway (1922-2017).

The notice of the impending Walrond/Methold union in The Morning Post of London, 25 March 1895.
The obituary of Colonel Henry Walrond, Marquis de Vallado, in The Times of London, 21 June 1917.

Caroline’s maternal grandparents were Francis Arthur Walrond (1866-1942) and Muriel Gwendoline Methwold Methold (1872-1957), who married on 24 April 1885 at Christ Church, Lancaster Gate, London. Francis Walrond was the son of Colonel Henry Walrond, 9th Marquis de Vallado (1841-1917) and Caroline Maud Clark (1837-1915). Muriel Methold was the daughter of Frederick John Methold (1841-1908) and Edith Caroline Taylor (1841-1908). Caorline’s maternal great-great grandfather was James St Clair-Erskine, 2nd Earl of Rosslyn (1762-1837). Caroline’s aunt was the British novelist Norah Aileen Burke (1907-1976), the wife of Caroline’s maternal uncle Henry Humphrey R. Methwold Walrond (1904-1987).

The Duke of Leeds and his fiancée Caroline Vatcher, 1955.

In early 1955, the twenty-three year-old Caroline Vatcher and the fifty-three year-old John “Jack” Francis Godolphin Osborne, 11th Duke of Leeds, became engaged. Caroline had become a talented painter; she studied with Philip Lame and Bernard Adams. The Duke of Leeds and his fiancée visited London for a week in order for the future duchess to choose her trousseau. Tall and slender with long golden brown hair, Caroline told the London Evening Standard: “We shall be married in Jersey on February 22. Then we are flying to Cyprus for about three weeks. It will be the first time for me to go abroad. I expect we shall spend most of our time in Jersey with occasional trips to London.” 

The wedding of Jack Leeds and Audrey Young in the Evening Standard of London, 21 December 1948.
The birth of Lady Camilla Osborne as noted by the Evening Standard of London, 16 August 1950.
The Duke and Duchess of Leeds with their daughter Lady Camilla, 1950.
Photo (c) ANL/Shutterstock.

John “Jack” Francis Godolphin Osborne, Marquess of Carmarthen, was born on 12 March 1901. Jack was the fifth child and only son of George Godolphin Osborne, 10th Duke of Leeds and Lady Katherine Frances Lambton. Upon his father’s death in 1927, Jack succeeded to the dukedom of Leeds. In 1933, the 11th Duke of Leeds married Irma Amelia de Malkhozouny (1908-2000), an Italian-born ballerina of Serbian descent. Jack and Irma did not have children. Their marriage foundered: Jack and Irma separated in 1944 and were the subjects of two divorces (a Nevada divorce granted in November 1947 initiated by Irma, and a British divorce granted in October 1948 initiated by Jack) following the duchess’s romance with American millionaire Frank Atherton Howard, whom she married the day after her American divorce was granted. In December 1948, the Duke of Leeds married for a second time to Audrey Young (b.1924; firstly married to Brigadier Arthur Evan Bedward Williams), the daughter of Brigadier Desmond Young. In 1950, Jack and Audrey, Duke and Duchess of Leeds, welcomed the birth of their only child, Lady Camilla Dorothy Godolphin Osborne. In 1951, the duke and duchess moved to Jersey for tax reasons. Several years later, in 1954, Jack and Audrey Leeds divorced after the duchess admitted to an affair with Sir David Roland Walter Lawrence, 3rd Bt., whom Audrey married in 1955.

Announcement of the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Leeds.
This appeared on 23 February 1955 in The Guardian.
The Duke and Duchess of Leeds, 1955.
The Leeds/Vatcher marriage as reported in The Age of Melbourne, Australia, 24 February 1955.

The Duke and Duchess of Leeds were married on 22 February 1955 at the St. Helier Register Office on the Isle of Jersey. Much in love with her husband, the duchess was disappointed when she learned that she could not have children. 

The Leeds attend the opening of the Columbia Theatre in the West End, February 1959.
Caroline, Duchess of Leeds.
The Duke and Duchess of Leeds viewing Goya’s painting of the Duke of Wellington, June 1961.
In May 1960, the Duchess of Leeds, who signed her works “Leeds,” held an exhibition of her works at the Milton Gallery on Witcomb Street in London. Among the works was a full-length portrait of Caroline’s nine year-old stepdaughter Lady Camilla, who also attended the cocktail party to launch the showing. This was the first time that the Duchess of Leeds publicly exhibited her works, which also included a painting of Gabrielle, the daughter of the Leeds’ laundress at their villa near Cap Martin in the South of France. The Duke of Leeds suffered from poor health, and in the last years of his life the duke underwent double leg amputations. In June 1961, the Duke of Leeds sold Goya’s painting of the Duke of Wellington (which was stolen in a sensational art theft shortly after it was sold) in addition to other works. The auction fetched nearly £300,000. The month after the art sale, Jack and Caroline moved into a flat in Eaton Square; this was their ninth move in the previous year. Jack dearly wanted to return to his home on Jersey, but he was not yet well enough. The duke repeatedly took short leases of apartments in London, optimistic that at the end of each lease he would in a good condition to return to Jersey, but this strategy became quite expensive. At the time, Caroline Leeds confessed, “We are still not sure when we shall return home. We hope it may be in September, when we leave this flat.” 
The Duke of Leeds.

On 26 July 1963, the 11th Duke of Leeds died in his villa, La Falaise, at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Riviera. Owing to his poor health, the duke had rarely left his room since September 1962. He was sixty-two years-old. The duke was survived by his wife Caroline, a widow at thirty-two, and his twelve year-old daughter Camilla. The Duke of Leeds was buried on 29 July at Roquebrune Cemetery. After his death, the will of the Duke of Leeds revealed that he left 1/3 of his personal fortune to his only child, Camilla, and the remaining 2/3 to his widow, Caroline.

Caroline, Duchess of Leeds, at an art gallery in London, 1964.
Photo (c) Getty Images / M. McKeown.
Sir Robert Hobart, 3rd Bt.
Caroline, Duchess of Leeds.

In 1968, the Duchess of Leeds married Peter Hendrik Peregrine Hoos (1937-2003), the son of Edward Jan Hoos married Sarah Marie Adelaide Cust. Caroline’s second husband was the maternal grandson of Adelbert Salusbury Cockayne Cust, 5th Baron Brownlow. Caroline Leeds and Peter Hoos divorced in 1975. Later in 1975, Caroline married Lieutenant Commander Sir Robert Hampden Hobart, 3rd Baronet (1915-1988). Caroline later mused: “I’ve had two happy marriages, and one unhappy one. I wouldn’t mind another happy one.” The happy marriages were to the Duke of Leeds and Sir Robert Hobart…the unhappy marriage was to the second husband.

Caroline, Duchess of Leeds, with Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.

The last Duchess of Leeds died on 16 July 2005. She was seventy-four years-old. Caroline, Duchess of Leeds, requested that she be buried where she was born, on the Isle of Jersey.

Caroline, Duchess of Leeds.
Photo (c) Mary Evans / AGE Fotostock.
A painting of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight by Caroline Leeds.
This painting is owned by the author of this article.

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