Violet Manners, Duchess of Rutland

Violet Manners, Duchess of Rutland
Woodburytype portrait of Violet Manners, Marchioness of Granby (1856-1937)
See Margaret Lindsay (1726 - 1782) for the wife of Allan Ramsay, and Margaret Lindsay for the film actress also of this name.

Violet Lindsay Manners, Duchess of Rutland (7 March 1856 – 22 December 1937) was a British artist and noblewoman.



She was the second daughter of Charles Hugh Lindsay (1816–1889, son of the twenty-fourth Earl of Crawford, a soldier and a courtier) and Emilia Anne Browne (d. 1873, the daughter of the dean of Lismore). Violet had four brothers and two sisters, though all but two of these siblings (except two of the brothers) died in infancy or childhood, and had the aesthete Sir Coutts Lindsay as a distant cousin.


The first signs of Lindsay's artistic talent surfaced in her private education. Her family supported her gifts, underwriting a lengthy visit to Italy. However, she never received any formal training.

Violet was one of the first exhibitors of both drawings (of the men and women of her social circle, in silver-point or pencil) and sculptures at Sir Coutts' new Grosvenor Gallery (opened by him in 1877), and continued to exhibit extensively her whole life at all the major British galleries (including the Fine Art Society, the Royal Academy, and the New Gallery) as well as in France and the United States. She also published a selection of her portraits, in 1900, as "Portraits of Men and Women". A reviewer of an exhibition of her drawings at the Brook Street Art Galleries, London, in 1925, wrote:

‘Her style is particularly suited to the interpretation of feminine beauty and elegance, but she usually achieves considerable success in her delineations of men’ (The Connoisseur, 188).

Despite such praise, her reputation suffered because of her rank, bringing accusations of dilettantism, which she rebuffed, thinking of herself a professional.

She was one of the central figures of the Souls, the group of aristocrats which formed in the 1870s-1890s, held together by their intellectual interests, avant-garde artistic taste, and cultural sophistication. Many of them produced portraits of Violet, including GF Watts and JJ Shannon, and she was regarded as their most talented practical artist and the greatest beauty of the type they most admired - auburn hair, pale complexion, hooded eyes, very slim figure, and Aesthetic-style clothes of faded colours and soft drapings. Mrs Patrick Campbell once described her as ‘the most beautiful thing I ever saw’.[1] However, she also pushed the borders of what was acceptably bohemian, even among the Souls, by making some of her closest friendships with actors such as Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree and his wife and three daughters, encouraging her own daughters to take walk-on parts in his productions,[2] and generally feeling entirely at home in the theatre. Ellen Terry recorded in her memoirs:

"The lovely Lady Granby (now Duchess of Rutland) was [at the exhibition]—reminding me, as always, of the reflection of something in water on a misty day. When she was Miss Violet Lindsay she did a drawing of me as Portia in the doctor's robes, which is I think very like me, as well as having all the charming qualities of her well-known pencil portraits."[3]

Violet converted 16 Arlington Street into a hospital for the duration of the First World War, selling it on her husband's death in 1925 and moving to 34 Chapel Street, Belgrave Square, London. There she had a new studio built and continued to work, exhibiting continuously up until November 1937. Chips Channon commented on a 1935 ball at Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire, that:

"old Violet Duchess looked the best, tired, eighty, and in white; she was a romantic, rather triste figure in a castle where she had reigned so long".[4]

She died at her Chapel Street home in 1937 after an operation, and was buried at Belvoir.

Marriage and family

On 25 November 1882 Violet Lindsay married, at St George's, Hanover Square, London, Henry John Brinsley Manners (1852–1925), who in 1888 became Marquess of Granby (making her Lady Granby), and in 1906 succeeded his father as 8th Duke of Rutland (with her as Duchess of Rutland). The pair were opposites - Manners was handsome in a conventional way, Conservative, aristocratic, and with more interest in hunting and the chorus line at the theatre than in the arts, whereas she was seen as beautiful and bohemian - and, though she gave birth to one daughter and two sons (Lord Haddon, and another) to guarantee his title's succession, Violet looked outside the marriage for comfort. Disraeli's former private secretary, Montague Corry, 1st Baron Rowton (1838–1903) apparently fathered her second daughter, Violet (Letty), and Harry Cust (aka Henry John Cockayne, 1861–1917) the third, Diana.

However, her eldest son's death at the age of nine in 1894 devastated her, and she poured her grief into producing his tomb sculptures herself. The plaster cast for this work - her son, reclining on an elaborate base decorated with relief portraits of his mother's family -was considered by her as her best work. (She kept it in her London house until - a month before she died - it was accepted by the Tate Gallery). Her other son at least survived the slaughter of World War I (being kept away from the front, and marrying into another Souls family), though her daughter Violet's husband, Hugo Francis Charteris, Lord Elcho (born on 28 December 1884), was killed in the Egyptian campaign on 23 April 1916,[5] and most of her daughter Diana's friends and suitors died on the western front.


  1. ^ A. Lambert, Unquiet Souls: the Indian summer of the British aristocracy, 1880–1918 (1984), p79
  2. ^ Violet's daughter Diana led the younger generation of Souls, the self-styled "Corrupt Coterie".
  3. ^
  4. ^ J. Abdy and C. Gere, The Souls (1984), 53
  5. ^ - though the couple had already had two children, Sir Francis David Charteris, 12th Earl of Wemyss (b. 1912) and Lt.-Col. Sir Martin Michael Charles Charteris, Baron Charteris of Amisfield.


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