Friday, 12 August 2016

Week 32: Mystery of Mary Eleanor Palin

So quite a few years ago a cousin had told me that it was rumored that my great Aunt Mary Eleanor Palin was good friend with Princess Marina of Greece that married Prince George, Duke of Kent.  We all know how “family stories” can be exaggerated or even totally fictional and so I took it with a grain of salt.
Princess Marina of Greece married Prince George, Duke of Kent on 29 November 1934 at Westminster Abbey
So I was totally shocked when another cousin emailed me proof of that connection.  However there is another side to this story and that is where there is a lot of mystery. 

Mary Eleanor Palin was born in Gloucester in 1872 to Arnold Palin and Lydia Kate Davis.  She was the first born of 16 children, although only 14 lived to adulthood. In the 1881 census she is away at school in Great Neston and in 1891 she is at her aunts school, Tanllwyfan in Conway, Wales and her occupation in 1891 was governess.  In the 1901 census she is at home with her mother and father and her occupation is school mistress.

Her aunt's school changed hands when they died and we have found advertisements in the newspaper where Mary Eleanor and her sister Margaret Agnes were running a school from their home.  
Gloucester Citizen Thursday 16 January 1902
Neither Mary Eleanor nor Margaret Agnes were in England for the 1911 census. From letters that were saved over the years we can deduce that they were living in Greece during that time frame.  In one letter from Arnold Henry to son Arnold Kyrke he writes that they had received a letter from Margaret Agnes in Greece and that she was well and enjoying herself.  Margaret Agnes was with a British Family in Greece and came home before the war started.
Gloucester Citizen - Thursday 24 October 1912

In the 1924 book that Gilbert Walter Palin wrote about the military history of the family he writes that Mary Eleanor Palin stayed in Greece and did not leave her charges.

However we have a copy of a card that was sent to her at the Wehrwald Sanatorium near Todtmoos, Germany.  How long was she there for?  Did she have tuberculosis?  Why would she go to a Sanatorium in Germany during WWI?  Who is Evanthea?

In 1924 Mary Eleanor Palin comes to Canada for a visit to see her sister Margaret Agnes in Montreal and is accompanied by her young charge Lavria Averoff.  The Averoff family are a well to do family that goes back generations in the Greek history.  

In 1927 Mary Eleanor returns home and moved into the house in New Brunswick with her sister.
Mary Eleanor kept in touch with the friends that she had made in Greece and we have a copies of some of the letters that they sent to her in New Brunswick.

The first letter from Princess Marina that we have was in 1934 with thanks for the good wishes on her wedding to Prince George, Duke of Kent, complete with a square of the lace from her veil.

The next letter we have is from Princess Marina in 1942 when her husband died.

So how did Mary Eleanor meet Princess Marina?  Was it through Lavria Averoff?  Were Lavria and Princess Marina chums?

We know that Mary Eleanor must have been following the news of WWII closely and sending notes back to her friends in Greece.

Margaret Agnes’s husband died in 1942 and sometime in the next year Mary Eleanor moved to Hudson, Quebec and moved in with her sister.  But before she moved Mary Eleanor did something exceedingly generous. 

Mary Eleanor died May 4, 1947 in Hudson Quebec.  She is buried at Saint James Anglican Church Cemetery beside her brother, Charlie, my grandfather.  Margaret Agnes Palin is also buried in the same cemetery but beside her husband Thomas Basset Macaulay.

Mary Eleanor's grave is in the forefront and Charlie's is behind.

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