Viola Grosvenor, Duchess of Westminster

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The Duchess of Westminster
Viola, Duchess of Westminster.jpg
BornViola Maud Lyttelton
(1912-06-10)10 June 1912
Wandsworth, London
Died3 May 1987(1987-05-03) (aged 74)
Dungannon, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
ResidenceEaton Hall, Cheshire
Ely Lodge, Enniskillen
(m. 1946; died 1979)
IssueLady Leonora Grosvenor
The 6th Duke of Westminster
Lady Jane Grosvenor
ParentsThe 9th Viscount Cobham
Violet Yolande Leonard

Viola Grosvenor, Duchess of Westminster (10 June 1912 – 3 May 1987), was a British aristocrat who was the wife of Robert Grosvenor, 5th Duke of Westminster, the mother of Gerald Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster and the grandmother of Hugh Grosvenor, 7th Duke of Westminster, Charles Innes-Ker, 11th Duke of Roxburghe and Thomas Anson, 6th Earl of Lichfield.

Early life[edit]

Born Viola Maud Lyttelton in Wandsworth, London,[1] she was the daughter of John Lyttelton, 9th Viscount Cobham,[2] and Violet Yolande Leonard.[3] Her brother, Charles Lyttelton, 10th Viscount Cobham, played cricket for Worcestershire in the 1930s and was Governor-General of New Zealand from 1957 to 1962. Their cousin was the jazz musician and broadcaster Humphrey Lyttelton.

Her nephew was Major Hugh Lindsay, an equerry to Queen Elizabeth II, who was killed on 10 March 1988, aged 34, in a ski accident after being caught up in an avalanche on Gotschnagrat Mountain while accompanying Charles, Prince of Wales, on a holiday in Klosters in Switzerland.[4]

As the Hon Viola Lyttelton she gained the rank of Flying Officer in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, during World War II, where she was mentioned in dispatches.[5]

Marriage and children[edit]

Lyttleton married Robert Grosvenor, a son of Captain Lord Hugh Grosvenor and Lady Mabel Florence Mary Crichton, on 3 December 1946.[6] Robert Grosvenor was granted the style Lord Robert Grosvenor in 1963 and became the 5th Duke of Westminster on the death of his elder brother, the 4th Duke, in 1967. The family had a home at Ely Lodge, just west of Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.[7]

The Duke and Duchess had three children:

The 5th Duke of Westminster died in 1979.

Later life[edit]

From 1979 until her death in 1987 she was Lord Lieutenant of Fermanagh.[8] and was a strong supporter of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Ulster Defence Regiment. In September 1979, Viola represented Queen Elizabeth II at the funeral of Paul Maxwell, a young crew member from Enniskillen in County Fermanagh, who was killed in the same explosion which killed Louis Mountbatten, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, former Viceroy of India and uncle of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Viola was an accomplished pianist and music lover and was on the governing body of the Royal Academy of Music. She worked tirelessly for charities and voluntary organisations including the Girl Guides, Salvation Army. NSPCC and the Royal British Legion.

She famously ordered workmen to drill holes in the ceiling of Florence Court, the stately home in County Fermanagh, to drain water away during a serious fire which almost destroyed it in 1955.[9]


The Dowager Duchess died in a car accident near Dungannon, County Tyrone, on 3 May 1987, aged 74.[10] She was returning to Ely Lodge, on the shore of Lough Erne. Her funeral was held at St Macartin's Cathedral, Enniskillen amid high security during The Troubles due to her Royal and family connections - her son Gerald also being at the time the UK's richest man. She was interred at Monea Parish Church, following a private family service. A memorial service was subsequently held in June 1987 at St. Michael's Church, Chester Square, which was attended by Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester and Sir Edward Heath, and included a performance by Julian Lloyd Webber.


  • 1912-22 - Miss Viola Lyttelton
  • 1922-46 - The Honourable Viola Lyttelton
  • 1946-63 - The Honourable Mrs Robert Grosvenor
  • 1963-67 - Lady Robert Grosvenor
  • 1967-79 - Her Grace the Duchess of Westminster
  • 1979-87 - Her Grace Viola, Duchess of Westminster

See also[edit]


  1. ^ search
  2. ^ Lundy, Darryl. "The Peerage website". The Peerage.[unreliable source]
  3. ^ "Descendents of William the Conqueror". Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  4. ^ "1988: Avalanche hits royal ski party". BBC News. 10 March 1988.
  5. ^ Lundy, Darryl. "The Peerage website, ibid". The Peerage.[unreliable source]
  6. ^ Lundy, Darryl. "The Peerage website, ibid". The Peerage.[unreliable source]
  7. ^ Grosvenor estate Archived 5 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Girl Guide leaders site". Female Governors 1920-1990. 13 July 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  9. ^ "History of Florence Court, County Fermanagh". Ireland's Eye. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  10. ^ "2-Car Crash In Ulster Kills British Duchess, Pair In Other Auto". Toledo Blade. Toledo, Ohio. 4 May 1987. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
Honorary titles
Preceded by Lord Lieutenant of Fermanagh
Succeeded by