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1906: Peeress writer buried in Cuckfield

Updated: Mar 19, 2021

Sussex Agricultural Express - Saturday 20 October 1906



—Amid the peaceful surroundings of Cuckfield Church, the mortal remains of the late Countess of Munster were laid to rest on Saturday the family vault. The body was brought from Hove, where her ladyship passed away the previous Tuesday, in a glass car drawn by four horses, and was met at the church lychgate by the venerable Canon Cooper and the choir.

The chief mourners were the Earl of Munster (son), Lady Lilian Boyd and Lady Dorothy Lee-Warner (daughters), Captain Boyd, Mr. C. Lee-Warner, Miss Dorothy FitzClarence, Miss Holland, and Mr. Bailey. Others present at the service were Colonel Gordon, the Hon. William Syndney, Major C. FitzClarence, V.C., Mr. H. E. FitzClarence, Capt. Sergison, Mr. H. Wemyss, Mr. Scrase Dickins, the Rev. Launcelot Dowdall (Hove), and the household servants.

The opening sentences of the burial service were sung to the plain chant setting, and the 90th Psalm was impressively sung to Felton's chant. At the close of the service in church the mourners and choir wended their way the graveside, singing, "Brief life is here our portion" Canon Cooper having said the closing prayers, another favourite hymn of the deceased Countess was sung—"On the resurrection morning."

Wilhelmina Countess of Munster 1904

The oak coffin bore the following inscription:—" Wilhelmina Countess of Munster, born 27th June, 1830. died 9th October, 1906."

Five other members the Munster family lie in the same vault. Some magnificent wreaths rested upon the coffin, among the contributors, besides the family, being the Dowager Marchioness of Conyngham, Baron and Baroness Bertouch, the Countess of Normanton, the Dowager Lady Lurgan, Lady and Miss Pocock, Admiral Sir Henry and Lady Stephenson, the Dowager Countess of Kintore, Lady Rookwood, Lady K. Pilkington, Lady H. Graham, Mrs. Montefiore, Mrs. F. Ricardo, etc.

Rain fell during part of the service, but the weather cleared ere the final portion was reached. Simultaneously with the service at Cuckfield a memorial service was held at the Church of St. John the Baptist, Hove.

Countess of `Munster in 1877

Biography: Wilhelmina FitzClarence, the Countess of Munster, was born in 1830 at Dun House, Scotland, the daughter of John Kennedy-Erskine (the son of the Earl of Cassillis) and Lady Augusta FitzClarence. Her mother was the illegitimate daughter of William IV and her mother's brother was the first Earl of Munster. As a child, FitzClarence became a great favourite of her grandfather the king. When Victoria ascended the throne, her mother became the housekeeper of Kensington palace. In the 1840s, she spent several years travelling Europe with her family in order to further her education. On 17 April 1855, she married her first cousin William FitzClarence (1824–1901), the second Earl of Munster, and the couple would have nine children. FitzClarence was a gifted songwriter, both music and words. Relatively late in life, she turned to fiction with two novels and a collection of ghost stories (1). She and her husband led a retired life in Brighton for most of their marriage. Two years before her death in 1906, she wrote a memoir of her life.

(1) Fiction Titles:

  1. Dorinda. 3 vol. London: Hurst and Blackett, 1889.

  2. A Scotch Earl. 3 vol. London: Hurst and Blackett, 1891.

  3. Ghostly Tales. 1 vol. London: Hutchinson, 1896.


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