Lady Chichester

Lady Chichester, wife of Sir Bruce Chichester

Rosalie Amelia Chamberlayne was born in 1843 at Cranbury Park in Otterbourne, Hampshire. The daughter of Sir Thomas Chamberlayne and Amelia Onslow, she was the sixth of seven children, and the third of four daughters.

Plain sailing

Her father, Thomas Chamberlayne was a well-known yachtsman and owned the famous cutter Arrow.  He and his son Tankerville were keen members of the Royal Yacht Squadron and Thomas took part in the famous Cowes yacht race against the America in 1851. It is likely that the young Rosalie came to meet her future husband, Sir Bruce Chichester, through the Royal Yacht Squadron and his association with Cowes; he, too, was a keen yachtsman and owned two schooners: Zoë and Erminia. 

Blissful married life

They married at Cranbury Park on 9th February 1865 and honeymooned aboard the Zoë, meeting her in Malta for a Mediterranean cruise before returning to Arlington where they were met by jubilant villagers and tenants.  In November that year she gave birth to their only child, Rosalie Caroline Chichester.

A wife's duty

Lady Chichester quickly gained the respect of the local community and as a dutiful wife she threw herself into her role as hostess and patron.  The local newspapers repeatedly commended her for her hospitality and local work, which included hosting the local cricket match for her husband, setting up a club to distribute clothing to the less fortunate, holding an annual bazaar at the Court and presiding over local events.

A sudden end

The family of three appear to have been very close, and together they enjoyed a comfortable living. Family holidays were often onboard Erminia and they took two cruises around the Mediterranean, the first in 1869 and the second in 1877. Sir Bruce died in 1881, aged only 38, after a long drawn out illness.  This must have been a very difficult time for his wife; as well as the sorrow of losing her husband and having to console a young child, there was also the issue of her late husband’s huge debts which neither she nor her daughter had any means of paying-off.

Victorian glamour

On Miss Chichester’s coming of age in 1885 they were presented at Court to Queen Victoria.  It was reported:
" The Drawing Room on Wednesday may truly be described as a glorious one. It was the largest during Her Majesty’s reign, and there were about four hundred presentations, quite an unprecedented number. The general circle was numerously attended; the costumes were surpassingly brilliant, the weather charming and the Queen in excellent health and high spirits. Lady Chichester wore a train and corsage of amethyst velvet with a petticoat of shaded mauve gladiolus velvet brocade and the garniture of fine Mechlin. Her head-dress was a plume of white ostrich feathers and tulle lappets and her ornaments were diamonds."
- From a contemporary newspaper report

Lady Chichester died in 1908 in Woolacombe, aged 65, and was laid to rest next to Sir Bruce in Brookwood cemetery, Woking, reunited with her first husband after 27 years apart.