A VERY special wedding dress attracted much interest when it was put on display to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee at Bowhill House.
It was worn by Jane, who died last year aged 81 as Dowager Duchess of Buccleuch, when she married Walter Francis John Montague Douglas Scott, at that time the Earl of Dalkeith and heir to the title of the Duke of Buccleuch, at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh on January 10, 1953.
The event was, without doubt, the society wedding of that year. The former fashion model Jane McNeill, born in Shanghai the daughter of a Colonsay lawyer, assumed the title of Countess of Dalkeith. But the nuptials had special significance because guests at the wedding included Queen Elizabeth, whose succession the previous year the nation has been celebrating this week, the Duke of Edinburgh and most of the royal family.
It was a glamorous match-up. Jane McNeill, a great beauty in her day, had become one of the leading fashion models of the postwar years, modelling principally for Norman Hartnell – the Queen’s favourite fashion house – while there had been speculation in the press at the time that the earl might marry Princess Margaret.
Although giving up the catwalk, the countess remained for many years an icon for haute couture and as Duchess of Buccleuch, after her husband became duke in 1973, she developed a particular interest in needlework, serving on the council of the Royal School of Needlework.
Needless to say, the earl and his bride were high-profile guests at the Queen’s coronation in Westminster Abbey in June 1953.
The wedding dress took pride of place at Bowhill, the home of the dowager duchess after she was widowed in 2007, which opened for tours as part of a weekend of special jubilee events. The tours also offered entry to parts of the ancestral home not normally accessible to the public, including the costume room. Elsewhere on the estate, there were family treasure hunts, crown-making workshops, pony trekking and giant board games in the courtyard.