Queer Places:
Gilmuire House, St Marys Rd, Ascot SL5 9JE, UK

The Hon Mary Elizabeth Bulteel Ponsonby (October 19, 1832 - October 16, 1916) was the Maid of Honour to Queen Victoria between 1853 and 1861 and Extra Woman of the Bedchamber from 1895. Once Vernon Lee asked Ethel Smyth, "to how many people have you given without reserve and got something like the equivalent in return?", and Smyth replied: "Elisabeth "Lisl" von Herzogenberg, Henry Bennet Brewster and a third, unnamed, person." Lee deduced the third person was Lady Mary Ponsonby.

Mary Elizabeth Posonby was the wife of Henry Frederick Ponsonby, who was the private secretary to Queen Victoria. Mary was one of the founding members of the committee of Girton College, and she also aided in organizing the first Trade Union for Women. Ponsonby was an advocate of women’s advancement.

Mary Elizabeth Bulteel the eldest daughter of John Crocker Bulteel, MP, and granddaughter of the 2nd Earl Grey. From 1853 to 1861 she was one of Queen Victoria's Maids of Honour and was therefore afforded the title Honourable and the rank of a Baron's daughter. On 30 April 1861, she married Sir Henry Frederick Ponsonby (1825-1895). They had five children. Her granddaughter was the Hon. Elizabeth Ponsonby, the quintessential Bright Young Thing of the 1920s. After her husband's death in 1895 she was appointed an Extra Woman of the Bedchamber.

The Honourable Lady Mary Ponsonby died on 16 October 1916 at Gilmuire, Ascot, Berkshire. She left an estate valued at £17,840.

According to a short obituary in the Yorkshire Evening Post (16 October 1916), 'Lady Ponsonby, who had just reached her 85th birthday, was connected with the Court of Queen Victoria for many years. She became Maid of Honour when 21 years of age, and held that position till her marriage in 1861. She was a remarkable personality, and was for some years an intimate friend of George Eliot.' Her obituary in The Times (17 October 1916) concluded: 'Lady Ponsonby had many interests, political, social, and literary, and her vivid memory of the distinguished and interesting people she had known made her a delightful companion.'

Mary Bulteel, later Lady Mary Ponsonby
Photographed in 1860 by Camille Silvy of London

by Carl Haag

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