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Friday, December 08, 2017

Jean Frances Woodroffe, CVO 1923-2017

_. Mrs Jean Frances Woodroffe, CVO, who died 7 December, 2017, aged 94, was a Lady-in-Waiting to the Queen (when Princess Elizabeth, from 1945) and served as an Extra Woman of the Bedchamber to Her Majesty from 1954. Mrs Woodroffe was a cousin of the Queen by marriage and one of her oldest friends.

She was born 22 February, 1923, a scion of the Hambro banking dynasty, the fourth daughter of Angus Valdimar Hambro (1883-1957) by his second wife, the former Vanda Dorothy Julia Charlton, and married firstly, 19 Sept, 1942, Capt the Hon Vicary Gibbs, of the Grenadier Guards, eldest son of the 4th Baron Aldenham. Her first husband was killed in action at Nijmegan, 20 September, 1944, leaving her with an infant daughter, Jennifer Susan (who was a Lady in Waiting to the Queen Mother 1993-2002). The Hon Mrs Vicary Gibbs married secondly, 29 May, 1946, Rev. the Hon Andrew Elphinstone, a nephew of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, who died in 1975. From this marriage she had two children, a daughter Rosemary, born in 1947, for whom the then Princess Elizabeth stood sponsor, and a son James, later the 18th Lord Elphinstone (1953-1994); she married thirdly, in 1980, Lt-Col John William Richard Woodroffe, the widower of her elder sister, Patricia.

Elizabeth Longford in her biography Elizabeth R writes that in 1945 "Princess Elizabeth was given her own footman, and housemaid and second Lady in Waiting (the first was Lady Mary Strachey). The way in which the second appointment was made in March 1945 was characteristic of the Royal Family's touching almost blind trust in their own inner circle.

The Hon Mrs Vicary Gibbs was a pretty 21 year-old widow whose husband, a Grenadier officer, had been killed in Holland. Jean Hambro by birth she was later to become Princess Elizabeth's first cousin by marriage to Andrew Elphinstone. One day Jean Gibbs received a letter from Sir Arthur Penn, the Queen's private secretary, explaining that an additional lady was needed to serve the princess, a lady who could talk about the Grenadiers and Officers' Welfare. Mrs Gibbs had never set eyes on the King or Queen. Nor had Princess Elizabeth ever set eyes on her. Yet this extraordinary 'on trust' arrangement was to work perfectly, lasting from 1945 to 1954, and continuing thereafter on a part time basis."

Jean Elphinstone only gave up full-time work for the Queen when her husband, Andrew, a Church of England priest, took on a parish in Surrey and she went to assist him there.

Mrs Woodroffe is survived by her two daughters, Jenny and Rosie. Her son, Jamie, Lord Elphinstone, died 19 Dec, 1994, aged 41.

The funeral took place at Mere, 19 December, 2017, at noon, followed by a service of Thanksgiving at St Mary's Church, Worplesdon, 10 January, 2018, at which The Queen was represented by Mrs Peregrine Bertie.

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