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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Titled Affair: Lady Eileen Forbes Weds the Future Marquess of Bute


Castle Forbes, County Longford, Ireland

On April 26, 1932, crowds in Newforbestown, County Longford, Ireland clamored to catch a glimpse of the lovely bride, Lady Eileen Forbes. The event was very exciting for a town with less than 1000 residents that was named after the Forbes family. The Earl of Granard had resided in the region since 1691 and the family’s residence at Castleforbes was central to the town’s identity. Adding to the excitement was the equally elevated status of the groom, John Crichton-Stuart, the Earl of Dumfries who was the eldest son of a Marquess from one of the most prominent families in Scotland. The affair was a celebration for both the family and the village.

Lady Eileen Beatrice Forbes was born on July 1, 1912, the second daughter and second child of the 8th Earl of Granard and his American wife, the former Beatrice Mills. Her godparents were both American and British with ties that were both personal and political. Her godfather was Lord Acton who like Lord Granard was a Lord-in-waiting to King Edward VII. She had three godmothers which included the Duchess of Norfolk, her maternal grandmother Ruth Mills, and Mrs. Frederick Vanderbilt. Because Staatsburgh was only 5 miles away from the Vanderbilt’s country estate, the two families were close friends.

This photo depicts 9 year old Lady Eileen with her mother as they prepare to sail from New York back to Europe.

After Ruth Mills passed away in 1920, Lady Granard and her children would spend the fall at Staatsburgh to spend time with her father, Ogden Mills. The children would spend time outdoors, riding horses, and enjoying the country of their mother’s birth. Their father would join them for Christmas, and then the family would sail back to Europe in the new year.

Lady Eileen (right) rides horses with her sister Lady Moira (left) while visiting Staatsburgh.


The children of the Earl and Countess of Granard were destined to marry other members of the titled aristocracy and Eileen was the first child to marry. She became engaged at 19 to John Crichton-Stuart, the Earl of Dumfries, and married him six months later. The Earl of Dumfries was the eldest son of the Marquess of Bute and inherited that title upon his father’s death in 1947. He was an ornithologist and purchased the island of St. Kilda off the northwest coast of Scotland in order to preserve and study the bird habitats for future generations.

The Bute family can claim several prominent figures in Scottish and British history beginning with Robert II, King of the Scots from 1371-1390.  John Stewart (1360-1449), was a son of Robert II and a mistress, and Robert II granted him the lands of Bute, Arran, and Cumbrae and the heredity office of Sheriff of Bute.  Other notable figures include John Stuart, the 3rd Earl of Bute who became the first Scottish prime minister of Britain in 1762. He played a very prominent role in the reign of King George III.  The title of Marquess was created for the 4th Earl of Bute, also named John Stuart, in 1796.  By the 20th century, Lady Eileen was set to marry the future fifth Marquess of Bute.

Lady Eileen Forbes and the Earl of Dumfries, John Crichton-Stuart, on their wedding day.
They married in Ireland at Clonguish Parish Church and had the reception at Castleforbes, both in Newtonforbes, the bride’s ancestral home. No less than twelve priests officiated at the wedding and the couple even received a special blessing from the pope. The wedding was a grand affair that joined together two prominent Irish and Scottish Roman Catholic families. This great video below shows firsthand footage of the bride walking into the church escorted by her father. Police guards hold the very large crowds at bay, which really illustrates the gravitas of the event.



Just ten months after the wedding, Lady Eileen gave birth to an heir and continued the family tradition of twins (her mother and grandmother were both a twin) when she gave birth to twin boys, John and David.  She later had two other children, James in 1935, and Caroline in 1941.  In 1956, John, the elder twin, became the 6th Marquess of Bute and when he passed away in 1993, his son John, the current Marquess of Bute, ascended to the title.

Dumfries House - East Aryshire, Scotland

After her husband's death in 1956, Lady Eileen spent nearly 40 years living in one of the family's homes, Dumfries House in Scotland. Dumfries House hadn't been used by the family in many years prior to Lady Eileen's residence, but it was kept up and remained a magnificent 18th century country home with an amazing collection of Chippendale furniture and interiors largely unchanged since the 18th century. The current Marquess put the home up for sale in 2007 and planned to auction off the interiors, but Prince Charles intervened and was able to find the funds to buy the home and create a trust to keep the house intact and preserve it for the nation. Dumfries House was restored and opened to the public in 2012.



The Bute family estate, Mount Stuart, has also been restored and opened to the public for tours. It was the first home in Scotland to have electric lights and the first home in the world to have a heated indoor pool. The current Marquess and the great-great grandson of Ruth and Ogden Mills, a former race car driver publicly known as Johnny Dumfries or John Bute, opened a visitor’s center in 2001 that tells the story of the family and the estate. For more information about the history and present of the Bute family, the family maintains their own website.

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