Lady May Helen Emma Abel Smith (formerly Lady May Cambridge, née Princess May of Teck; January 23, 1906 – May 29, 1994) was a relative of the British Royal Family. She was a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and a niece of Queen Mary, consort to King George V of the United Kingdom.
Lady May Abel-Smith
She was HSH Princess May of Teck was at Claremont House, near Esher in Surrey, England, the oldest child and only daughter of the Prince Alexander of Teck, and his wife Princess Alice of Albany.
Her father was a German nobleman, later granted the British title of Earl of Athlone, and he the youngest son of Francis, Duke of Teck by his wife the Princess Mary-Adelaide of Cambridge, daughter of Prince Adolphus-Frederick, Duke of Cambridge, the youngest surviving son of King George III of the United Kingdom and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
Lady May’s mother was, Princess Alice of Albany, the daughter of Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, youngest son of Queen Victoria, by his wife Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont. As a daughter of Prince Alexander of Teck, Princess May was styled at birth Her Serene Highness Princess May of Teck.
Princess May as an infant with her mother Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, and brother Rupert Cambridge, Viscount Trematon
During World War I, anti-German feeling in the United Kingdom led Princess May’s uncle, King George V, to change the name of the British royal family from the Germanic Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the more British-sounding Windsor. The king also renounced all Germanic titles for himself and other members of the British Royal Family who were British subjects.
In solidarity, May’s father, Prince Alexander of Teck, renounced his title of a Prince of Teck in the Kingdom of Württemberg in Germany, and the style His Serene Highness. Alexander, along with his brother, Prince Adolphus of Teck, adopted the surname Cambridge, after their grandfather, Prince Adolphus-Frederick, Duke of Cambridge.
A few days later, the king elevated Alexander to the Peerage of the United Kingdom as Earl of Athlone and Viscount Trematon. Alexander was now styled The Right Honourable Earl of Athlone. His daughter then became styled as Lady May Cambridge, befitting a daughter of an Earl, and his surviving son adopted as a courtesy title his secondary title of Viscount Trematon, as befitted the eldest son of an Earl. Alexander’s wife, Alice, born as a British princess, retained her title and style, Her Royal Highness, and became known as Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone.
Lady May served as a royal bridesmaid on numerous occasions; three times in Westminster Abbey: in 1919 to Princess Victoria-Patricia of Connaught on her marriage to Captain Alexander Ramsay, RN; in 1922 to Princess Mary, Princess Royal on her marriage to Viscount Lascelles; and in 1923 to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon on her marriage to Prince Albert, Duke of York,mlater King George VI.
Lady May married Henry Abel Smith (later Sir Henry) on October 24, 1931 in Balcombe, Sussex,nclose to the Athlone residence at Brantridge Park. The bride was attended by four child bridesmaids: Princess Elizabeth of York (later Queen Elizabeth II), Rosemary Madeline Hamilton Fraser, Jennifer Bevan and Kathleen Alington. Her eight adult bridesmaids were the Hon. Imogen Rhys (daughter of Walter Rice, 7th Baron Dynevor); Lady Mary Whitley; Phyllis Seymour-Holm; Lady Alice Montagu Douglas Scott (later Duchess of Gloucester); Princess Ingrid of Sweden; Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; Verena Seymour (daughter of Sir Edward Seymour and granddaughter of the 4th Marquess Conyngham; and Wenefryde Tabor. The best man was Cecil Weld Forester, 7th Baron Forester of Willey Park.
Princess Ingrid of Sweden, future Queen Consort of King Frederik IX of Denmark, introduced her fellow bridesmaid, Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (daughter of Prince Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and former Duke of Albany – grandson of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert through their son Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany) to her brother, Prince Gustaf Adolph (father of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden), whom Princess Sibylla married a year later (20 October 1932) at the Kirche St. Moriz Coburg.
Sir Henry and Lady May Abel Smith were married for over 60 years and had three children:
Lady May, being only a distant member of the royal family, did not carry out any royal duties. She did attend some major royal events such as the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer.
Between 1958 and 1966, Sir Henry Abel Smith served as the Governor of Queensland. May accompanied Henry to Brisbane, as vice-regal consort. They retired in 1975 to Barton Lodge at Winkfield in Berkshire, England.
Lady May died in hospital one year after her husband. They are both buried at the Royal Burial Ground, Frogmore, not far from Windsor Castle. Her funeral was held at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, Windsor, on June 9, 1994. It was attended by the Duke of Gloucester and Princess Alexandra, representing the royal family.
* 23 January 1906 – 14 July 1917: Her Serene Highness Princess May of Teck
* 14 – 17 July 1917: Miss May Cambridge
* 17 July 1917 – 24 October 1931: The Lady May Cambridge
* 24 October 1931 – 29 May 1994: The Lady May Abel Smith
From her birth, she was known as Princess May of Teck, a title from the Kingdom of Württemberg. She was later named for a few days Miss May Cambridge after the British Royal Family and its relatives ceased using their German titles in 1917, and her father adopted the surname “Cambridge”. She was subsequently styled Lady May Cambridge, when her father was created Earl of Athlone, and Lady May Abel Smith after her marriage in 1931.