Archduchess Marie Valerie’s Aunt Minnie – Mary Throckmorton – was Lady-in-Waiting to Empress Elisabeth for five years. She joined the Austrian Court as Governess to Marie Valerie and they remained close friends until Mary’s death 50 years later.
Mary was brought to Sisi’s attention by her sister Maria Sophia. Mary’s grandfather Sir John Acton had served the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and was known as the saviour of the Neapolitan navy. Her Acton mother had married Sir Robert Throckmorton, heir to one of the leading Roman Catholic families in England. After Catholics were allowed to stand for Parliament, he became an MP in 1831.
Most members of the Throckmorton family refused to accept Henry VIII’s break from the Church of Rome. They were caught plotting in 1583 against Queen Elizabeth and were key conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot. Visitors to their home, Coughton (coat’n) Court in Warwickshire, can see the room where they were gathered when a messenger brought news of the plot’s failure.
Born at the family’s Buckland House property, Mary Throckmorton was raised in Berkshire (now Oxfordshire). The family papers in the Warwickshire County Record Office include the personal letter Sisi wrote to Mary urging her to become Governess to baby Marie Valerie. She joined the Empress in 1869 but was asked to leave after five years. Mary was supposed to have left the windows open and Sisi feared Marie Valerie would fall ill.
Archduchess Marie Valerie’s letters reveal how much she missed her Aunt Minny. Mary and Marie Valerie became close intimates and when the Archduchess became engaged to Archduke Franz Salvador she immediately told Mary Throckmorton by telegram.
Mary Throckmorton kept closely in touch with many members of the Austrian aristocracy, especially the Kinsky family. She also wrote to Crown Prince Rudolf and when he was in London, Mary was invited to meet him again at the Austro – Hungarian embassy.
Mary divided her time between homes in London and Leamington Spa, where she died. She was buried at Coughton Court.
The letters from Sisi and Marie Valerie are in Warwickshire County Record Office and Coughton Court has mary Throckmorton’s momentoes of Sisi on display.
Portrait Mary Throckmorton with her brother Courtenay and mother Elizabeth THrockmorton. Portait Source Coughton Court, National Trust