Lady Mary Colman dies, aged 88

Lady Mary Colman in a purple hat

Lady Mary Colman, who has died aged 88. - Credit: The Colman Family

Tributes have been paid to Lady Mary Colman, who has died at the age of 88.

Lady Mary, who was a cousin to the Queen, died on Saturday, January 2, at her home in Norfolk.

The daughter of Captain Hon, Michael Bowes Lyon and Elizabeth Margaret Cator, of Woodbastwick, Lady Mary Cecilia Bowes Lyon was born in January 1932 at the family home of Gastlings in Bedfordshire.

Lady Mary Colman speaking to Mother Teresa

Lady Mary Colman with Mother Teresa - Credit: The Colman Family

She was the twin sister of Lady Patricia Bowes Lyon (later Tettley) and sister to Fergus, the 17th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and to the Hon Albermarle Bowes Lyon.

Lady Mary grew up in Bedfordshire and was educated at Hatherop Castle in Gloucestershire.

In 1951, at the age of 19, she married Sir Timothy Colman, whose family had set up mustard manufacturer Colman's of Norwich.

Lady Mary Colman walks with The Queen Mother

Lady Mary Colman with the Queen Mother. - Credit: Archant

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret were guests at their wedding at St Bartholomew-the-Great at Smithfields in London.

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The couple's early married life was spent in Dorset, with Sir Timothy, who went on to be Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk for more than 25 years, after serving in the Royal Navy at Portland.

The couple moved to Bixley Manor in Norfolk in 1953, where she spent the rest of her life, never without a beloved Jack Russell Terrier.

She had a love of Norwich City Football Club and, for some 30 years, she would go to Carrow Road to cheer on the Canaries at every home game.

Her family said she she adored Norwich Cathedral, and those that worked there, including the bishops, deans and organists.  

In 1998, Lady Mary became president of the EDP’s We Care 2000 Appeal. Sir Timothy had been chairman of Eastern Counties Newspaper Group (now Archant).

Lady Mary Colman stands in a field of corn

Lady Mary Colman. - Credit: The Colman Family

That appeal set up the Norfolk Millennium Trust, to improve the quality of life for thousands of carers who looked after loved ones in Norfolk.

Lady Mary was full of praise for people of all ages who served as carers, saying at the time: "I have agreed to become president of the appeal because I firmly believe that carers of all ages – and many are quite small children – need and deserve all the help we can give them.

"There are times when the sense of responsibility, loneliness, frustration or sheer exhaustion makes their task almost too much to cope with."

Lady Mary Colman sitting down while holding a terrier.

Lady Mary Colman with one of her terriers. - Credit: The Colman Family

She also served a number of other local charities, including the Red Cross. She was president of the Norfolk Autistic Society for 26 years, until her retirement in 2001.

She was created an Extra Lady-in-Waiting to HRH Princess Alexandra in 1970.

Lady Mary loved flowers and very large flower arrangements and, for many years, ran a small dried flower business named Flora Desicca, with three friends.

Her family said she was musical , played the piano by ear and with ease and sang beautifully.

She was the patron and an active member of Barton Turf Choral Society.

Her family added she was "hugely supportive" of her husband, Sir Timothy, through his business life and, most importantly, through the mutual love of their large family.

Lady Mary Colman sits on a white chair with her husband, Sir Timothy Colman, stood behind her.

Lady Mary with her husband, Sir Timothy Colman - Credit: The Colman Family

Sir Timothy was one of the founders of the University of East Anglia and his sailing exploits meant he held the World Speed Sailing Record for seven years.

Lady Mary's family said she was "loved by all who met her".

As niece of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and first cousin of the Queen, Lady Mary and Sir Timothy were guests at Balmoral and Sandringham for many years.

Lady Mary leaves Sir Timothy, three daughters, Sarah, Sabrina and Emma and two sons, James and Matthew.

She also had 10 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

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