Rosher, Grace - portrait of Edward VIII

Although there are many photographic portraits of Edward VIII, especially as Prince of Wales, painted miniature portraits of him are believed to be very uncommon. He succeeded his father George V and abdicated in favour of his brother George VI.

It is coincidental that the miniature was acquired for this collection just at the time Madonna released a new movie W.E (film) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia based upon the romance between Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.

The film features Andrea Riseborough as Wallis Simpson and James D’Arcy as Edward. Bafta winner James Fox plays King George V, Natalie Dormer is the young Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon while Laurence Fox plays Bertie, Edward’s younger brother and the future King George VI.

This miniature was painted by Grace Rosher (?-1980) and is signed "GR 1919". The vendor commented;
This is a miniature painted by my great aunt Grace Rosher, who exhibited some of her work at the Royal Academy, London possibly from early 1920's-1960s. [showing here is Mrs Edward Compton, née Virginia Frances Bateman (1853–1940) by Grace Rosher, Victoria and Albert Museum, painted in 1935.] She wrote two books, 'Beyond the Horizon' and 'The Travellers Return' both were published in the 1960s. You can also see a larger painting by my great aunt Grace in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The miniature is dated 1919, and signed GR. I believe it is painted on parchment, I don't think it is ivory, and from what I can see it is painted in oils. This was my great aunts usual medium, and there is a slight sheen to the painting. Measures 2 1/2 inches x 2 inches.

She was a great royalist, and whilst Prince Edward VIII was making a public appearance, she approached him to show the Prince this miniature she had been working on. He was apparently impressed, and with my great aunt being rather bold asked if he would sign the back, which he was happy to do for her.

The address of Blomfield Road is where my great aunt resided at that time. The miniature is in excellent condition.

The vendor was a little mistaken, as the miniature is on ivory and is painted in watercolour, not oil.

Apart from being an interesting addition to the collection, I had a personal reason for seeking to acquire the portrait.

Three generations of my ancestors worked at HM Stationery Office over a period of 100 years. I understand that a Grampy Green was the first and was the caretaker at HMSO for many years. My great-grandfather lived in a poorhouse, (about the time of Oliver Twist!) as his parents died when he was very young. I also understand he attended the Blue Coat charity school whose students wore blue coats and yellow stockings as showing here. Grampy Green then arranged employment for him at HMSO and over his career he rose to be Chief Inspector of Waste (the auditor of paper and ink waste!).

His son was my grandfather who also worked for HMSO and, in 1936, was required to go secretly from HMSO to Buckingham Palace on a bicycle, to collect two copies of the signature of King Edward VIII on the day of his abdication, to be used in preparing the formal printed document of the abdication, as depicted here.

One signature was for use, and one as a spare.The spare was not needed and was kept by my grandfather for many years, but after he died, my grandmother destroyed it as she was afraid she would get into trouble!

Hence, the opportunity to acquire a miniature portrait and the signature of Edward VIII, even though as Prince of Wales, and not as King Edward VIII, was impossible to pass up.

It has been a little difficult to trace the birth record of Grace Rosher, but it seems likely she was born Isobel Grace Rosher on 14 October 1889 at Brackley, Northamptonshire. To date it has not been possible to trace her in the census records.

Grace Rosher was also a noted British exponent of automatic writing. She was an artist who exhibited miniature paintings in the Royal Academy, London. Her psychic talent became manifest after the loss of her fiancé Gordon E. Burdick, whom she had known for many years. In June 1956, he was serving in the Canadian Navy, stationed at Vancouver, and intended to come to London to marry Rosher. A week before sailing, he died.

Fifteen months later, Grace Rosher had written a letter concerning an aunt and was wondering if she had time to write another letter before tea-time when she had a strong urge to keep her hand on the writing pad. The pen began to move without her conscious volition, and she discovered to her astonishment that it had written a letter in the handwriting of her dead fiancé.

In the course of time, many other such automatic letters followed, stating that this phenomenon would be the means of bringing other people to realize that life continues after death.

Grace Rosher was not a Spiritualist, and sought guidance from the Rev. G. Maurice Elliot, then secretary of the Churches' Fellowshipof Psychic and Spiritual Studies. Elliot enlisted the aid of handwriting expert F. T. Hilliger who studied the automatic scripts and compared them to the handwriting of Burdick when alive.

Although initially skeptical, Hilliger reported that the automatic scripts bore a close resemblance to the genuine writing of Burdick in a large number of different ways, and were so consistent that "the writing reproduced by Grace Rosher was, if it were humanly possible, genuinely inspired by the personality of Gordon E. Burdick."

Rosher subsequently produced many other scripts, including messages from her mother, father, and three sisters, and a relative who had died in 1752.

On one occasion, she produced a communication claimed to be from the famous scientist Sir William Crookes, in handwriting remarkably similar to that of Crookes in his lifetime. For more see:

The miniature of Edward dates to about the time of his August to November 1919 visit to Canada, as depicted in this cigarette card, where the number of medal ribbons he is wearing appears to be similar.

As this collection of miniature portraits grows, in terms of the range of identified sitters, there are increasing numbers of cross links.

For example appearing here are miniature portraits of some of the Prince of Wales distant cousins from the German and Russian royal families, who were on opposing sides during World War I, despite knowing each other very well.

Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany (View) and Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana of Russia (View).

All four cousins were descended from Queen Victoria and it is to be regretted that what was effectively a falling out between the various branches of the families descended from Queen Victoria led to millions of deaths during World War I.

A lot more could be written about the lives of both Edward VIII and Grace Rosher, and may be added here later. 1442

Later - a kind visitor has emailed me another Rosher painting for anyone who is interested to see further examples of her style. It is a watercolour and is signed and dated 1921. It reminds me of some porcelain paintings and book illustrations of the 1920's period. The photo was taken from an angle, so the shape appears a little odd.

Later - 2015 - A kind visitor has advised the following helpful correction and also some additional information:

I have been reading your material regarding Grace Rosher on the webpage where you state "It has been a little difficult to trace the birth record of Grace Rosher, but it seems likely she was born Isobel Grace Rosher on 14 October 1889 at Brackley, Northamptonshire. To date it has not been possible to trace her in the census records." I think you may have misread her entry in the General Register Office's Death Index. The Brackley district in Northamptonshire is where she died in 1980. Her birth in 1889 actually took place in London's Hendon district, specifically in Willesden. The GRO reference to her birth certificate is Hendon 3a 178, 1889 (4th Qtr.). I have found her straightforwardly in the 1891 census, and her parents and siblings (but not her) in 1901, but not in 1911. I had the privilege of knowing Grace (and her sister Freda) well in the 1960s and many times marvelled at the huge number of her paintings spread over the walls of their home at 10, Ladbroke Square. She was particularly proud of a miniature she had painted of the ballerina Anna Pavlova, which I saw several times. I wonder where that is now?

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