Over the course of the last few months, a name that was until recently absent in the American vernacular has become a trending water cooler topic. The name? Rose Hanbury. The woman behind it? Prince William’s alleged mistress. While those claims are so far unsubstantiated, the public’s curiosity over Hanbury hasn’t waned — and the scrutiny may stretch back farther than any rumored tryst with William. As it turns out, this isn’t the first time Hanbury has been thrust under a social microscope for being involved in a quote-unquote scandal.
To understand how Hanbury even got tangled up enough with the royal family to become internet famous, you have to go back. Way back. In 1947, her grandmother was a bridesmaid in Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding to Prince Philip. So, you see, Hanbury has been royals-adjacent basically since birth. Then, at the age of 19, her path to sort of becoming a royal herself began when she was introduced to David Rocksavage, the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley. “They first met on holiday in Italy in 2003, and announced their engagement six years later, a day before getting married,” reports The Tatler. If you want to split hairs, this was when Hanbury’s social life landed under a microscope.
Photos of Rose Hanbury and lifestyle shots of Houghton Hall are being flooded with negative comments. https://t.co/GBXsBRXL4t
— SheKnows (@SheKnows) May 24, 2019
She was 19 when she met her husband, at which time he was in his early 40s — there is a 23-year age gap between the two. When the couple announced their engagement and wed the following day (in June 2009) Hanbury was already expecting. They were due to give birth to twins in January 2010, but she gave birth prematurely in October 2009 to the couple’s twin sons: Alexander, Earl of Rocksavage, and Oliver, Lord of Cholmondeley.
The couple even managed to court headlines after the birth of the twins. As explained by the Telegraph, they came up with a unique method of determining which son would receive the marquess title. While typically dictated by which son entered the delivery room first, their sons entered essentially at the same time, via C-section. So, Hanbury and her husband got creative. “They have decided that the eighth marquess will be the boy who weighed more at birth,” one source said. “There was only eight ounces in it, but they will be a very significant eight ounces.” Or, as the article headline so delightfully cheeky put it, “It pays to be chubby.” FWIW, they added a daughter, Lady Iris, in March 2016 (her birth weight didn’t make the news).
Suffice it to say the tabloids raised some suspicious eyebrows at the relationship, sudden nuptials and subsequent childbirth. We probably don’t have to remind anyone here (but we will anyway), that none of Hanbury’s action merited ridicule or judgment or anything of the sort. She and her husband were both adults when they met. They both willingly engaged in a relationship. Hell, to their credit, they reportedly dated for six years before getting hitched. Since then, the couple seem to have built a lovely life together, unsubstantiated infidelity rumors notwithstanding. We bring it up because this period of Hanbury’s life precipitated the increased scrutiny she now faces.
It was through her marriage — which some U.K. tabloids made to seem salacious — that Hanbury ascended to the next level of European celebrity: nobility. She reportedly became close friends with William and Kate Middleton because their country home, Anmer Hall, is merely a few miles away from the 18th century Palladian home Hanbury’s husband inherited. Called Houghton Hall, that residence put Hanbury in the orbit of the royals and landed her among Britain’s “Turnip Toffs,” a group of nobility and aristocrats living and socializing in England’s countryside.
So, when rumors of a feud between Kate and her “rural rival” Hanbury began circulating back in March, it wasn’t surprising that a glaring spotlight landed on the Marchioness. After all, she has the kind of backstory that some outlets tend to turn into fuel for fodder. But just because her story doesn’t follow a traditional path to nobility like, say, Kate’s, it doesn’t mean she deserves the steaming pile of scrutiny being shoveled in her direction daily now. In fact, if you need help humanizing her, we suggest heading over to Houghton Hall’s Instagram feed — it’s lovely, and a nice reminder that real people live behind the tiny squares on social media.