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Marie Carola Galway (1876–1963)

by P. A. Howell

This article was published:

Lady Galway, by Sam Hood, 1938

Lady Galway, by Sam Hood, 1938

State Library of New South Wales, 30255

Marie Carola Franciska Roselyne Galway (1876-1963), charity and civic worker, and governor's wife, was known by those Christian names, although at her birth on 5 January 1876 at Mayfair, London, she was registered as Mary Charlotte Frances Roslyne. She was the only daughter of two leaders of the English liberal Catholic movement, Sir Rowland Blennerhassett, Irish baronet and parliamentarian, and his wife Countess Charlotte Julia de Leyden, a biographer and historian from Bavaria. Marie Carola attended private schools and convents in Bavaria, France and Switzerland, and read extensively in six languages. On 28 November 1894 she married Baron Raphael d'Erlanger (d.1897), a French biologist who built his own laboratories at the University of Heidelberg; they were to have a daughter and a son. Returning to England, the baroness worked for the sick and destitute, helping to found (and later chairing) a committee which advised on proposed parliamentary legislation affecting women or children.

On 26 August 1913 in the Royal Bavarian Chapel, London, she married Sir Henry Lionel Galway. Six weeks later he was appointed governor of South Australia and took office on 18 April 1914. Lady Galway's gifts as a public speaker were soon appreciated throughout the State. She inaugurated the Adelaide branch of the Alliance Française, and gave literary and historical talks to the Poetry Recital Society, the Victoria League in South Australia and kindred bodies. Rapt audiences thronged her lectures on modern languages at the universities of Adelaide and Melbourne. Lady Stanley, wife of the governor of Victoria, thought her 'a wonder' because she could discourse on 'any subject—religious, philosophical, political, artistic or scientific'. Lady Galway supported children's hospitals and orphanages, the District Trained Nursing Society and the Young Women's Christian Association. She apologized for being 'more of a slavedriver than a patroness', but her enthusiasm, new ideas, friendly manner and willingness to shoulder some of the burdens won admiration. She inspired the South Australian Catholic Women's League to seek greater public recognition and did much to make Catholics more socially acceptable in Australia's most Protestant State.

At the request of Lady Helen Munro Ferguson, the wife of the governor-general, in August 1914 Lady Galway founded the South Australian division of the British Red Cross Society; it was to assist the sick and wounded, and establish a missing persons bureau. She directed this organization until 1919, as she did the Belgian Relief Fund for which she produced the Lady Galway Belgium Book (1916). Founding president of the League of Loyal Women, a body that supplied comforts for servicemen, she also persuaded the Institute of Accountants in South Australia to train sixty female bookkeepers as temporary replacements for male clerks who had enlisted. Despite her husband's zeal in fomenting hysteria against Australians of German descent, no one seemed to mind that she was half German. She travelled widely, addressed hundreds of meetings, wrote thousands of letters and helped to raise over £1,200,000 for patriotic causes. For her efforts she was awarded the Belgian médaille de la Reine Elisabeth and the médaille de la Reconnaissance Française, and was appointed dame of grace of the Order of St John and C.B.E. (1926). Before her departure in January 1919 (fifteen months ahead of her husband) the State's women war-workers gave her a diamond and opal necklace. Adelaide's leader-writers noted that her arresting personality, untiring activity and oratorical power had enabled her to exercise a real influence over the trend of public thought, and that she had 'raised the whole status of women in public life'.

Back in Britain, Lady Galway resumed her former duties. She chaired the Mothercraft Training Society, the Consultative Committee of Women's Organisations and the women's committee (1924-25) of the British Empire Exhibition, Wembley, and served on the governing bodies of hospitals, schools and universities. She contributed an essay, in which she urged women to build on the advances they had made since 1914, to A Book of South Australia (Adelaide, 1936) and revisited Australia in 1937-38. Her son, twice wounded in World War I, was killed in action in Libya in 1941; her husband died in 1949. Lady Galway published a memoir, The Past Revisited (London, 1953). Survived by her daughter, she died on 29 June 1963 at St Merryn, Cornwall. Charity workers, educationists, nurses and England's Catholic intelligentsia attended her requiem Mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, London.

Select Bibliography

  • P. A. Howell, 'More Varieties of Vice-Regal Life', Journal of Historical Society of South Australia, 9, 1981, and for bibliography
  • Historical Forum, 13, no 3, Dec 1991, p 29
  • League of Loyal Women records, newsclippings book, vol 1294 (State Library of South Australia).

Citation details

P. A. Howell, 'Galway, Marie Carola (1876–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Lady Galway, by Sam Hood, 1938

Lady Galway, by Sam Hood, 1938

State Library of New South Wales, 30255

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • d'Erlanger, Marie Carola
  • Blennerhassett, Mary Charlotte

5 January, 1876
London, Middlesex, England


29 June, 1963 (aged 87)
St Merryn, Cornwall, England

Cultural Heritage

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Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.