Described by some as the most famous page in publishing, the Country Life Frontispiece known affectionately as the ‘Girl in Pearls’ has launched the editorial section of the magazine ever since its first issue on January 8, 1897. Today’s issue has a special portrait: Eliza Lawson is the third generation of her family to be a Frontispiece, following her grandmother, mother and aunt.

Pamela Elizabeth Rowcliffe appeared on September 20, 1956, on the occasion of her engagement to Capt the Hon Francis Storer Eaton Newall, their daughter in November 1985 and daughter-in-law in November 1998.

Typically, the portraits reflect the time in which they were photographed, and, in the 1980s, it wasn’t unusual for an engaged couple to appear together: the Hon Miranda Jane Newall is sitting beside Eliza’s father, Timothy Lawson. Eliza admits to feeling a certain amount of pressure from her family to appear the suggestion came from her grandfather. ‘It’s a real honour and represents not only a continuing family tradition, but something very special about this time in my life,’ she says.

Over 115 years, the Frontispiece has become a matchless pictorial social history. As the status of Country Life woman changed, we began to divulge more about their lives: their ages, schools, universities, engagements and careers-many now run their own businesses or were photographed to honour achievements in sport, travel or fundraising.

Lady Newall, Eliza’s grandmother, speaks fondly of having her photograph taken when she came out and published days before her marriage: ‘It’s really lovely that generations of the same family-years apart-can appear on the same page, marking similar stages in their lives.’

The Frontispiece Survey

In a survey of Girls in Pearls to celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, we discovered that

1897-1902
12 British royal appearances
10% of girls held the title Miss
45% were married
13% of pictures included children
The first subject, on January 8, 1897, was a man: the Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire
Little information was given-usually just the name

1952-57
14 British royal appearances
(five were The Queen)
68% were Miss
10% were married
3% featured children
7% were from Scotland and 7% from London

2007-2011
2 British royal appearances
95% were Miss
2% were married
No children appeared
10% were from London and 9% were from Gloucestershire
15% were photographed with their animals
12% were noted as having been to university
Where a girl gave her school, 28% had gone to Downe House, 27% to Tudor Hall, 24% to Cheltenham Ladies’ College,
14% to Marlborough and 7% to Wycombe Abbey
 

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