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Into the Archives: Remembering Constance Mackenzie, a trailblazing woman who marched to the beat of her own drum and whose marriage in Tain took many by surprise

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Constance Mackenzie.
Constance Mackenzie.

Constance Mackenzie was the daughter of the late Earl of Cromarty and the niece of the Duke of Sutherland.

She was unusual for a woman of her time because she did not follow society’s expectations for the behaviour of a young lady. This is demonstrated in the ways she lived her life, such as her wearing of kilts and other clothes which were seen to be unsuitable for women.

She was also known to ride horses astride and she participated in shooting and other sports, including fencing, swimming, fishing and dancing. She was also able to play the bagpipes.

Constance won the Bath Club challenge shield for swimming three times and had competed in the presence of the King. She was described as being a ‘champion swimmer’ and a ‘capital shot’ who was ‘devoid of any sort of conventionality’ and ‘a law unto herself.’

As well as her unusual interests, Constance was very well travelled. She went on an expedition to Somaliland where she rode astride and wore men’s clothing until the authorities sent her back after travelling too far inland. From Somaliland she went to Bombay on a shooting expedition where she was a guest of Lord and Lady Curzon.

Constance married Sir Edward Austin Stewart Richardson, who was a Captain in the Black Watch, in April 1904. The wedding was unexpected, as it was thought by many of her friends that she was still engaged to another man. None of her family were in attendance, but Constance was given away by Duncan Davidson of Tulloch, who she asked to walk her down the aisle in a telegram the week before the wedding, which read: Am going to be married on Tuesday to Edward Stewart Richardson am very anxious you should give me away please do come and bring Mrs Davidson on Monday and stay over Tuesday if possible dancing Tuesday and Thursday night merry party, Constance Mackenzie.

Photograph of the wedding of Constance Mackenzie and Sir Edward Austin StewartRichardson.
Photograph of the wedding of Constance Mackenzie and Sir Edward Austin StewartRichardson.

Constance wanted a wedding that was ‘devoid of ostentation’ and there were no decorations or music during the ceremony. In-keeping with her wishes, no public mention of it was made until the day of the ceremony. In Tain, where the wedding took place, Constance was very popular among the locals and a crowd gathered outside St. Andrew’s Church before the ceremony.

The Highland Archive Centre is open by appointment; bookings can be made for Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. To make a booking or to enquire about remote archive or family history research please contact us, archives@highlifehighland.com tel: 01349 781130 or see our website for further details, https://www.highlifehighland.com/archives-service/covid-19-archive-updates/

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