A tribute from John Corless OBE, Chairman of Phab, given at the memorial service for Princess George Galitzine at St Peter’s Church, Eaton Square, London on Monday 23rd January:
I am greatly honoured to have been asked to say a few words of tribute in memory of Princess George who was gracious, generous and joyful. She will be remembered for her incredible work and tireless devotion to the charities which she supported with such enthusiasm and vitality.
As Chairman of Phab I am privileged to have known the Princess (Jean) for over 40 years, but she was involved with our Charity 20 years before that, right at the very beginning.
It started with what was then known as the National Association of Youth Clubs. When Jean was making the film “Wonderful Things” in Gibraltar with Frankie Vaughan, Frankie used to disappear every night. She asked him where he was going and he suggested she came too. He took her to a Youth Club on the outskirts of the city, where young boys and girls – mainly teenagers – were dancing and listening to music; some of the boys were boxing; it was all great fun and she enjoyed herself enormously.
Frankie suggested that Jean became involved and when she returned to England, she did so, remaining involved for 60 years; organising fashion shows for young dressmakers, dancing competitions (long before ‘Strictly’ became famous) and finally, helping to get First Gear off the ground – a project for young people to learn safe driving skills.
As a Vice President, the Princess played an integral role in developing NAYC to what is now UK Youth, helping them to reach over eight hundred thousand people every year and she had a strong and long standing relationship with their Patron, Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, and their President, Nigel Mansell.
The charity Phab evolved from the heartfelt plea of a young man at a weekend conference organised by NAYC. He was a wheelchair user who asked for opportunity not pity – the opportunity to be able to access all the exciting and social activities which his non-disabled friends took so much for granted.
This marked the beginning of a new branch of projects and clubs named P-H-A-B which stood for Physically Handicapped and Able Bodied.
The Princess became a Vice President of this new organisation which was to become the national charity Phab, this year celebrating 60 years, and she has supported our many fundraising events and activities throughout these years with grace, charm and abundant enthusiasm.
Whenever Jean gave her time to events, which she did frequently, she gave her all. She always looked fantastic and spoke to everyone, immediately putting them at ease; although she hated public speaking she always managed to say the right thing with confidence and aplomb.
Another organisation close to the Princess’s heart was The Terence Rattigan Society. Launched in his centenary year – 2011 – Jean was invited to become its inaugural President. As the famous Dior model, Jean Dawnay, she became a great friend of the late Sir Terence Rattigan. He too lived in Eaton Square and Jean became his muse for a character in his play ‘Separate Tables’ – a top model living in Belgravia. Jean also acted as Sir Terence’s hostess at his glittering parties, greeting Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller and a host of stars of stage and screen. Terence Rattigan loved Jean and the feeling was mutual.
For five years her presence graced most of their events and she supported the Society’s initiatives. She was even the star on two occasions – ‘An Evening on Terence Rattigan with Princess Galitzine’ at the V & A and a similar event at the English-Speaking Union. She was a committed, gracious and well-loved President and I know that The Terence Rattigan Society is deeply grateful.
Following the death of her husband Prince George in 1992, Jean and Katya decided to honour his memory by setting up a charitable trust in his name. This lead to the idea of creating a library, the theme of which would be Rossica of the 20th century, (books about Russia published abroad in Russian and in English).
This theme was determined not only by the late Prince’s personal interest, but also by a desire to make books, which until very recently had not been easily accessible in Soviet Russia, available to the people of St Petersburg and to preserve Russian history, filling the gap created by years of Soviet rule. The Library was Jean’s biggest project – one that she began at the tender age of 70! She gave all her energy to it and managed to establish an endowment fund from her tireless fund-raising.
The Prince George Galitzine Memorial Library was founded in October 1994, in St Petersburg in a building which was the former family home of Prince George’s mother. Now the light and airy room within this mansion houses over three thousand volumes on the ‘Rossica’ theme and has become a cultural centre with over four thousand visitors a year; hosting events such as lectures, book presentations, concerts, exhibitions and seminars all open to everyone and free of charge. Funding is organised from London, and The Galitzine-St Petersburg Trust organises an exclusive annual event to raise the necessary funding to finance the Library into the foreseeable future.
The goal of the Library, as conceived by its founders, is “to educate, enlighten and inspire”. This is a most wonderful legacy which will be enjoyed by future generations from all over the world.
My own personal memories of the Princess are of her grace and charm. She was always positive, supportive and encouraging and was of great influence to me. I loved her dearly and her spirit and many wonderful memories will remain with me forever. I will miss her greatly.