Baron who married Australian socialite friend of Prince Charles


As a boy, Anthony was a Page of Honour to the Queen. He was born to be a courtier. But his discretion, quiet charm and loyalty made him a steady royal friend. The press hounds used to refer to him as a sporting friend of the Prince’s; but the Prince also relied on him for investment advice.

The Tryons, believed to have been of Dutch origin, were seated at Bulwick, Northamptonshire, from the reign of James I. Among Anthony’s ancestors was Vice Admiral Sir George Tryon, born at Bulwick Park in 1832, who had been commander of the fleet’s Australia station in 1884. On June 22,  1893, the Mediterranean fleet, which he then commanded, was on exercises when Tryon’s flagship, HMS Victoria, sank following an odd order from him that brought it in collision with the flagship of his second in command. Sir George went down with his ship, his last reported words being “It is all my fault”.

By 1910, the Vice Admiral’s son, also George, Anthony’s grandfather, had become MP for Brighton and was later minister of pensions and Postmaster General. In 1940, he was ennobled as Baron Tryon, of Durnford, Wiltshire. The family seat became Great Durnford, a 40-hectare estate in the Woodford valley near Salisbury with a nine-bedroom, 18th-century manor house, with superb shooting and almost four kilometres of fishing on the Avon.

Anthony’s mother, Etheldreda, daughter of Sir Merrik Burrell 7th Baronet, was a great character. She described her childhood as “reading Moliere in the mornings, racing in the afternoons, and hunting three days a week”. In 1942 she set up a prep school at home as a means of “keeping the roof on” the manor. It was a girls’ school but Anthony began his education there – with some other young boys to keep him company. His beloved younger sister, Patricia was educated there until she was 12.

He trod the traditional, dutiful path of most young scions. After Eton, he jackerooed in Australia for 18 months. He became a captain in the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry. He later worked for Lazard’s in Melbourne but it was not until 1972 when he was back in London with the bank that he met Dale Harper, the daughter of a prosperous Australian businessman. She had come to London in 1969, working for the Australian Women’s Weekly.

With her big bouffant, huge smile, high spirits and boundless self-confidence, sporting polka dots, brilliant crimsons and canary yellows, she made quite an impression, leaving the more distant, self-contained debs in the shade.

Australian-born Lady Dale Tryon, with Prince Charles, 1991.

Australian-born Lady Dale Tryon, with Prince Charles, 1991. Credit:AP

In 1972, on the eve of Dale’s return to Australia for Christmas, Anthony proposed. He then flew to Melbourne to seek her father’s permission. They married in April 1973 in The Chapel Royal in St James’ Palace, with royal permission. (Interestingly, a few months later, Anthony’s sister, Patricia, wed the distinguished Victorian publisher, Ranald Macdonald, and made her life in Australia.) Princess Margaret lent her house on Mustique for the honeymoon.

The Tryons made a striking couple, but were one of contrasts: he taciturn and reserved, she voluble and ebullient; he reflective, she impulsive; he the soul of discretion, she the life of the party.

In 1976, on the death of his father, Anthony became 3rd Baron Tryon. They called each other Ant and Kanga, which to the delight of Dale, the Prince of Wales also took up.

In 1966 in Melbourne at a school dance, Dale had met the Prince of Wales, then an 18-year-old pupil of Geelong Grammar School. But the friendship flourished through marriage to Anthony. The Prince became godfather to their son and heir, Charles (his grandfather the 2nd Baron’s Christian name), and would join them at the Tryons’ fishing lodge in Iceland and call on the family in Knightsbridge and at Ogbury House on the Great Durnford estate, en route to Highgrove.

Dale was soon a leader of the so-called Glossy Posse. Her entry to the Prince of Wales’ set seemed so effortless. In fact she worked hard at establishing herself; she told the Weekly in 1977 that over 100 weekends, she had hosted 90 house parties. She was in awe of no one – she was Australian after all – and the Prince may well have found this attractive. As Tina Brown put it, the Prince “loved her breezy, colonial frankness”. For his part, the Prince is quoted as saying of Lady Tryon, who may well have been the source of this oft-repeated compliment, that she “was the only woman who understands me”.

Princess Diana gives Lady Dale 'Kanga' Tryon, a farewell kiss after lunch to prove there was no rift with the Australian who was once a confidante of Prince Charles, 1986.

Princess Diana gives Lady Dale ‘Kanga’ Tryon, a farewell kiss after lunch to prove there was no rift with the Australian who was once a confidante of Prince Charles, 1986.Credit:London Express Service

Tina Brown, Penny Junor, Andrew Morton and some sections of the press believed that Kanga and the Prince had been lovers. The tabloids mocked that Lord Tryon had laid down his wife for his country; but this is unfair – even if there had been an affair, there is no evidence that Lord Tryon was complicit in it. He consistently responded to these slights with dignified silence.

His responsibilities in Wiltshire became increasingly important, but he pursued a career in the City. In 1976, Anthony became a director of asset management firm Lazard’s and remained until 1983. He was chairman of English & Scottish Investors Ltd from 1977 until 1988 and from 1991 until 1993 he was with Swaine Adeney Briggs.

In 1983, with her husband’s support, Dale channelled some of her formidable energy and acumen into fashion, as the British agent for Diane Freis, who had created lightweight wrap-around dresses in vivid colours, which, like Dale, were also uncrushable. She made her own version and savvily marketed them – and her shop in Beauchamp Place that sold them – under her princely moniker, Kanga. It was practically a royal warrant. She even convinced Diana to don one of her dresses for the Live Aid Concert in July 1985.

In 1990, thanks in part to Dale’s business success, Great Durnford Manor once again became the family seat. She also devoted her energy to charity. She raised money for the Royal Marsden Hospital and chaired SANE, a mental health charity.

Plagued by illness all her life – as a child, she had suffered from Perthes disease. Somehow she won those early battles. In 1993 she was diagnosed with uterine cancer and after treatment in 1996 she checked herself into Farm Place in Surrey, to cure her addiction to painkillers. Weeks later, she plunged, inexplicably, nearly eight metres from a window. She lost the use of her legs and soon lost her mind. This became startlingly clear in a desperately sad scene where Dale – clearly unwell, unhappy, and unhinged – was seen pursuing Prince Charles at a polo match in her wheelchair.

In June 1997 Anthony had to have his wife sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Life at Great Durnford became impossible and the children pleaded with their distraught father to seek a divorce.

Dale Tryon died in November 1997 before the decree absolute. Anthony joined all four children at her bedside. Their younger daughter said he never stopped loving her.

This tragedy brought the family closer. Both sons married and Anthony’s heir, Charles, and his wife had two daughters and a son, Guy, now heir to the title. Anthony’s mother, the indomitable Dreda, died in 2002, aged 92. By 2004, Anthony was living in Scotland at Fordie, a fine shooting estate in Perthshire.

Apart from his support to his wife in her charities, he played his own part in public affairs. He was made a Deputy Lieutenant of Wiltshire in 1992. In 1985 he became president of the Anglers Conservation Association and chairman of the Salisbury Cathedral Spire Trust. In 2001, he was honoured with an OBE for his work with the Cathedral Trust.

He had returned to live in Wiltshire, and it was here, surrounded by his four children, Zoe, Charles (now the 4th Baron), Victoria and Edward, and his loyal dog Fordie, that he died. He never remarried and remained true to the family motto: “Do Right and Fear Not”.

Mark McGinness

Lord Tryon: May 26, 1940 – December 22, 2018

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