Top News

STEVE BARTLETT: Newfoundland-born woman is member of Royal Family


Sylvana Tomaselli.

Not exactly a household name for the people reading this.

She’s likely the only Royal with a Newfoundland town on her birth certificate.

And that’s noteworthy given the recent royal wedding of Harry and Meghan.

She was born in Placentia in 1958.

In Royal circles, she is officially known as Countess of St. Andrews.

In academia, as a historian at the University of Cambridge, she goes by Dr. Sylvana Tomaselli.

Her husband is George Philip Nicholas Windsor, the Earl of St. Andrews, the great-grandson of King George, and Queen Elizabeth’s first cousin, (once removed).

Interesting factoids: Princess Diana was Tomaselli’s son’s godmother, and her youngest daughter, Lady Amelia Windsor, is 37th in line for the throne.

“She is one of the least-known members of the Royal Family,” Rafe Heydel-Mankoo, a Royal historian and commentator, once told me when asked about the Countess of St. Andrews.

She has been on my journalistic radar since 2011, after her name and birthplace appeared in a Google search during a story hunt.

The Royal Family was never my cup of coffee, but it was fascinating to discover someone whose journey has taken them from learning to walk on train tracks in Placentia to standing (as depicted) on the balcony at Buckingham Palace with Prince Charles, William and Henry and other Royals.

The Countess of St. Andrews has since been the subject of multiple stories.

Most memorable is one told six years ago, after she and her husband returned to Newfoundland for the first time since her childhood. (Her father was an Italian contractor working on the U.S. naval base in nearby Argentia. The family left the island when she was a young girl.)

Her return in the fall of 2012 was as a special guest as Placentia celebrated its 350th anniversary.

In an interview at that time, she said she lives like anyone else who teaches at a university.

“We definitely do not live in a castle,” she told me.

The Countess and Earl of St. Andrews also stay out of the limelight, and don’t face the same paparazzi pressures as other Royals.

“We’re lucky in that respect,” the Earl of St. Andrews said.

That’s changed for at least one member of their family since that interview.

Their daughter, Lady Amelia Windsor, now makes regular headlines in the U.K, with some papers dubbing her “The Most Beautiful Royal.”

And reports that the 22-year-old model and Instagram star wasn’t invited to Saturday’s Royal Wedding caused a stir.

“Perhaps Harry just wanted to keep the family invited to a small number or maybe he didn’t want anyone upstaging the bride,” The Sun newspaper quoted a source as speculating.

The Countess of St. Andrews seems to live a much simpler life than does her daughter or other Royals.

However, she and her husband — who is in line to become the Duke of Kent — do participate in special Royal events and occasions. (If he becomes Duke of Kent, he may carry on his father’s long-standing tradition of presenting the championship trophies at Wimbledon.)

It’s quite possible the Countess of St. Andrews was in the pews at St. George’s Chapel when Harry and Meghan exchanged vows on Saturday.

We can’t be sure though, as she politely declined an interview.

“Thank you for your email,” she wrote. “It is very nice to hear from you again. Unfortunately, I am unable to help with your request, but hope all is well with you and the paper.”

It wasn’t an unexpected reply, as all eyes were scrutinizing the Royal Family and wedding plans in the days leading up to the nuptials. (Think Meghan Markle’s dad.)

That fishbowl is undoubtedly a world far away from quiet train tracks — now long since silent — in rural Newfoundland.

But it’s a journey that still fascinates.

Steve Bartlett is an editor with SaltWire Network. Reach him via email at steve.bartlett@thetelegram.com.

* This column has been corrected.

Recent Stories