On this Victoria Day, we thought to celebrate one of our connections to the Queen.
Family tradition tells us that Lady Alice Tilley wore this dress when presented to Queen Victoria on the Isle of Wight. Newfound notes indicate this meeting took place in July 1884 through the efforts of Princess Louise, Marchioness of Lorne, who had been the wife of the recent Governor General, the Marquess of Lorne. Princess Louise and Lady Alice became friends while their husbands served in Ottawa in the late 1870s and early 1880s. The dress was made in the 1880s by Russell & Allen, Bond Street, London. Russell & Allen were well known royal court couturiers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The dress is a pale green silk ball gown that fits the prevailing style of the time with a moderate bustle, elaborate draping of varying fabrics, ecru lace accents and a ruffled lace train. The heavy velvet brocade of the skirt front with its rose decoration is a very expensive material, illustrating the wealth and social position of Lady Alice.
Lady Alice Tilley was the second wife of Sir Leonard Tilley. Alice Starr Chipman was born 10 December 1845 at St. Stephen, the eldest daughter of Zachariah Chipman, a ship owner and merchant, and his wife Mary Eliza DeWolfe. On 20 October 1867 Alice married Samuel Leonard Tilley. By that time Tilley had solidified his place in history as a Father of Confederation and prominent politician. Tilley would go on to serve in several federal cabinent posts and was twice appointed Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick. Tilley was knighted in 1879, conferring the honourary title of Lady on his wife, Alice.
A generation younger than her husband and not content to be the typical politician’s wife of the 19th century, Lady Alice Tilley involved herself in a variety of social causes to improve lives for those less fortunate than herself. The Victoria Hospital in Fredericton was built with her patronage, along with nurses homes, reformatories and schools for wayward boys and a seaman’s mission. She was also active in the Red Cross during the Boer War and World War I.
Lady Alice had two children with Sir Leonard: Herbert and Leonard Percy DeWolfe. After Sir Leonard Tilley’s death in 1896, Lady Tilley continued to reside in their elegant mansion on Germain Street, Saint John, and summering at her cottage in St. Andrews. Lady Tilley died 25 May 1921 at the age of 76.