Fashion model Jean Dawnay was Christian Dior’s “English Rose” of the 1950s. From her tragic childhood to becoming a real life princess, Jean’s extraordinary story will be told in Mayfair by her daughter.
Words by Sian Clare
One of the world’s first “super models”, Jean Dawnay worked for leading fashion houses such as Christian Dior and Vogue.
Her face was snapped by the most famous photographers of the day from Anthony Snowdon to Cecil Beaton.
Then, aged 38, she became a real life princess when she married Prince George Galitzine.
Now her daughter Princess Katya Galitzine will give a celebratory talk about her mother’s Dior years, the infamous British fashion shows and her fondness for Christian Dior himself.
The Princess will be speaking at the English-Speaking Union’s headquarters in Mayfair on March 17, followed by a Champagne lunch. Tickets cost £90.
Jean’s early life was overshadowed by sadness after her mother died when she was just 4-years-old.
With her father unable to care for her, Jean was fostered.
Aged 17, when the Second World War started, she lied about her age to get into the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.
Then, after a spell in a parachute factory, she worked for the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry in a women’s espionage unit.
Later, she worked at Bletchley Park with the famous codebreaker Leo Marks. He described her as one of his “very best”.
Model and actress
After the war, Jean worked hard to become a model.
She later exploded some of the glamorous myths about the profession in her book Model Girl.
But the hard work paid off when she became one of the first “super models”. She mixed with the rich and famous from Grace Kelly to Marilyn Monroe.
In the famous photograph (pictured top), she wears a white mink, a stunning Norman Hartnell dress and toasts the viewer with a glass of champagne.
Jean also had a long friendship with the dramatist Terence Rattigan, who for many years lived across Eaton Square from her .
After her modelling career was over, Jean moved into acting. At one point she was a panellist on the TV series What’s My Line?
Love at first sight
Then, in 1961, after many years of the single life, she met Prince George Galitzine.
A member of one of the most noble families of Imperial Russia, his family ended up in England after escaping the Russian revolution.
Jean danced the twist with the handsome prince, and it was said to be love at first sight.
They married in Rome in 1963, and their daughter Princess Catherine “Katya” Galitzine was born in 1964.
In later life, Jean dedicated her time to charitable work, and was awarded an MBE for her work with Youth UK.
Now her daughter Princess Katya will be helping raise funds for the English-Speaking Union when she speaks at their Mayfair headquarters in Charles Street.
The ESU’s mission is to give young people the speaking and listening skills and cultural understanding they need to thrive.
Tickets, which cost £90, are available from the ESU’s website: www.esu.org/event/springlunch/