Rosamund Du Cane

The following article was put together using personal stories given by Rosamund’s family, as well as a eulogy given at her funeral:

Rosamund Ann Du Cane (nee Staniforth) was born in 1928 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the only child of John Hamilton Maxwell Staniforth (Better known as Max), and Ruby Di Stephens. At the time of her birth, Max was working for the Argentine Railway, but due to economic uncertainty, the family was forced to return to Europe. By 1931 the family were living in Fecamp, France, where Max worked for Radio Normandy. By 1933 Rosamund joined her father and could be heard broadcasting “Happy Turns” to “Thousands of little listeners”. By the end of that year the family returned to England.

During her school days Rosamund developed an interested in heraldry. She then began working for the College of Arms. Following her 16th birthday in 1944, she wrote to the college and joined the staff in July 1946 following secretarial training.

Rosamund wrote the following in her diary:

“I have now been working at the College of Arms for two weeks… Two weeks is not a long time, but it is long enough for me to know that any other work I may take up will seem unutterably dull”

Rosamund also enjoyed her holidays, in August 1948 she went on a cycling holiday around the New Forest. She wrote the following entry regarding this trip:

“After tea we took a rather calamitous short cut, - you’d never believe where we got those bikes. Over hedges & gates, thro’ bogs & dikes, across ploughed fields & finally on to the beach. Here we bathed in difficulty. We went on to Boldre then & had a glass of cider at an old pub called the Fleur de Lys”. She did not know it then, but Boldre would soon become her home for the next sixty years.

Rosamund would meet her future husband two years later. When visiting her friend Barbara in a mansion block in Maida Vale, a plumbing issue resulted in water flooding into the flat below. The occupant of the flat, Tony Du Cane paid them a visit, from this moment on a courtship ensued, and the couple were engaged in May 1951. They married in Bexhill-On-Sea that July.

Rosamund left her job at the College of Arms following her marriage, however she returned following the death of King George VI to work on his funeral ceremony, she then stayed on to assist in the arrangements for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. Due to her work, she attended the Queen’s Coronation, Tony Du Cane also attended as a Gold Staff Officer, however, as her son Leslie Du Cane notes, she was given a chair, but Tony only a stool!

When Rosamund married Tony, the connection with Forest Cottage that would last for 63 years was formed. They couple had no honeymoon, as this was spent working on the garden. In this home they would have three children, Leslie Du Cane, Louise Du Cane and Jane Du Cane. This home would go onto to become the site of Louise and Jane’s marriage, as well as Tony’s death, and the home of Rosamund until 2014.

Tony was noted for his skill of making and maintaining friends and relatives, and Rosamund gave them a warm welcome, this resulted in many visitors regarding Forest Cottage as a second home. Rosamund was an excellent cook, and catered for many dinner parties and was unfazed by unexpected guests. Rosamund was also very passionate about flowers, and loved spending time in her garden. She was known to have an encyclopedic knowledge of wildflowers, and would also paint them. Agriculture was also a passion, she grew vegetables and kept livestock such as hens, ducks, geese, pigs, ponies as well as her dogs and cats.

John Smith with the restored grave Rosamund paid for.

Rosamund is best known amongst her distant family members for her book Sicklesmiths & Spear Carriers. During her husband’s final years, she was limited in her travel, and knowing the Du Cane family was well researched, she decided to research her own Staniforth family. Tony Du Cane died in 1996, and following this Rosamund continued her research which resulted in her finishing her book. Leslie Du Cane notes that his mother always had a way with words, in 1940 at the age of 12, she produced a 30 page adventure story, in 1950 a 30,000 word novel titled Pashley Summer. She also wrote stories, poems and plays for her children and grandchildren.

When contacting her family regarding this article, a remarkable story was told to me by her Son-In-Law Glenn. When researching the Staniforth family, she came across two dilapidated and vandalized Staniforth tombs in Beighton Churchyard. These were the tombs of Thomas Staniforth II (died 1808), along with wife Sarah and their children.

The second grave stood only a few feet away, and although in better condition, the side had fallen away. This tomb was the grave of Thomas Staniforth III and his wife Ann, along with their children.

Following the completion of her book, in 2005 she contacted John Smith, a retired builder of West Street, Beighton. John was the son of Evelyn Staniforth and Charles Smith of Beighton. Rosamund asked John for a quote to repair the tombs, he quoted her £2053.78 and she accepted. John and his team completed the restoration work by September 2005. The attached photos were sent by son-in-law Glenn, and serve to illustrate the passion Rosamund had for preserving family history. John Smith has since passed away in 2017.

Following her husband’s death, she decided that after devoting 45 years to her family she would take the opportunity to travel the world. Accompanied by her cousins, Jane and Eric, she visited the Falkland Islands, Australia, Istanbul, Canada and the Baltics.

Rosamund Du Cane with the Pagdins, Jane Stubbs and T.L Platts outside Greenside House, Hackenthorpe in October 1997

Rosamund was also noted for her involvement in the local community, at age 74 she attended a protest in support of the Countryside Alliance, as well as working in the Save the Children shop in Lymington, here she got to meet the charity’s patron, the Princess Royal, something that thrilled Rosamund as she was a staunch royalist.

Although during her final years she faced many challenges, her qualities shined through.

In 1946, she described a colleague in the following entry:

“is the one who keeps the whole office together, so far as I can see. She is a charming person, with that rare gift of putting people entirely at their ease at once. Nobody could have been at more pains to help & explain things to me when I first arrived, nobody more patient in ‘picking up the pieces’ when I made mistakes. Her own capacity for work is incredible.”

Rosamund passed away on September 28th, 2017 in the care of the staff of Gracewell of Sway. She will always be remembered for her dedication and passion for family history, especially her research on the Staniforth family which culminated in her book, Sicklesmiths and Spear Carriers, a title she chose as she felt the members of her family were often ‘spear carriers’ in the sense that they were minor characters in life’s drama, often observing the action, she added however “their lives are not without interest… the emotions they feel are the same emotions we feel.. it can do no harm for us to learn a little of their world”.

In conclusion I must thank Rosemond’s family, especially her son Leslie and his wife Allison, and Rosemund’s brother-in-law Glen and his wife Louise for providing information on her life.