Story by Mickey Boardman / Photography by Carla Guler / Styling by Hannah Teare
17 September 2019
The vivacious Manners sisters — Ladies Violet, Alice and Eliza — are bringing a modern attitude to Britain's aristocracy while also following in the footsteps of three similarly boundary-pushing forebears. We photographed them at their family home, Belvoir Castle, in our favorite fashion and Bulgari's most iconic jewels.
What is it about a trio of pretty, charming, aristocratic sisters that makes the media and the public at large become completely obsessed? The glamour. The history. The castles. The horses.
The latest set of fully irresistible siblings to fascinate us are the Ladies Violet, Alice and Eliza Manners, the daughters of the UK's 11th Duke of Rutland. Raised at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire (a little over two hours from London), the girls first made a splash five or six years ago while still in their teens when they started appearing in the party pages of Tatler and in the Daily Mail. They've been regulars on the pages of newspapers and global fashion glossies ever since.
Back when the sisters made their initial debut, a few of the more sensational media outlets painted them as boy-crazy party animals. "People thought I lived purely to party," Violet recalls. "Of course, I loved it probably as much as all the other 18-year-olds of my time. I still love the late nights, my fun with friends and dancing, but I think the misconception was that was solely my life." She continues, "I'm always up and ready to work. I'm always ready to go the next day, but I'm also willing and able to have fun."
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Alice adds, "I think when you see a title in front of someone's name, everyone makes a judgement. Even I will to a point. But ultimately, we're no different than any 24- or 25-year-old in London or LA."
And, to that end, the three sisters, like most 20-somethings today, are all focused on developing their careers.
Violet, the eldest, has just turned 26 and seems wise beyond her years. She skipped university and decided to go to work. "I was determined to go to London and make my own money and revel in my independence," she explains. She worked for British MP Zac Goldsmith on his 2015 re-election campaign and spent time at a London creative agency before setting up her own consultancy, LVM Creative Relations, which offers PR, marketing and events services. Early this year she moved to Los Angeles to take a General Business and Finance course at UCLA.
Alice, 24, has always had an interest in fashion, helping style her mother and sisters growing up. "I literally think back and I've dressed my mum for nearly every major event she's ever gone to," she says. "Even Violet and Eliza will come to me and say, 'I've got this party and it's this theme, what do I wear?'"
Alice completed the Vogue Fashion Foundation Diploma at Condé Nast College of Fashion and Design and later interned at magazines like British Vogue, Tatler and Condé Nast Traveler. She's also written a style column for the Sunday Telegraph.
Eliza, 22, just graduated from University of Newcastle with a degree in Business Management and is ready to embark on a career. "I am obsessed with interior design and I think that this is the direction that I want my career to go in," she says. "Growing up at Belvoir, we have had the privilege to be constantly surrounded by such beautiful pieces of art, furniture and history. My mum also has such a flair for decorating. I think that I have absorbed it all!"
The sisters are currently at work on a book about three of their great, great aunts, a trio of Manners sisters who also fascinated the public of their time. The Ladies Violet, Marjorie and Diana Manners, who came of age between the two World Wars, went on to become Lady Elcho, The Marchioness of Anglesey and Lady Diana Cooper, respectively.
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"They were phenomenally strong women," Violet explains. "They definitely broke the mold for their time. There's a long history of that in our family."
Alice continues, "We always knew that these three sisters, Violet, Marjorie and Diana, lived pretty insane lives. Living through two World Wars, having a lot of sadness, losing almost all of their friends and suitors in the first World War. We had this urge to explore how their lives in that era differ from our lives today."
Comparing their own lives to the lives of their ancestors is a fascinating exercise that shows how different life is for women now and yet how similar this current trio of Manners is to their forebears. The earlier sisters were modern and independent-thinking while still respectful of their rich family heritage, and the same can be said of the current batch.
Violet says, "Hopefully in uncovering our reflection on their story and drawing comparisons to our lives and, indeed, the lives of modern 21st century women, it might act as a peaceful reminder that the more things change, the more they can also in many ways stay the same at their core, and it could act as a roadmap for others to start their voyage of family history and discovery."
For three sisters bringing a fresh approach to what it means to be part of a family with such deep-rooted history, it only made sense to accessorize them with jewelry that similarly married tradition and modernity. Bulgari, a brand known equally for beautiful, heirloom pieces as well as contemporary, stylish gems, provided the perfect accompaniments with which to tell the Manners' story.