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Ballina and its royal roots

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — Mayo is laying claim to another princess. With the Kelly roots of the late Princess Grace firmly established near Newport, Ballina, Co. Mayo, is discovering strong ancestral connections with Sophie Rhys-Jones, who will marry Prince Edward this summer.

Princess Grace made several visits to Mayo and bought the ancestral farm from where her grandfather John Bernard Kelly immigrated to America.

Since her death in a car crash 16 years ago, the ruined cottage and surrounding 35 acres is now owned by her three children, Prince Albert and the Princesses Stephanie and Caroline.

Now it has been revealed that the Oxford-born Sophie’s great-grandparents were the former owners of Rossport House near Ballina.

According to genealogical detective work by the local paper, her great-grandfather George Smith Bournes moved to England in the 1880s and that she still has many cousins in the county.

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Bournes’s family home became a Gaeltacht school for a period, when it was known as Colaiste Choimain, but it is now vacant.

The couple announced last week that they plan to have a family wedding in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, on June 19.

The Mayo cousins may be a bit distant to get onto the 500-strong guest list for the ceremony or the extra 500 being invited to the buffet later. The wedding is likely to see the largest royal get-together since the queen and Prince Philip’s golden wedding anniversary in 1997.

It is not yet clear if Sophie, who’s 33, will be made a princess after she weds Edward, 34, the last of the queen’s children to marry.

The Five Nations rugby match between Wales and Ireland on Feb. 20 is expected to be the first public appearance together by the couple since their engagement was announced.

Prince Edward is a keen rugby follower and has attended matches at Lansdowne Road.

Sophie is a public relations consultant and the prince runs his own television production company.

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