Mary, the wife of the 11th Duke of Bedford, became known in the press as ‘The Flying Duchess’ when she learned how to fly a plane in the late 1920s. She was already in her sixties when she took up her new hobby but she soon became an expert aviator and the media of the times delighted in her exploits, which included record-breaking flights from the UK to India and to South Africa.
Like the better-known female flyers Amelia Earhart and Amy Johnson, the duchess lost her life because of her love of flying. In 1937, at the age of 71, she left Woburn Abbey aboard a De Havilland Gipsy Moth for a flight over eastern England but she and her plane disappeared. It is assumed that she flew further than she intended, ran out of fuel and came down in the North Sea.
Answered by: Nick Rennison