Prunella Stack, Lady David Douglas-Hamilton

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Ann Prunella Douglas-Hamilton (Stack)

Birthdate: (96)
Birthplace: India
Death: December 30, 2010 (96)
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Captain Edward Hugh Bagot Stack and Mary M Stack
Wife of Lord David Douglas-Hamilton; Alfred Gustave Albers and Brian St Quentin Power
Mother of <private> Douglas-Hamilton and <private> Douglas-Hamilton

Occupation: Leader of the "Women’s League of Health and Beauty" (later the "Fitness League"), "Britain's Perfect Girl", Womens League of Health & Beauty
Managed by: Michael Lawrence Rhodes
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Prunella Stack, Lady David Douglas-Hamilton

From Darryl Lundy's Peerage Page:

Ann Prunella Stack[1]

  • F, #110164

Last Edited=1 Feb 2003

Ann Prunella Stack is the daughter of Captain Edward Hugh Bagot Stack.[1]

She married, firstly, S/Ldr. Lord David Douglas-Hamilton, son of Alfred Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, 13th Duke of Hamilton and Nina Mary Benita Poore, on 15 October 1938.[1]

She married, secondly, Alfred Gustave Albers, son of N. W. Albers, on 22 July 1950.[1]

She married, thirdly, Brian St. Quentin Power, son of Stephen St. Quentin Power, on 15 May 1964.[1]

From 15 October 1938, her married name became Douglas-Hamilton.

From 22 July 1950, her married name became Albers.

From 15 May 1964, her married name became Power.

(Ben M. Angel notes: According to her obituaries in various newspapers following her death at the end of 2010, she apparently again took her maiden name at the end of her third husband's life.)

She was invested as a Officer, Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) in 1980.[1]

She lived in 1999 at 14 Gertrude Street, London, England.[1]

Children of Ann Prunella Stack and S/Ldr. Lord David Douglas-Hamilton

  • 1. Diarmaid Hugh Douglas-Hamilton[1] b. 17 Jun 1940
  • 2. Iain Douglas-Hamilton+[1] b. 16 Aug 1942


1. [S8] Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 106th edition, 2 volumes (Crans, Switzerland: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 1999), volume 1, page 1286. Hereinafter cited as Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 106th edition.

Obituaries of Lady Prunella Stack are located at:

From Anne Mackintosh(Jan 2011):

It's hard to realize what a star she was, and in those society-figure hero-worshipping days, what an event her wedding to Uncle David was. David SS has a short newsclip of them coming out of the cathedral, to enormous cheering crowds waiting in the street.

I was struck by how wonderfully unself-conscious she always was, both in early middle age (she was in her 40s when I first met her) and her charming and dignified old age, with the most wonderful smile. The most recent time she came to stay here at Ivy Lea was in 2004 when she was 92, very adventurous. At one point, she had to call me to help her out of the bath-tub. The person who had been known internationally as "the perfect girl" was now wrinkled and deformed by old age, but she lifted up her arms to be helped with a wonderful natural dignity and without a trace of embarassment or apology. There is an interesting quote from her in the obit in The Hindu: "Cut out feelings of shyness or self-consciousness. They are selfish, fundamentally, and unnecessary." I suppose it's easier to say that when you are beautiful and capable, but still I think it helped her accomplish what she did.

From Douglas Mackintosh (Jan 2011):

My comments are different as I knew her longer and in different contexts starting in my memory in 1935 or 1936. At that time I hated what Prunella did, getting all the females in the family and female cousins on the lawn at Fern flapping their arms about and making body movements like Yoga slow motion. Sheena and Vora loved it which irritated me more. However, Prunella was always a huge hit with me and if I had articulated my feelings it wouldhave been to say, that's what a woman should be like. After uncle David and Prunella's huge wedding we were stayed at Dungavel in 1938 & 39 and they were there. He at once became a sort of surrogate fater with an ideal wife - and we tromped over the heather together to various places such as Loudon Hill to see where the Black Douglas had been in battle. Then there was a lull as we came to Canada.

When I returned Prunella and uncle David were in a cottage on the grounds at Fern where I was staying on return from canada. Every day I was over there and I became very close to them both. Uncle David started me learning to play the chanter or else was singing Gaelic songs, notably the Mist covered mountains with tears running down their cheeks. I knew they were a perfect couple.

Her grief when uncle David was killed after surviving 6 months in Malta was devastating and it was one of the low spots in my life - she stayed with his casket in a little daffodil copse at Fern for days and the sadness pervaded all around her.

When she came to Canada around 1957, she met the Philosophy Professor from McGill, Tommy Henderson. I was in on the conversation and both Tommy and I were amazed at the depth of her understanding of the major Western Philosophers. It complemented other observations her being the perfect woman.

In my mind she remains not at all spoiled by her huge charm and beauty and was able to put her mind to many other things and to make a huge difference to hundreds of thousands of others.

Take a look at the obituaries - an amazing woman.

Obituary From the Daily Telegraph

Prunella Stack

Prunella Stack, who has died aged 96, was head of the Women’s League of Health and Beauty in the 1930s, when she was known as Britain’s “Perfect Girl”; she took over the League in 1934, at the age of only 20, after the death of her mother, Mary Bagot Stack, who had founded the organisation four years earlier. Prunella Stack

Image 1 of 4 Prunella Stack as head of the Women?s League of Health and Beauty leading a display with pupils at Liverpool Photo: GETTY Prunella Stack

Image 1 of 4 Prunella Stack Prunella Stack

Image 1 of 4 Prunella Stack at her marriage to Lord David Douglas-Hamilton in 1938 Prunella Stack

Image 1 of 4 Prunella Stack at her house in Chelsea in 1997 Photo: ANDREW CROWLEY 5:45PM GMT 31 Dec 2010


The League was part of a wider development that had started in the early 1900s, as a result of which women throughout Europe threw away their corsets and embraced new theories about physical fitness and freedom of movement.

Teachers such as Mrs Josef Conn in Paris and Madame Osterburg in Sweden became dedicated advocates of the physical and emotional benefits of exercise. They believed that deep breathing, strengthening abdominal and pelvic muscles, and exercising for posture and suppleness would help women suffering from ailments as varied as asthma and curvature of the spine, as well as helping them to prepare for childbirth.

Mrs Bagot Stack’s League afforded a generation of women whose fathers, brothers and husbands had been killed in the First World War the opportunity to exercise together in classes of varying levels of difficulty. It was among the precursors of the modern craze for dance, yoga and Pilates.

The League cut across class barriers and, at a cost of half a crown to join (and 3/6 for a badge), proved both popular and affordable. It adopted a uniform of a white sleeveless top and black satin shorts that were to grow smaller over the decades. Members performed their exercise routines en masse, taking inspiration from the tableaux vivants held to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and the vast Sokol movement in Czechoslovakia, which saw thousands of people exercising together in perfect formations.

In 1931, the year after the League was formed, 500 members put on a display of exercises to music in the Royal Albert Hall; five years later 5,000 women performed at Olympia. From the age of 13, Prunella Stack, with her long legs and incandescent smile, was her mother’s favourite model, and the embodiment of the League’s durable motto, “Movement is Life”.

After four years at the helm, Prunella Stack had multiplied the League’s membership fivefold to 166,000 women in Britain alone. Within a short time, there were offshoots of the movement in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Hong Kong.

By 1938, when she married Lord David Douglas-Hamilton, the youngest son of the 13th Duke of Hamilton, before a congregation of 1,500 in Glasgow Cathedral, Prunella Stack had become one of the most famous young women in the country. The Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, invited her to join the newly created National Fitness Council. The popular press dubbed her Britain’s “Perfect Girl”.

Ann Prunella Stack was born in India on July 28 1914. Her father was a Gurkha officer who sailed for France with his battalion of Nepalese hillmen just days after the outbreak of the First World War. By the time Prunella and her mother docked at Plymouth three months later, he was dead. Nine of the battalion’s 11 officers had been killed or wounded in a single morning.

Mrs Bagot Stack had long been interested in exercise, and a trip to the Himalayas opened her eyes to the better posture of Indian women and the benefits of yoga. In London she started an exercise class for children and another for women. Soon she opened her own Bagot Stack Health School (with the cable address “Bodybuild, London”), enrolling Prunella, who graduated as a qualified teacher when she was just 16, the year the League was launched.

Prunella Stack met David Douglas-Hamilton in 1937, when his older brother, soon to inherit the dukedom but then the Unionist MP for East Renfrew, asked her to open a school swimming pool by diving into the water. She and David shared a love of mountaineering and a common idealism; at their first meeting the young Scot told Prunella that he was keen to start a fitness summer school in the Highlands. As he said goodbye, he took her hand and examined her fingernails. “I’m glad you don’t paint them,” he said. “I hate artificiality.”

Douglas-Hamilton took Prunella Stack climbing in the Alps and introduced her to his future best man, Prince Ernst August of Hanover, whom he had met when both men were undergraduates at Balliol College, Oxford, along with Adam von Trott, the Prussian aristocrat who would be executed in 1944 for his part in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler.

Douglas-Hamilton’s German contacts led Prunella Stack to take a group of League members to Hamburg in late 1938, where Kraft durch Freude (Strength through Joy), the agency that arranged cultural activities and holidays for German workers, was organising a Congress of Physical Fitness with delegations from 32 countries. Unlike in the years immediately preceding the First World War, in the late 1930s Britain was keen to prepare itself for the future. “KEEP FIT” was a slogan used in advertising everything from gin and whisky to beef broth, milk and bananas. Prunella Stack carried the flag at the Hamburg Congress and led the marching British delegation. Life magazine declared that she had the most photographed legs in Britain.

In March 1939 a German contingent paid a return visit to study the British fitness campaign at first hand. The Douglas-Hamiltons were invited to a dinner at Claridge’s in honour of the delegation’s leader, Frau Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, the 36-year-old leader of Germany’s National Socialist Womanhood, whom Hitler described as “the perfect Nazi woman”.

All contacts with Germany ceased, however, when war was declared six months later — although the Douglas-Hamiltons’ ties with Germany were possibly what led the deputy Fuhrer, Rudolf Hess, to fly to Lennoxlove, the Duke of Hamilton’s ancestral Scottish home, in 1941 in a doomed attempt to end the war.

The League’s membership was severely reduced when many of its girls were called up. Prunella Stack moved to Dorset, where her first son, Diarmaid, was born in May 1940, the same night that France fell to the Germans. A second son, Iain, was born two years later.

By that time her husband had gained his own renown. He and his three brothers were squadron leaders in the RAF, making the Douglas-Hamiltons the only family in Britain with this distinction. In 1944, however, returning from a long sortie over France during which his plane was badly shot up and his co-pilot mortally wounded, David Douglas-Hamilton’s small Mosquito suffered engine failure just short of RAF Benson, where he was stationed. The aircraft crashed and he was killed. Prunella Stack was a widow at 30, just as her mother had been. She began writing poetry, as she would for the rest of her life.

The end of the war saw Prunella Stack return to London with her children. Eventually she re-met an Oxford friend of Douglas-Hamilton’s, Alistair Albers, a South African Rhodes Scholar who had returned to London to qualify as a surgeon at Guy’s hospital.

Albers proved a hit with Prunella’s boys, then aged nine and seven, to whom he gave demonstrations of Zulu dances and war cries. He invited Prunella Stack to visit the Cape and see the country for herself before making any decision about the future.

They married in Cape Town in July 1950, and Prunella Stack set about expanding the League’s activities in South Africa, getting around the newly written racial laws to set up classes for women in the segregated Cape Coloured suburbs. She also pursued her old private interests, writing poetry and climbing.

On Easter Sunday 1951 she and Albers set out to climb Table Mountain, as they had done several times before. On this occasion they were accompanied by Sir Evelyn Baring, the British High Commissioner. Stepping across a gully that cut through the narrow ledge on which they were walking, Albers felt his rucksack swing across his shoulders. He lost his hold and fell to his death, 90ft down the rock face. They had been married just nine months.

Prunella Stack stayed on in Cape Town working for the League. At the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, she accompanied a group of League members to perform in London, insisting in the face of considerable disapproval that it be a multiracial group. She returned with her sons to live in London in 1956, and the League — renamed the Fitness League — continued to stage its displays in the Albert Hall. The most recent took place last April to mark the organisation’s 80th anniversary.

Her second widowhood was marked by a resurgence in Prunella Stack’s Christian faith. After a third marriage, in 1964, to an Irish barrister, Brian St Quentin Power, she converted to Roman Catholicism. The couple bought a croft on the island of Raasay, near Skye, where they wrote, he a memoir of his childhood in China, she poetry and three volumes of autobiography.

She was appointed OBE in 1980.

Prunella Stack died on December 30. Her third husband predeceased her, and she is survived by her sons, Diarmaid, an astrophysicist in the United States, and Iain, an elephant conservationist in Kenya.

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Prunella Stack, Lady David Douglas-Hamilton's Timeline

July 28, 1914
December 30, 2010
Age 96