In April 1938, The Bystander featured Jean Monro among their regular selection of “Young Women Who Work” – society girls who, to the mild astonishment of the magazine, insisted on having an occupation even though they had no need of the income. Jean, then aged twenty-one, worked with her mother Geraldine, who in 1926 had founded the interior design company Mrs Monro, which is still in existence: it is London’s oldest decorating firm and is now based at World’s End Studios in Lots Road.
Before this, Jean trod the traditional route for a young woman of her rank. Born in Chelsea in 1916, she was educated at London day schools. She was sent to Florence to be “finished’ and “came out” in 1934/5 but soon she was helping her mother’s business by driving her to country house commissions.
In autumn 1939, while living at 11 Cadogan Gardens with her father, a retired civil servant, Jean volunteered for the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service. However, she left to join the ATS, the women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service and attained the rank of Captain. As the Allies pushed east, she was posted to mainland Europe and attached to the occupying military government in Germany. She was demobbed in 1946.
Jean returned to the design business, at 11 Montpelier Street, Knightsbridge. As a schoolgirl Jean was occasionally allowed to visit her mother’s workshops and became particularly interested in 18th-century designs and traditional processes for producing wallpaper and fabrics. Her long career – during which she founded her own company – included commissions to redecorate National Trust properties, advising on the restoration of No 1 Royal Crescent, Bath, numerous private houses and the British embassy in Washington DC. She was made an OBE in 1996 and died in 2013 aged 97.