Women of History: Lady Victoria Murray

May 13, 2015

Portrait of Lady Victoria Murray, circa 1900. P01368. Photo by Billingham.

“The tremendous responsibilities that rest upon us here become more evident to me daily. Love must be lived and felt and we are beginning to realize that fact.”
—Lady Victoria Murray to Mary Baker Eddy

The early Christian Science movement included men and women from all walks of life—including British aristocrats. Although Lady Victoria Murray could have lived a life of privilege and leisure, she chose instead to make considerable sacrifices for the church that Mary Baker Eddy had recently established. And she became a central force for the growth of Christian Science in northern England.

She was born May 15, 1877, The Right Honourable Lady Victoria Alexandrine Murray. Her parents, who were close friends of the Royal Family, named her after Queen Victoria, her godmother.

When she was young, Victoria’s family travelled extensively. It was during this time, while they were living in northern India, that Victoria’s mother was healed of a chronic illness after reading  Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. Soon they were all studying Christian Science. When still in her teens, Victoria was already healing people through prayer. She concluded that Christian Science was all that gave her life meaning. After four years in British high society, she gave up that way of life with the full support of her parents, who had begun to privately support the growth of Christian Science.

Lady Victoria first met Eddy in the fall of 1898, when her family visited Eddy’s Pleasant View home, and what she heard from the discoverer of Christian Science on that occasion left a lasting inspiration. When they returned to England, her parents began to publicly practice their newfound religion.

Three years later, at the age of 24, Murray was a teacher of Christian Science. Her delicate appearance belied a rock-solid commitment to hard work and self-sacrifice. A short while earlier, in late 1900, she had been unexpectedly drawn to an area of England where Christian Science was largely unknown—but where it would soon flourish, largely as a result of her efforts.

Murray went to the northern county of Lancashire, to answer a doctor’s call to help his young daughter, who was very sick. Her prayers healed the girl of tuberculosis within a week, as well as of a hip condition, and the doctor began recommending Christian Science to some of his patients, including those diagnosed as incurable. The resulting healings brought new followers, including the doctor himself, who ultimately left his medical practice and became a Christian Science practitioner.

At Eddy’s request, the industrial city of Manchester became the center of Murray’s work, at first predominantly with girls who worked in the mills. “I have such great respect for their desire to understand,” she told her friend William Pitfield. This region of England was worlds apart from anything she had previously experienced. Communicating with people who had little formal education, conveying the concepts of Christian Science to them, and battling entrenched biases directed toward those considered “beneath her class,” were truly daunting prospects. But Murray was not put off, and is said to have possessed an ability to speak clearly and simply. People began flocking to the church services that she was organizing.

At the same time, stiff resistance developed  as Christian Science became more well-known, presenting constant difficulties, not the least being that it became impossible to find suitable meeting places. Murray’s correspondence indicates that she found this aspect of her work considerably more difficult than transcending the class barriers.

In addition to practicing and teaching Christian Science and organizing services, Murray threw herself into the construction of  a building  for First Church of Christ, Scientist, Manchester, with the help of her good friend Florence Coutts-Fowlie. In 1902 it became the fourth Christian Science church to be established in England. The church building was dedicated in 1903, and an addition was needed soon afterward. Other Christian Science churches in the area relied on this church for guidance in their own establishment, such that within a few years dozens had sprung up within 50 miles of Manchester.

Throughout these years and the busy ones that followed, Murray was in touch Eddy and visited her as well. Their communication shows that Eddy was keenly interested in and vigorously supporting her shepherding and developing the growing Christian Science field in northern England. On her last visit to Pleasant View in September 1907, Murray told Eddy, “I would like to know how you heal the sick.” To which she replied, in part, “The argument used in healing is simply tuning-up. If your violin is in tune, it is unnecessary to tune it up. Keep your violin in tune…. If I dream there is a table in place of that chair, that is only a belief. The patient believes it, he does not feel it. God is All, and God is Infinite, precludes all else. Keep your violin in tune.”

For the rest of her life, Lady Victoria Murray continued to teach and practice Christian Science. She passed away on December 13, 1925. “Never at any time anywhere did I observe anyone who would perform such amazing feats of endurance and fortitude as this delicately nurtured godchild of Queen Victoria,” observed Pitfield. “Right to the end of her sojourn here she continued with unabated zeal her healing ministration.”

Want to know more about Lady Victoria Murray? Contact The Mary Baker Eddy Library’s Research Room: [email protected]  or 617-450-7218. You can also read materials relating to Murray, including her reminiscences of, and correspondence with, Mary Baker Eddy.

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