JARS v9n1 - In Memoriam: Princess Peggy Abkhazi

In Memoriam: Princess Peggy Abkhazi
Bill Dale
Sidney, British Columbia, Canada

It was with sorrow that her many friends learned of the death of Princess Abkhazi on Nov. 14, 1994. Had she lived she would have been 92 on Dec. 12.

Peggy, the only child of an English couple living in Shanghai, was orphaned at a very early age and was adopted by English friends of her parents. Musically talented, she studied the piano in London, Paris and Vienna. While studying in Paris she met a deposed Georgian prince, Nicholas Abkhazi, whom she later married.

With the death of her adoptive parents, Peggy found herself living in the comfortable life style of the international settlement in Shanghai, China. This was not to last, as soon the Japanese army occupied that city and she spent the last 2½ years of World War II in a civilian internment camp.

Following the conclusion of the war, Peggy made her way to Victoria, B.C., where she had friends from her pre-war days in China. With the aid of the Red Cross she was able to get in touch with Prince Nicholas Abkhazi, who as a member of the French Army had been captured and held prisoner by the Germans. Nicholas came to Victoria and they were married in 1946, and as Peggy said, "We lived happily ever after - and we built a garden."

Princess Peggy Abkhazi
Princess Peggy Abkhazi

And what a garden it became! (see the Fall 1988 issue of the Journal). This was a magical garden, featuring existing Garry oaks, solid rock outcroppings, and three pools which became home each year for a pair of wild mallard ducks and their family. The Abkhazi garden was one of those featured when the ARS annual convention was held in Victoria in 1989.

In 1986 Peggy donated a beautiful Chinese silver tray to the Victoria Rhododendron Society. It is known as the Abkhazi Trophy. The tray had been given to her parents as a wedding present in 1901 and was the only remaining possession of her parents she had.

Nicholas Abkhazi died in 1987. Stricken by a stroke in 1989, Peggy had to go into a nursing home later that year. Peggy resisted efforts by developers to purchase this prime piece of property and sold it to her gardeners and good friends, Chris and Pam Ball, in this way insuring that this jewel of a garden would continue to be a delight to friends and visitors.

When Peggy and Nicholas lived in their home, the garden was always open to those who wished to admire their lovely creation. Those who met Peggy for the first time would later invariably say, "What a charming lady!" Those who knew her will remember her with affection as one who had lived a very eventful and interesting life and who did so with quiet dignity and courage.