Mary Anna Sibell Elizabeth Marten, OBE (1929–2010) was born Mary Anna Sibell Elizabeth Sturt on 12 September 1929 at Moor Critchel, the daughter of Napier Sturt, 3rd Baron Alington and Lady Mary Sibell Ashley-Cooper, daughter of the 9th Earl of Shaftesbury, sometime Lord Steward to the Household of George V & Queen Mary, by his wife Lady Constance Sibell Grosvenor (d 1957), a great friend of Queen Mary, dau of Earl Grosvenor, and sister of Hugh Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster. She was god-daughter to Queen Elizabeth (later The Queen Mother), and in 1953 her son Napier was a page at the Coronation of Elizabeth II.
After joining the Brownies alongside Princess Margaret, Mary Anna went to school in Lancaster Gate and later attended Cheltenham Ladies' College. Upon the death of her father, Baron Alington in active service in the RAF in 1940, Mary Anna inherited the Crichel House Estate in Dorset.
Part of the Estate had been compulsorily purchased by the Government in 1938, and the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill later gave an undertaking that when the Government no longer needed the land for the purpose for which it had been requisitioned, the land would be sold back to the original owners. When this did not happen, Mary Anna and her husband took on the Government, and eventually won back their land, following the resignation over the issue by the relevant Minister. The episode became known as The Crichel Down affair, a term still used in British legislation. The estate was sold after her death. Mary Anna and her husband, Lt.-Cdr. George (Toby) Gosselin Marten, L.V.O. D.S.C., Royal Navy, (1918 - 1997), son of Vice-Admiral Sir Francis Arthur Marten, K.B.E., C.B., C.M.G., C.V.O., were married on 25 November 1949 at Holy Trinity Brompton. He was an equerry to George VI, and the marriage was attended by George VI, Queen Elizabeth (Mary Anna's godmother), Princess Margaret, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duchess of Kent, the Earl and Countess of Athlone.
The Martens had a son, Napier, and five daughters. Mary Anna was High Sheriff of Dorset from 1989 to 1990.
She was an archaeologist of note. In 1956, her brother-in-law, Tim Marten, was Head of the Chancery in the Embassy of the United Kingdom, Tehran. During a visit to him, Mary Anna became deeply attached to Iran, which she explored over many subsequent visits, often staying with the archaeologist Roman Ghirshman at his excavations at Choga Zanbil.
In 1988, Mary Anna established The Ancient Persia Fund in memory of the distinguished Russian scholar Vladimir G Lukonin. The aim of the fund was and is to encourage and support the study of Ancient Persia and related areas including Central Asia, in the period before the coming of Islam.
Mary Anna was appointed a Trustee of the British Museum by the Prime Minister on 5 December 1985. She was reappointed twice (5 December 1990 and 5 December 1995). She retired on the 4 December 1998. She served on the following committees of the British Museum:Buildings (where she occupied the Chair);
External Relations and Public Services;
Great Court Client.
Mary Anna was acting chair of the British Museum Society from 15 December 1990 to 29 February 1992 and she was also on the British Museum Development Trust [BMDT] Board of Trustees. She was also the Trustees' representative on the Council of the National Trust between 16 December 1993 and 31 December 1996.
In 2002 she presented one of twelve eagle brooches worn by Queen Victoria's bridesmaids to the British Museum to mark the retirement of the Director, R. D. Anderson.
Mary Anna was also a Trustee of the Charles Sturt Museum. She was created an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE). Mary Anna was also a collector of Chinese works of art, many inherited. She was a collector of jade and of rare books In 2008 Mary Anna published (privately) her memoirs entitled 'As it Was'.
Mary Anna died on 20 January 2010. The funeral was held at St. Giles's Church, Wimborne St. Giles, Dorset, on 29 January 2010. She was buried with her husband in Witchampton Churchyard, Dorset; the grave is to the north east of the church.