Christian, Lady Hesketh

Written by Royal Deputation   

Christian, Lady Hesketh, who died on April 7 aged 76, personified the principle that private privilege conferred an equal obligation to public duty; she was also a gifted writer and historian, a Dame of Honour and Devotion of the SMOM and a Dame of Justice of the Constantinian Order. She was extremely supportive of our Order and attended every function organized by the British knights and dames. As a young woman she had spent several holiday exchanges with the daughters of the Count and Countess of Paris with whom she remained friends for the rest of her life, and was particularly close to HRH the Duchess of Calabria.

She was unceasingly supportive of her adopted county, Northamptonshire, where for many years after the early death of her husband, Freddy, the 2nd Lord Hesketh, she presided over Easton Neston, Hawksmoor's only country house. She followed her husband in being appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for the county and also served as High Sheriff in 1981 Lady Hesketh also found time to pursue her natural bent as an historian and her talent for writing.

She was a local committee member of the Victoria County History, and her passion for Scottish history was sealed with a standard work on the history of tartan, a biography of the 17th-century Viscount ("Bonnie") Dundee (with Magnus Linklater) and a doctorate at King's College, London, for her thesis on Charles I's political dealings with the Scots before the Civil War. She consolidated her husband's distinction as a book collector by commissioning David Hicks to design a library at Easton Neston and through her election to the Roxburghe Club.

It was the more remarkable that she achieved all this in a life beset with tragedies and setbacks. It was the stoicism, high spirits and gallantry with which she overcame these Job-like trials which so humbled and impressed her many friends.

She was left a widow with three young sons at the age of 25; whose fourth son was stillborn a few weeks after her husband's sudden death; who suffered two severe crashes on the M1, after the second of which, when she was 43, she lost an eye and lay in a coma for six weeks. Her second son, Robert Fermor-Hesketh, was killed in a car crash in 1997. She had to deal with the comparatively early deaths of four of her six brothers, of a niece and nephew younger still; and latterly she had more than her share of painful and life-threatening health problems.

Lady Hesketh also saw the sale of all the principal houses that had been dear to her: the family homes of her idyllic Scottish childhood and finally, last year, of Easton Neston itself. And yet till the end she was as positive and forward-thinking as ever, planning a flat-warming party; not long ago she returned from a jaunt to watch the Wales v France rugby international, insisting she was the luckiest person she knew.

Christian Mary McEwen was born at Marchmont, in Berwickshire, on 17 July 1929, the only daughter one of seven children of Sir John McEwen, 1st Bt, of Marchmont and Bardrochat; she spent her childhood at Bandrochat, in Carrick and at Beaufort.

Her father - a poet, soldier and member of parliament- was Sir John McEwen, 1st Bt, of Marchmont and Bardrochat (in Carrick), and it was at these two country houses, and at Beaufort (also now sold), that she spent her childhood.

 

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