Contrary to popular belief, marrying into the aristocracy has never been a guarantee of cocktails, castles and laughter. But none, surely, can have suffered for it as much as Marion Stoner, who has died aged 72.
I can disclose that, although a ‘good Aussie’, she was born in Europe. ‘Both of her parents were German,’ says her granddaughter, April, adding that the family emigrated when Marion was still a toddler.
And it was in Melbourne, in 1984, as a glamorous brunette in her mid-30s, with two young children from a previous relationship, that Marion so nearly signed her own death sentence.
She married Alexander Montagu, 13 years her junior, the powerfully built, charming, ‘rather handsome’ nephew of the 11th Duke of Manchester.
She was treated like ‘a possession’. Months later came ‘the speargun incident’. Her husband, Marion recalled, opened fire from just 12 ft with the lethal weapon.
Contrary to popular belief, marrying into the aristocracy has never been a guarantee of cocktails, castles and laughter. But none, surely, can have suffered for it as much as Marion Stoner (pictured), who has died aged 72
She married Alexander Montagu (pictured), 13 years her junior, the powerfully built, charming, ‘rather handsome’ nephew of the 11th Duke of Manchester
Alexander Montagu in shackles in court, where he was sentenced to five years in jail for attempted burglary
‘I stood there and stared him in the eye. He pointed and fired. It missed me by a foot. It would have ripped me apart.’
Fleeing the marital home, she lived in fear, always, she said, ‘looking over my shoulder’. Twelve years later, she was approached by Alexander’s mother, who requested a divorce for her son.
Marion agreed and put it out of her mind — until 2011, when her ex-husband, by then the 13th Duke of Manchester, was exposed as a bigamist.
London’s High Court heard that he had married Wendy Buford, an American, in 1993 — three years before his divorce.
Re-examining her divorce papers, Marion saw that Alexander had supposedly signed them in Melbourne. ‘But he couldn’t have done,’ she said. ‘He was in America with Wendy.’
So she had, in fact, been the Duchess of Manchester since Alexander succeeded to the title in 2002. But, unable to afford a lawyer and pursue the matter in court, she ‘put it all behind her’, says April.
Even when diagnosed with inoperable cancer, adds April, who describes Marion as ‘the backbone of the family’, she took it in her stride. ‘She was amazing through it all — so loving and really at peace.’
It’s a state of grace which has eluded her ex-husband, the thrice-married duke, who, aside from his exposure for bigamy, was once deported from Canada and, more recently, received a five-year sentence for attempted burglary in his adopted home city of Las Vegas.
Crown Princess Leonor of Spain (right), 17, mirrored the gestures of her mother, Queen Letizia, (left) as they arrived in Madrid for the confirmation into the Catholic Church of her sister
Princess Sofia, 16, wore a fuchsia jumpsuit for her confirmation into the Catholic Church
Spanish princesses take the crown in the style stakes
She completed her studies last week at UWC Atlantic College, in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, but Crown Princess Leonor of Spain showed yesterday that her mother, Queen Letizia, is her biggest influence.
The 17-year-old princess mirrored the gestures of her mother (above) as they arrived in Madrid for the confirmation into the Catholic Church of her sister, Princess Sofia, 16, who wore a fuchsia jumpsuit.
After the summer holidays, Leonor, the heir to the throne, will begin three years of military training in preparation for her role as Spain’s supreme commander.
Allegedly targeted by trans activists since author J. K. Rowling hosted a charity dinner for Ukraine there last year, Italian restaurant Il Portico is to feature in her next Strike detective novel, The Running Grave.
The Harry Potter author, whose comments on transgender women and biological sex provoked a backlash from trans activists, is also paying for a slap-up dinner for 16 fans at the popular venue in Kensington, West London.
Former England cricket star Sir Geoffrey Boycott, who retired from Test Match Special in 2020, says: ‘The BBC is run by idiots. I wanted to make a guest interview appearance during this [forthcoming] Ashes series.
‘But they turned me down because, at 82, I was probably thought to be too old.’ Speaking at the Sports Book Awards, he adds: ‘The BBC no longer deserves to be getting the licence fee.
‘It has let down too many fans recently, not even covering all England Tests on the radio.’
Wild Amanda’s place in the sun
The old saying goes, ‘ne’er cast a clout till May be out’ — but Amanda Lamb has other ideas.
A Place In The Sun’s former presenter went skinny dipping in a pond at the ReWild Swim Club while on holiday with her two daughters. ‘Yes, I am completely naked,’ says the ex-model, 50, who was the Scottish Widow in the investment company’s ads.
The pond was in the grounds of Elmore Court, Gloucestershire seat of Anselm Guise, the ‘hedonistic heir’.
A Place In The Sun’s former presenter Amanda Lamb went skinny dipping in a pond at the ReWild Swim Club while on holiday with her two daughters
The ex-model, 50, was the Scottish Widow in the investment company’s ads
Bear Grylls reached the summit of Everest at the age of 23 — and now the television adventurer’s 19-year-old son, Jesse, has marked the achievement by trekking to the mountain’s base camp, 11,400 ft lower.
Congratulating Jesse online, Chief Scout Grylls, 48, tells him: ‘I never could have dreamt I’d make it down and marry your mama and that we’d have three wonderful boys, with adventure spirits and kind hearts.’
Last year, Grylls returned to Everest to try to recover the body of Michael Matthews, the brother-in-law of Pippa Middleton.
He died in 1999 after breaking his friend Grylls’s record by becoming the youngest Briton to reach the summit, aged 22.
Home alone Harry
The Duke of Sussex, who attended his father’s Coronation without his wife, Meghan, cuts an increasingly lonely figure back home in California.
Or, that, at least, is the claim from well-connected journalist Petronella Wyatt, daughter of the late Queen Mother’s confidant Lord (Woodrow) Wyatt.
‘Friends of mine who live near Harry and Meghan are always bumping into Meghan at parties these days,’ Petronella says.
‘She tends to leave Harry at home.’ Saves paying for a babysitter . . .