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An Unlikely Countess: Lily Budge and the 13th Earl of Galloway Paperback – 13 Aug 2010
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‘A spirited and sensitive account of one of the strangest lives imaginable. Louise Carpenter’s portrait of the life of Lily Budge is a classic of its kind: elegantly written, with a rare eye for detail and a shrewd and warm understanding of its extraordinary subject.’ William Boyd
‘Louise Carpenter tells this sensational story without ever exaggerating its more eye-catching excesses. She is sensitive to all sides…a serious and profoundly moving book.’ Independent on Sunday
‘An entertaining and moving memorial to [Lily’s] indomitable, colourful character. Wonderful.’ Telegraph
‘Louise Carpenter is a biographer of real promise…Her account of this oddly matched couple struggling to get along in Britain’s high society is often amusing, sometimes touching…Painstakingly researched and very readable.’ Scottish Herald
A vivid and moving portrait of the inimitable Lily Budge, who overcame poverty and class to become the 13th Countess of Galloway, and one of Scotland's most colourful eccentrics. In 1916, Lily Miller was born into a working class family in Duns, in the Borders region of Scotland. She became determined to escape, both from the small town gossip and from her terrifying mother, who thought Lily was born only to serve. Lily could not have predicted that her flight would eventually lead her to the heart of the Scottish establishment. Her spirited, eccentric and at times self-destructive nature shaped every decision she made, and her life became increasingly rackety. In 1975, living in Edinburgh as a self-styled dealer in porcelain dolls, with two failed marriages and four sons (one adopted) to her name, not to mention posts as a housekeeper and a boarding house owner, she met Randolph Stewart, the future 13th Earl of Galloway. On the surface, Randolph's aristocratic childhood could not have seemed more different. His was a world of great privilege, emotional restraint and overwhelming expectation.As an adolescent he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and, as a young man, lobotomised. Much of the rest of his life had been spent hidden away, either in a mental institution or with a religious order of monks. But a curious bond formed between Lily and Randolph, and marriage followed, beginning a deep family feud that was played out in newspaper headlines. Was such a union doomed to failure? An Unlikely Countess is a masterpiece of storytelling and biography, teeming with historical detail and famous names. Louise Carpenter has brought to life not only two extraordinary characters in Lily and Randolph, but also the worlds in which they moved, with sensitivity, humour and expert observation. Her affection for her subjects is matched by a wry awareness of their idiosyncrasies, and the rich backdrop she paints serves as a vibrant portrait of twentieth-century Scotland. See all Product description
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Lily may have been unstable and unpredictable, but she clearly had a good heart, and Randolph needed that more than anything. His childhood must have been a complete nightmare for him - mainly because nobody could possibly understand the way he was experiencing and processing the world around him. Randolph was a sweet and eccentric person who almost certainly suffered from the hypersensitivity that comes with Aspberger's Syndrome. I was a bit worried that the author might not be accurate or respectful towards Randolph or his story, but I am very moved to see that she has captured his character and his manner of speaking so very well. I was also expecting that the book might not be very well written, but it is in fact, beautifully written and researched to the minutest detail.
Well done Louise Carpenter! Please read this lovely book if you want a story about meeting difference with tolerance,respect and appreciation.
The story is particularly sad with regard to Randolph Stewart, Randolph was in his teens diagnosed erroneously with schizophrenia. He was subjected to a lobotomy which left him with lifelong problems as a result. With the hindsight of modern medicine and psychiatry it is now thought more likely that Randolph actually had Asperger Syndrome with all the issues which go along with this. The lobotomy did not help his odd behaviours and in many ways made them worse. He met and married Lily Budge after they were introduced by a mutual friend through the church. Lily is known to have felt pity for him and then love - she felt that with love and encouragement her husband could live his life and make some kind of active contribution to his responsibilities as a peer. Randolph's family were appalled, Lily came from a humble background, Randolph was considered "unsuitable for marriage" and as a resukt vulnerable to the kind of woman who might marry for social status and money. Lily did not help matters here especially as she appears not always to have been the most tactful of women. A visit to Cumloden the family seat ended disasterously when Lily told her new husband's father (the aging Earl) her plans for Cumloden after his death. The Earl fearing his son would not have control of any money which was due to him in inheritance promptly changed his Will which left his son with very little of the estate - a decision which his Randolph and Lily later contested both bitterly and unsuccessfully.
Lily remained with her husband but the increasing stress and strain of his dis-inheritance lead to a series of violent conflicts with Lily being left very much a battered wife (on one occasion with marks around her neck from an attempted strangulation). It would appear that they never lived together again after the last violent assault but their love remained very strong and only ended with Lily's death in 1999.
This book was a fabulous read and my only question would be "Why on earth was it languishing in the local Poundland shop where I bought it". Excellently written and hugely entertaining in places - with particular reference to the picture the author paints of the late Lady Mayo whose three indulgences were apparently "diamonds, headgear and gin".
Well worth reading.
I live in Newton Stewart, was hoping for some local colour. However the book is muddy, illogically written, hard to follow. Are we supposed to like the countess, her husband? No focus, nothing to get a grip on.
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