Archiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2008-09 > 1221514724

From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [W-OBITS] KELLY: Mirabel Magalene Fitzalan Howard Kelly 2008
Date: Mon, 15 Sep 2008 22:38:44 +0100

Lady Mirabel Kelly
Duke's sister who grew up amid grandeur and frugality, and devoted her later
life to unobtrusive acts of charity.

Last Updated: 8:37PM BST 09 Sep 2008


Lady Mirabel: found peace and relaxation in a daily cigarette
Lady Mirabel Kelly, who has died aged 76, lived a life that fulfilled the
expectations of the term noblesse oblige; the sister of a duke, the wife of
a financier, the mother of eight children and a devout Roman Catholic, she
spent such time as she had left to herself in the performance of quiet acts
of compassion and kindness that earned her a reputation for saintliness.

As with others of her generation and background, her sense of obligation to
do what good she could for the needy found its expression in the voluntary
sphere. She befriended the lonely and the housebound; gave support to
prisoners' families, and brought comfort to the sick and the dying. For her,
every human life was precious, and every encounter an opportunity for a

She came of redoubtable stock. On one side of her family was Sir Miles
Stapleton, one of the original Knights of the Garter in 1348; on the other
was St Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, who died in the Tower refusing to
renounce Catholicism. And the life into which Lady Mirabel was born was
likewise a blend of splendour and austerity underpinned by firm religious

She was born Mirabel Magdalene Fitzalan Howard on October 25 1931 at Carlton
Towers, near Goole, north Yorkshire, seventh of the eight children of the
3rd Lord Howard of Glossop and his wife Baroness Beaumont. She and her
siblings - four boys and four girls - were all given first names beginning
with the letter M, and consequently became known as "The Eight Ms". Mirabel
was a beautiful child with curly hair, always laughing and smiling, and she
was a particular favourite with her father, who felt sorry for her being the
third of three girls in a row. Lord Howard of Glossop was a great-grandson
of the 13th Duke of Norfolk, and in due course Mirabel's eldest brother,
Miles, was to inherit the dukedom of Norfolk (when Mirabel and her siblings
were given permission to style themselves as the children of a duke).

Mirabel's mother (who adored boys) was the 11th holder, in her own right, of
the ancient barony of Beaumont. Created in 1308-09, the peerage had fallen
into abeyance on the death of the 7th Baron in 1507, but had been revived in
1840 in favour of Mirabel's great-grandfather, Miles Stapleton, who
celebrated the revival of the barony by gothicising Carlton Towers.

The exterior of Carlton Towers was remodelled, around a 17th-century core,
by EW Pugin, son of the better known Catholic architect AWN Pugin, and then
later, for the 9th Lord Beaumont, by JF Bentley, the designer of Westminster
Cathedral. Like the Fitzalan Howards, the Stapletons were an old Catholic
family that in the past had suffered the full weight of recusancy fines.

In July 1939 the novelist Evelyn Waugh went to spend a weekend at Carlton
Towers and was astonished by the edifice that met his eyes on his arrival:
"First sight of the house is staggering, concrete-faced, ivy-grown,
1870-early-Tudor bristling with gargoyles, heraldic animals carrying fully
emblazoned banners, coroneted ciphers; an orgy of heraldry."

The 9th Lord Beaumont had died young in 1892, bankrupted by the cost of
works to his enormous house. His brother and heir the 10th Baron, Mirabel's
grandfather, promptly married the Catholic heiress Ethel Tempest, and bought
Carlton Towers back from the bankruptcy court - only to die in a shooting
accident in 1895. The house passed to his elder daughter.

Thus Mirabel and her siblings were brought up at Carlton Towers - in an
atmosphere of frugal economy that fitted well with the austerity and
simplicity of the chapel and the family's quarters. If guests came to lunch
the children were not allowed to use napkins, but were told to leave them by
the side of their plates to save on the laundry bill.

On the other hand, when Waugh was staying there, the company dined off the
Emperor of Abyssinia's gilt plate, which Lord Howard of Glossop had bought
for 40. And when the children were taken to buy shoes in London, the shop
assistants were made to bring the shoes out on to the pavement so that the
children could avoid the germs that thrived in commercial premises.

During the Second World War Carlton Towers served as a convalescent home for
servicemen. Mirabel would help to pick the daffodils that were grown in the
park for sale. Until the age of 11 she shared a governess with her brother
Mark and her cousin Imogen Mickelthwait; she and Imogen then went off to
join Mirabel's elder sister Miranda at the Assumption Convent School.

By then the school had been evacuated from London to Aldenham Park,
Shropshire, the country house of Lord Acton. Also resident at Aldenham was
Mgr Ronald Knox, whom Lady Acton had engaged as private chaplain.

Knox was then working on his translation of the Bible; and as the presence
of several dozen evacuee convent girls with their attendant nuns threatened
to disrupt his studies, Lady Acton enforced a zone of silence around his
study. Knox emerged from the war years with his translation of the New
Testament complete and his work on the Old well advanced.

Having completed her convent education, Mirabel did the London Season as a
debutante. Her parents were to have given a dance for her at their house in
Lennox Gardens, but the dance was cancelled when a great-aunt died. She
completed a "bride's course" (to learn cooking and other skills), visited
the United States and worked at Peter Jones, in the gown department.

In 1952 she married Bernard Kelly, elder son of the retired ambassador Sir
David Kelly. Eventually they settled in a large house in Carlyle Square,
Chelsea, with Lady Kelly, Sir David's widow, on the top floor, to which a
steady procession of her old friends made their way - the Queen of Italy,
Rebecca West, Joan Haslip, the Duke of Portland, Sir Frank Roberts and many

Downstairs in the Carlyle Square house, a large brood of growing children
was supplemented by a series of lodgers and lonely individuals: Lady Mirabel
would help anyone on hard times. She also made time for delivering meals on
wheels, for visiting invalids, for work with the families of offenders, and
for voluntary work with terminally ill at Trinity Hospice in Clapham.

During the last decade of her life Lady Mirabel suffered increasing ill
health brought on by a lung condition. She would, however, ignore the advice
of family and friends and go off on visits to individuals whom she knew to
be in one kind of need or another. At the same time she took a loving
interest in the lives of her children and grandchildren (to whom she was

A frequent churchgoer, she cleaned the church and helped with the floral
decorations. Married to a militant anti-smoker, Lady Mirabel found peace and
relaxation in retiring to her bathroom to smoke a daily single cigarette as
she ran a bath for herself in the evening. During her long final illness her
greatest concern was for the burden she feared she was placing on those who
were taking care of her.

Lady Mirabel, who died on July 25, is survived by her husband and their
seven sons and a daughter.

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