The Earl of Lauderdale

Journalist, politician and clan chieftain

Born: 17 March, 1911, in Walsall, West Midlands.

Died: 2 December, 2008, in London, aged 97.

THE 17th Earl of Lauderdale was a politician, a journalist and a resolute campaigner with traditional right-wing views. He was a formidable linguist – speaking six languages – and a foreign correspondent before the Second World War, during which he served with the political intelligence department of the Foreign Office. A man of boundless energy and devout Christian beliefs, he did much to maintain and improve connections within the Maitland clan, of which he was chief.

Lord Lauderdale's son, now the 18th earl, described his father as "a man of unfailing courtesy, energy and drive". He said: "From the 1950s he worked passionately to heal the ancient feuds in the Maitland family. Once, when he was fogbound at Glasgow airport, he wrote a letter to every Maitland in the Glasgow telephone book and sent them there and then. That was typical.

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"He was very concerned about the clan's divided past and one of his major achievements was to reunite the various sects and give the clan a clear identity. He encouraged the societies abroad and made contacts with a sect that originated in Normandy.

"It is also a reflection of my father's ecumenical beliefs that his funeral at Haddington will be in the form of a requiem mass with Anglican and Presbyterian ministers also officiating."

Lord Lauderdale took much pride in his annual visit to St Mary's in Haddington. The church, which dates from the 14th century, is the site of the Lauderdale Aisle, an Episcopal chapel within the church with strong Roman Catholic and Orthodox influences.

Lord Lauderdale restored the aisle as a family chapel in 1973 and it is now the family burial place. It is also the venue of an annual inter-denominational pilgrimage in May for healing and peace. Lord Lauderdale proudly listed the pilgrimage in his interests in reference books.

Patrick Francis Maitland, the son of the Rev Sydney Maitland, was educated at Lancing College, Sussex, and Brasenose College, Oxford. He had inherited the earldom, created in 1624, in 1968 when his brother was drowned in an accident.

Maitland left Oxford in 1933 and joined the Daily Mail as its Vienna correspondent. He then worked for Reuters in Rome and became the Times's correspondent in the Balkans, significantly based in Berlin. He saw the ruthless ambitions of the Nazis at first hand and had to move his base to Belgrade in 1939.

After a spell in Washington he returned to London to work in the Foreign Office, where his fluency in several middle European languages proved invaluable.

After the war he set up some specialist newsletters aimed at influential politicians and businessmen, but in 1951 he was elected Conservative MP for Lanark after its sitting MP, the future prime minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home inherited his father's title.

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Maitland held the seat until 1959, when he was defeated by Labour's Judith Hart. In the Commons, he spoke principally on Commonwealth and environmental matters. From 1957 to 1959 he was founder-chairman of the Expanding Commonwealth Group and chairman of the sub-committee on energy and transport. After his defeat at Lanark, he contested in vain Caithness and Sutherland at the general election of 1964.

Maitland was an independently minded MP. He was a strong advocate for increasing co-operation between the Commonwealth countries and rebelled against the policy of appeasing Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser over his plans to nationalise the Suez Canal. Following Britain's ignominious withdrawal in 1956 he resigned the Tory whip.

After he inherited the title he spoke often in the Lords and was a member of the Monday Club, sat on the Lords select committee on EEC scrutiny and was vice-chairman of the Association of Conservative Peers Committee and chairman of the Church in Danger group. In 1980 he joined the board of Elf Aquitaine.

Lord Lauderdale was proud of his family's heritage and involvement in much of Scotland's history. His forebears had provided accommodation for Charles Edward Stuart and his troops after Prestonpans at Thirlestane Castle (although the 18th earl mentioned "they diplomatically absented themselves").

Another ancestor went to the Tower of London for his loyalty to Charles II before achieving fame as the "L" in the "cabal" of five ministers of 1668.

But what gave Lord Lauderdale a particular pride was his role as the hereditary saltire banner bearer of Scotland at the opening of the General Assembly. In the procession from Holyrood Palace to St Giles, his family has the ancient right to carry the national flag of Scotland.

His eldest daughter, Lady Olga Maitland, the former Tory MP, also spoke of her father's concern for the environment. "Not that he called it that," she said. "He talked of 'economic geography' long before it was politically fashionable. My father had a gut instinct 40 years ago that the supply of oil was going to be a major international and political issue. It was an area of business he knew and understood well and his comments were ahead of the time.

"He was a born enthusiast in everything he undertook and liked to make things happen."

Lord Lauderdale met Stanka Lozanitch at Oxford. They married in 1936. She predeceased him and he is survived by their two sons and two daughters.