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Marion Thorpe, wife of former North Devon MP and Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, dies aged 87

By NDJPeter  |  Posted: March 09, 2014

  • Marion Thorpe (right) with her husband Jeremy in 2005

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Marion Thorpe, the wife of the ex-Liberal Party leader and North Devon MP Jeremy Thorpe, has died aged 87.

Born on October 18, 1926 in Vienna as Maria Donata Nanetta Paulina Gustava Ermina Wilhemine Stein, Mrs Thorpe was renowned for her fierce loyalty to her scandal-hit husband and for her musical prowess.

An acclaimed concert pianist, she attended the Royal College of Music and became close personal friends with composer Benjamin Britten.

She was introduced to the Queen’s cousin, the Earl of Harewood, at Britten’s new music festival at Aldeburgh, and they married a year later in 1949.

However, the couple divorced in 1967 after Lord Harewood confessed to committing adultery.

In 1973 she married Jeremy Thorpe, whose wife Caroline had died in a car accident.

Mr Thorpe had won the North Devon parliamentary seat in the General Election of 1959, with a majority of just 362, he was one of only two non-Conservative MPs elected in the whole of the peninsula. He was credited with the resurgence of the Liberal party in the south west.

He had been the centre of a scandal which rocked the nation when he was accused of having a relationship with male model Norman Scott - of which he was exonerated.

The case re-emerged when Mr Scott accused Mr Thorpe of conspiring to have him killed - forcing the politician to resign as party leader.

Throughout the trial Marion supported her husband, attending every court session, and even interrupting a press conference to challenge a reporter.

Although he was acquitted of all charges, Mr Thorpe’s political career had come to an end, and he lost his North Devon seat at the 1979 election.

Following this, Marion and Jeremy decided to step away from the public limelight, spending time between their 16th century house near Cobbaton and their London home.

In her later years, Marion dedicated her time to looking after her husband, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

She died on March 6.

Tributes have been pouring in following news of her passing.

Leading the tributes, North Devon MP and Liberal Democrat Nick Harvey said: “I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing last Thursday of Marion Thorpe.

“Both she and Jeremy have been great friends and hugely supportive of me in Liberal politics over the past 25 years.

“Marion was the epitome of grace, elegance and charm, as well as being mischievously witty.

“Having married Jeremy in 1973 she stayed loyally by his side through thick and thin, caring for him with remarkable skill throughout his many years battling Parkinson’s disease.

“A truly remarkable woman, she will be greatly missed by all who knew her.”

North Devon Conservative parliamentary candidate Peter Heaton-Jones joined the praise for Mrs Thorpe. He said: "My political coming of age was during the 70s, and I well remember being gripped by the unfolding drama surrounding the then Liberal party leader.

“Throughout it all, the figure of Marion Thorpe stands out as someone who was a constant support to her husband for more than 40 years.

“My thoughts are with their family at this sad time.”

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